Saturday, December 20, 2008

It's the Years and the Mileage-- Baldwyn's Birthday Run

I felt obligated as a local friend to help Baldwyn Chieh's 40th birthday celebration fat-ass run on Saturday December 20th by marking the course, since I knew the trails in and around the Five Canyons community in the eastern hills of Castro Valley are at times confusing.

The evening before, I managed to start putting up pink ribbons (leftover from checking the course at Skyline 50k in August) with my older son after I picked him up from his preschool nearby until it got dark and I had to pick up my other son.

I get up close to 3 a.m., unaware of the time, lie in bed for a while wondering what time it is (I have to put on my glasses to see the alarm clock). Finally I get out of bed at 3:30, get stuff ready and drive up the hill to the start. For a couple years I have often thought of doing this--wake up early to run trails in the dark, but have never gotten around to trying-- no surprise why!

It's chilly, so I actually have 3 layers on top-- a tech long sleeve, bicycling jacket and a fleece over that, headband, headlamp, gloves. I'm still hold. And hungry. I eat half a banana, grab the roll of pink ribbon and set out with the course map and 2-page instructions.

1st lap In keeping with Baldwyn's course instructions, I set off at 4:13 a.m. from near his friend's house for a short spur of pavement, until an entrance to the trails, heading counter-clockwise, and not too fast, since it's dark and I'm sleepy and cold. My worries that I'd wake up the neighborhood by first waking up all dogs prove unfounded. I put up ribbons (there would be 35 in the end over the 5.8 mile course), none for reassurance, only where there is ambiguity about the right direction. I also read the instructions carefully to make sure I'm doing exactly what they say. Climbing the highest ridge, the lights of the East Bay and as far as downtown San Francisco are a sight to see. The loop takes me 1:17.

2nd lap I'm starving when I get to my car and eat the rest of the banana, swallow some water, but opt to leave the bottle. I go counter-clockwise again, this time free of ribbon hassle, as the eastern sky starts to glow. I finish in just under an hour.

3rd lap I decide to go clockwise, which to me is the more logical way to go, since this way I climb the steep uphills and can run down the long gentler slopes. I bring my lamp, but after the first few wooded stretches, don't need the light. I tear of pieces of a Cliff Bar for my munchies. This must set off peristalsis because once I've crested the high point by the water towers, I really have to take a dump, and don't think I can wait until the restrooms by the playground atop the other big hill. Luckily the ground is soft, so I can dig a nice hole. When I get to the restrooms, I find they are locked anyways, so feel good I didn't try to hold it. Soon after the short technical descent from the playground I spot Jean Pommier, who started early, looking at his map. I have to shout his name about 4 times before he hears me. He's going the opposite direction. I wish him luck, telling him I'm alternating directions now.

This time I come in just over an hour. I take off my headlamp, trade my headband for a visor, and ditch the outermost 3rd layer, whose zipper is giving me trouble anyways.

4th lap Counter-clockwise again. Since more runners will be coming, I adjust and move a few of the ribbons since I can see what they look like in daylight. I bring some Cliff Shots, but find that when it's cold, it's really hard to pull them apart. Near the end of the lap, Jean comes from the other direction, telling me that Baldwyn is at the start waiting for me. Like clockwork, just under 1 hour.

Baldwyn has his dog with him, and the impressive aid station is there finally. I greedily snarf snacks from his table, fill my water bottle with Cytomax and after 6 minutes running back and forth to my car, we set off. I bring my camera to take some photos.

5th lap I convince birthday boy to run clockwise. While we leave the driveway, we see a flock of wild turkeys fly onto the roof of a house across the street. I've seen them on trails, but never around houses, and I didn't realize they could fly.

You can see the San Francisco skyline in the distance to the left of this view.

Baldwyn's dog Cub is having a blast and keeps running ahead of us in different directions so probably runs at least an extra mile. He would eventually poop out after 3 laps, but not bad for a small dog.

I'm starting to feel tired, so when I actually have the breath, it's nice to be able to talk--though mainly on the downhills.

We run into Jean going up a single track trail, near the mid-way point and chat a bit.

We finish in 1:08-- I didn't feel like I decelerated that much.

6th lap is bonus, because I thought I'd only get to fit in 5, barely an ultra distance, but when I finally reached my wife on my phone, she told me to stay out since she was running errands with the kids and wouldn't get back until 11. Jean Pommier shows up about the same time and so the 3 of us set out and go counter-clockwise. I'm skeptical about being able to keep up with Jean, who's very fast and also fresh and doing his laps under 50 minutes. He keeps pulling away, then stopping to wait, and then we wait a little longer for Baldwyn and his dog. I am more worried that Baldwyn is getting sucked into running too fast too early. Only at the end of the lap does Jean bolt ahead and I let Baldwyn fall back.

In the end, I again take a few seconds less than an hour, back to my normal lap pace. It's almost exactly 11 am when I finish. Therefore 6 hours 47 minutes with all my long breaks totally about 23 minutes, and an estimated 17 minutes of ribbon stops, to run somewhere between 34 and 35 very hilly miles. Surprisingly, I never grew tired of the course, even though I run these trails all the time. I had never run successive laps before; if I have more than 2 1/2 hours to run, I usually run Lake Chabot or East Bay Municipal District trails circuitously leading to there from my house. It was great seeing how the lighting and colors and views changed from night through twilight and into a sunny day.

Baldwyn give me 2 ornaments he made with the race logos, and 6 bottles of special edition home-brew, one for each lap I finished, with directions to wait 2 weeks before imbibing.

I make it back home just in time to hang out with my kids a little before lunch.

I had told Baldwyn that I would try to come back out when my kids are napping, but I ended up having to nap myself and then I got drafted by my wife for a shopping excursion to IKEA in Emeryville with a short side trip to pick up some stuff from REI. Because my younger son just started walking, it was a full time job to make sure he had fun running around the very large store without breaking something or getting run over by a shopping cart.

Well, didn't get to do lap 7, but it was fun and I got to run longer than I'd expected. Thanks, Baldwyn for a great event, Happy Birthday!

The other blogged report with more photos:

Baldwyn Chieh
Jean Pommier

1st published Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Benefits of Cross Training-- the Physician Heals Himself... by Getting Wet

So I've been meaning to cross train more for some time. But, loving running so much, I never get around to it. Besides, it's less hassle running than bicycling or heading to a pool or getting into a gym where I'm not a member.

About a week ago, a nagging pain in my left shoulder started getting worse. I think some of the problem stems from my commuting runs to and from work, anywhere between 30 minutes to 4 hours depending on how I go, with or without using public transportation. I carry my scrubs and other essentials in a small Camelback. It's not too heavy, but several pounds plus the handheld bottle tends to tighten up my shouders. Plus I tend to carry my kids with my left arm. So I've developed an impingement syndrome with occasional numbness and tingling in the shoulder and arm, and for several days have been unable to fully extending my left arm straight above my head--when I try it hurts like hell and feels like it catches.

I've become worried not just about pain when I run, but my ability to do normal everyday things, like take off a turtleneck or other tight-fitting shirt, carry my kids on my shoulders, or fully perform maneuvers for my job, such as retract a tongue with a laryngoscope so I can intubate the critically ill at work.

Maybe because of the cold rainy weather, I decided on my day off today to forego a 3-4 hour run and instead run trails to a local pool and swim laps, for the first time in LONG time. An hour from a park near my younger son's daycare, crossing several streams, I arrive muddy at the Hayward Plunge. If interested, here's a link to the Garmin map of my run.

My first stroke I'm feeling the sharp pain, but by extending my left hand a little to the side (actually better form), I manage. Soon I find that proper form, including really stretching the arm out, when I reach for the pull, prevents any pain. After about half an hour, I'm feeling great and can actually pull hard on my strokes in the crawl, although the backstroke remained difficult. I wonder if it's just the endorphins kicking in and masking my pain, but feel optimistic. After a total of an hour nonstop, I get out of the water and find that, miraculously, my shoulder feels better than it has in more than a week! I change back into my running clothes and run back to my car, feeling so good I take the long way again.

A few hours later, I can still bring my left arm straight up, right next to my head.

I doubt if I'm home free, but what a great start.

If this is not a Sign From God, then it's my body's way of telling me that I should probably get my butt in the pool at least a 2-3 times a month.

Okay, Kitajima does the breast and I was mostly doing freestyle, and he's raising his right arm and I've been having trouble with my left, but I look like him more than I look like Phelps and you get the point...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Quad Quad Dipsea

Pre Quad

This was my 4th straight Quad Dipsea (for the uninitiated, out and back and out and back on the 7.4 mile Dipsea Trail in the Marin Headlands), so maybe it's become somewhat of a Thanksgiving weekend tradition for me, along with the many other family traditions going on the same weekend.

I wasn't expecting a PR at my 4th Quad Dipsea this year. I probably ended my racing season with Rio del Lago 2 months earlier. I lacked the endurance base that Firetrails and Helen Klein (both 50-milers) would've provided had I run them. Also, the day's leading to the race didn't provide much rest (yes, I am going to sandbag).

Thanksgiving morning, my family sleeping in one room at my brother's in Marin, my 1-year old was up at least twice, either babbling or at 4 am, crying, which then woke up my older son. Later that morning we went for a hike starting at the Pantoll parking lot on Mount Tam (a key aid station for numerous races in the Marin Headlands), and we ended up doing more than 3 hours, most of it hilly, and most of the time I was carrying one of our two kids. Of course, no regrets, just slightly adjusted expectations.

blowing my taper on Thanksgiving day, on the parallel Steep Ravine trail

After another gourmet Thanksgiving meal prepared by my brother and his wife, I thought I'd catch up on sleep that crucial night before the night before the race by going to bed at 10. No dice. Loud drunk neighbors out until midnight, then woke up at 1:30 (anticipatedly) thirsty and with gastritis from too much wine, when I moved downstairs to sleep in the living room (as a favor to my wife to avoid waking and the kids early with an alarm) on a camping pad on the floor, but for half an hour I couldn't find my cell phone which I needed to wake up in time to make work 50 miles away at 6 am. Scared to call it, in case it would wake up my wife-- turns out I had kicked it under a couch. Woke up at 2, drenched in sweat in the sleeping bag. Woke again at 3:30 when the alarm of my new watch went off. At 4:45 I probably had just fallen asleep again, when the cell phone alarm went off and I had to get ready to drive an hour to work in Fremont, where I had one of the kind of bad shift you'd expect the day after Thanksgiving, compounded by the inefficiency of being too sleepy to think straight.

After my shift I went to the call room, where I hallucinated half-asleep for an hour, then felt rested enough to safely drive back to my brother's where I struggled to stay awake at a wonderful traditional Belgian dinner at their neighbor's. At least I would sleep a solid 8 hours that night.

Immediate Pre Quad

Arrive at 7:30, but takes 15 minutes to park and walk to the start. Like last year, the line to the men's room is 3 times longer than the women's. How come I didn't have the urge to unload when I left my brother's just half an hour earlier? I improvise by digging a hole under the pine needles and leaves. Use your imagination.

Yves-Pierre Couteau, Rob Evans, me (relieved), Jean Pommier, photo by Agnes Pommier

1st Quad (Mill Valley to Stinson Beach)

I feel the effects of the hike 2 days earlier climbing the gazillion steps at the start. Last year Will Gotthardt followed me up the hill, to learn from my pacing technique; this year it takes me several miles to catch up with him. He comments on the benefits of trailing fast women, and I had to agree with him, becoming a partner in crime.

Speaking of being chicked, the only time in 3 previous years I have finished after a woman in this race is when Beth Vitalis broke the old course record last year, 5 minutes ahead of me. This year I am wondering how many women will finish ahead of me.

I run a little with this woman on the first leg, who's put in some great performances this year. She passed me near the end of Miwok, and I talked with her male pacer some, but she seemed really intense and in the zone, and going faster than I was at any rate. As it turns out, she's very friendly and nice.

(this year's Where's Waldo 100k and Cascade Crest 100 mile winner) Prudence L'Heureux

The other woman was this one, the eventual female winner (like Prudence, she wins a lot of races). We run together some of the latter portion of the first leg, until she says that she can't go downhill as fast as I.

(Angeles Crest 100 female record holder, this year's Cascade Crest 1o0 winner) Suzanna Bon & me

Right before the aid station at the Stinson Beach I do a first-- I miss a short turn to the left and go straight. What throws me off are some orange cones in someone's driveway, along with a woman walking straight carrying some pink ribbon in her hand. When the houses and cars just didn't look right, I turn around and see everyone turning left. I lose about a minute, and 8-10 places, and a little pride, but compared to some wrong turns I've made, this is minor.

me after getting back on course (the man in the back is facing my detour), Prudence L'Heureaux, Bruce LaBelle (Western States 2nd place Western States 1984ish), photo courtesy of Agnes Pommier

split time 1:08

2nd Quad (Stinson Beach to Mill Valley)
The views are great--it's a clear day and no fog to obscure the coastline and a at times San Francisco in the distance.
I catch up to Suzanna Bon after the midway aid station at the top of the hill near Pantoll, where Kevin Rumon for the 2nd of 4 times greets me and asks what I need, and fills me bottle with Gu2O (thanks Kevin, you were great!) I trail her for a while. She asks if I want to pass, but I decline, saying that I want to pee anyways, so might as well be modest and stay behind. Pierre Yves Couteau, who finished right after me at Stevens Creek, does loudly take note of my time-saving technique up uphill micturation.
I think 2 people pass me descending the steps. I took off my Julbo sunglasses since the stairs are all shaded, but ironically find my vision impaired because my eyeglasses shake up and down with each step, loose from all the times my younger son has affectionately grabbed them and refused to let go. Mental note to myself-- make sure you get them readjusted and snug before every race!

I toss my arm warmers at Mill Valley.

split time 1:09, cumulative 2:17

3rd Quad (Mill Valley to Stinson Beach)

Suzanna isn't far ahead of me, but during the 3rd leg she charges way ahead and I soon no longer see her. At the top of the shaded trail descending to Stinson Beach, I see the leader Eric Skaggs heading back up. It seems like this is the farthest up the hill I've crossed paths with the leader ever. As it turns out, I'm right, since he would break previous course record by less than a minute, after barely missing the record last year.

bench of speed: Anton Krupicka, Kyle Skaggs, Erik Skaggs, Jenn Shelton. Anton & Kyle weren't running the race.

I notice that I accidentally stopped the timer on my Garmin Forerunner, so don't know my splits at Stinson Beach until after the race. I manage not to miss the turn again-- damn, I'm getting good.

3rd leg split time 1:14, cumulative time 3:31 (though I'm really not paying attention)

4th Quad (Stinson Beach to Mill Valley)

As I head back up the hill, I realize that I only have 7.4 miles left, and maybe am feeling better, so I actually push the pace and run more and walk less up to Pantoll. In the process, I overtake several runners: Suzanna Bon (since I haven't seen Jen Shelton, I congratulate her on being in the lead). Jady Palko--normally he sprints at the start and then I pass him about 1/4 of the way through the race. Today it took me until the last 5 miles near the top of the hill. So either he's gotten faster, smarter, or I'm having a slow day.

Jady having an ecstatic moment near Stinson Beach, photo by Agnes Pommier

Then after the Pantoll aid station: Will Gotthardt (I thought he finally had me this race) Celebrity endurance athlete David Goggins, repeating my passing him near the end of Miwok in May. I actually ran into him walking around Kona before the Ironman Championships this October, where I was attending a sports medicine conference, and where David, in a Navy promotion previewed in the official race booklet, jumped out of a Navy plane, parachuted into the water and then started swimming-- pretty cool. For what's it's worth, I get to say I beat him--twice.

After I Kevin Rumon hands me my bottle one last time and start down the long hill, I feel my tibialis anterior (main ankle extensor in front of ankle) start to tighten up, so I have to stop several times until the finish to stretch it out. Luckily no one ever approaches me from behind, lest I spasm it accelerating out of fear.
As it turns out, had I not taken that wrong turn early, I would have caught up with speedster and fellow Sportiva teammate Leor Pantilat, who fell apart the last leg. He was half an hour ahead of me at the 2nd visit to Stinson Beach (3:01), but finished less than a minute ahead of me. Had I caught site of him, it would've inspired me to endure some extra pain.

Leor Pantilat finishing the 1st leg, then in 2nd place, photo courtesy of Agnes Pommier

Last leg split time 1:15, official finish time 4:46:33, 20th place overall

comparison times and place
2005 4:51:39, 13th place
2006 4:40:08, 12th place
2007 4:44:46, 11th place

It would've been cool to finish in 10th place, but I guess couldn't expect to WIN in 2017 at the age of 51...

Hmm, I felt like I was really cruising up that hill, but I ran the fourth leg a full 6 minutes slower than the second leg. Such is the Quad Dipsea. If you examine the split times of finishers, you will notice a lot of people slow down quite a bit the last fourth.
Post Quad

As always, the race is so much fun and the post-race picnic particularly festive, maybe because it's during holiday season and the race season is winding down. It's chilly in the shade, but not as freezing as I remember last year. I thank Race Director John Medinger and his great group of volunteers put on a great race by taking this mugshot.

Ultrarunning Editor-In-Chief John Medinger and RD for this race

Among many conversations before I take off to get back to my family staying at my brother's is one with enduro-stud David Goggins, concerning my apprehensions about registering for a 150-mile trail race next April. What do you think tells me? He meanwhile will be shifting gears, so to speak, by doing the (bicycle) Ride Across America.

I may try to post more photos or link to them later. (I think it's a miracle I could actually finish this report!)

Other blogged race reports of which I'm aware:

Rick Gaston (PR, cracked 5 hours, congrats), photos
Sean Lang (11th overall, kicked my butt again)
Jean Pommier (3rd overall, I think his strongest finish, very nice!), photos taken by his wife Agnes, several of which I used in this post, thanks!
more photos by Craig S. up on the hill

1st poster Thursday, December 11, 2008 at 1:20 pm

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Workers Comp Fraud While Ultrarunning?

Okay, this is juicy, filler article while I continue to struggle to find time to complete my backlog of 4+ race reports.

We're supposed to assume innocent until proven guilty, and I was thinking the shoulder and thumb might not be needed to run an ultra, but the 6.2 mile swim as part of the super triathlon will probably blow that defense.

I've never met her, but many I know undoubtedly have; I can safely assume only one degree of separation.

Robert Mathis of is quoted too. Here's the link:

Friday, November 7, 2008

Another Election Victory for Ultra Trail Running

In addition to all the national and California issues and races on the ballot, I was eager to see the results of one local measure receiving much less press coverage.  As an ultrarunning trail enthusiast, I was relieved that Alameda and Contra Costa County Measure WW passed with 72% of the ballots cast.  This measure was a half-billion dollar 20-year bond extension to fund further acquisition and development of parks and trails for the East Bay Regional Park District. There was organized opposition from the usual "all taxes are evil" crowd, and one pathetic website seemed to be spearheaded by a bunch of anonymous disgruntled mountain bikers, who used specious arguments and took pictures of cow manure piles in the beautiful Chabot Regional Park where I often run as examples of why voters should reject the measure.  Sorry, I enjoy running through Grass Valley, even with the cows.  Despite the fact that this measure will result in a lot of cool mountain bike trails.

As a homeowner, I am more than happy to continue to pay $10 per $100,000 of the assessed value of my home (more than I could sell it for) each year.  I won't whine too much that renters don't have to pay this tax.  Had voters during the Great Depression not approved a property tax measure the East Bay Parks would never have been formed.  From the ultrarunning perspective, great runs like Firetrails 50 Mile, Skyline 50k and Ohlone Wilderness 50k Run would never have been possible.  Voters approved a similar measure, AA, in 1988, with tangible results improving the quality of life for everyone in the area.  Had Measure WW been shot down, I would be extremely depressed.

Here's some of the improvements resulting from the measure:
  • Completion of the (mostly southern parts) of the Bay Trail so it runs continously from Martinez to Fremont
  • East Bay Greenway Trail to run from Richmond to Fremont along the BART line
  • The completion of the Bay Area Ridge Trail through Palomares Ridge, connecting Anthony Chabot in Castro Valley and Garin/Dry Creek Park in Hayward/Union City, and further south to Mission Peak.  Also completion of the the northern segment at Wildcat Canyon Park up to the Carquinez Strait.  End result:  continuous trail from the Carquinez Strait to Mission Peak
  • Completion of parallel trail segments in the I-680 corrider resulting in continous trail from Carquinez Strait to Sunol.  This includes connection to Las Trampas Regional Wilderness, which I think has some of the best and most beautiful trail running in the East Bay.
In other words, completion of 4 parallel trail segments running north to south in the East Bay.

In addition, a trail running from Dublin to Mount Diablo, and a trail connecting Garin to Pleasanton Ridge.  

The measure includes a total of 67 projects.

Of course, no instant gratification here-- these improvement will take years to happen.  But inevitably some of the new trails will give way to some great trail ultras in the years to come.  I've already got some great ideas, so once I hit retirement, assume I'll be founding race director of at least one....  ; )

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

RDL Stands for Many Things Part 2...Rio Del Lago 100 Mile Run

Among those with whom I start running the race are Jean Pommier, Michael Kanning, Joe Swenson, and Beverly Anderson-Abbs (doing the Sierra Nevada 53 Mile Endurance Run-- she says she's been having ITB problems since Tahoe Rim Trail 100 mile in July). Not even a mile into the trail, there is a large ribbon running across the trail with small signs pointing up a narrow single-track to the left.

RDL = Right Direction, Lost

My instincts tell me this isn't right, but being sleepy and tired from a tough schedule the past week, and the hectic day yesterday, I'm confused more than alarmed. As our lemming-like momentum leads us up to the left, I ask aloud "Is this the way?"

To which Bev replies emphatically "yes!" Perhaps her eliteness furthers our misimpression that this is the right way to go. We climb, I become more doubtful, since I don't ever remember such a tortuous, narrow path so early in the course. Plus, I had followed Bev off course early in this year's Rucky Chucky. As my doubt grows, I slow down, and they seem to speed up. I finally stop to look closely at the signs in the light of my headlamp. "MTB" they all read.

"Hey guys, it's the wrong way! Come back!"

They are out of earshot, or maybe talking amongst themselves. Joe Swenson and I and a few others for whom I feel almost responsible head back down to the real course, in which we find ourselves in the mid-rear pack.

I discuss with a few others whether those that kept going up the errant mountain bike race trail would gain or lose time in the detour; one who lives locally thinks they are effectively taking a shortcut. Only time would tell.

I was looking forward to pacing with Michael and Jean, but, at least it's a long race and chances are a few minutes would be inconsequential. From the wrong turn I run several miles with Jimmy Dean Freeman, from Southern California, who doesn't have a light so asks to bum off mine.

Jimmy Dean the next day, being photographed by his wife Kate.

It's good conversation. Without trying to lose him, I leave him after the first aid station, Twin Rocks (mile 4).

RDL = Ruined Day? Laughable

I never see the others, and keep wondering if they're way ahead or way behind. It's hard to shake off my self-directed irritation at getting off course so early in the race, when really I have no excuse-- this is my fourth straight year running this. Also Norm warned us in the race booklet to only follow arrows chalked on the ground with "RDL" next to them or pink ribbon. He also warned us of the mountain bike race that often goes on the same weekend, and which I had noticed in the past.

Eventually I force myself to completely get over it. After all, this beats work, or getting here in traffic after working all morning yesterday. It's been hard enough to find time to run 2-3 hours-- today I was going to run in beautiful surroundings ALL DAY, and not even have to worry about mixing my own sports drink, since all these great volunteers were there to help us. All good, right?

As I kick into a groove, and try not to worry about if and when I'll see any particular runners again, I notice that the trail I'm on keeps climbing and climbing, and that I no longer see the waterto my right. I'm thinking I could be off course, but it's not totally clear, and I'm not convinced if I start backtracking that I'll figure it out either. So I keep going and going, until I see a paved road up ahead after I've climbed quite a bit.

Crap. Strike 2. Bigger miss, because it's completely my fault and I alone have lost an even larger hunk of time and energy.

RDL = Repeated Directional Loss (or Real Dumb, Loser!)

I head back down, and estimate I've added at least two-thirds a mile, almost all inclined. I notice the ribbons I had missed to the right and spot runners, with whom I resume my flow.

Soon, I see up ahead a group of runners, which includes course record holder and 3-time winner Jon Olsen and Bev. They tell me they think Jean and Michael are ahead, but not sure.

After passing through the next aid station, Horseshoe Bar (mile 10), I notice we're climbing up a steep incline that again doesn't look or feel right. When I noticed Ray Sanchez has passed through an opening in a chain-link fence, I'm sure we're off course and shout (authoritatively-- I've learned to trust my instincts better and more decisively) that we're all going the wrong way, turn back. We head back down and then find the pink ribbons.

RDL = Ribbon Difficult to Locate

Apparently a tree had fallen right across the trail. As much as I appreciate the volunteers who marked the course, this area probably could've been marked a lot more generously, as there wasn't even a question that we might be taking a wrong turn when we went left.

At the next aid station, Rattlesnake Bar (mile 12), I take some time to get my hat, cheap schwag sunglasses courtesy of ING, and put away my headlamp. I lose Jon and Bev and others doing this. Jimmy Dean catches up with me and we enjoy each other's company again for a few miles. Eventually (and again unintentionally) I lose him and I'm running alone again. After Power Plant (mile 14), a semi-aid station with only bottles of water, I come to a stream crossing, hesitate, but not long enough as my right foot goes deep into the water.

RDL = Right Leg Drenched

Which wouldn't bother me so much except that my foot doesn't dry and I start to feel the ball of the 1st metatarsal rubbing with each step. When I catch up with a couple of runners heading up the first long steep hill, Cardiac, my survey reveals that I shouldn't have gotten my foot soaked. Another further confirmation that this just wasn't my day.

At Auburn Dam aid station (mile 23) I see Joe's wife Debbie for the first time. Although I had told her that her primary job was to crew for her husband, I would welcome any help she could give me if Joe was close enough behind me so she would see me. As it turned out, I saw her all day, and she always brought me my drop boxes. Thanks again!

I take off my shoe and sock and figuring that a regular bandaid wasn't going to stick, tear off a piece of duct tape a volunteer finds.

Another use for duct tape! I head down toward No Hands Bridge (mile 27), the turnaround half-way point for the shorter 53-mile Sierra Nevada race, feeling like I have rice stuck under my foot, an often-felt sensation at home, since both my wife and I come from rice-eating cultures and both my kids eat in a manner in which the rice ends up on the floor. Eventually I get used to it. More importantly, the tape-fix works to prevent an all-out blister.

I feel like after a fairly rough morning of wrong turns and other minor mishaps, the rest of the run will go a lot smoother.....maybe I can catch up with Jean and Michael.....

first published Tuesday October 28, 2008 at 4 pm, after losing my entire amost finished report covering the entire race

link to the next and final part, published almost 11 months later

Oh, ph***!!!

Okay, I was about to polish off and finish my Rio Del Lago race report, to find that when I highlighted a section of text to delete, I actually highlighted almost all of the report.  Then that autosave function kicked in.

I ask for no sympathy.

Is any of this retrievable?  My Mac has a time machine function on it, but it appears this only allows me to retrieve what's saved on my computer, not what's saved in cyberspace (on blogger).

Monday, October 27, 2008

British Mountain Run Stormed Out

I generally don't post news notes like this on my blog, but noticed this on Yahoo while up all night working, so in case you haven't seen it and you're interested. As satisfying a post as a little poot when I feel really bloated and want to rip a loud, smelly fart.

Runners camp, sleep in barns as floods cancel race

What's it with European trail runs?-- they're so large (2,500 participants).

Not sure I'd be excited about doing trying to run a race carrying a sleeping bag either.

I'm pretty sure it dumped way more than 2.5 inches during this year's Kettle Moraine, but I guess my race wasn't at altitude.

(btw, I'm still sporadically working on my Rio del Lago report. Not that anyone's going to read it this late.....but true to the ultrarunning spirit, better to finish late than DNF.)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Ultrarunning Notes from Kona, a Sort-Of Ironman Interlude

Yeah, I'd rather finish my Rio 100 Mile Report, but....

You know you are an ultrarunner when.....(#348: You find yourself during a long layover calculating how many laps of the airport terminal you need to run to get to 50 kilometers)

The convenience of a ride to the airport rather than schlepping luggage for 4 including 2 carseats and a double stroller via off-airport parking is quickly neutralized by the flight, in which our younger lap-child stays neither on my wife's lap nor mine. Maybe my wife will make us pay for another seat next time.

At Honolulu's inter-island terminal, my first experience with the post-ATA-Aloha Airlines bankruptcy era. Go! Airlines to Kona, arranged through the medical conference travel agent. Two people working the counter, excruciatingly slow. I finally check in, he tells me the 7:37 pm flight is delayed "a little" and to wait by gate 72. Around 7 pm, an announcement overhead apologizing for delays in more than half the pending flights, including ours, expected departure 9:50 pm. I end up having to take the shuttle to a car rental place because I can't get through to the office in Kona, which closes at 10 pm, to make sure they stay open for our later arrival.

Around 8:40 pm, my younger son wakes up in our Phil and Ted's double stroller (the 2 seats are on top of each other, rather than side to side), had barely gone to sleep. Neither of my kids have had a nap all day, and it's almost midnight Pacific Time. My wife, exhausted (and unhappy-- I guess we could've flown direct for another $700 collectively if I'd booked without using the conference travel agent), is about to take him out, but I quickly offer to stroll him around to try to get him back down. I do 2 circuits of the small terminal waiting room, the crying stops. It occurs to me that for his sake I should keep moving. But walking is so.....boring. I kick off my Keen sandals and start jogging, steering clear of random standing passengers and chairs and another father and son playing catch with a crumpled newspaper. With the row of seats at the far end, I can do a lopsided figure-8 and it takes a full minute.

Might as well try to get a workout in.

After about 15 laps, my older son, who has been rambunctiously playing with another kid, decides to join me running around the terminal. He keeps up the pace, and in fact does so without peetering out after 2 to 3 laps like 2 older boys that also join our little parade. After about 10 laps, he's had it and gets into the bottom seat, his added weight significantly adding to the workout. I proudly figure he almost went a full mile. And totally sleep-deprived!

The flight is further delayed until 10:20 pm. They finally start pre-boarding at 10 pm, so I end up getting a good 75 minutes of running, plus the hectic stroller dissembly and long walk out to the plane. No, I'm not having fun, but there was this epic feeling like mile 87 of a 100 mile race. Exhausted, but more than 2 hours to go and no sleep anytime soon.


Next run not until Tuesday morning. Both my bro-in-law and I are stir-crazy from lack of exercise, and 2 mornings of lectures. The Ironman Sports Medicine Conference we are attending is great, but learning about exercise does not equal exercise. Only 70 minutes, but we push a decent pace. It is interesting seeing so many fit, lithe, intense athletes on an early morning run on vacation.


This computer keeps bombing on me, so I keep losing my additional blurbs, sorry. I think my kids are getting up. I guess this is a hint that should've been running.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

RDL Stands for Many Things Part 1...Rio Del Lago 100 Mile Run

Friday 28 September 2008, day before the race

RDL = Road Delays, Late

After trouble getting out of work in Fremont on time (left at 1:40), bad traffic. First on Route 84 to get to Joe Swenson's in Livermore. Joe's wife Debbie drives. We slow down again as always on 580 by Tracy. Both bottlenecks are partially due to lane widening. Things have to get slower before they can get faster-- is that true about running ultras too? I'm further stressed as we make a bad move following the Garmin Nuvi's instructions to bypass Sacramento, perhaps a foreshadowing of the navigational problems the next day.

We arrive at Cavitt School in Granite Bay with barely enough time to register and get the goodie stuff. It's too late to get a race sweater that comes close to fitting me, but take one anyways. I do welcome a pair of cheap, yellow tinted sunglasses compliments of ING, a bank still solvent aparently. Since I left my Julbo's at home, I'm glad I can stick these in my Rattlesnake mile 11 drop box-- I'll look a little more dorky than I already do, but it will save my eyes. We put our drop bags in the piles, and then Norm gives his prerace talk, mentioning with his voice faltering, that this will be his last year directing the race, since his wife Helen asked him to stop-- she has only a few more years to live and the stress of putting these races on might be too much for them. Helen is not here, since this weekend she is speaking and running at the Quad Cities Marathon in Iowa (incidentally, where I ran my marathon PR).

Once again I am among a handful singled out to stand up, so he can tease me about calling my wife on my cell phone 2 years ago back at Cavitt (mile 67) for a supposed 45 minutes (the duration keeps getting longer every year). Jean Pommier and Michael Kanning ask if I want to eat with them at Pasta Pomodoro, but I feel I should volunteer for the U.C. Davis Sports Medicine Program's research study examining the effects of body composition and body water changes on exercise performance. Although measuring our weight, height and current don't take long (here's Joe having current run through his body),

there's a long line to get a small blood sample from the ear. Jean and Michael had already done it, having arrived far earlier.

I use some of the waiting time to pin my number on my shorts and rummage more through my drop boxes. I feel a little nervous waiting around. I know that my inability to take off work completely today was going to directly impact the amount of sleep I would get tonight, and sleep is something I've been lacking for more than a couple days. Marty Hoffman, a ultrarunning physiatrist at U.C. Davis and one of the investigators in the study, comments on my "nervous energy." I think, Hell, yeah, I'm a little anxious, a few hours ago I still had 7 patients to disposition at work, and a long drive, and I have no idea what I forgot to bring. I remember when I was in med school doing an elective rotation in physiatry, one of the residents asked me if I knew what PM&R stands for. I said "physical medicine and rehabilitation," the obvious, but he told me, "No-- Plenty of Money and Relaxation. Do you play golf?..."
Adrenaline loving idiot I was, I went into Emergency Medicine. Similar income, but not exactly the most relaxing of specialties, and scheduling problems would result in my late arrival to Cavitt School for a big race a decade later. What the hell was I thinking?

Waiting in line, I still in my blue work scrubs; Chikara is immediately to my right white shirt & black shorts

As crappy as I feel, I end up doing better than speedy Chikara Omine, who turns pale, sweaty and nearly passes out while a research assistant pricks his ear lobe to get the blood sample. This is known as a vasovagal response. Basically pain and perhaps more relevantly anxiety at having his ear pricked caused a series of physiological responses in which his autonomic nervous system dilates his blood vessels. His blood pressure drops and so he goes down. The following chart makes these mechanisms patently obvious. Get out that magnifying glass!
As Chikara lays on the ground, he tells me he's not good with needles.

I'm up finally, and apparently I don't have lots of blood courses through my ear lobes, since I have to get pricked a total of 4 times and the volunteer milks both lobes like a thirsty cow farmer for maybe 10 minutes, but with less yield. It actually hurts like hell her yanking on me as she tells me she wants to go to med school and then go into orthopedics or emergency medicine. I'm in too much earlobe pain to tell her "No! Go into PM&R!" I don't think to suggest that she prick my finger instead. Fortunately I don't become the second runner of Japanese descent to vasovagal.

We drive to the hotel in Roseville 5 miles away, and against our better judgement, end up taking out at, of all places, Burger King, for expediency, since it's so late. I get a Whopper Junior for 99 cents plus tax--I'm still working on my half loaf of bread. Probably a good move, as Joe and Debbi get more expensive chicken sandwiches to which they attribute their next day's GI problems.

I realize going through my bag that the socks I stuck in a drop bag that I thought were a spare, were in actuality my only socks. So I have no socks to wear to the race. Joe lends me a pair Wright Socks, XL's a bit too big for me, but they'll have to do.

Saturday 29 September, day of the race

Maybe I'm asleep by 9:45, not bad, but I wake up at 3 a.m. and don't get back to sleep. I would reassure myself that it's the night before the night before that counts, except that Thurday night was the same-- I didn't sleep well and had to get up butt early to go to work Friday morning. We give Ben Field from Los Gatos a lift so that he doesn't have to wake up his family at 5 am.

As soon as we get to the gym, I run to get my Hazel Bluff drop bag, where I left my Injinji toe socks. I see piles for all the other aid stations bag, but not Hazel Bluff! "They're already taken away" a volunteer tells me. Before I can crap in Joe's too large socks, volunteer David Combs comes up and tells me he put them in his car, just getting a head start. He leads me to his car and I retrieve my socks from my drop bag (actually a plastic box), relieved, but feeling very disorganized.

I'm a little late walking out to the start. Normally the races begin at Cavitt, but because of trail detours adding more than a half mile each way to the stretch between the school and Folsom Dam (miles 67-70 and 97-100) related to some Homeland Security / Department of the Interior renovation of the dam, we start this year half a mile out on the levees to half-mitigate the extra mile. I talk a little with Jean Pommier and his wife Agnes, but have to stop to adjust my laces of my Sportiva Lynx. Despite the situation, I'm still feeling sleepy. A few minutes later, at 5:59 a.m., Norm Klein counts down from 10.......3...2...1...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Rio del Lago 100-Mile brief blurb

What a scorcher!  Highs in the mid to upper 90's in some parts yesterday, took a beating and heavy toll on the largest starting field ever.

I missed my primary goal (aside from running Rio again for the hell of it) of beating Jean Pommier for the 132 PAUSATF Ultra Grand Prix points, as he was able to come through with a solid run commensurate with his speed.  So I'll lose the 50% race discounts for next year, but maybe this will help me get out of my "PAUSATF rut" as fellow ultrarunner has called it.  Even after I figured I wasn't going to catch Jean, I came up with other goals to keep moving. At one point I really thought that just finishing would be a major accomplishment.  4th place in my 4th running of this race.  3rd time not quite able to come under 20 hours in a 100-miler this year.

Plenty of great blogging fodder-- numerous mishaps, amusing moments that I didn't think were amusing at the time, race director Norm Klein's signature confrontation/pep talk/thrashing, some in a toilet stall) with/of carpool buddy Joe Swenson and his wife, terrorizing the wildlife, volunteers crouching to do special favors for me.  (NO, NOT WHAT YOU'RE THINKING!)  I met a couple of new up-and-coming runners (two would later pass me for good).  Despite the extra nasty stench and recurrent low grade nausea, had an ultra-fun time.

Instead of pulling a STORMY or a Tahoe-- that is, still not having posted yet weeks to months after the fact because I can't find the time to get it completed, but please read them if and when I do them-- I'll blog this race in installments, sort of the way you sometimes have to mentally break down these monster races into smaller segments to get through running them. 

Friday, September 26, 2008

Pre-O del Lago

To (force myself to) be the optimist, I'm just happy I'm able to run tomorrow.

At the end of August, I still had to get out of my midnight-ending shift today (Friday 9/26). Despite my request to have the day off, my scheduler, who *usually* tries to let me do my runs without working until 2am the evening before, had scheduled me for noon to midnight, which not only screws up the sleep, but would have precluded making the mandatory pre-race check in. Probably has something to do with our being short staffed, and the several other scheduling requests I had to make for the month.

The problem is, Friday noon to midnight is a tough sell, and I'm working so much, I didn't have a free Friday on which I could cover the same shift for a person who might have the 26th off. Everyone's working over full schedule as it is, and people have plans. I did find someone who can could work that shift (Mickey below), but he was working 6am the next morning, so I had to call the 10am to 10pm person and ask if she'll switch to noon to midnight..... and then a bunch of other people. In return for his favor, I offered to do Mickey's overnight shift on the 1st, which was painful, since it eliminated the essential recovery day following my overnight shifts, and was a particularly hideous night.

In addition, though I can work 6am today, I can't stay until 3pm and make it to the pre-race meeting, so I need an afternoon doctor (Shakira!) to come in early.

So it ends up being a complicated switch ultimately involving 4 of my colleagues. But since one person not being able to do the switch makes the whole thing fall through, I must've contacted about 3 times that number for other possible trade scenarios. Here's the email I sent in the end to the schedule maintenance people (names changed, and then further tweaked to avoid any lawsuits).

Monday September 1st:

  • Ultrailnakaman will work the Fremont 23-630 (not Mickey Rodent)

Friday September 26th:

  • Mickey Rodent will work Hayward 10-22 (not Braised Daisy Duck)
  • Braised Daisy Duck will work Hayward 12-24 (not Ultrailnakaman)
  • Ultrailnakaman will work Fremont 6-1330 (not Goofy Dog-Bear-Thing 6-15)
  • Goofy Dog-Bear-Thing will work Fremont 8-17 (not Mickey Rodent)
  • Shakira! will work Fremont 1230-24 (instead of 14-24, same 1 hour overlap with the first shift)
Plus a self-deprecating thank you to thank all those volunteering to help me out.
  • Thank you everyone for offering to make these changes so I can make it to the mandatory check-in at Granite Bay (northeast of Sacramento) that afternoon and pursue my meaninglessly stupid hobby all the next day, especially Mickey, since I know he really wanted to labor on his overnight on Labor Day in celebration of labor. Also thanks to the people I cc'd who offered to switch but won't need to (just giving a heads up). I love you all. xoxoxo
So, I'm just glad I can run Rio. I have great helpful colleagues that will mess with their already full schedules. I am SO-O-O-O lucky!

Lucky lucky as a braised Beijing ducky. Never mind the flu thing going around, involved my nose, my head, my whole body, and my gastrointestinal tract which will probably result in at least 20 minutes of pit stops tomorrow. Feeling extra exhausted from 4 instead of 3 overnights this past weekend. Usually I have trouble falling asleep at night initially, but this time I couldn't get enough sleep. And I didn't. Two night ago we had to host some a meeting at our house and to my exhausted agony, it went WAY later than I had wanted. The insomnia came.....last night-- the crucial night before the day before. Oh well, think positive--it's really the...night before the night before the night before that counts!

I walk into work this morning, and who's working but the scheduler (also an ED doc, he gets adminitrative time to do the schedule). Despite my normally better judgement and restraint, at some point, I think after one of my overnights last weekend, I subtly asked him why he screwed me over this month. "Oh powerful and almighty scheduler your Highness, did I do something to make you hate me?" or something like that, minus the sarcasm. Oh, I can't remember, I was so sleepy at the time.

This morning, before he can finish signing out his patients to me, an ambulance brings this guy in, not dead, but pretty close. Scheduler helps me out (he's still being paid anyways) and puts a central venous line in the guy's right internal jugular shortly after I intubate him. I thank him for starting the line, and he apologizes again for having scheduled me to work today, and wishes me luck on the race, and I make no sarcastic remarks, but mention that I'm going to ask for vacation months in advance for future 100-mile races. I work my butt off for the first two hours with my first and a couple other patients. The 8am doctor comes in and there are no patients for 90 minutes, while he sleeps in his chair.....I get some time to start this post before it gets busy again. (I guess I'm thankful it let up enough for this too...)

My other two 100 milers involved a trip somewhere with extra family to accompany my wife and kids. This time I'm just leaving them. Big domestic political expenditure here. But some vacation plans with her family to make up for this soon.

Uh, oh, more patients coming in.....will I get out of here to carpool buddy Joe Swenson's house in time? .....well, definitely not if I keep working on this post..... gotta run!

first published, Friday, September 26th, sometime in the morning

Monday, September 8, 2008

(Barely) Avoiding the Cramp'n'Crump at the Stevens Creek 50k

In years past, race director Steve Patt would hold the Stevens Creek 50k in March as a birthday present to himself. The race was often cold, windy, and wet, and I guess in 2006 one runner was crossing the torrential river on a slippery log and went into over his head. (He didn't drown.) But all the volunteers including the head volunteer, his wife, Debi Jamison were cold and wet too.  So last year he decided to do it in September. It was a beautiful day apparently. The only danger about a race in early September is that it can get really, brutally hot.

Joe Swenson and I decided to carpool to the race. Since he and his wife will be driving me up to Rio del Lago later this month, I offered to drive him to this race.

At 8:45ish, he calls me on my cell from the race start in the parking lot at Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve off of Skyline Boulevard in the mid-peninsula. "Uh did I get the date wrong?"

"Uh, dude, yeah."

Apparently he'd shown up at my house, and after I didn't answer my phone, had the good judgement to not ring my doorbell and wake up my whole family. Then he drove another 70-80 minutes to the start.

Sunday, he arrives at 7:30, a little later than I'd hoped, but we make it there as Director Steven Patt is giving his pre-race speech. I fill prepare my water bottles, drop off my check (in lieu of an entry fee, RD Steve asks all runners to make a voluntary contribution to the Santa Clara Audobon Society), get a bottle of S-Caps at wholesale price from Pierre-Yves Couteau, running his first 50k (although he completed Firetrails 50 mile last October) then figure out who showed up.

The sun's bright and it's already approaching 80 degrees before the race starts. I'm glad I'm wearing my Sportiva tank top, although I suspect I might get some sunburn.

listening to race instructions (photo by Craig Heinselman)

Because there are only 3 aid stations during the course, and the first 2 stretches are 10.9 and 8.4 miles long, I bring 2 water bottles, but decide against a hydration pack. My shoulders and arms are already sore from having schlepped tons of stuff up and down our stairs to my car and to from the parking lot to this local swim hole for my younger son's first birthday party the day before.

We walk to across the parking lot and then Skyline Boulevard (route 35) to the start. I quickly pee in the bushes, wondering if I had had the time to use a toilet (I didn't), if I could gave produced something more solid and substantive, and then wonder if I'm going to have GI problems from all the catered Filipino food I ate the day before-- lumpia, egg rolls, pancit and barbequed meat skewers--not exactly pure carbo loading.

Steven uses me as an example of a fast runner who should make his way to the front since the course starts off with a lot of narrow single track. I see Ron Gutierrez, who finished 2nd at the Tahoe Rim Trail 50 (in which I finished 36th) and beats me about half the time we run the same race, and we catch up on recent race stuff.

I'm soon having trouble keeping up the conversation, especially on the uphills, which Ron does very well. He's been suffering from shin splints, and sounds like he's been training as suboptimally as I. Pretty soon this older guy I'd never seen before catches up with us, looking very relaxed, and then passes us. We both work to catch up with him. I find out he's Bruce La Belle, and that he's 53 years old, 12 more than Ron and me. He keeps losing us on the downhills (and the first 5 miles are more down than up).  I ask Ron "who the hell is this guy?"  At one point Ron is almost up with him and I'm lagging behind. Okay, so now it's not just Ron, but this guy 12 years older. If I thought I had any chance of winning this race, it just went down below 33%.

Bruce La Belle, after finishing in 3rd overall

A few miles in, Ron starts lagging and soon I can't see or hear him behind us. Bruce admits to having come in 2nd at Western States in 1984, so I feel a little better. He took at decade long break from ultras, and just started running them again.

The course starts ascending more than descendingm which isn't Bruce's forte and soon I'm running alone.  Okay, so maybe I can win this thing, I tell myself, and I try to keep a steady effort, while not feeling I'm killing myself trying to keep up with anyone. In between all this are hoards of mountain bikers, some of whom comply will the rules of the trail "bikes yield to hiker (and runners) yield to horses", but some, well, just suck.

David Combs at mile 11 (photo by Craig Heinselman)

At the first aid station, I recognize David Combs, and Rajeev Patel, who fills up my bottles (thanks, man!). I get some ice to stick in my cap and then set out the wrong way (I was supposed to go back the way we came, but I hadn't had time to study the course map beforehand.) I'm surprised that the first person I see running the other way is not Bruce or Ron, but a woman I don't recognize-- my lap split is about 2 1/2 minutes, so I have a gap of 5 minutes on her, not including time at the aid station, which is presumably longer than average for everyone given it's the first in almost 11 miles. I see Bruce at about 3:30 and then Ron shortly after. I think Pierre, who sold me the S Caps, is not far behind. The course finally crosses Skyline Boulevard, at the first turnaround aid station for PCTR's Skyline Ridge 50k I ran 6 months earlier. By this time, my left calf, which went into spasm over the weekend as I tried to pull the heel of my clogs over my heel while stopped at a red light going to my overnight shift on last Saturday night, is increasing feeling like it's going to go into spasm. Five or six times I stop to stretch it out, and once I retie my left shoe suspecting I had it tied too tight and that was making the problem worse.

coming to mile 19 aid station (the start/finish), photo by Jean Pommier?

My split at the start/19.3 mile/finish aid station is 2:55. Of course, I have no idea how far back my nearest competitor is, so I try to be efficient and fast.  After having one bottle filled, I dump the other along with my car key (one of those bulky smart ones) since I hate running with 2 bottles and it's only 6 miles to the next and last aid station, chug a cup of sports drink, then cruise out. In my haste, I forget to grab more electrolyte caps, I realize later. I finger my shorts pocket and note half reassured that I have one left.

Making my way up the big hill heading toward Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve, I look back to see if anyone is catching up, while feeling my calf still about to spasm. Finally I reach the summit with a beautiful view you will have to imagine.

Normally, it feels really good to crest a hill and start running down.  Plus, there's often a nice breeze cooling things down. Today, not and not! Instead of just my calf, my whole body now feels like it's going to go into spasm. I would slow down a lot, but again, I have no idea where everyone is, and I suspect that my slower pace for the 2nd third of the course shortened my lead. I swallow my lyte cap sooner than I'd planned. I get a little psychological boost passing some volunteers checking the course.

I think the two with the white shirts were those volunteers (Matt Thau and John Behring?)  in this photo taken after the race, and the other 2 are runners.

My bottle almost empties at 3 miles. I save a little but even just as a psychological measure, it's futile.  Maybe dumping that 2nd bottle wasn't so smart.

Mile 25 aid station volunteers, including Jean Pommier, photo by another mystery volunteer

Finally I get to the 25 mile aid station. I tell them I am SO not feeling well, so they tell me I can take it easy, since I was WAY ahead of everyone at the 20 mile aid station. While another volunteer fills my bottle, speedy Jean Pommier takes my bandana (swag in our goodie bags, with a map of the parks in which the course runs printed on it) and dumps in water and ties in around my neck, then similarly with my cap. I down 2 caps and take 2 to go. They point me further down the trail, but apparently I'm just supposed to go a little ways to the gate and then come back. It's really short to the gate, so short in fact, plus there's no sign saying turnaround, so I'm not sure that's what they meant, so I try screaming to them "is this the gate?" as if they could hear me. I'm delirious and not thinking very clearly. After a few seconds deliberation, I just decide to come back and I ask if it was the gate and they tell me it was the gate.  Great.

maybe returning from the exciting gate episode (photo by Jean Pommier)

I head on out, eager to see exactly what they meant by WAY ahead. Since I was so behind on fluids, I may have drunk too much, or maybe what I drank I did too fast. I'm feeling somewhat nauseated. After 6 minutes without seeing anyone, I calculate at least a 12 minutes gap, so I can go 2 minutes per mile slower than the person behind me. 9 minutes--3 minutes per mile. Finally at about 12 1/2 minutes, as I end a series of uphills, I see Pierre coming. 5 miles to go, so I can go 5 minutes per mile slower and still win.  I can puke a few times and maybe still win.  What a comfortable cushion!

But I still have to get back without a major disaster, like getting way lost, or badly injured. Just one bad spasm and I'm done. I walk more of the uphills. Approaching the final large summit about a mile and a half from the finish, I look at my watch and it's 1:47. Can I finish under 5 hours?  Do I really care?  No, but I need any goal to get my butt moving.  With a new goal, I start jogging up the hill again. Suddenly I'm blasted with a wave of heat rising up against the windless hillside from below. Forget it.

about a mile and a half to go: "Should I start running?" I ask Craig Heinselman as he aims.

He tells me not to, since it's good to see me looking more human.  Nice compliment since I usually look like a dork.  Thanks, Craig for taking photos, and you get to deduct at least 20-30 minutes from your time.

The course goes down a different path to the finish, and once again, I don't get to enjoy gliding effortlessly downhill but run crippled to prevent anything from spasming.

At the finish, I feel as happy to finish as I feel.....finished.   I'm offered the chair. It takes a long while for my breathing to slow down, as I'm handed bottles of fluids and start to graze on zucchini bread and Togo's sandwiches.

the finisher's tent with some more awesome volunteers and the RD and his wife at right

We stage the ceremonial photo, of RD Steve handing me the winner's plaque.

Pierre comes in almost 37 minutes after me.  Great performance for a rookie on such a hot day! I start to get worried, because it's the sort of day where someone might collapse, like at Ohlone in May.  (Luckily no one collapsed.)  For less compassionate and more selfish reasons, I'm worried because I can't leave until Joe finishes.  If Joe crumps out on the last 12 miles, it would be a long time before I could get home. I was on a deadline, since I had promised my wife I'd babysit and put to bed both our kids and my niece, as well as make sure my twin nephews went to bed on time, while she and my brother and his wife went out to eat. I offered this as a way to get to do this race and be gone leaving her with the kids all morning.

The first female comes in almost an hour after me, but it's not the woman I saw leading at the 11 mile turnaround. Apparently Lina McCain's won this race before.

Fortunately, Joe come in 7th, a little over an hour after I.

We're all happy just to finish.  By the end 36 of the 59 starters would finish, most of those who dropped did so by mile 19. I never got a chance to find out why Ron dropped, but I imagine it might have been his shin splints. He is extremely tough, as I found out at Firetrails last year.

Before we get into the car, I make it a point to pee. I haven't peed all race. Not that much comes out. Whoops. I suspect that I never adequately hydrated out in the heat all day before for my infant's first birthday party.

Thanks for all the volunteers, who weren't exactly lazing around a pool on such a hot day! Steve is good to list them Debi Jamison (his wife), Dave Combs, Stan Jensen, Sanjay & Vik Waghray, Mollie Whisler and children, Rajeev Patel, Bob Power, Bob Hirt, Jean Pommier, Christine Miller, Tom Davis, Lisa Cogar, Brian Hawkinson, Penny Beeston and friends (course marking), Buddy Pohl (course marking), Matt Thau and John Behring (course checking). You all rocked!

So my work for the day isn't finished yet. To get to do this race without incurring any guilt or parental debt, I promised my wife she could go out to dinner somewhere nice with whomever and I'd watch the kids. So as soon as I shower quickly at home, we drive up to Marin and I put down our baby, my older toddler son and my nice, while eyeing my older twin nephews, one doing something pyromaniacal in the back porch, but their house doesn't burn down.

My baby wakes up in the middle of the night, and for over an hour is either crying or screaming happily, so no one sleeps well and I feel pretty sick the next day.  However, no regrets.  It's just another post-race ultrarunning hangover.

official results

first published Wednesday, September 10, 2008, at 2:15 am, 6 hours before a plane flight (so sorry this was a little raw....)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Last Weekend's Post-Nightshift Nightmare

I'm watching a one of those security cameras up close and I see my wife and she's screaming and shrieking as this guy is attacking her, and I can't do anything, just watch helplessly, this scene out of a horror movie, except it's real. He's murdering her! Just then, the scene cuts and the announcer says "Don't let this happen to you and your family-- and it won't if you have RoboDog! RoboDog, the robotic guard dog that growls and barks and will even bite any intruder into your home. You should've had RoboDog. Have your credit card ready and order today!"

(kind of like this, only it had sharp teeth. actually I was too upset to take a good look....)

I'm tripping out and realize that it's the future, when advertisers get your personal information from the web, including you facebook account and my blog, and then custom-design provocative and terrifying advertisements that play in your head even without a television screen, and won't stop until you buy what they want you to buy, and this all happened because as the result of a few decades of continual pro-big-corporation, but otherwise anti-science control of the White House and both houses of Congress as I kept blogging and not getting political so I deserved this HA HA HA HA HA (evil cackling) and okay now I'm up and I'm sweaty and I look at the clock and it's only 2330 (sorry I dream and think in military time) and I have to get up in 5 hours to work, when you were just starting work yesterday at the same time, and this messed up Circadian is why I'm having this fricking nightmare and can't sleep normally. I get up, pop an Ambien, and a Pepcid, and drink them down. A few hours later as I leave for my hour long running commute to work, I'm thinking, this could be worse.....

I didn't tell my wife about this one.

first published Tuesday September 9, 2008 at 0002

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

I'm Too Sleepy,Tired & Pressed for Time To Feel Guilty for Not Blogging

How I ended up running 24 1/2 miles (instead of 14) this past Sunday volunteering to course check right before Skyline 50k, 5 days before my 100 mile race in Squamish (near Vancouver), British Columbia this Friday (August 8th), might make an interesting story. Too bad I don't have time to blog the report now. Not to mention my Tahoe report, which has at least one part you all might find amusing. I am so exhausted, I'm dizzy and feel sicker than half the patients I am seeing at work. I think I felt better rested during my 3rd year of medical school or my worst rotations in medical residency. Working 3 to midnight, 3 to 2am and then noon to midnight while trying to pack, attend and plan birthday parties, do a gazillion other errands, and with our older son not in daycare since I was too cheap to pay for a week when he'd only be in 2 days-- doesn't help either.

Not quite getting some sleep on the BART in before the last 3 miles running on Sunday morning, photo by Chihping Fu, who ran down with me from Skyline aid station in Redwood Park though Joaquin Miller Park and Oakland.

I guess since I'm supposed to be an endurance athlete, I should stop whining and just SUCK IT UP. (Does this apply if I puke? Yum....)

The good news: My iPod Nano, which got drenched during Kettle Moraine in early June, after several unsuccesful attempts to turn it on, surprisingly worked last night at 3am. I guess it just took a while for the water to evaporate out of that USB port.

So, will have 3 race reports and that tag question thing that went around a month ago still to write after retruning from the Pacific Northwest.

Everyone enjoy the rest of your summer! Ultrailnaka man loves you all. xoxoxo

Friday, July 18, 2008

Six Word Memoir, Tag Questions x 6, including my Tahoe pre-race excuse

I got tagged by Catherine Sullivan and Scott Dunlap a few months ago (April 2008).

Sorry, I got a little busy with my kids and work. And running. And laundry. I think that covers it.

Here are the questions:

1) Write your own six word memoir
2) Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you want
3) Link to the person that tagged you in your post, and to the original post if possible so we can track it as it travels across the blogosphere
4) Tag at least five more blogs with links
5) Leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play!

If I remember correctly, it was fun reading other people's answers, some really cool, pithy phrases of wisdom and truth. Wow that was so long

Unfortunately, answering this late makes things more challenging, since I don't want to rehash what's already been said. To make up for the ridiculous delay, I'll do extra credit an come up with six 6-word memoirs some more original than others. 6 squared. Which is 36. Which is almost how old I was when I ran my... 6th ultramarathon (1960's sci-fi movie music).

No pictures. No time. Not done packing yet, for Tahoe, and race starts in 28 hours.

NEVER be the rebound man, duh!

(okay, I added the "duh" to make the 5 words 6, but in retrospect, this is always a no-brainer. Although when I learned this lesson, I had no brain. Unfortunately, when you are in the moment, it's hard to think clearly. Obviously this applies to women too. Of course if all you are only looking for easy booty call, you may disregard this one. Hey, I'm married now and beyond all this. And how this relates to ultrarunning is unclear, so

Don't take yourself too seriously, dork!

Applicable 99% of the time. Unfortunately too many people in all areas of life who take themselves way too seriously.

As an aside, if I ever take my running seriously, this weekend at the Tahoe Rim Trail 50 Mile Endurance Run will be an exception. First, altitude disproportionately whacks me up and slows me down. Nothing close to my usual top 5% finish.

Tahoe Rim Trail 50 Mile 2007-- 25th out of 106 finishers, 10:46:02

or even more to the point,

Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Mile 2006-- 56th out of 56 finishers, 34:24:54 (35 minutes from the cutoff)

Second, my schedule for this week guarantees that a messed up Circadian:

Monday 7am to midnight (phone work on my butt)
Tuesday 2pm to midnight
Wednesday 3pm to 2am (went to bed at 3:30am)
Thursday 3pm to 2am (got out a little early, but still some packing to do, and I'm still up!)

Friday get up short of sleep, finish packing & loading the all new Rav-4, drive up to Tahoe with family, put kids down, go to bed too late, but it doesn't matter because I won't be able to get to sleep until 3 am since I've been staying up late the last 4 nights...

Saturday wake up before 5am to start the race at 6am (will probably wake up at 3:30am and not get back to sleep).

To consider the cup half full-- Thank you R (my scheduler) me the weekend off so I can run my race!

Returning to the questions, a more specific variation of not taking yourself too seriously is:

Dance as if nobody is watching.

To the chagrin of my wife at too many parties and weddings when we used to get invited to them and didn't have to worry about getting a babysitter, having an audience actually makes me dance more crazily. I just can't help myself. Since my older son seems to be following in my footsteps (so to speak) there must be a genetic component. So it's not a moral failing, like the people all upset about gay marriage seem to think. Despite that California ruling that will I guess lead to the moral decay signalling the end of modern society as we know it, my wife and I are holding our heterosexual marriage together.

Sorry to sarcastically digress. About dancing as if no one is watching-- it does help to have a couple of beers beforehand. But it shouldn't be required.

But I wanted to use this opportunity for a good cause.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle; Run Don't Drive.

Of course I drive often, but if I can help it (for instance, commuting to and from work), I try to use my feet and public transportation. I think I've blogged about choice in the recent past.
Here's another along the same lines:

Skip the bottle, drink tap water.

If you haven't heard yet, bottled water and bottled water companies are basically evil, stealing and draining underwater reserves from local populations for corporate profits, burning lots of fuels and releasing tons of carbon to ship water across the country or the globe, adding to the huge waste dump that's growing fast enough as it is. I've been all too guilty of playing into the madness.

Food & Water Watch website

Earth Policy Institute article on municipalities boycotting bottled water

This is just one part of my last 6-word mantra here:

Leave something beautiful for future generations.

I was trying to save all the used plastic type # 1 water bottles and make a beautiful sculpture of my lovely wife with it for future generations to appreciate, but totally missed the point of what I was doing and kept complaining about all the clutter, obviously not supportive of my hidden artistic genius, so I had to put them in the recycling bin.

But seriously, you can substitute "usable" or even "edible" for the beautiful. I would hope that every trail runner out there is fundamentally environmentalist, since we are all using and appreciating nature. Although I've noticed more than one ultra/trail runner with disappointingly ironic political leanings. If you enjoy the trails, you just might want to consider voting in a manner consistent with saving them and the landscape. Get informed about the envirovmental report cards of your legislators and candidates.

Whoops, guess I got a little political....

Okay, whom do I tag now? Due to the brevity of the minimally required response, this had probably gone around and hit everyone 3 months ago (tagged bloggers are supposed to tag 5 others, so after 5 generations of this, you have 5 to the 5th, or 3125, which would probably covers all distance running bloggers). I will look around and see who's left and might want to participate.

Keep your toes crossed...

1st published Friday, July 18, 2008 at 2:02 a.m.