Saturday, November 13, 2021

Mt. Tam 50K: Nov. 13th, 2021

The famous steep ravine trail ladder

This was my second time running this race and it turned out to be very memorable.  I floated the idea out to Jessica's cousin Joe and his wife Debra about this race and to our surprise they thought it was a great idea!  Debra was going to run the half marathon with Jessica and Joe was going to run the 50K with Shaun and myself.  Also, two of Debra's college friends decided to come and join the fun in the half marathon as well!  Paaaartaaaay!  I was a little nervous about my ability to train for this race because it was less than two months after Bear 100.  Mt. Tam 50K has the some incredible scenic views but is a tough race with 6,800 feet of climbing so I knew that it was something I had to be prepared for.  I took a week off after Bear and started to put in a few miles.  Running was not easy as my body wanted a longer break.  I slowly increased mileage over the following 6 weeks or so although the amount of long runs I did was very minimal.

Joe working his way up Dias Ridge

Race morning arrived in a flash.  The race started and Shaun, Joe, and myself were sticking together at the beginning and having some good laughs about random topics.  We hit the Steep Ravine trail and there were some trees down after rare October storms.  Shaun and I slightly pulled away from Joe in this section but it was a conga line so he was always in sight.  We regrouped at the first aid station and then headed down to Muir Woods.  The first climb up Ben Johnson was a grind as it always is.  We were talking to a girl who said she has not drank a beer in 4 months because she had been training for the race!  Then we got to the next aid station where we refueled and I encouraged Joe to eat some food as he was looking a little down.  Next we slogged up the easy grade Miwok climb to Dias Ridge.  This is where Joe started to feel the grind as he wasn't use to all the climbing.  We got up to Dias and Joe had told me a few times at this point to go ahead.  He was also talking about possibly dropping out or reducing his total distance on the day.  I knew that he needed some calories and also knew that he was just going through a rough patch.  I told him that it's possible to get out of the funk etc..however he was pretty convinced that it was not his day etc.. The pace we were going at on this downhill was not really sustainable in order to finish within the cutoff.  

One of many epic coastal trail views

I asked Joe several times if he was sure that it was ok if I pressed on and he assured me that he was cool with it.  I felt like he needed to be by himself so he could find a rhythm or pace that worked for him.  I could tell it was stressing him out because he felt as if he was holding us back.  So I gave him a gel and told him to eat that and it would help him feel better.  Then Shaun and I took off on the smooth downhill on Dias Ridge trail leading into Muir Beach. We were flying pretty good and making up some time.  I struggled mentally from leaving Joe as I was not sure if it was the right thing to do.  We got to Muir Beach and made quick work of that aid station.  On the way out Joe passed us as he was on his way to the aid station.  He actually seemed as if he was in decent spirits and that gave me a little mental boost that Joe might rally.  Shaun and I started up the Donkey Kong climb and we were doing a rhythm of 300 steps running and 300 steps walking on the uphill.  This really helped save our pace from dropping to much on the climb.  As we were getting pretty high up I'm pretty sure I saw Joe coming across the field before the Donkey Kong climb.  This made me happy that he didn't drop at Muir Beach.  On the way up coastal trail toward Cardiac Hill I really started to feel drained.  Shaun beat me to the aid station but I wasn't too far behind.  Then we set off to do the second Muir woods loop of the day which was longer than the first one.  

More excellent views!

We came across a random aid station in the woods that some people had hiked in and set up.  They had liquor and beer available but I settled for some coke (a-cola).  We made our way down to Muir Woods and then grinded out the second climb up the Ben Johnson trail.  Finally we reached the top of the last long climb of the day at Cardiac Hill.  I started to worry a little bit about Joe because he didn't have his cell phone with him so if he dropped it might be logistically tough to communicate.  The three miles back to Stinson Beach went by pretty quick as it's almost all downhill.  Shaun was feeling good and he ended up beating me by a couple minutes to the finish line.  I was happy for the day to be done as the 50K worked me a lot harder than I anticipated.  I thought I might see Joe at the finish as he mentioned possibly skipping the last loop that went down to Muir Beach but I didn't see him there.  I was greeted by Jess, Debra, and one of Debra's friends.  I asked them if Joe had called and they said no and Debra checked with the timing table who mentioned his status is currently still on course!  This gave me some excitement that he was pushing on but we still didn't know what his status was.  They were out of veggie burritos so I settled for a few bags of chips and sat with Jess in our chairs cheering on runners as they were finishing.  Jess had done really well in her half marathon just like she always does.  Debra and her two friends had a really good time on the trails.

The girl who had not had a beer in 4 months came by and I yelled "time for that beer!" and I could tell she was super psyched to be finishing what I assumed was her first 50K.  Honestly this is a pretty tough 50K for your first one as there is 6,800 feet of climbing which is no joke so kudos to her.  Another guy was coming into the finish shoot and some older gentleman turned on the jets to pass the guy in the shoot.  When the guy who got passed realized what happened he turned on the jets and passed the older guy right at the last second to beat him.  There was no reason to pass someone like that when you 8+ hours into a 50K, I mean if it was a battle for the first 5 spots or something I could see it but at this point it's almost an ethical issue.  I'm glad that guy didn't let him finish ahead.  Anyway I was nervous about Joe as we didn't really know what was going on with him.  Debra and her friend had gone down the road a little ways looking for him.  All of a sudden he appeared and was coming down the road to finish!!!  He rose up from the ashes like a phoenix!!  I was so psyched that he stuck it out and was finishing the 50K.  He had joined forces with two other girls who were also struggling and they stuck together and helped each other out.  I started yelling as he got closer and I could tell he was super stoked to be crossing this finish line.

During the race Joe said he would be mentally cool with not completing it.  Afterwards he realized that wasn't true and said he would of been so bummed if he dropped.  I am so proud of him for gutting it out and getting it done.  Joe, Debra, Jess, myself, and Debra's two friends went out for some food and drinks to celebrate and we had a really great time.  This was definitely one for the ages!

Friday, September 24, 2021

The Bear 100: Sept. 24th, 2021

View From Starting Line

The Bear 100 is a tough mountain race and a Hardrock 100 qualifier.  It's a point to point race that starts in Logan Utah and traverses single track trails along with some dirt jeep roads ending at Bear Lake in Idaho with roughly 22,000 + feet of elevation gain.  There is a 36 hour time limit to complete the course and get an official finisher belt buckle.  I've had this race on my bucket list for awhile now and when registration opened early this year I signed up and glad I did because it sold out within a week.  Shaun Woody also signed up to run the race as it would be his 10th 100 miler and coming full circle as in 2012 it was the first 100 miler he ever did.  Ram had already gotten into Western States and Cascade Crest 100 through the lotteries so he was doing those two races this year since they were cancelled in 2020.  So, we could all train together this year for our respective events and we could crew for Ram in his 100s and he could crew for us in our 100.  Since Bear was going to be the toughest race I have ever attempted I wanted to be sure that I was as prepared as I could be coming into it.  We ended up having a great year of training which included two tough 100Ks, a 50 miler, a 43 miler, a 41 miler, a 38 miler, and several tough 50Ks.  All of these massive training runs were well targeted to Bear 100 as some of them were at altitude and all of them involved a lot of climbing.  We wanted to have an additional crew person to help Ram during our race and luckily it worked out to where my long time friend and trail running OG Lucas Hardbarger could make it out for the weekend.  This was awesome news as it's always great to catch up with Luc and I was super psyched up to have him in our corner.  I give him all the credit for getting me into this crazy sport several years ago.

Dropping off the drop bags

Shaun and I finished up our last long training run of 41 miles exactly three weeks before the race.  I think we were both a bit beat up from all the training.  Shaun was dealing with an ankle / foot pain and I was dealing with a nagging pain in my shin.  Throughout the taper I was doing short runs and just hoping the shin pain would subside.  With less than a week to go before Bear my shin pain seemed to have moved to my calf.  I was actually ok with that because the shin pain was so bad that it had hurt with every footfall however the new calf strain was manageable.  Shaun had reported that his pains and injuries also subsided during taper so I was glad that we were both in a good place to start the race.  The race starts on a Friday morning at 6:00 am.  Shaun and I arrived on Wed. afternoon before the race and proceeded to organize our drop bags and make sure we had our overall race plan in order.  The drop bags were tricky to piece together as it was going to be hot during the day but get pretty cold at night so we had to be sure we had the right clothes available at our estimated arrival times into the different aid stations.  On Thursday we picked up Ram and Luc from the airport and went over the race day plans with them.  Then went to bed early in hopes of getting some decent sleep the night before the race. 

Last minute strategy session

Epic Mountain Views

As usual, the night before a 100 miler, I was unable to fall asleep.  I tried reading, counting backwards from 1,000, and meditating.  I have an issue with anxiety and nothing seems to quiet my mind when staring down the barrel of a mountain 100.  I think around 1:30 am or so I was able to doze off but then woke back up around 3:00 am.  I couldn't get back to sleep after that.  Great, I thought to myself, going to start the toughest race of my life on 2 hours of sleep at best.  Nothing I could do about it at that point so I accepted my fate and got ready to start this thing.  We arrived at the start line and there as a fairly large crowd as 300 runners started the race.  We both decided to start the race with trekking poles because there was around 5,000 feet of climbing within the first 10 miles or so.  When they yelled go we ran a mile or so on pavement until we got to the actual trail to start our climb.  As we got higher in elevation the sun was coming up and we were treated to some pretty great views of the valley below where we started.  I was feeling decent on this initial climb.  About 6 miles in I got bit/stung on the back of my leg by a hornet or some sort of wasp and it hurt pretty bad.  Several other runners reported stings or bites in that same spot and on other parts of the course as well.  I guess I fared pretty well as some people were stung multiple times!  As we crested the first part of this long climb we could see some of the most amazing views I have ever seen.  The serenity of the mountains and fall colors awoke me to the fact that this was going to be an epic adventure.

Just got done with the Floating On Section

After completing the first 10 miles we had a bit more climbing and then a very long downhill on beautiful single track trail.  Our overall pace was not to good from the amount of time it took for the first climb however this downhill allowed us to make up a lot of time.  In fact, we arrived at the mile 19 aid station right on Shaun's estimated arrival time.  It was the first place that we got to see our crew.  Lucas and Ram took great care of us and got us everything we needed.  I ditched the trekking poles for good here as they were more annoying than anything, I like to have free hands to eat gels and take sips of water etc..  We had 18 more miles before we would see our crew again.  The sun was starting to do it's thing at this point and temps were rising.  We power hiked the next section which was a very gradual grade climb up a smooth gravel road.  Figured it would be good to not waste energy running this even though it was totally doable.  I think our strategy paid off later in the race.  We got to an mini aid station three miles later and they were out of water.  This was ok with me as I still had a full bladder from the last aid station.  Then we began another large climb out of this aid station and eventually another nice downhill to the next aid station at mile 30.  By this time the heat was taking a toll and we made sure to eat and refuel for the next 7.5 mile stretch.  I got some ice in my ice bandana to help keep me cool.  Also, one of the aid station workers asked me if I could help her open this huge jar of giant pickles.  I agreed to help as long as I could have one of those large pickles!  They had been cutting them up into smaller pieces for runners but made an exception as I assisted in opening the jar.  

The views and trails continued to be incredible for the entire race to this point.  We had another climb out of this aid station up a jeep road where a lot of 4 wheelers kicked up a generous amount of dust for us to breath and then had a nice long gradual downhill next to a river.  We were both flying pretty good through this section.  Shaun said it reminded him of the Modest Mouse song "float on" as it seemed we were kind of floating along this section of trail.  We got to mile 37.5 and were still pretty close to Shaun's estimated arrival time.  Ram and Lucas were there and they brought us some special food..Shaun had some pizza and I got some McDonald's fries which hit the spot.  We needed to stay on top of calories especially getting ready for night time and the second half of the race.  I had also been feeling some hot spots or possible blisters on my right foot.  Upon inspection I discovered there were a few blisters.  This has not been an issue for me in my whole ultra career up until the last year or so.  Since we still had a 100K to go I knew these blisters would have to be addressed immediately so they didn't become a larger problem.  The only thing I could think to do was put some duct tape on the blisters to prevent anymore friction and that's what I did.  Lucas helped me cut some sections of tape and I applied them directly over the blisters, not sure if that's the most sanitary thing in the world but all bets are off when your in the middle of a 100 miler.  I threw my injinji sock back on over the tape and I was good as new!

We left this aid station feeling good as we had a complete reset.  The next section of trail meandered through some large meadows which were really cool.  Eventually we made it to mile 45 aid station where we filled up our water and went on our way.  We had a long steep climb out of this aid station and at this point in the race it was a grind but then we were treated to a nice section of trail along a beautiful mountain stream.  I remember seeing some people fly fishing and thought it was probably a really great way to spend a Friday evening vs running 100 miles..hahaha.  By the time we got to mile 50 aid station it was getting dark.  We had drop bags here with warm clothes and it was a good thing we did.  In the time we sat here and ate food the temperature dropped big time as the sun disappeared for good.  We were warned to make sure that we filled up with water and food because the next aid station was 12 miles away!  Shaun and I left out of here and kept grinding away at the course.  This was a pretty long stretch as we settled into the nighttime miles.  Our crew was waiting for us at the next aid station which was mile 62 and we took care of everything we needed to including getting some additional cold weather gear.  Lucas joined us at this point to pace for the next 14 mile stretch.  It was nice to have someone that felt a bit fresh to help us watch for course markers and keep us going in the right direction as we were both very tired at this point.  Although, the temperature had dropped quite a bit so the cold was keeping us awake.  It was great catching up with Lucas and truly a pleasure to share some trail miles with him just like the old days!

These night time miles were a series of climbing through the woods and also high altitude meadows where the stars were out in full force.  The sky was really quite a sight to see out there in the middle of nowhere Utah.  We got to the mile 69 aid station and knew better than to sit down by the heaters.  Didn't want to get to comfortable because that would make it harder to continue.  We both ate some food here and refilled our hydration vests.  Then we started doing math which is not the best idea on a mental level to start doing in the middle of the night during a 100 miler.  We were contemplating that fact that we had about 12 hours to do a 50K and still had a lot of climbing left to do.  At this point we were reduced to hiking everything, even the downhills.  Shaun said that a finish was not exactly a layup and I agreed.  In reality this was far from the truth as 12 hours for a 50K was plenty of time but in our wasted state we did not know any better.  We left this aid station and had to cross a giant river by leaping between multiple rocks and logs to get to the other side.  I think we all made it without getting our feet wet which would not of been cool with the temperature being so cold.  Eventually we worked our way to mile 76 aid station where we would pick up Ram as our pacer from there until the finish.  Even though the sun was coming up the temps were still cold and we had not yet made it to the area near Peter Sinks.

Peter sinks has extremely cold weather in the mornings.  In fact, the coldest recorded temperature on Earth was here at -62 below zero or something like that.  Anyway, the people at the aid station said it was a good idea to take our cold weather clothes with us as we would need them.  We didn't have a place to drop them so we would have to carry this stuff all the way to the finish.  Oh well, better safe than sorry we thought.  Upon climbing out of this aid station we crossed into Idaho as there was a sign that marked the state line right off the side of the trail.  It was still cold for the next hour or two but it quickly warmed up before we got to the area near Peter Sinks.  Upon taking all my cold weather gear off my pack was bulging and I couldn't even get my full water bladder back in there.  It was not comfortable but if we needed these warm clothes and didn't have them it might of turned out in a very negative way.  We got to the aid station at mile 81 and I was not feeling like eating at all.  I tried to tackle a hash brown burrito and was able to eat about 2/3 of it.  By the time we reached the aid station at mile 86 the sun was out in full force.  We had a decent climb out of this aid station and were treated to some more epic mountain views before getting to the last aid station at mile 93.  A lady told us that we were "almost there" upon getting into this aid station.  From a 30,000 foot view this is a true statement however going 7-8 more miles to finish a 100 mile effort is far from being almost there!

We refueled and set out to finish this thing up.  There is a short but very steep climb out of this aid station.  In fact it was the steepest climb of the race.  We took it very slow and had a few rest moments which were cool because we had some of the most beautiful views of the whole race on this section.  The yellow leaves on the aspen trees along with the green pines which lined the mountains were just majestic.  Then we had about 6 miles to go to the finish and it was mostly downhill.  This downhill was not exactly easy as there were some very steep sections that were tortuous on the already wasted quads.  Views of Bear Lake came into focus and reality set in that we were going to finish this thing!  With a few miles to go we knew that a sub 34 hour finish was very possible.  Ram did his best to keep us moving at a fast enough pace to achieve that goal.  We struggled downhill with all the usual physical and mental anguish that comes along with having 90+ miles on our legs.  We finally popped out of the trails and had less than a mile to go on a flat smooth gravel road.  We power hiked it the rest of the way in and ran across the finish line for a 33 hour and 45 minute finish and finished 150th place out of 300 starters.  100 runners dropped throughout the race because it was tough!  Lucas was there cheering us on and it was great to be done and just take the pack off to relax and eat some post race food.  We received some nice plaques and also the "black bear" buckle for a 30-36 hour finish.  It was a better than expected finish for me and I couldn't be happier.  All the training and hard work this year really paid off.  An extra special thanks to Lucas and Ram for all their help during the race.  They definitely knocked the crewing out of the park.  Also, glad we were able to watch some football and drink a few beers with them Saturday night after the race and again on Sunday at the airport bar!  Overall I would say this race went about as perfectly as one could ask for.  Now it's time to enter the lottery for *gulp* Hardrock 100.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Quad Tam: July 24th, 2021

On the way up to first summit

Quad Tam is another brain child of Ram and I was definitely intrigued.  It basically involved doing 4 summits of Mt. Tamalpais (Tam).  To get this done it takes about 32 miles and around 9,500 feet of climbing, a pretty tough day indeed!  I met Shawn and Ram early and we parked at a spot I had never been to before and when we hit the trail it was still dark.  Neither of them had brought a light as it was supposed to be civil daylight when we started but there was thick tree cover in that area so we couldn't see.  Luckily I had a flashlight with me and I lit up the wide dirt road that we were climbing until we could all see without the aid of artificial light.  We did take one wrong turn toward the the beginning of our first climb up Tam and had to turn around and go back down to get on the right trail, nothing wrong with some bonus elevation gain!  We made our way up the famous "widowmaker" route that I don't think is even an official trail, more of a steep carved out area in which water pipes run up to the summit.  We made it up to the top and decided to do the rock scramble to the peak instead of going up the trail like normal people do 😁.  I think the rock scramble is something that most of the bay area trail runners take pride in doing.  In fact, we decided that it would not be a true quad tam unless we did the rock scramble on each summit.  So, at this point it was one down and three to go!

Rock Scramble!
The East Peak

The first downhill we took, the east peak fire trail, was pretty sketchy and it was even hard for us to find. Once we found it and started down we quickly realized that thing was super steep!  There were some obstacles in the way as it was not very well maintained (if at all).  It was difficult to make up any time after the first summit as we had to take the downhill very slow in order not to kill ourselves!  We finally reached our downhill destination of Lake Lagunitas and we went around the backside of the lake.  It was very scenic down there as that was my first time seeing the lake at eye level rather than from way up on the summit of Mt. Tam.  Then we located our next uphill route, a skinny trail that is called the Lagunitas fire trail.  It was very steep and overgrown and we could tell it was not really maintained.  So we did a lot of ducking under manzanitas and marched up the climb.  We got near the top and decided to check out Middle Peak which I have never been to so it was cool to see.  Then we made our way over to the main summit (East Peak) and did our obligatory rock scramble to the top.  Alright, two summits down and two to go!  Our next downhill took us in a different direction as our destination was Old Mill Park in downtown Mill Valley.  It was by far our longest stretch of downhill on this run.  We even had to do some paved roads in order to get to our destination which was ok because it allowed us to make up some time.

More cool views
Lake Lagunitas from the summit

It was nice getting to Old Mill Park as we could refill our water and use the bathroom etc.. Then we began our third climb up one of the most popular routes to the summit and that is up a road called Summit Ave. from the park and then up the Temelpa trail.  The second half of this climb is pretty exposed and the sun was out in full force!  There was no wind at all and it felt like climbing in an oven.  I was pretty happy when we got to the top and did our scramble as the heat made that our toughest climb of the day, until we got to the last climb, more on that later.  At the third summit we refilled our water and this is when I discovered my water bladder had a leak...nooooo!  I didn't have any emergency water bottles with me, only a reusable little water cup.  We still had two downhills and one summit to go.  I filled up the bladder anyway and drank as we traversed the next downhill.  The water was slowly oozing out and soaking my shorts making it impossible to keep them up above my waist.  After traversing some fire roads and getting back down to Lake Lagunitas I was out of water and we had the toughest climb of the day ahead of us..Collier trail.  It was hot and this trail was super steep and it seemed to go on forever.  I tried to block it out of my mind that I was out of water etc...  We finally got to the top and I immediately went to the water fountain and downed many cups of water to quench my intense thirst.  I was super glad to be done with climbing for the day.  

Lake Lagunitas from ground level
A tough but great day at Mt. Tam

We completed the last rock scramble and all we had to do was a steep one mile downhill section of Fern Creek trail and traverse some fire roads back to the car.  It was so nice to be done with this run as it was very hard but at the same time it was rewarding to know that we did that.  It was also a great training run for the Bear 100.  A normal person would say never again but I know that we will eventually do it as a training run in the future.  Oddly enough I am looking forward to it and maybe next time my water bladder won't leak!  

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Mission Peak to Rose Peak to Mission Peak (MPRPMP): June 12th, 2021

On our way!  To Mordor!

This is a run that I have actively avoided for as long as I have known Shaun and Ram.  It seems as if every time they invite me to do it I already have plans and can not make it.  I finally succumbed to the pressure on June 12th of this year for Ram's last training run before Western States.  The route starts out at the base of mission peak, it climbs up to the top of mission peak and then down the back side.  It traverses over a lot of open space climbs in the southeast Bay and arrives at Rose Peak after doing a majority of the days climbing in the first half of the run.  Then you turn around and retrace the route back to mission peak and then back to the car.  The total distance is about 37 miles and the total climbing is around 9,500 feet.  It's a nice run as the trails are not really technical and it has some really cool sweeping views.  The downside is that it gets pretty hot out in that area especially in the summer and there are minimal water stops.  Two spots to get water are just pumps in the ground that have "drink water at your own risk" signs so it was that or die of dehydration.  I will take my chances with the H2O!

View from Rose Peak

We met at the usual parking area for runs at Mission Peak on the street in front of the college.  We made pretty good time up the first climb to the top of mission peak.  Then we dropped down the long decent to Sunol.  Then we had some slight uphill running followed by a bunch of climbs with some rolling stuff mixed in at times.  It got hot out fairly quickly which can happen in the south bay in June.  However, we lucked out that temps were only going to be in the 80s as it can get into the 100s around those parts.  Although the sun is straight savage so it definitely takes a toll being out there for a long period of time.  Wed had fun joking around and hanging out on our way to rose peak as we were still in the feeling fresh stages.  There were a few gangs of cows that we had to fight our way through.  They were looking for a brawl and they had a definite size advantage so we just ran away from those confrontations.  We finally reached the half way point of our big journey, Rose Peak.  We had not seen anyone else out there until now as there was a group hanging out at the top.  One of them had a Michigan shirt on so I had to throw out a "Go Bucks!"  

Taking a break at Rose Peak

On our way back the sun was out in full force and it really started taking quite a toll on me.  Heat is my kryptonite when it comes to ultra running.  I was drinking plenty of water and taking electrolyte pills but my whole body was starting to rebel.  We got to the Sunol visitor center which meant from there we had a long 5 mile climb back up to mission peak and then three more miles back down to the car.  I was out of water but luckily they had set a huge jug of water out here for people.  I filled up my bladder but quickly realized this water was hot!  It had been baking in the sun for awhile and I'm pretty sure I could of made some tea or coffee with it.  On the long climb my legs just quit working all together.  I could hardly move and had to take little rest breaks.  I'm glad Shaun had stayed back with me as he asked if I had been consuming calories.  That was a great question to ask because it's then I realized I had not eaten a gel in quite some time.  I ate a gel or two and a snack which I chased with some hot water, yum!  About 20 minutes later I had new life.  It was totally a lack of calories that burned me out.  I just didn't feel like eating when the sun was blazing like that.

Sure are some nice views on this route!
Sun just doing it's thing!

We finally got to the top of mission peak where Ram had been waiting for us for awhile.  I felt bad that I held the party up but these things can happen in our sport.  We were all in pretty good spirits though..just glad we only had a three mile downhill left and we were finished!  We made it to the cars and I was so incredibly thirsty.  I had parked right by a deli and I went in and ordered a Gatorade, a coke, and a water.  I chugged all three fairly quickly and it was a huge relief.  Well, that the story of my first MPRPMP run.  I am pretty sure I would like to do this one again.  Maybe in the cooler winter months so it is a little more enjoyable!

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Western States Training Run Weekend 50K: May 29th, 2021

Packed in like sardines!

Ram got drawn for Western States on one ticket!  This is something that is pretty much unheard of these days but we were excited for him.  Shaun and I have been doing a lot of training runs with him because it they also served as training runs for our race, the Bear 100 in September.  Western States puts on a training camp weekend every year over Memorial Day.  This is great for people who are in Western States because gives a final weekend of long runs and allows runners to experience different sections of the course.  We decided to just do the first day of training camp which covers from Robinson Flat up in the high country all the way down into the canyons and ends in the town of Foresthill.  This is roughly a 50K section of the course.  It has a lot of downhill but also a few long sustained climbs out of the canyons.  Shaun and Ram had a plan to extend this training run and make it a 50 mile day.  We were going to leave a car at Drivers Flat parking area so we could continue past Foresthill and continue on from where everyone else was stopping for the day.  Jessica and I were hanging out for the weekend at a nearby casino while Shaun and Ram were making it a day trip to do this training run.  

View from Robinson Flat
Off we go!

Views from the high country

I met the guys at Drivers Flat early to drop off my car.  We made our way to Foresthill which is where everyone was meeting to get the pre run briefing along with shuttle buses up to Robinson Flat campground.  The buses were actual school buses and they made us sit two to a seat which is tight on room even for children!  It was a long uncomfortable ride to Robinson Flat, in fact the road leading up there has steep drop offs on the one side and it was a bit terrifying being on a big rattle trap riding up there.  We were definitely glad to get off the bus and stretch out our legs along with checking out the incredible views!  There is a little climb out of Robinson Flat and then begins a nice 13 mile downhill section.  Ram had a nice wipeout as soon as we started the downhill section.  Then a few miles later while flying downhill I tripped and landed on my water bottle and a little manzanita bush in the trail.  That fall was one of my most spectacular wipeouts.  It actually left a bruise on my back which took a few months to go away.  Not long after my fall Shaun slid on the trail and went off the edge!  He slid down a steep embankment and had a pretty difficult time climbing back up to the trail.  We were on a roll, pun intended!  Then not long after that Shaun's chronic ankle pain which is normally manageable became excruciating and he couldn't run or even walk!  We were in the middle of nowhere in a canyon and I don't even think a helicopter rescue could of helped him in this location.

Shaun's epic slide down the embankment
Caption this photo!

More awesome views
I had some KT tape and we tried to apply it to Shaun's ankle but unless the skin is clean and dry that stuff will not adhere correctly so that didn't work.  He took some ibuprofen and then a really nice lady who was coming by had an ankle brace that she carries with her for emergencies and gave it to Shaun.  That was super nice of her and Shaun gave it a shot.  It allowed him to walk at a comfortable pace.  Eventually the ibuprofen kicked in and Shaun was able to run again and we continued our downhill section into the bottom of the canyons.  During this time I started to feel a quad pain that had been slightly bothering me for a few weeks.  Ram was feeling pretty good though and on the climb up to Devils Thumb he dropped us like a bad habit.  The sun was out in full force by this time and really zapped Shaun and I on our way up that climb.  Then as we came into the aid station they had set up for us near Deadwood a volunteer came running out to us in order to fill up our water as far away from the aid station as possible because there were bees everywhere!  I have never seen such a swarm of bees in my life.  They were crawling all over us and the volunteers and flying / buzzing all over the place.  We were just trying our best to get our water filled without bees going into our water bottles or bladders.  It was crazy and I felt so bad for the volunteers who were just hanging out in the swarm all day and I am super appreciative of them all!  They told us not to put our hydration vests back on until we got far away from the aid station to make sure no bees got trapped between our skin and the vest.  Ram was waiting for us a ways up the trail and we were almost laughing about what a horror show that was.

Nature doing some bragging!
Nowhere else I would rather be

We were all feeling pretty worked due to various reasons and when we got to the Michigan Bluff aid station with about 6 miles left to Foresthill we decided after the next section we would call it a day at mile 31.  As much as we wanted to do the entire 50 miles it would of been a long sufferfest which would end up being counter productive for training.  Also, it took us a lot longer to complete the first 31 miles then we anticipated so we would of been out there pretty late for an additional 19 miles.  That would of been a very tough two hour drive home for Shaun and Ram.  I was very relieved those guys were ok with calling it a day and we could finally sit down and enjoy a little food and rest.  It was a lot of fun being able to run on and see a section of the Western States 100 course.  If I ever get into Western States I think I would sign up for all three days of this training camp and it would be a perfect last weekend of longer training runs and you could do it with aid and a whole bunch of other ultrarunners which is really cool! 

My wipeout bruise.  This got a lot worse in the following days.  Small price to pay for a great trail run with friends!

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Canyons 100K: April 24th, 2021

Masked up and ready to roll
First time being in a large group of runners since COVID started

This is a race that has somewhat been on my bucket list.  Shaun and Ram were going to run it because they both had entries roll over from 2020.  I was able to sign up the first day they opened registration this year.  Many people that are training for Western States use Canyons 100K for a training run as it takes place on some of the same trails.  Due to COVID restrictions the race organizers decided to make an alternative route which was a point to point with more climbing than descending!  They decided to use this route for the race and I thought it would be better than the original which was a double out and back.  Anyway, there is more than 14,600 feet of climbing in this 100K and most of it takes place in the second half of the race!  I was unsure if I could make the cutoffs and it was a bit of a concern since I was unable to make the cutoffs at Sean O' Brien but that was a different race all together.  I was also a bit worried that the weather was going to be hot for the race since we had some early season heat that week but we lucked out and it cooled down just in time.  A cloudy 60 degree day was just what the Dr. ordered as I do not fare well in the heat.  We arrived in Auburn, CA the day before and picked up some Chipotle burritos along with some subway subs for our pre race meals.  

The week before the race California had lifted some of the restrictions on group gatherings.  The race organizers were able to do a mass start versus having us go out in waves.  I think it was the first mass start for any races in the US since the COVID shutdowns.  It was a great atmosphere on race morning as everyone was able to gather together again as a community.  It's been a long time since we were able to do that.  We got checked in for the race and pinned on our bibs.  Then we officially started, Shaun and Ram shot off the start like cannons!  The first couple miles on single track trail in a herd of people was kind of annoying because I was running through a cloud of dust.  I used my facemask not because of COVID rather to filter out some of the dust I was breathing.  After awhile the packs started to thin out and I was able to get into a groove.  The cooler weather, the scenic Auburn trails, and being in an official race again just gave me a great feeling.  I ran into Shaun after the first aid station and we talked for a little while and then got separated again.  There were a few climbs in the first half of the race but it was mostly rolling terrain along the river and on single track trails.  I was definitely in a groove as I was running most of the time and my overall pace was decent.

I started to get tired as I was doing a climb up to the half way point in the race at Foresthill when Jim Walmsley, one of the best trail runners in the world, came bombing down the hill as he was out doing a training run.  It was really cool to see him out there and he was cheering on the runners which was awesome to see.  That gave me a bit of a boost to get up to the aid station.  My drop bag was here at the half way point.  It was my only drop bag of the day so I took my time at this aid station and made sure I had everything I needed before leaving to tackle the second half of the race.  At the other aid stations I was only stopping long enough to fill my water, grab some snacks, and get out.  I don't think I spent more than 2 minutes at any aid station until Foresthill.  I thought that would improve my overall time and ensure that I would make cutoffs.  I was at the half way point a few hours under cutoff so it became evident that time would not going to be an issue.  I wanted to make sure I finished under 19 hours to get the Western States qualifier.

After leaving Foresthill I navigated to the next aid station which is Michigan Bluff.  From there we shuffled downhill for a few miles and then had a monster climb up to the next aid station Deadwood.  I started feeling the strain on that climb.  I was happy to get to Deadwood and I thought we had an eight mile loop to do from there.  I saw Ram at the aid station as he was just getting done with his loop and he was absolutely crushing it!  He was starting to get cold and wanted to get out of the aid station and start moving again to stay warm.  Before I set out on that loop an aid station volunteer told me it was only five miles and not eight!  I was definitely pumped about that and it was rolling terrain with some epic views of the canyons and surrounding areas.  I was struggling pretty bad on this loop as I was in a shuffle a little and walk a little routine.  Finally as I got back to Deadwood and was under the impression I had eight more miles to the finish.  The aid station volunteer told me I have a two mile downhill and then a nine mile climb to the finish.  I did some math with my foggy exhausted brain and realized that is eleven miles total and not eight.  Ugh, well I guess that would explain the three less miles from the previous loop.  Oh well, I thought, at least I am on my way to the finish line.

It hurt going down the two mile downhill which was pretty steep.  I was still doing my shuffle walk routine.  At the bottom there was a big tree which crashed into the bridge.  After crossing the bridge there was a really steep climb for about a mile or two.  I had to take a few rest breaks on that climb!  After that it was a gradual climb with some rolling sections along the rim of a canyon.  It got dark but I saw some cool views before the light completely faded.  My headlamp died with less than two miles to go.  I was having a hard time changing the batteries when some other runners came up and helped me out with some light so I could see what I was doing!  I stayed near them for the rest of the way to the finish line at China Wall Staging Area.  With a quarter mile to go I could hear people cheering and this gave me the end of race boost to run across the finish line.  I was so happy to be done and get my post race burrito!  I sat around the fire and relaxed while waiting for Shaun to come in.  It was nice just hanging out with other runners.  There were really good vibes going around as the trail and ultra community is like no other.