Thursday, September 24, 2009

RDL Stands for Many Things Part 3......Rio Del Lago 100 Mile Run

(RDL = Really Delayed Log)

Since this upcoming weekend is when the Rio Del Lago 100 Mile Run has been traditionally held, I thought it would be a good time to finish and publish the third and last installment of my report from last year's race. (Actually, maybe not the best time, since I haven't finished packing for PCT Hundred in the Hood starting in less than 39 hours, but better now than say, next February, which would be totally random.)

previous installments:
part 2

At No Hands Bridge (mile 26), the 53-mile competitors turn around, while the 100-mile runners head up K-2, a very steep hill and then run a modified version of the Olmstead Loop at Cool, before returning to the bridge down a gentler grade. I turn on my Garmin Forerunner here with the goal of making it to the south turnaround, Mountain Lion Knoll (mile 83). This way I will capture the whole course within the 10-hours the battery lasts. Or at least I hope.

I feel like I'm not able to attack the K-2 hill as agressively as the last two years.

With the 53-milers off this part of the course, I finally feel I can get a reliable sense of how far ahead of me are Jon Olsen, Jean Pommier, Michael Kanning and whoever else is with them. (Jon and Michael would both drop around this point.) At the Cool Fire Station (mile 33), I am surprised to hear that I'm about 10 minutes behind, which is about the same as I was for the last few aid stations.

Cool is never cool, it's generally hot and largely uncovered. This year there are more equestrians out on the Olmstead Loop; most let me continue running past, and no horses kick me. I have this magical way with animals. You'll see later.

After No Hands Bridge, Greg Bomhoff, whom I met earlier in the race, catches up with me and we talk for a while. I know he's in the lead for Robert Mathis' race series, so we talk about the mattress, which I had won two year's earlier, and how that year, neither I nor Jon Olsen would admit openly to hoping to win the mattress. (Ironically, I think Performaire pulled their sponsorship or maybe went out of business, and so no mattress was given.) Greg obviously has been pacing himself better than I, and he pulls away from me to eventually win the race and this large bear statue that my wife would have been really ecstatic about (insert sarcasm) if I had brought it home myself. He would also win the 2008 series.

During the 20+ miles back to Cavitt School, the start and finish and 67-mile mark, I learn to wet the awesome, custom-printed white Moeben sleeves we all got as race schwag from Shannon Farar-Griefer, and put ice under my cap. It would hit 97 that afternoon on parts of the course. It was tough, but I didn't cramp or crump. Unlike 5 years ago at Diablo 50, I'd long since learned of the need to take salt tablets. I have things so under control....

requesting my bottle be filled at an aid station

RDL = Rigorous Drenching-- Luscious!

The head volunteer at one of the aid stations takes a drenching wet towel and places it over my shoulders. Aaaaah! This hits the spot. Thanks!

Back at Cavitt, I make sure to call my wife on the cell in my drop box. Unfortunately, Norm Klein isn't outside-- he's made my "25-minute phone call" (actually 2 or 3) regular fodder for his pre-race talks.

Then for some unknown reason, I decide I should change my socks. Mark Lantz, who won the 53-mile race both last year and this year, is there again.

with his wife Rena trying to keep from freezing to death before the start of the 2009 Quicksilver runs

The year before (2007) he had told me not to waste time doing it. This year for some reason he doesn't say anything. Bending down to take off my shoe, my left shoulder suddenly goes into spasm. My anticipated 5-minute stop grows to 20. Oh well, the great thing about this sport is that even after 5 years, there is always more you can learn. The lesson here: don't fix what isn't broken.

As I head out of the school, my shoes feel tied too tight (I had to ask volunteers to tie my shoes since I felt trying myself would cause more cramping). I feel my calves will tighten up if I don't loosen them, but trying to put my first foot on a rock to adjust it makes my hips feel like they are going to spasm. Somehow, after another five minutes without forward progress, I manage to loosen the laces and head out to the levees, where Homeland Security had fenced off the dams, and the trail makes an extensive detour.

Despite all that, (perhaps it was inevitable) stepping up a short steep incline, each of my calves spasms in succession, then the rest of my body, and I fall onto my back, in utter, excruciating cramping agony. I amnot a pretty sight, lying on my back, trying futilely to breathe it out.

RDL = Totally Screwed! (okay, so the letters don't match)

I try to see the humor of the situation ("I fell and I can't get up!") but the logistical and physical challenge of getting back up without spasming again soon takes precedence. After a lot of forced, focused relaxation, I am able to turn over and stand up after maybe 15-20 minutes. As for running-- well, I am forced to a very slow jog. I am fearful that the spasming will return and have serious doubts that I will be able to finish. Despite my slow pace, I even manage to get confused by the detoured and waste more time navigating.

The 17 miles out to the turnaround and back are flatter than the hillier first 2/3 of the course, largely going along two sides of Lake Natoma, into which feeds the Middle Fork of the American River. Normally, this is considered very untechnical and fast, but with half of my muscles tight, the going is very slow. I even have to ask the volunteers at the Folsom Dam station (mile 70) station to finish the work of loosening my shoes. At the next aid (mile 73), I get a quick massage from a volunteer. I finally work out the cramping enough where I can run the whole 4.5 miles to the Hazel Bluff station (mile 77). Recovering this much feels so good. I'm over having lost any chance of catching up with Jean Pommier.

By the time I ascend the bluff, I am elated from having come back from the dead (I really had doubted I would be able to finish as I lay there on my back by the dam). Probably manic. "I feel great!" I shout, all smiles. Apparently I appeared crazed and was a bit too loquacious. A few minutes late when it was clear I was done with my drop bag and fueling, ubiquitous volunteer David Combs and the others, have to request that I quickly move on.

RDL = Rascally Dohbutsus -- Lento! (sorry, that was forced. Dohbutsu is Japanese for animal, lento is Spanish for slow)

After crossing the Hazel Avenue bridge the course goes along single track with a few stretches of paved bike path to the 83 mile turnaround at Mountain Lion Knoll. On the trail I see a furry bushy-tailed creature close ahead in the beam of my headlamp. A skunk! This really messes up my pace, since it frequently stops, and like the stupid cows I encounter on many of my training runs, it chooses to stay on the trail rather than escape to the side. I have to back off to prevent it from assuming the spray pose, while wondering how dangerous it would be to try to run past it. Probably too dangerous-- it's not like I can tell it "excuse me" and tiptoe past. This goes on for well over a mile, maybe two, before it finally takes the alternate route at a fork in the trail.

After buzzing through the next aid station, Willow Creek (mile 81), I spot another animal ahead on the trail-- and as I come close, I can't believe it-- I'm chasing yet another skunk! Same stubborn stupidity--it keeps going straight ahead. After this one finally veers off, I pick up the pace in a way you can only after being forced to run way more slowly than you wanted to, running a couple of sub-9 minute miles to the Mountain Lion Knoll turnaround (mile 83.6), achieving another goal of recording the whole course with my Garmin Forerunner before the battery runs out, which I'd turned on at mile 27 at No Hand Bridge.

(Ironically, the file was too large to upload, but I was happy about this at the time.)

Coming back, I noticed that my gaps on the runners in 4th through 9th place are all within an hour. My vivacios pep soon runs out, probably blown with my sprinting to the turnaround. Fortunately, I am able to keep the lead on most, but not all.

At mile 94, Jimmy Freeman, who I'd run with for several miles leaving him behind twice in the early part of the race, flies by with his pacer. Good for him. Aside from the time I've lost writhing on the ground 20 miles earlier, I just don't have that sort of speed left in me to even think of giving chase.

RDL = Recommended Dean Links

Only 9 months later, did I see and understand, for the first time, what he was talking about when we first met early in the race, when he asked me "have you heard of Jimmy Dean meat products?" Me: "uh, no...." He: "You've never heard of Jimmy Dean bacon or sausage?"

With less than 2 miles to go looking up the hill to the levee, I suddenly see lights behind me. I know it is John Souza, since I had seen Jon Olsen at all the aid stations, crewing him the last 1/6 of the race. I am able kick and lengthen a nice gap on him, to stay in 4th place overall.

With all the time lost on my back or going slowly, I'm unable to come under 20 hours, as I'd hoped and expected. Clock says 20:15:26, making this the my third 100 miler this year finishing between 20 and 21 hours. But honestly, I'm just happy I didn't give up and am able to cross that finish line.

After a while, I go back to the medical research study volunteers, so I can advance science. They find the blood sample that once again they have to vigorously and painfully milk my earlobe for 15 minutes can't be processed. Oh well, at least not as bad as whole body cramping. I chug a bottle of water, perhaps too early, feeel nauseated and the urge to defecate.

RDL = Race Director Livid

While doing my thing, another person comes into the adjacent stall, followed by race director Norm Klein. "How you could you even think of dropping out?... How tall are you?...I'm only 5'4"and probably weigh half as much as you, but believe me, I will kick your ass if you don't get youself back on that course, so you better do it now!" Or something like this. (Norm actually would get his own watered-down account into the December issue of Ultrarunning.) I'd heard similar in the past three years running the race. If you make it back to the school, he's not just going to let you drop. And usually he's correct. The prodded runners thank him after they've finished for not letting them quit like sissies.

I anticipate I will wait about 90 minutes for Joe Swenson to come, but it ends up being more than five long hours before I see his wife Debbie, who had done impromptu crewing for me early in the race, and then Joe, who tells me how he dropped out at mile 90 at the return to Hazel Bluff, 15 pounds overweight, and had Debbie drive him back to the school, to have Norm yell at them both to drive right back to Hazel Bluff and finish. Which they did, though it took Joe quite a long time.

Joe already having problems earlier

I had no idea it was him next to me while I was sitting on the john. Had I known, I would've bummed a ride back to our shared hotel room and slept a few hours instead of waiting up all night, trying unsuccessfully at times to be an interesting conversation partner or sleep on a cot in the locker room.

looking a bit disheveled, in a smelly long sleeved shirt another runner graciously lent me

Sure it's exemplary sportsmanship to stay up and applaud all runners as they come in, but
1. After I get home I have to hang out with my kids and make up to my wife for my prolonged absence.
2. I think I have to work 17 hours the following day.
3. Everyone's pretty spread out still.

This race will definitely not be the same without Norm Klein directing it in the future. Thanks to him for starting and growing this race into a northern California autumn staple, and until maybe two years ago, the only northern California alternative 100-miler to Western States. And to all the volunteers, especially those helping me with my smelly shoes-- I love you, thank you thank you thank you (I know they're probably not reading this, but need to write it.)

RDL = Results of Days-- Lost!
I already briefly posted when I lost this final installment almost a year ago. Man that sucked. But at least I finally got it done!

RDL = Reduced to Dumbed-down and Lousy
As an added kick in the butt, I offer Tia Bodington a quick race report if she wants it, and she tells me to go ahead. After working on it, she asks me to get it down to 600 words. This is a bit painful, but I hack and hack and do it. Then her final email:

From: Tia Bodington
Subject: Re: UR article, Rio del Lago
To: "Mark Tanaka"

Date: Friday, November 7, 2008, 7:00 PM
Mark -
Here's what I think I'll have room for - these parts made me laugh out
loud! Feel free to tweak, trying to keep it to 300 - 350 words. I'll need it
back by Sunday midday to make deadline - hope you're not on call all weekend.

I reply, early during my overnight shift:

Saturday, November 8, 2008 12:55:30 AM
From: Mark Tanaka

To: Tia Bodington

I can't consent to this. Too much hacked and it's not true ("I didn't cramp or crumple"). The only reason for mentioning the Diablo 50 experience is to set up the expectation that I no longer screw the lytes up, and then to contrast it with the self-deprecating admission that I did screw up my lytes in this race. Otherwise there is no point is mentioning Diablo. I need you to give me the space to describe my cramping up and falling down. I can improve this, but I want this in here.

After which I hear nothing from Tia and then find in the next issue of Ultrarunning, one of the stupidest pieces of writing ever attributed to me, totally devoid of any meaningful context I can imagine. Hopefully no one read it. It makes absolutely no sense-- why devote half my words to a race I did five years earlier?

Although I like most of the changes to the magazine and will probably renew my subscription, I haven't volunteered any more submissions, even though I personally like reading more goofy first-person reports than bland accounts by race directors (not that all RD reports are bland).

Besides, it's hard enough for me to crank out these rambling reports for my blog...

Other Blogged Race Reports

The results page has disappeared from the web. Hopefully this will reappear with the resumption (after a hiatus this year) of the Rio del Lago 100 Mile in September 11-12, 2010, under the co-direction of Molly Sheridan of the soon to be formed Desert Sky Adventures.

this installment first published Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Underestimating Recovery Time-- My Anti-PR at the Quicksilver 50 Mile

Despite warmer weather than last year, records fell and some awesome performances at this year's Quicksilver 50 Mile Endurance Run (not to slight the 50 km race held simultaneously), held Saturday, May 9th. As for yours truly-- my anti-PR! More than 35 minutes slower than last year, when I ran still injured seven days after straining my calf at Miwok 100k. This year I didn't run Miwok, just the shorter Skyline to the Sea 50k two weeks earlier. So what's up? Is this proof that I am in decline?


Maybe I could use the sleep excuse.

My schedule was not so bad after Monday-- noon to midnight Tuesday, off Wednesday, phone shift 6am to 3pm Thursday, and a regular 6-3 ED shift Friday. The two early morning shifts are usually a good transition to the early rising required for this race which begins butt-early at 6 am in the hills of southwest San Jose.

Early morning Friday I woke up from some nightmare, stemming from the fact that I was freezing after my well-intentioned wife turned the fan on in the room. I have to sleep in the other bedroom before my early morning shifts so my alarm clock doesn't wake her and everyone up.

I couldn't get back to sleep and then next thing, both my kids were screaming after my recently potty trained older son had an accident and then my wife went downstairs to get new sheets. So Friday I went to work feeling sleepy, worried that the there is truth to the belief that sleep the night before the night before is more important than sleep the night before.

After I picked up the kids and brought them home in the afternoon, I had a headache, felt nauseated and just wanted to go to bed. Normally I help put the kids down, but two things happened: First I got this piece of food stuck between my back upper molars and couldn't get it out with a variety of dental instruments, shredding 3 pieces of floss. I finally found a floss threader and after 5 attempts managed to get it above the stuck food.

Then I couldn't find my cell phone. I needed my phone for several reasons: the plan was to drive to Chihping Fu's house and get a ride from there; my wife was going to pick me up before we went to friend's that night, and I needed the phone as an alarm clock backup, without which I probably wouldn't sleep well since I would be worried that there would just happen to be a power outage and I'd oversleep and miss the race. But I couldn't find the damn thing. I went through both cars, took apart my race bag, my other bag, looked in every room in the house. was exhausted and cranky and feeling guilty that I wasn't helping bathe and put down the kids, but I had to find the damn phone. I messaged Chihping and told him I was phoneless and then went to bed, and of course I couldn't sleep, so I dropped an Ambien, and a Pepcid. A few minutes later my wife handed me my phone, which she saw on the seat of my bicycle attached to the Kinetic fluid trainer I had just assembled on Thursday for me to start using during my phone shifts. She was reading to my older son when he started playing with the bike.

Luckily I got about 6 hours of sleep, still not ideal, but in the back of my mind I am worried about the night before the night before sleep issue.

They had been doing construction on the 92 and 880 interchange for over a year, but I don't realize they actually close the ramp at 4:30 am, so I have another detour delay and arrive at Chihping's (which involves a lot of turns) almost 10 minutes later than we'd planned.

this year's Chihping driving photo

Luckily we get there in time. It's not freezing like last year at the start. As at most races, the line to the Portalets is too long, so I do the dig-and-cover-with-foot bush thing (there are plenty) and as bonus, there are these portable sinks with soap and foot-pumped water in the corner of the parking lot. Sorry to be so explicit, but this comes up again.

The Race

The really fast guys-- Chikara Omine, Jean Pommier, a few others (all 50 mile rather than 50 km competitors), all shoot off ahead. I talk with Victor Ballesteros, who surprised the pundits by finishing 2nd place at Miwok the week before. We have the gradual downhill to chat briefly, before I predictably lose him on the ascent.

Victor Ballesteros

It's a solid 15 minutes of climbing, and I fall into a rhythm, careful not to thrash myself like I have in the past. The fire road then predictably heads downhill more than up. A large gathering of maybe 15 people, a few snapping photos is on the trail. I smile and wave, see single track to the right and turn. "No not that way" a few shout, and I turn around and see the trail heading left on the other side. Somebody tells me incredulously, "You've got to be kidding me," like it was so obvious that it was impossible to miss. Yo! -- if there was a pink ribbon somewhere, several people were probably standing in front of it.

In years past I was always chasing or being chased by runners through the next few miles of single track, but for some reason this year I'm running more alone. I do pass a guy with a blue shirt running the 50k race.

Klas Eklof, actually photographed several weeks later after Mt. Diablo 25k

Increasingly, my moving bowels start bothering me. I try to remember if the 2nd aid station has portalets, but soon realize as the pressure builds, I'm not going to make it even 1/4 mile. Unfortunately, there are no trees to hide behind with the narrow single track on the hillside, dropping off on the right.

While I squat right next to the trail sort of behind a tree and do my nastiness, the guy in the blue passes me.

I'm carrying a slip of paper with my split times from my 2007 PR race of 7:17, and my first two splits I'm behind about 2 minutes each. But no problems-- I'm trying to run conservatively.

I catch up with a guy wearing a Team Diablo shirt, and recognize Troy Howard from one of the photos at the start of the Skyline to the Sea 50k we both ran two weeks ago. We chat a while about work (we are both work at Kaiser Permanente Hospitals) and other stuff. We go through Dam Overlook aid station (mile 9.7), but after the next one, Capehorn (mile 14.5), Troy loses me on the initial sustained climb.

Troy Howard (at Skyline to the Sea), who in his first attempt, would finish 2nd at Hardrock later this summer with the 3rd fastest time in the history of that race.

Somewhere around here, I have to unload again, and I'm a little irritated. Like what the hell did I eat yesterday? After enjoying the views during the descent to the 2nd visit to Dam Overlook (mile 19), we do an out and back loop returning to Dam (mile 23.7). During this loop, Jeff Riley from Oregon passes me almost at the same place he did last year. Then a couple of 50K runners pass me, including the guy in the blue shirt, Klas, who comments that this would be a bad place to unload-- this section of the course is always filled with lots of day hikers. Two years ago 50k racer Ron Gutierrez and I started running together around here and pretty much kept up with him until the last descent to 50k. In contrast, I'm being left behind my multiple 50k runners not going as fast, including eventual winner Pastor Bejinez, who is so nice as to compliment me on this blog. (Thanks, again, and congrats again!)

Before getting to Englishtown (mile 26.8) for the first time, I see Chikara Omine (about whom I blogged an interview shortly after the race) running the other direction, after already hitting the start finish at the 50k mark. He is ahead of where I would see Graham Cooper the past two years, but then I realize that I'm going a lot slower, so I can't tell if Chikara is actually going faster than Graham's record-setting pace or it just seems like it.

new course record holder Chikara Omine

Approaching the descent to the start finish for the 50k split, I hear two people conversing behind me. One's Bev(erly Anderson-Abbs) and the other is Joe Palubeski, who passed me at the end of Lake Sonoma 50 mile in March after I bonked from caloric depletion. It looked like I was going to get chicked AND Joed.

Beverly Anderson-Abbs

Of course when it's Bev, no shame getting chicked.

Ron Gutierrez' 50k time in 2007 was under 4:20. So this year, when I notice my 50k split is something like 20 minutes slower, I know I'm not going nearly as fast. Bev and Joe take longer at the aid station, so I start up the hill ahead of them. I catch up with a mountain biker working it and he and I pace each other, with only enough breath to utter a mutual short compliment.

he: How long you guys running?
me: Fifty (puff) miles
he: Whoa!
me: Well, dude (huff) I don't think I could stay (puff) on my bike trying to get up this (huff) hill.
he: Yeah, well I'm impressed

It is a lovefest. I consider slappoing him on the ass and asked him "Dude, doesn't it hurt your ass to sit on your seat for so long?" but I decide I don't understand mountain bike culture enough even though I occasionally enjoy doing it myself. I don't want him to misread my intentions, so I refrain.

The course then turns left instead of right at the top of the hill (or at least I think), and then does the roller coaster hills again. My ankle is sort of hurting on the downhills, so I back off a bit. Bev and Joe catch up. We run and chat up the hill to the Englishtown aid station (mile 35.25). On the fairly flat and fast stretch toward the turnaround, they both dart off ahead. Literally, I watch them pull away and put distance on me and my legs.

Joe Palubeski

In years past, I would also make good speed here, but now, I just don't have the energy. It isn't the heat; dipping my sleeves in the water buckets at aid stations is working well to counteract the rising temperature. I haven't been nauseated, and my earlier bowel problems have resolved by evacuation. I just can't move any faster. I wonder-- am I still tired from McNaughton? Four full weeks after? Before I would've doubted it, but now I have no other explanation, especially when I had run Miwok the week before last year's race AND got injured.

But, no worries, I'm having fun.

At the next aid station Hicks Road (mile 37.2) I get my photo taken by Pauline Ludwig, the girlfriend of another runner, who later sends it to me on facebook.

I'm able to keep running up the whole hill to the turnaround. I count the runners coming back ahead of me as I greet each with "Hi," recognizing all except the one right ahead of Bev. At the turnaround at Sierra Azul aid station (mile 41.4) Yves-Pierre Couteau fills my bottle and then it's time to figure out who's on my tail. I have a gap of about 4 minutes on the next guy, but after him is Bree Lambert, looking strong. I've never seen her so close behind on this course.

post-race with Bree, who would also win Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Mile two months later

Lest I worry about getting double-chicked, I'm feeling pretty good and aided by the downhill, run one of my first splits comparable to last year's time; however I figure this is only because I was running all the previous splits so much more slowly this year than last.

To preserve my knees, I exercise some restraint on the final descent after Englishtown aid station (mile 47.6), ready to sprint if someone starts gaining on me.

I had switched my Garmin to lap time (instead of overall time) early in the race (using it mainly to know about when to expect the next aid station), so when I see the finish line clock was approaching 8 hours, I am a bit surprised. I knew I was going slower than last year, but a full 40 minutes slower? Whoa!

After thinking about it post-race, I can only conclude that it is indeed the McNaughton effect, and that, 4 weeks after running 150 horrendously muddy miles, one's body is not close to fully recovered.

So no worries. And I am happy to be done, and to have enjoyed another beautiful day out on the trails.


I go around the finish picnic area greeting everyone as I hyperventilate and recover, before attacking the excellent food choices. Since my family hasn't come yet, I have plenty of time to socialize. Among people I had never met before, I talk with this finisher of the 50k race.

Nan Nguyen from Modesto

After a while I decide I should text or call my wife. As after my previous race, my older son surprises me first. My wife gives me my younger one to watch, because she must stay on her cell interviewing a potential teacher for our public Montessori elementary school we have been helping to found over the last year and a half. So I'm running around. One of the volunteers tips us off to the frozen juices in the freezer (how many post-race picnics feature a freezer?-- this race is high-end!)

In between many brief conversations interrupted by my wife telling me that my younger son is headed toward the hot grill-- ("get him before he burns himself!")-- I and my kids do a quick hike back to the course. My older son and I bond my peeing in the bushes (no photo), and a few times I have to move my younger one from being run over by a finishing runner.

my kids coming into the finish chute

I check out the division award plaques. I've gotten an age group award my first three years. Not this year. But at least I didn't miss it by one place. I'm the 4th male masters finisher, and the awards only going 2 instead of 3 deep (times are tough!), so no plaque this year even if I had come before master male #3. But everyone gets a nice finishers medal, and I'm pleased the shirt is long instead of short sleeved like the last two years.

Our plan was originally to go to our friends who leave nearby in Sunnyvale with sons the same age as ours, and spend the night, but apparently one of them has just spiked a high fever after they thought he'd recovered from Strep throat, or maybe they just said that because I smell bad after these races. So our plans change to driving to Marin to stay at my brother's since it is Mother's Day tomorrow (which is now months ago, but who cares-- Happy Fall Mother's Day!)

Mother's Day morning at the San Rafael Farmer's Market

Official results:
50 mile
25 kilometer (I never meet any of these runners, but what the heck)

Other blogged reports:

Steve Ansell (really short)

Jean Pommier (new master's course record holder)

1st published Tuesday, September 22, 2009 at 3:00 p.m.

Monday, September 21, 2009

My AC100-- Running To And From the Magic Kingdom

I haven't made a habit of blogging my training runs, but my road runs are all that are left of my epic 100 mile run in Southern California this past weekend. Here is an example of how I was able to fit some running in with the time and location restraints of a family vacation to Disneyland. Originally the last day at the park was going to be today Monday, after the AC 100 Mile Endurance Run, but the Station Fire changed "AC" from "Angeles Crest" to (like the 2008 Western States) "Also Cancelled." So we decided to do Disney 3 days straight and then head home.

We drove down to Garden Grove on Tuesday, hitting a bit of rush hour traffic after the last hilly pass in Santa Clarita. The NĂ¼vi GPS and the road map showed clearly that the Angeles National Forest lay on both sides of us. I wistfully looked to the left and tried to guess at the base of which mountain the race would have ended. I also tried to see if there was any smoke from any fires still burning. (I couldn't.)

Our hotel was about one mile from the southern edge of the California Adventure Park. There was a shuttle you could pay for, but it came only every 20 minutes, plus appeared to make many stops and get crowded quickly. This was confirmed by the lines of families in front of all the hotels on Harbor Boulevard with no shuttle in sight. Of course we could afford to pay for the official Disneyland parking lot but it wasn't very close to the park.

To maximize the time my kids got to spend in the park already curtailed by their obligatory afternoon naps, with the bonus of being frugal in tough economic times, I decided that I would drop off and pick up my family, and run to and from the park. I wasn't looking for a lot of training, since I was still recovering from Cascade Crest 100 even as my PCT 100 in the Hood loomed soon. But I didn't want a complete exercise hiatus.

So the routine was this:

Eat the complementary hot breakfast at hotel. Drive family 2.2 miles to park (had to go past the 15-minute parking area and U-turn),

drive back 1.5 miles to hotel. Run over 2 miles into park, directed by text messages from my wife. A little sweaty, but everyone there would be equally sticky in an hour or two.

When either kids shows signs of melting down in the early afternoon, run back to hotel, pick up car, and pick them up. The highs were in the upper 80's so counted as some heat training. Lunch and late nap at the hotel.

Early evening, get complementary dinner from downstairs, bring it back to room.

no free dinner on Fridays, but was more than happy to pay for a tastier meal at Joe's Crab Shack

Drop off family at park. Drink a beer or take a bottle to go (didn't want to miss free beer and wine), run back to park (immediately after eating) and meet them again.

Repeat the return of running ahead at close of park. The beginning of this last run was more technically challenging, weaving in and out of the crowds, pretending I was a running back , avoiding the motorized wheelchairs and carts, and small kids.

To avoid the traffic and save more time, my wife would keep pushing the double stroller and text me her location.

(Note: despite a lot of skillfully jayrunning, still a lot of waiting on the corner for the light to change.)

So, guess I made this work, and barely ran a marathon doing these runs over three days. But I do look forward to the day our kids no longer need the naps, not to mention when my younger son is tall enough to get on the more interesting rides.

one of several rides that go round and round, after a painfully and disproportionately long wait

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Late For San Francisco One Day!

(My dream this morning right before waking up, might be obvious where this is coming from):

The weekend of the PCTR San Francisco One Day has come, but I'm looking at my calendar, and I notice that I'm on call for my internal medicine rotation on Sunday, which is when the race finishes. It's a Q3 rotation (meaning our team takes calls for hospital admissions every third day), and yes, there it is. Call, Sunday. Damn! I'm either an intern / 1st-year resident, or lower yet in the academic hospital pecking order, a medical student. Shirking my duties and being late to arrive will have serious repercussions on the evaluation for this rotation. I'm screwed. How am I going to finish the race and on-time to hospital, not to even mention lucid? My drop bag isn't even prepared yet.

All of sudden, I realize it's Saturday morning, the day of the race. I'm still in the hospital. Shit! The race begins at 9 a.m. If there was any chance of getting someone to cover my patients for rounds, it's too late! I see my attending in the hallway, a burly guy from Iran or Pakistan, who looks at me as if to pimp me in his thick Iranian or Pakistani accent: ("So, Mark, what is the differential diagnosis of our lady with the unexplained lowered creatinine clearance?" I imagine he will ask.) I duck out. Forget my evaluation. Forget my future in medicine. Screw it all. I gotta get to the race.

I run out to the parking garage, there's construction downtown and rush hour traffic. (I know it's supposed to be Saturday, and there large urban downtowns in Marin, but this is a dream...), I have to cross the Golden Gate Bridge to get into the city.

I finally get to where the race is supposed to be, Crissy Field. Instead of an open field, the race loops around a big 12 foot high black wall. Everyone has already started. I see co-RD Sarah Spelt, I'm embarrassed that I'm so late (it's almost 11). She says something to me, but I feel so guilty, like I wasn't taking her race seriously enough, that I don't hear what she says. I'm so disorganized.

I start running, doing calculations in my head for how fast I'll now have to run to both win and set a new course record, which for some reason, I just HAD to do. I can't just kick back and have fun. This is really going to hurt.

Oh, man this is going to suck!


(Shortly after this, my kids start pounding on my door, awakening me from this nightmare, though cutting my sleep short since I went to bed at 4. Maybe it's lucky that I have to stay up all night tonight, working...)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Number 3 After 3 Weeks, the Final Race of My "Double Tri" -- Up in Smoke-- a Lesson in Contingency Planning for the Most Hopelessly Addicted

Since the RDs' announcmenet last Monday (August 31st) I've had ample time to mull over the cancellation of this year's Angeles Crest 100 Mile Run. This was to be the final installment of my 7-week long Tri-Tri: the Ironman distance triathlon (Vineman) I finished August 1st, followed by a trifecta of more challenging (each with over 20,000 feet elevation gain and loss) 100 mile trail runs, all 3 weeks part, the first (Headlands) only one week after the triathlon. (Lots of 3's, so maybe it's numerically appropriate to post this on 9/9/09.)

When people's homes are burning up or threatened, you can't justifiably feel sorry for yourself, and I haven't been. Although forests need burns to regenerate, the arson-caused fire is a tragedy whose impact has yet to be seen, probably beginning with landslides this winter.

If anything, when I heard the race was cancelled, my body was relieved. I was still so sore from Cascade Crest the day before. During that 100 mile run east of Seattle, every time I thought of running yet another of the tougher 100 milers in just 3 weeks, I would feel mildly nauseated, and have to force the thoughts out of my mind-- I was working enough just to get to the finish. Fairly quickly into Cascade Crest, I was feeling the effects of Headlands Hundred 3 weeks prior.

Of course, experiencing and working through this self-inflicted extra fatigue, was part of the point.

Soon enough though, I realized that once I had set the goal of getting through this crazy late summer race schedule, relinquishing the final leg would be too psychologically disappointing to endure. I had to find another hundred-miler. For most people, finding a replacement on another weekend isn't too complicated. My work schedule is more problematic, since to clear my schedule for Angeles Crest with a family trip, I had to commit to working other weekends.

So for the past week and a half, I've been surfing the web for a replacement run, looking at plane fares, staring at our ED's schedule, thinking through logistics. Wasting hours and hours. (Some of which I was hoping to use to catch up on my blogging.) Losing sleep time. Feeling anxious and cranky. Which I could only partially relieve with running.

I thought of flying the family to Chicago since both I and my wife were off for a week, and then I would fly to central upstate New York to do the Iroquois Trail 100 Mile Trail Race. While I pondered this and other options, Southwest tickets to Chicago doubled in price, on top of all the money to get to and drive around New York. It's way too expensive now to justify. Arkansas Traveller the first weekend of October also looked promising, and the plane tickets still reasonable, but by the time I seriously wanted to go with this option, my October work schedule came out and I'm scheduled for overnights all that weekend. Anything later that that weekend is too far from Cascade Crest to have that added achievement of incomplete recovery time, plus would be too close to San Francisco One Day. I figured I would be able to psychologically endure a repeated loop 24-hour race for the first time only if I could optimize my recovery beforehand. (Though I have been okay running 100 miles more slowly than I could if I were better rested, if I'm going to go for a repeated small loop race, I really want to do as many as I can.)

So finally I'm now two-thirds done rearranging my schedule to try to make Olga's Pacific Crest Trail 100 mile ("Hundred in the Hood") the last weekend of this month. Fingers crossed, wish me luck. Once again, it's getting to the start that's the hardest part. If it falls through, I'll do a shorter local race. But at least you all know that I tried, tried really hard, to finish doing this very stupid custom-made, mini Grand Slam.

Anyways, the lesson here is if it looks like your big race might be cancelled, you don't have time for wishful thinking. Imagine how you'd feel if things fall through and if you need an alternate race fix, quickly get to work on Plan B fast.