Saturday, November 9, 2019

Mt. Tam 50K: Nov 09, 2019

Pre Race Photo
This was my final race of 2019.  After Kodiak 100 back in August I took it easy as I wanted to rest and enjoy life outside of running.  Shaun convinced Ram and myself that we should all sign up and run this race.  Ram and I were out of shape but Shaun had been getting some good training in while on paternity leave.  Also, Jessica Meeker, an ultra running friend from back home in Ohio, had moved out to Northern California and she signed up for this race as well.  I was excited to run the race since it takes place on trails that I have spent a lot of time training on along with some trails that were new to me.  Of course, the views are great from everywhere since the race takes place in the Mt. Tam area.  I was signed up for this race in 2018 but it got cancelled due to wild fire smoke so it was a relief that we got to run it this year.

Steep Ravine Trail Ladder Climb
The four of us were in a group when the race started from Stinson Beach but there were a lot of runners bunched up and we were starting to get spread out.  Jessica was moving quickly at the beginning and I was doing my best to keep up with her.  Shaun was moving along with us but Ram had somehow got caught in the pack behind us.  It was difficult to keep the group together in the crowded trails as we climbed up steep ravine trail to get to Cardiac Hill, the first aid station.  I stopped briefly at the first aid station, Shaun was feeling great and he decided to push on.  Jessica and I were still running together but I could not see Ram behind us.  It was nice to get caught up with Jessica as I had not seen her since she had moved out here.  We descended down to the Muir Woods area and then climbed back up to Deer Park Fire road.  Then we dropped down to the Miwok Trail where a long gradual climb awaited us.  This is one of those climbs where it's hard to know if you should spend the energy to run uphill or power hike and conserve the energy.  At the top of the Miwok Trail climb was Dias Ridge Trail which was a really fun and fast downhill to Muir Beach, the half way point aid station. Upon leaving that aid station Ram was coming into it.  I waited for Ram and ran the rest of the race with him.  

We went up the "donkey kong" trail, this nickname came about due to a bunch of mini trail
Fog Hovering About The Area
switchbacks, when at the bottom of the trail it looks like people going up it are in the video game donkey kong.  Then we did the long climb up coastal trail back to Cardiac Hill.  After that we had one more loop down to the Muir Woods area and climb back to Cardiac Hill.  Finally we descended down the Dipsea Trail back to Stinson Beach for the finish.  Shaun had a really solid race as he felt good all day.  Ram and I picked it up toward the end even though we were both feeling pretty trashed due to being out of shape.  Jessica had forged ahead when I waited for Ram at Muir Beach and we ended up passing her on the second trip down to Muir Woods.  She had a strong finish as well.  After the race Ram, Jessica, and myself hung out for a little while.  This race is put on by Inside Trails and once again they did a great job of hosting this event.  This was a tough but fun race with over 6,300 feet of climbing and some beautiful scenery I will definitely be back for this one in the future.  Also, this 50K is the kickoff for training as we have a tough race coming up in early February!

The Course
The beast of a course

Friday, August 16, 2019

Kodiak 100: Aug 16, 2019

The calm before the storm that was Kodiak 100
At the beginning of 2019 I was itching for another 100 mile race attempt.  While searching for 100 milers in Northern California I realized my options were limited for a summer race.  I expanded my search to Southern California and stumbled upon Kodiak 100 which was mid August and takes place around Big Bear Lake.  I have always wanted to check out Big Bear and the timing of the race was perfect so I went ahead and signed up as soon as registration allowed.  My wife Jessica was going to be my crew chief and she has done an amazing job of getting me through the hundred mile races that I have been able to complete.  My good friend Chas stated he would come out to California from Ohio and crew for me, bonus!!  Also, a few months later my other good friend Amy asked if I needed an additional crew member and I absolutely welcomed her to join the party.  So, between Jessica, Chas, and Amy I had an all-star crew and they would all prove to be very essential in getting me through this race. 
The quality of my training for Kodiak 100 lead me to believe I was going to do really well however the race had different plans for me.  This was my toughest attempt at a one hundred mile race due to being at higher altitude, technical trails, and over 17,000 feet of climbing.  I designed my training plan and was able to follow it fairly well.  Of course I had to adjust for certain life events but I really put forth a lot of time and effort to preparing for this race. Training officially began in March and I had started to do some running with Shaun who introduced me to gnarly races and also tough training runs that really tested my mental and physical abilities.  The biggest boost to my confidence was Broken Arrow 52K because I was able to handle steep climbing at altitude with minimal problems.  This was very encouraging and I felt as if I was in peak shape at this point in time.  The only problem was that I had another 5 weeks or so of hard training left.  July was a grind but I had never felt that solid going into a taper.  I became a little over confident which was easy to do when training went so well and I didn't really have any taper or injury type issues etc..  There was a 36 hour time limit for this event which is a lot longer than most races of this distance or amount of climbing.  I was aiming to finish in 30 hours although I would be ecstatic just to finish and get the belt buckle.
Nice setting for a race!

In years past, this race was an 8:00 PM start.  I thought it would be nice to sleep a little longer than a usual 5:00 AM start for most 100 mile races.  Well, Kodiak made a change and decided to start this years event at 6:00 PM on the Friday.  Oh wow, this presented a whole new challenge.  It basically meant that I would wake up in the morning and wait all day for the race to start along with having to run over the course of two nights.  The positive thing is that I would not have any pressure or anxiety about getting to sleep early the night before since no alarms would be set.  I did have a really good nights sleep the night before and we had time to go over race plans with Chas and Amy who arrived Friday morning.  It's hard to describe the feeling at the start of a 100 mile race.  It' almost like a huge sign of relief and gratitude.  The culmination of all those training miles and time spent preparing.  I was excited to head out into the mountains around Big Bear for 30+ hours of connecting with nature and seeing what I am made of.  The race began and we did a parade lap around town to spread the crowd out a bit.  Then we hit a climb on a dirt road where cars were driving by and leaving a fog of dust for us to navigate through.  About 3 or 4 miles in we finally got to some single track trail which was really nice.  We had a long downhill to the first aid station at mile 6.

Chas was waiting for me at the trailhead and somehow we missed each other.  Jessica and Amy got me necessary supplies and I left quickly as I didn't need to spend a lot of time at aid stations early in the race.  I would not see my crew again for 19 more miles and it turned out to be a Mike Tyson style punch to the face getting to mile 25.  It got dark out and we had to face one of the toughest challenges of the race by dropping over 3,000 feet down into Siberia creek canyon.  Usually downhills are best for making up time because gravity is in your favor but not in this case.  In the pre-race meeting the race director mentioned there was one tree down on this section of trail that we would have to climb over or go under.  Well, she failed to mention there was not just one of these giant trees laying across the trail but several dozen of them!  Each time getting over, under, and through these trees was draining on the overall pace.  It didn't help the trail was extremely narrow in a lot of sections and slow going because one wrong step on the loose gravelly surface next to the cliff could result in a search and rescue operation or worse.  The parts of this section that were not next to a huge drop off were narrow trail that had large shrubbery protruding into the trail so it was like running the gauntlet in American Gladiators.  Once we reached the bottom of the canyon the trail sort of disappeared and it took a few of us searching in the dark to find the markings telling us which way to go.
Sun setting over the lake and mountains

We reached the "creek" which was a very fast moving high rapids river.  There were large rocks which allowed us to cross without getting soaked in the cold water but one guy in front of me slipped and took a plunge.  I remember feeling sorry for him and secretly relieved that it was not me!  Once we reached the other side of this creek there was a guy and his family that hiked all the way down into the canyon to filter water out of the river for runners.  What an awesome thing for someone to do!  It was quite an operation they had going and there were runners lined up to get refills.  I had enough water in my bladder and decided to not waste time by standing in line.  Then we had to do a huge climb out of the canyon and it was getting past my normal bedtime.  A huge wave of exhaustion swept over me and I was frustrated that it took so long and such a physical toll getting to the bottom of the canyon and we were not even a quarter of the way finished with the race.  I was staying on top of drinking water but through the madness of the Siberia canyon section I was not consuming enough (or any) calories.  This no doubt was part of my exhaustion.

The climb out of the canyon took forever as suspected and I was pretty much a walking zombie as I strolled into the aid station and was greeted by my crew.  They were definitely concerned as I showed up way later than estimated but they also witnessed a lot of other runners coming into this aid station who were messed up and some were even dropping out.  Chas pulled out the baggie of gels from my pack which I had not touched and rightly called me out for not eating any calories.  I would never survive this race unless I started consuming calories so I knew what I had to do going forward.  I was so tired that I told them I wanted to take a nap but we collectively agreed that I didn't really have time for a nap here.  I was in such an exhausted stupor that I could of been mistaken for a drunken slurred speech college student stumbling home from the bars.  I was uncharacteristically angry about the situation in general and may not of treated my crew as well as they deserved to be treated, to them I apologize for that.  Luckily they know me and that I would never intentionally be a jerk to them, I am so lucky to have awesome people in my life.  It was about 1:30 AM at this point and after some rest and calories I trekked off into the night.  I would not see my crew for another 30 miles but they took such great care of me at this aid station that I felt rejuvenated and ready to continue on my mission.

That sun was out to get me!
The next 30 miles had rolling terrain in the forest and I was moving way better then earlier miles and it was relieving.  In fact, between passing people and others dropping out I was moving up quite a few spots during those late night / early morning hours.  My mind was very out of whack during these overnight miles so I do not have much of a memory of what happened.  I know that I did not see many other runners out there I just kept moving along.  Then the sun came up as I was getting on the Pacific Crest Trail section of the race.  I was very excited for this section because the miles I had on the PCT in Oregon at Mountain Lakes 100 were excellent.  The trail was well maintained and in great shape so I thought it would be similar in Southern California.  I was not accurate in my assessment because the PCT section around Big Bear was extremely rocky and technical.  It made for some very slow miles.  Although seeing the sunrise over Big Bear Lake from higher elevation was worth the price of admission and then some.  I had not carried sunscreen with me and I did not reach my crew until 10:30 AM or so.  The sun had been blazing and beating down on me since about 8:30 AM.  I used my long sleeve T-shirt to cover my head and neck, kind of like Chevy Chase did with his jeans walking through the desert in National Lampoons Vacation (credit to Ron Delozier for posting a pic on Facebook that reminded me of this caparison).

So Hot! So Exposed! 
9 hours ago my crew could not tell me apart from a zombie but coming into mile 55 I was awake and had a decent night of progress.  They were excited to see me and I was more excited to see them.  They gave me the royal treatment, I got a massage and got some clean socks. Also, they refilled the supplies in my pack and prepared an ice bandana as I was heading into the most exposed section of the course smack dab in the middle of the afternoon heat.  They said I looked good compared to most people coming into this aid station.  This gave me a nice little boost of confidence leaving the aid station.  I can't even put into words how thankful I am to Jessica, Chas, and Amy for everything they did for me during this whole race.  So off I went into the sun and I was mentally feeling great but physically I was pretty beat down.  Still drinking as much water as possible to stay hydrated and luckily the typical colon inflammation I battle at most 100 milers had not arrived yet.  I had 12 or 13 miles to go before seeing my crew again and these were some very tough miles in the heat.  The sun was blazing so hard that I took a lot of mini breaks were I would sit under a tall shrub even if there was a tiny bit of shade but that was rare out here is the high desert.  The ultra gods smiled down upon me as I came to the aid station at the bottom of a canyon and the awesome volunteers had two huge coolers filled with flavor ice Popsicles!  I sucked down two of those things standing there and took one for the road!  I also kept drinking as much water as I could get down because I knew the dry air at altitude and the heat would be a death sentence if I did not stay hydrated.
Sugarloaf, the mountain I had to climb  

Rocky steep climbing was par for the course

There were some extremely rocky and steep climbs as I made my way to the base of Sugarloaf Mountain where my crew awaited me.  I was happy to see them but I was extremely wasted from the heat and felt like a dead man walking.  Also, he who shall remain nameless, pointed out the mountain in the background where I was facing a 3,600 foot climb to the top and it seemed like a monumental task.  Amy started pacing me at this point and I was glad to have her along as conversation with a friend helps to distract from the pain.  The climb up the mountain was very steep, rocky, and unforgiving.  Like other sections of the course the technical aspect of it made for very slow movement.  I was reduced to concentrating on one step at a time and resting by leaning on my trekking poles at very frequent intervals.  It seemed to take a lifetime to make it to the top of the mountain but we finally got there!  We had some really great views from the top as the sun was slowly starting to set.  We turned around and started heading back on the rocky terrain and to my surprise there were quite a few other runners still on their way up to the top.  At this time I started to get a bad pain in my stomach and it was not the usual side ache type pain but more centered under my rib cage.  The route down the mountain was different then the climb up.  It took us on a nice smooth fire road where I should of been running down and making up time but due to the pain in my stomach and a developing hot spot on my foot I was reduced to a power hike at best.  I tried to slowly run a few times but it was not happening.  The sky grew dark and I was sad to see the light go but at least it was getting cooler out.  The head lamps got switched on and night #2 was underway.

More rocky climbs

Putting in the work, gotta get to the Sugarloaf summit!

At the Sugarloaf summit, made it!

We made it to the bottom of the fire road and then had to go back into the woods in order to get back to that aid station where Chas and Jessica were waiting.  The course markings were a bit confusing and there was a big trail intersection where we were not sure which direction to go.  We did a big drop down this steep hill and then the trail did not look much like a trail so we hiked back up the hill to re-check the markings.  Come to find out the first attempt was the right direction after all but we did not see a course marking for awhile so I was praying it was the correct way to go.  Then we heard aid station noises and seen all the lights which gave me huge relief!  Chas checked out my hot spot and confirmed there was not much that could be done about it and I would have to suck it up for the next 18 miles.  Even though I was drinking plenty of water I was still extremely low on calories.  Chas grabbed me a hot grilled cheese from aid station which really hit the spot and even relieved my stomach pain for a little while.  Jess helped me change socks again and checked to make sure I had everything I needed for the next leg of the journey.  Amy and I continued on in the dark, still power hiking through the woods.  Over the next few miles that hot spot under my foot had turned painful as every step made me cringe.  I repeated the mantra over and over that quitting is not an option and pain is all in my head.  I was still sucking down water as I was not peeing much in the last 10 hours and it was dark when I did.  I drank so much water over the course of this race that I was so tired of it!

Amy and I headed out into the dark at mile 81
Amy helped keep my attention off all the pain and exhaustion by keeping the conversation going through these dark miles.  Crew was not allowed at the mile 87 aid station however they were allowed to meet us in a parking lot which was a half mile from the aid station.  Amy and I got to the parking lot but Chas and Jessica were no where to be seen.  There was an SUV way on the other end of the lot with the lights on but it was hard to tell if it was them.  We waved our arms a few times in their direction but the vehicle did not move.  Just as we were about to continue on the vehicle started pulling across the parking lot and low and behold it was them!  They got me situated and prepared for the last 12 miles.  After a quick stop at the aid station we had a decent climb and then a huge drop down a rocky fire road all the way to the bottom of another canyon.  There was a kind lady down there with some limited aid station supplies and it was a nice little rest before the next horror show of a section.  We basically had to do a huge climb up out of the canyon on a very narrow trail that was mostly loose gravel.  I was glad that I had trekking poles to help stabilize my ass whooped self.  This was a very tough and dangerous climb which seemed to go on forever and I was so glad when we finally seen lights at the top where the aid station was.  We could hear voices cheering runners on.  There were some interesting characters at this aid station and they were extremely helpful.  I would like to say that most of the aid stations were top notch at this race and much thanks to all the volunteers.  So, we only had 4 miles to go and I was salivating over crossing the finish line.  The last 4 miles seemed like they went on forever as there was no way that I was able to run.  Finally we got out of the woods and had about one mile to go on the road back into town.

A crew for the ages.  Lucky to have all-stars in my corner!
Amy and I jogged through the empty quiet street and then into the lighted downtown area.  I crossed that finish line and was so glad to see Jess and Chas and just being done was a relief.  There was not many people around at the finish at 4:23 AM so it was kind of anti-climatic but I got my buckle and more importantly I proved to myself I could finish a tough 100 miler at altitude.  So, my final time was 34 hours and 23 minutes.  It took a lot longer than I anticipated and I was happy that I finished but thought I didn't have a good race.  Upon seeing the results I found out that I got 55th place overall and there were 30 people that finished after me.  Along with 71 people who did not finish.  So, overall it was just a really tough race and I felt a lot better about my results.  I know that just finishing should be all that matters but when you train so hard for something you expect to perform well.  Without my incredible crew I honestly don't think this race would of turned out favorably.  They went above and beyond the normal crew duties to make sure I got through the race and I am forever grateful.  Chas and Amy didn't even hesitate to fly across the country and help me and Jessica gave up another weekend of sacrificing sleep for me.

The next day was a Sunday and Chas got up early after only a few hours sleep and went for a run.  We mostly sat around the AirBnB all day drinking and eating along with going into town for some beer and food as well.  This was a very memorable experience and I was glad to share it with close friends.  This 100 mile distance is always such an unknown because there are a ton of ups and downs both mentally and physically.  Usually your body and mind are completely done with the race about mile 50 and it's a trip to realize your only half way done!  Keep putting one foot in front of the other and eventually you get to the finish.  I didn't have my usual side ache from this race which was enlightening.  The other stomach pain I got was kind of defeating during the race as it kept me from running over the last 30 miles or so but just another thing I must figure out!  I don't know when my next 100 mile race will be as I kind of get burnt out from the training.  Although after some time passes I am sure I will be itching for another challenge.

My fourth 100 mile buckle, it was a hard earned piece of metal.


Saturday, June 22, 2019

Broken Arrow 52K Sky Race: June 22, 2019

Pre-Race, the calm before the pain!
Sky race trail running events are popular in Europe and have gained  a lot of attention in the United States within the last five or six years.  They are unique and challenging due to taking place in mountains at high altitude and also involve a lot of elevation gain / loss throughout the races.  I have followed the sky races in the US but I never thought I would sign up for one.  That is until Shaun peer pressured me into signing up for Broken Arrow 52K.  The timing of the event actually lined up nicely with my training plan for Kodiak 100 so I agreed to do it.  Broken Arrow starts around 6,000 feet above sea level and tops out at almost 10,000 feet.  There is over 10,000 feet of total elevation gain throughout the two loop race which starts and ends in Squaw Valley ski resort.  From certain vantage points on the course you can even see lake Tahoe in the distance.  Leading up to this race I was in pretty good shape from all my training over the last few months so I was excited to see how I would handle the difficulty of the course.  I was also interested in seeing how my body would handle the higher altitude since my goal race in August, Kodiak 100, was also going to be in the mountains at a higher altitude.

The First Climb
High enough for leftover snow in late June

The super steep rope climb!
We arrived to Olympic Village in Squaw Valley and got our bibs and all the great race schwag.  The race started in the cool mountain air and after parading down the main brick street of the ski resort we hit the first climb.  Then the next few miles of the course are rolling hills through a wooded section and you come out into a big opening.  That's when you face the first really tough climb, basically a very steep grade up to the top.  Then there is a big decent down to the first aid station.  This is followed by a few more long steep climbs.  Then you get to the steepest climb of the day, in fact, it's so steep they installed a rope to assist the ascent.  There was snow here making it even more difficult.  On the rope section on my first loop I used all upper body strength to get myself to the top.  In hindsight that was not a great idea because my shoulder and arms felt like they were going to fall off.  There were a lot of other people on the rope at the same time since it was the first loop so we had to keep moving in order to not break everyone's flow.  It was super hard and I had never experienced anything like it in a race.  I can't explain how happy I was to make it to the top of the rope climb.  This was my least favorite part of the race however it's all part of the challenge so I have learned to embrace it.  The next hard part was a steep climb up to the highest point on the course where we had to scale some rocks and climb up a shady ladder.  I'm not gonna lie it was kind of terrifying but the views from the top were incredible.  We could even see Lake Tahoe in the distance and that mental reward makes all the difficult aspects worth while.

Shaun on top of the world

Lake Tahoe in the background

Climbing up to the shady ladder

Then we started descending and came to a huge steep downhill.  The hill was covered in snow and going down was treacherous.  Some runners were sitting and sliding down the snow hill on their ass, including Shaun!  There were some complaints of burning skin after that because the snow was flying all up in there!  Climbing back up this hill was very difficult as well because the snow provided slippery footing and it was so steep that we could only do slow steps.  Luckily Shaun and I both had shoe traction for the snow which really helped with this section.  After this climb it was mostly all downhill back to the start finish area to end the first loop.  I had to reapply some sun screen after that loop because the sun was blazing down and it's easy to get burnt on an exposed snow covered mountain.  The second loop was the same route as the first loop.  Towards the end of the race I made it a priority to beat another runner who was playing music out loud on the course.  I don't mind if people listen to headphones during a race but it's disrespectful to play the music out loud.  Anyway this person was really gaining on us and I took off down the service road running as fast as I could ffor the last mile and a half or so.  I ended up accomplishing my goal but some older guy passed me right at the finish line.  I was a little deflated by that however it did not ruin the fact that I had a great time and I truly enjoyed the sky race!  It was super rewarding and this particular race is put on by Salomon so it was a very well run event.  After the race we smashed some pizza at the ski village and then headed back to the AirBnb in North Lake Tahoe for some beer and TV wind down. 

Strava Data:

A hard fought finish but got it done

Saturday, June 1, 2019

The Ridge 60K: June 1st, 2019

45 minute bus ride back to my neighborhood
Shaun mentioned his friend Pancho was coming into town from Charlotte, SC to run this trail race, another one put on by Pacific Coast Trail Runs.  It lined up perfectly with my training plan for Kodiak 100 which was only a little over two months away!  It was going to be Pancho's longest run to date.  He is much faster then Shaun and I and he was planning on giving it his best shot.  The logistics of this race were not ideal.  It starts at Baker Beach and ends in Stinson Beach.  Baker Beach is only a mile from my apartment but Stinson Beach is a 45 minute drive.  We had to take a shuttle from Stinson to Baker early in the morning before race start.  Shaun already had rented an AirBnB in Stinson for the weekend so Jess and I decided on chipping in for the place and staying there instead of gettting up super early to drive all the way to Stinson just to catch a shuttle all the way back home for the race start.  Plus that way we could hang out and have a few beers after the race instead of driving all the way back home.  Jess signed up for the 23K which started later and from Stinson Beach so she got to sleep in while Shaun, Pancho, and myself had to get up super early to catch a 45 minute shuttle ride to Baker Beach.  There were two buses with hardly any room on them (had to sit 2 people in each single seat) transporting runners and the bus in front of our even pulled over on the windy Panoramic highway so one of the runners could get out and throw up!

Baker Beach Pre-Race
We finally arrived to Baker Beach and it was nice to get out and stretch our legs.  We took some pre race photos and wished Pancho good luck since we would not being seeing him very much during the race.  We thought maybe we might catch him later if he goes out to fast and blows up but it never really happened.  The weather today was going to be cool and very foggy but at least there was no rain in the forecast, finally!  We got started and as suspected Pancho was off to the races.  Shaun was mentally struggling a bit at the beginning since he does not like running on roads and we had to go over the Golden Gate Bridge before getting to the trails.  Once we climbed up into the Marin Headlands and got out of sight from the highway he felt better.  We followed the single track ridge across the headlands but it was so foggy that we had zero views of the valley below.  Then we took the Marincello trail which is a smooth downhill to our first aid station at Tennessee Valley.  From there we climbed up the Miwok trail and then descended the other side.  At the bottom of the descent we ran into Shaun's friend Ram (who is now a freind of mine as well) who was out on a training run.  I heard a lot about Ram from Shaun and it was nice to finally meet him and also good to make another running friend in the Bay Area.  After chatting with Ram for a minute we then jumped on the Dias Ridge Trail which is a nice long downhill to Muir Beach.

Really foggy and cool, my favorite conditions
Once we finished the downhill then we had to briefly run along a road and get on another trail which led us to a river crossing.  I don't mind getting my feet wet once in awhile so I jumped right in!  We went to the aid station which was in a big open field right after the river crossing.  Then we had another long climb ahead of us.  The first trail on this climb is Heather Cutoff which is a very windy section of trail that has been dubbed "Donkey Kong" because of all the switch backs.  From the ground level looking up at the trail and all the runners zig zagging it looks just like the video game Donkey Kong and I thought that was pretty funny.  Then we got on the coastal trail which is a really long gradual climb up to Cardiac Hill where the next aid station is.  Then we started a long out and back section and went along Bolinas Ridge which has some of the best views off Mt. Tamalpais.  As we were about a mile or two from the next aid station we saw Pancho coming back towards us on his out and back return.  He actually looked like he was in pretty good shape.  He said he started out strong but had since eased up however he was doing well.  Shaun and I were both feeling the burn at that aid station but we only had 5 miles back to Cardiac Hill and then 3 downhill miles to the finish and that thought was enough to keep us going.
Shaun and I navigating some single track

On the return to Cardiac Hill Shaun had a steady pace going for a few miles on the really light uphill grade.  I was doing my best to keep up with him and this destroyed my calves!  About a half mile from Cardiac Hill Aid Station we realized that we were going to have about 30 minutes to beat 8 hours for the 60K (37 mile).  Shaun's strategy was to check in at the aid station but not get any food or water.  I was completely out of water and figured I better at least get some in one of my water bottles to hold me over for the next three miles.  We made quick work at the aid station and started our sprint to the finish.  We were cruising at a pretty high speed on a slight downhill when I tripped and completely launched myself into the rocks and rough vegetation on the side of the trail.  It was pretty rough getting up from that and with my leg bleeding I had to wash it out with some of my water, good thing I filled up the water bottle!  The fall ate up a few valuable minutes in our quest to beat 8 hours.  We ended up finishing a few minutes after our goal but that's ok, we had a great time and we were finished which is all that really matters.  Jess was at the finish line hanging out with Pancho.  It was great to see her and hear about how well she did in her race and that she met a new friend.  We also got the breakdown from Pancho on how his race went which sounds like he did really well especially for his first ultra!  We ate some post race tacos and had a few post race beers provided by Pacific Coast Trail Runs and that was a nice post race celebration.  The climb back up to the AirBnB was pretty rough but it was nice to get showered, ordered some pizza, drink beers and hang out with everyone.

Strava Data:

Finished and ready for beer!
My knee a few days later, healing 

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Mt. Diablo 50K: May 18th, 2019

I have been doing a few training runs with my new running friend Shaun.  He convinced me that I should sign up for this race that he was doing called Mt. Diablo 50K put on by Pacific Coast Trail Runs, another great trail race company in the Bay Area.  This was my first time doing a race that had a sky race type difficulty, which means over 10,000 feet of climbing for a 50K.  The only difference is that this race was not at high altitude but it was still extremely tough.  This was my fourth race of 2019 and since we had a really wet winter it had rained at the previous three.  The forecast for this race also called for rain and not just any storm, there was an "atmospheric river" on the way!  I can't give a scientific explanation of what an atmospheric river is however I can say that it involves hard driving rain and very high winds along with cooler temperatures.  Due to the forecast and a few other reasons they had to re-route the course from how they usually do it.  The re-route added in a few bonus miles and some extra climbing so we were going to get a little more bang for our buck so to speak.

Shaun Climbing Up Diablo

I arrived to the race and it was very overcast but had not started raining yet.  I was bringing my Houdini rain/wind jacket because I knew it was not a matter of if but when the shit will hit the fan.  We got started with trekking poles in hand and began our first climb up Mt. Diablo.  We made it all the way to the peak where it was super windy but had not started raining yet.  Then we descended down the mountain, also summited eagle peak on the way, and escaped the first loop without getting rained on.  Then we started the second climb of the mountain and I got a nice boost of energy starting out on this loop.  As we got closer to the peak the rain drops were beginning to fall and the wind was picking up.  Shaun and I decided it was a good time to put our jackets on which proved to be a great decision.  The rain really picked up as we descended into the Juniper Campground aid station.  Upon leaving there we had to put gloves on as the temperature dropped.  The gloves didn't stay dry very long however they kept my hands warm.  When we got up on the ridge of Eagle Peak it was so windy that we could hardly stay upright.  It was raining sideways and we picked up the pace in order to get off that ridge line as quickly as possible.

Exposed ridge line to later become a tight rope of death

By the time we finished that loop the trail leading down to the start finish area was getting really muddy from all the rain.  It was a crazy little downhill mudslide to be more precise.  We refueled at the start finish aid station.  It was mentally tough knowing we had to go back out for a partial loop since we were soaked and cold along with watching runners from other distances getting in their warm cars to leave.  Luckily the rain was letting up as we started our climb up to Eagle Peak.  This turned out to be a very steep and tough climb which got me warm again.  After summiting and crossing the Eagle Peak ridge line it was a nice feeling to be on the way back down with only a few miles of downhill running left.  As we got close to the end I realized that we could break 9 hours if we really pushed and we had to pretty much slide down the huge mud slide before the finish line.  Ended up crossing with less than a minute to spare!  Due to the weather not many people showed up to the race.  There was a ton of post race food leftover and it was delicious! Shaun and I ate our food, drank some pop, and reminisced about how crazy the weather was on that tough course.  It was the most climbing I had ever done in a 50K and for some reason I really loved it!  Driving home was not easy though as there was a lot of traffic and my foot hurt pretty bad so repeatedly having to press the brake was not fun.  I made it home and went out to grab one of my favorite dishes, Kimchi Stew, from a Korean fusion place and it definitely hit the spot.  Even though the weather was insane I think I preferred it over having a blazing sun on the exposed course.  I will absolutely look forward to doing this race again.

Strava Data:
Glad to be finished!

The route: two full loops and one partial


Friday, April 5, 2019

Forget the PR Race Director 50K: April 5th, 2019

There is one thing that has been consistent over the last 8 years and that is Forget The PR 50K.  Upon volunteering at this 50K race in 2011 I got pumped up to try to run an ultra which I ended up doing at the same race in 2012.  After that I volunteered at the race every year.  Cool thing about volunteering at this race is the Race Director who use to run it (Rob Powell) would let the volunteers come and run the course while treating us to pizza and beer afterwards along with getting race shirts and finisher buckles.  When Mark Carroll and Chad Heald took over the race in 2017 they decided to carry on the tradition of the volunteers Race Director Race.  Fast forward to 2019 and even though I moved to other side of the country I still felt compelled to come back and volunteer for the race weekend.  The main reason I did this was to see all of my Ohio trail running friends which have become like family over the years.  When I decided this I let Chas and Ron know that I was going to run the course on my own the Friday before the race since I could not make it to the Race Director Race.  They instantly said they would take the day off work and run the course with me.  Then Johnny Rutherford also decided to run the course with us.  Later Sheldon Campbell said he wold meet us out there and run some miles with us a well!  Now we had a posse of 5 on a Friday nonetheless!

I flew into Columbus on Thursday afternoon.  I got my rental car and drove to Mohican where I met Chas and Ron for pizza and beer at Trails End.  We went back to the campground to get ready for our run the next day and try to get some sleep.  I was on west coast time so at 12:30 am I was still laying in bed twiddling my thumbs because it was only 9:30 pm for my internal clock.  Not sure what time I actually dozed off but I do know I only had a few hours of sleep at best.  We got up and it appeared like it was going to be a cold and rainy day.  However the rain only lasted for a little while which turned out to be a bonus since morning temperatures were in the 30s.  Loop one we were moving quite well and as usual Big Ass Hill didn't disappoint!  It seemed like we made it to covered bridge in no time where we ran into some people and ended up chatting for awhile.  Chas had stashed a bag of goodies for us at covered bridge so we were able to fuel up and make sure we had enough water.  Then we met up with Sheldon and he did the dam loop with us.  This is definitely one of the toughest and most fun sections of the course.  Unfortunately we were not able to do the famous root climb part any longer but there is more climbing then before so that was good.  We had a great time shooting the shit and trying to figure out where the hell we were supposed to go since the course was not marked yet.  Ended up navigating it the correct way as far as we know!  We arrived back to the start line at the campground and done with the tough loop and in pretty good time.

Happy Faces before the climb up Big Ass Hill
Oh how glorious the pain is climbing Big Ass Hill!

Our make shift aid station at covered Bridge
After refueling we were ready to run the last 13 miles and it's always nicer to have a shorter loop for the second half of the race.  Although we were all feeling the burn on the second loop we still managed to keep moving.  It was relieving to get to the covered bridge because all we had left was the flat section along the river and the climb up North Rim Trail.  I always love the added challenge of doing that big climb up North Rim Trail toward the end of the race when our legs are completely destroyed.  I think that is part of what sets ultra runners apart is that we, for some stupid reason, love the pain but revel in the accomplishment.  We got back to the campground and crossed the imaginary finish line.  Relieved to be finished and we all stumbled our way to the showers.  At this time all of the runners had started showing up at the campground for the actual race which was the following day.  We ate some food and sat around the fire with some good people drinking many beers and telling stories.  Johnny brought us some really strong Founders Imperial Stout and it was delicious!  These guys have become some of my closest friends in recent years and it was so great seeing everyone.  The race went well the next day as we were busy volunteering from 5:30 AM until about 5:00 PM.  I am really glad I was able to make it back to Ohio for this event.  For many years now it has been my favorite weekend of the year and it never disappoints.

Strava Data:

Done and ready for beer!

Forget the PR Course

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Fort Ord 50K: Feb. 2nd, 2019

I signed up for the 50K and Jess signed up for the 10K.  Fort Ord is South of the Bay area down between Salinas and Monterey, Calfornia.  It's an old military property where they conducted a lot of army training back in the day.  There is currently a race track there which is where the start / finish line is for the race.  It's a really neat area with plenty of single track trails, some wide trails, rolling hills, and great views of the entire area.  The race is put on by Inside Trails which is, in my opinion, one of the best trail race companies in the Bay area.  This was a great race for multiple reasons which I will explain in more detail but I felt really great and ended up with my second best 50K time along with meeting a new friend Shaun.

Jess and I drove to Monterey for dinner and then went to our hotel for the night.  It rained pretty hard as we were chilling in the hotel and I was wondering if it would continue through the next day.  Forecast was calling for spotty showers throughout the day.  We got to the start line in the morning and it seemed like the rain was going to let loose.  We started the race and the first few miles were on a dirt road which was pretty muddy in areas.  Then the rain let loose and we got a good soaking.  We were then on some winding rolling single track trails for awhile.  Most of the race alternated between these two types of trails and there was only one small section that had to be repeated.  The rain continued on and off for the first half of the race.  I met one kid that was doing his first 50K and met a few other people along the way.  I ran a few miles with a guy named Greg who is from Paradise, California where a deadly wildfire in 2018 had wiped out most of his city.  I saved the day for a random runner who went right by a course marker at a turn, I saw him at the top of a hill going in the wrong direction and yelled out to him.  He was thankful for the shout.

For my own standards I had a pretty good overall pace coming into the mile 25 aid station.  I thought maybe there was a possibility I could break the six hour mark.  This is before I found out the biggest climbing section of the whole race was in the last six miles.  At this aid station I was filling up my water bottles and making sure I had enough fuel to make it through to the end.  A guy named Shaun came into the aid station and had a very bloody knee from an earlier fall.  He and I left the aid station at the same time and since we had a huge climb at this juncture it gave us some time to talk about running and races etc...Turns out he lives in the Oakland Hills and he has done some really extreme ultra races such as The Bear, Fat Dog 120, UTMB, Western States, and Hardrock!  Holy crap, those are major freaking accomplishments.  On the way up this big climb it started raining again and this is a very exposed area with no trees at all.  The winds picked up and rain started coming down really hard and I picked up the pace as I just wanted to be done.  Shaun had fallen behind on his nutrition and he temporarily slowed it up.  I pushed on through the last few miles and the rain stopped with about a mile to go and the sun even made a brief appearance.  I was glad to see Jess at the finish line and she was cheering me on.  I ended up with a great finish time for myself and was proud of my accomplishment.  I think my new training grounds in the Bay Area have proven to be quite helpful to my running in general.

Jess had a really great run in her 10K and got to go back to the hotel and relax while I was out on the course.  Jess and I met a couple from Ohio at the finish line.  They recognized my Forget the PR 50K T-Shirt I was wearing.  They had moved out to California and live in Monterey.  It's always cool to run into Midwest transplants out here.  Then a few minutes later Shaun came across the finish line with his bloody knee.  The medic dumped a bunch of hydrogen peroxide on it and bandaged it up for him.  We chatted a bit as we ate some food and got ready for the long drive home.  Overall, this was a fun race and I enjoyed the whole experience.  It was cool to meet Shaun as well, always nice to get a new running friend and have someone to log some training miles with.

Here is the Strava Data: