Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Missing Shorts & Kids (But Not Beautiful Scenery or Good Times) at Skyline to the Sea

Pacific Coast Trail Run's Skyline to the Sea 50k on the last Sunday of April was to be my dessert after the McNaughton 150 mile trail run (report coming soon I promise!) two weeks earlier. A gorgeous, mostly downhill point-to-point route, the course sounded amazing. And after all the slogging I did in that muddy, wet park, on top of an altered and illogical spring race schedule, I badly needed some extended speed work. Plus, I was looking forward to hanging with running friends, many whom I hadn't seen since last year.

Friday & Saturday, April 24-25, Pre-Race

Having missed all the runs around Sacramento and Auburn, this weekend was also my first opportunity to combine a race with a family outing. I found a place with nice tent cabins close to the finish and bus pickup to the start on the Cabrillo Highway (Route 1). We were originally going to leave on Friday afternoon, but my older son's preschool had their annual spring concert that evening and I had further volunteered to help set up. I only caught the singing of my older son's class, since I had to keep my younger son entertained for most of the concert. Here he is pressing the buttons on some Zamboni in the gym storeroom of the larger school where the concert was held:

My older may never make it onto Oprah or American Idol, but his teacher intentionally moved him right before the started from the end to the center to be closer to the mic, and he did not disappoint with his personality and stage presence.

The next morning I had to pack and load the car. We made it out of the house by 10 a.m. Although we'd been to Big Sur, we'd never explored the coast between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz. First we stopped at a random beach off the highway (Bean Hollow State Beach).

Then we visited the Pigeon Point Light Station.

You can't go into the lighthouse now, but the views were great, and a volunteer briefly taught us about whales; my son may have grasped the concept of baleen.

We arrived two hours before check-in to Costanoa, but were able to check in to our tent cabin.

The resort is across the street from the Año Nuevo State Reserve, so we could do a loop hike from the our campground. When I strapped on the Ergo carrier, my wife asked me if I was sure I wanted to carry our 19-month-old. I looked at her confusedly so she added "because of your race tomorrow." Whoa, I hadn't heard her express concern about saving my body for a race in a while! I told her that I would NEVER put my racing ahead of my paternal duties. All right, I didn't say that, and when I race I do leave her with the kids. But on this hike I did carry my little one the whole time.

The views were spectacular. And my older son never whined or asked to be carried.

The trail got very sandy the second half. I found myself working a lot more than I'd anticipated, climbing sections of trail that were essentially over sand dunes. So maybe I was lucky that my older son made us stop several times by while got on all fours on the white sand playing desert commando. I guess I wasn't going to sprint up this hill anyways.

I'm torn-- maybe shots like these would look even cooler if I bought him a toy automatic....

We had no food other than snacks, but they had a grill by a big tent, with decent prices and all the plasticware was biodegradable.

The shower room was heated, as were our mattress pads. No, this wasn't real camping, but this was perfect, since it was fricking windy and cold, and I know better than to make my wife take down a tent and pack with two small kids the next morning.

Sunday, April 26, Race Day

I woke up at 4:30 having to pee, and after walking back to the cabin and climbing back into the warm bed, never got back to sleep. My phone alarm went off at 6:20, we're in the car by 6:43. I decided to fill my bottle at the cooler by the reception, and feeling the urge, asked for the restroom. The guy at the front pointed me straight back. I went down the hallway, saw the hot tub, but no bathroom, and then started opening all the doors in the hallway, finding myself in 3 different massage rooms. Lots of lotions, massage tables, but I fricking couldn't find a toilet! I got nervous--I was a little fuzzy about exactly where this bus was picking us up to the start, and feared it might actually leave on time without me if we didn't get there by 7.

And I was a little nervous about another thing.....

The Amazing Mind (Well, Maybe Not Mine So Much)--back to Saturday

So here I have to backtrack. Given the events of the weekend, with 3 straight 6 am shifts Wednesday through Friday leading up to it, I had thought I would stay ahead of the game and pack my race stuff the Tuesday evening before the race, in between my kids' carseats in our Rav4. I was so prepared! Driving out of our subdivision Saturday morning, I had an OCD (obessive-compulsive disorder, but no I'm not diagnoses with it!) moment--did I remember to pack sweat pants in the bag I just packed? I stopped the car, apologized to my family and then tried to check my bag, unfortunately pinned down by a double stroller. I didn't find sweats, but figured I'd just wear my jeans. Two miles later, I decided to pull over again and make sure I had put back the cooler and other bag that I placed on the ground to get to my bag earlier. Which I had done.

I couldn't put my finger on it, but I didn't feel right. After crossing the San Mateo Bridge and already started up the hill on Highway 92, out of nowhere I wondered if I hadn't pack my shorts. I asked my wife to reach for the bag I packed on Tuesday and check to see if they were there. In her often used "you're so hopeless" voice, she recited: "shoes in bag....shirt...jacket...socks, actually 3 pairs of socks...arm warmers....your Navi-watch thing.....nope, no shorts."

Fruck! The situation made me nervous and I was pissed off at myself. At the same time, I could not help but marvel at the human brain-- while packing my race clothes Tuesday, my brain noticed that I hadn't packed any shorts, even though I wasn't conscious of it at the time. Cool, huh?

Cool, yes, but in a sucky kind of way, and I now had to problem solve with the same dysfunctional brain. So I deliberated--do we turn around? Look for a store to buy them? My wife had told me told me to bring a swimsuit since they had told her they have a hot tub at Costanoa, so I had stashed some knee length boarder shorts that morning in my other bag. I decided since this was all my fault, I would not inconvenience my family with further delay. I would run in boarder shorts if I had to. I would just have to lube up real well.

Eventually I thought of calling my brother up and going to my list of facebook friends and sending a message to the one person I knew who was running the race (not having much time and realizing I wouldn't be running very fast, I didn't competitively try to memorize the list of registered runners). No reception on the coast, so my wife texted him "Can you send a message to David Schoenberg and ask him if he has any small or medium running shorts I can borrow?" I never got a message back from my brother saying that David got the message, so I didn't know if he'd bring shorts or not.

So back to Sunday, we soon saw a big parking lot on the ocean side at right, and no bus yet. I got out looking like this:

which might have been cool if I had a surfboard too. Soon this normal non-dorky guy wearing a Cal sweatshirt that looks like David came up to me and told me he not only has some shorts, but he brought 3 pairs for me to try. So by the way, this is the first time we've met in person-- we've gotten to know each other from ours and others' blogs, and facebook, including a few chess matches. I'm thrown off, though by his slight German accent-- since he had moved from Georgia, I had always imagined him speaking with a Southern drawl....

Still wanting to unload, I started walking back north to find an outhouse, when three school buses drove past me before turning around. Oh well, it can wait, I thought as I turned and headed back, but took a few seconds to take a few shots including this:

David and I sat across from each other in the school bus and chatted about all sorts of stuff including his interesting B-school related summer plans until the road got swervy and I started getting motion sick and had to sit so I'm facing forward and close my eyes. Here he is with his loaner shorts I picked.

We arrived at the start around 8:30, and I bee-lined for the three Portalets at the end of the filled parking lot, the line shorter than when I took this photo.

A master of multitasking, I was able to change into David's shorts while doing my business and so didn't further hold up the rapidly lengthening queue. I took off my dingy sweatshirt, ate a half-sized Cliff Bar, and filled my bottle with water. I was finally ready to run! But as before my first and last race this year, I was fricking freezing! I spotted super-talented Sportiva teammate Caitlin Smith and introduced myself to her. She was wearing the 2009 Sportiva Mountain Running Team halter top. Will Gotthardt was with her, doing better by being shirtless. Here they are (photo by Cal), both ripped in respective feminine and masculine ways running later:

photo by Cal

I chose to keep my jacket on, remembering how chilly I had been yesterday on the coast and last night in the campground despite three layers. Sick of being cold! I figured even if I got hot later, it would serve as heat training for my next two races (Quicksilver on 5/9 and Ohlone on 5/31) which would likely be warm, if not sweltering.

A minute to the start, I worked my way to the front.

photo by Rick Gaston

Like at Diablo Trails, I took off fast mostly because I was freezing, but in this race, the field is thick, including last year's co-winner, Leor Pantilat, so I didn't find myself way ahead of the pack.

It was downhill from the start, and with that, everyone was flying. I was soon completely out of breath, but at least not so cold, but plenty of people passed me. Soon I fell behind this guy who looked older, with a receding hairline. Nothing against guys looking like that, but not knowing his age or fitness level, I was wondering if I should be well ahead of him.
After the race, I determined that bib #168 was Paul Taylor of Redwood City, only 4 years older than me, and ended up running a marathon distance (by inadvertently skipping a loop?) in 4:08; a friend told me I look like a taiko drummer with my visor backwards. photo by Cal.

Several miles later, I eventually passed him.

Near the end of the split I suspected I missed a turn, and heading back, run into another guy who did the same. At most a couple of minutes lost, and since I wasn't in a super-competitive mode, was not upset at all. Several runners, including the balding guy, get ahead of me again.

At registration, along with my bib, I had picked up the course description summary which lists all trails and turns and mileages. Thing is, I didn't notice that the distances were in kilometers, not miles, so when the first aid station at Waterman Gap came at 6 1/2 miles, I was a little taken by surprise.

The next 7.4 km to the 2nd aid station at China Grade (km 17.9, mile 11.1) were more uphill than downhill. I was actually relieved-- the fast downhill running felt harsh on my still McNaughton-worn body. I enjoyed being able to control my pace with pure aerobic, uphill effort. I fell into a group of about 3-4 guys and we would take turns passing each other.

More downhill, downhill. But the soft trail increasingly yielded to hard rocks, more technical and less forgiving on my joints. If I was deliberating about how much to hold back earlier, I became decisive-- yes, we're holding back. Quicksilver was 50 mile in 2 weeks, and I wanted my already sore body a chance to fully recover for that race, which I've done three straight years and so have particular time goals.

At Gazos Creek aid station (km 32.6, mile 20.2), I failed to recognized it was volunteer Adelyn Bonner marking off my bib, and then proceeded in the wrong direction, until someone pointed me up the hill. I heard a comment that one person should make it their job to point runners in the right direction.

It was all uphill. I got worried I was off course, then remembered to check the the course summary sheet--yup, 1 mile straight and all up. Finally I saw ribbons to turn right to find 2 huge downed trees with numerous branches and leaves blocking the single track. Fun! Three miles after leaving Gazos Creek, I started to catch up and pass other runners. Were people pooping out already? Soon, duh, I figured out that I had made a big loop and that these are runners approaching Gazos Creek aid station for the first time. Realizing that passing so many runners was probably just giving me the illusion of running real fast, I tried to pick up the pace.

okay, I have no idea where this was taken by Cal, but I'm picking it up....

Starting to feel warm despite my desire to heat train, I began rolling up my Sugoi sleeves underneath my jacket.

photo by Adelyn Bonner

At my 2nd stop at Gazos Creek (km 32.6, mile 10.2), Sean Lang pictured above filled up my bottle again and then I go straight. Turning right I saw Sportiva teammate Caitlin Smith, who told me she was relieved to see me, having taken a wrong turn and lost about 10 minutes. So even if I did so-so this race, I knew I'd served my purpose. I consoled her by reminding her that her real race to gun is Miwok next weekend. In keeping with running about 30 seconds per mile faster than I (even as pre-taper week training run) she took off up the winding single track out of sight before I would've been able to say "chick me please, speed princess" ten times.

I then ran pretty much alone except for increasing numbers of hikers down the extended downhill. After a few miles a voice behind me asked to pass. "Is that Brian?" I asked, thinking PCTR regular Brian Wyatt.

I takes me several times to get people's names and faces down, so I was pleased to know I now had Brian's voice down. He told me I'd probably pass him again soon, but I told him probably not. "Well you just ran 150 miles a couple of weeks ago," he said; Brian had just done PCTR's Diablo 50 miler last weekend, so I wasn't going to sandbag an excuse-- this might be the first time he's beaten me in a race-- great job dude! The downhill finally leveled out, which I found more forgiving on my body, even if I pushed the pace. I suspected it would be mostly flat to the end, so as only to be 75% wussy, I decided to hammer it home.

another photo by Cal

Interestingly (and minorly irritatingly) despite the flat terrain and ample sunlight making its way past the treetops, my Garmin Forerunner kept beeping and flashing "Satellite Reception Lost, Click Enter." So when I saw a few water bottles at the side of the trail, and my Garmin read 7 something miles for for the split, I wasn't sure if this was the last aid station or not, so I quickly unscrewed my lid, filled my bottle and sped off.

A mile later, I saw the real aid station. I tell them I don't need a bottle fill, but out of habit, grabbed a potato chunk, dipped it in salt and stuffed in my mouth. One of the volunteers, whose name I can't remember-- (read the 1st comment below to find out who it was!) told me he couldn't wait for my McNaughton 150 report. I apologized-- I was almost done, but then this race came up. Leaving the station, I realized that a scarfing a sugarless potato chunk two miles from the finish was physiologically useless and stupid. It wouldn't have mattered, but I caught a glimpse of a runner ahead of me, and tried to sprint to catch up, but then felt the potato. Oh well.

Less than a mile from the finish, I saw cars and day-hikers. I followed the ribbons around into a parking lot, then couldn't find the trail. I asked a bunch of people standing there where the course went and they pointed back where I came after I did my 180 turn. I objected, then saw the guy behind me coming up the trail, who without hesitation saw the pink ribbons, and instead of running past them like I did, turned into the final 0.6 mile long Marsh Trail to the finish.

More irritated than the earlier time I got off the course, I sprinted to catch up, telling the runner in blue as I passed him that if wanted to pass me again, more power to him.

Danno Brown, who thankfully was totally cool with 15th place.

I ran into the finish area, got handed my finisher's coaster, and saw all these guys already relaxing in the grass that maybe another day I would've been able to keep up with (or maybe not--maybe I'll never know). Rick Gaston, who had been volunteering on the course and now at the finish, then shot a photo of a bunch of us.

left to right: Brett Rivers (7th), Nathan Yanko (3rd), Will Gotthardt (3rd), Caitlin Smith (10th, 1st woman), me (way, way back in 14th)-- all enjoying the mutual soreness, conversations and the weather.

Will Gotthardt, finishing a strong 4th and almost under 4 hours, then helped me by finding my drop bag from a collection of over 150 identical white trash bags with pink-red handles. He and a lot of other finishers were already modeling the very cool looking green Patagonia capilene long sleeve race shirts, with the what appears to be the new Skyline to the Sea logo.

I talked first with Nathan Yanko (3rd and under 4 hours), catching up with him since our talk at Lake Sonoma 50. Then I started grazing. After a while, I started getting nervous that my family hadn't shown up yet, so asked Rick Gaston and then RD Sarah to borrow their cell phones. Despite moving all over the field, I couldn't get a signal. Right after Rick set me up to text, I felt my older son tapping me on the leg.

We hadn't realized that we couldn't drive into the finish and park there, but come to think of it, since everyone had parked down the highway for the buses, of course there would be a shuttle carrying runners back to the parking lot. The kids hadn't napped yet, so it was soon time to go. I changed back to my boarder shorts and put David's loaners into a ziplock bag so he could either try to sell them online or put them in his wash per with minimal nastiness per official CDC guidelines. We couldn't fit on the first shuttle that came, so we waited by the end of Marsh Trail as runners came out to the finish, both of my kids cheering "yay" and clapping for each runner, and partly making up for their inappropriate daddy, who had wandered back on what he thought wasn't part of the course only to see a runner approaching and mortifying their mommy.

Missing child!

I decided to fill my water bottle up with some sports drink before the shuttle came back, so carrying my younger son, walked back up to the refreshment table while my older son, unsupervised, started scarfing jelly beans. Heading back, I couldn't find my toddler. "Peter where's Lucas?" "He's right there" he answers, pointed what I thought was past me. I look back up toward the snack table, don't see him, so started walking up, asking if anyone saw my other child. Brian Wyatt then responded by asking, "You have a third?" I still didn't get it, and started walking around the finish area. "He's there, daddy" but I don't see his brother.

Finally my older son, probably frustrated with me, shouted: "Daddy, you're holding him!"

As I commented to those witnessing my folly, it's better to think I'm missing my son when I'm not than to not realize he's missing when he is.

The drive home had that happy feeling of having had a great weekend. And my wife told me that she would enjoy coming back and doing the upscale camping thing again I wanted to do the race next year.

Thanks Sarah and Wendell, all the many volunteers (point to point courses like this take many many), David for the shorts, my bro for the call, my Sportiva and other sponsors (see links above at right), and my wife and kids for letting me go run and being so much fun making the whole weekend memorable.

click for Garmin/Motion Based map of run (realizing there were satellite reception problems)

Other blogged reports:

Adelyn Bonner (volunteer)
Rick Gaston (volunteer)
Leor Pantilat (Sportiva teammate & male winner & now sole record holder)
Caitlin Smith (Sportiva teammate & female winner & record holder)

list of registered runners (to figure out who's who in the above gallery)

1st published Tuesday, April 28, 2009 at 14:30


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Saved by the Gel-- Overcoming the Wall at the Lake Sonoma 50

Since I might die this weekend during my ridiculously long run (or at least freeze my California balls off-- weather forecast: rain first day, then low first night of 31 degrees with winds 10-20 mph), I figure I should get this report out now, lest it never get published.....

Since the Lake Sonoma 50 was my 17th shot at the half-century distance, you'd figure I'd have it all down-- training, tapering, pacing, hydration, nutrition. Finishing? No problem. Even 6 days after my last ultra.

Hee hee hee....

The drive from my brother's to the lake early morning Saturday, March 28th, takes about 70 minutes. The last 13 miles off Route 101 winds through beautiful wine country, though it's too dark to see anything.

Chau Pham checking in, John Medinger, Lisa Henson, ?, run100s.com Stan Jensen

After check-in and a trot to the bushes when it's apparent the wait to the double Port-a-lets is longer than the 10 minutes until the start, I'm ready. No water to put in my bottle, but since I drank a bottle on the drive and it's still chilly, I figure I'll be okay running dry until the first aid station.

As always, Jady Palko darts off way ahead of everyone, and maybe 1 or 2 others behind him. I intentionally try to keep up with Ron Gutierrez, whom I haven't seen since Stevens Creek 50K last September, when shin splints (I think) prevented him from finishing. Ron ran the inaugural Lake Sonoma last year when it hit over 90 degrees, but with only one bottle he was forced to drop on the return. He pushes the pace, running with the determined intensity of having a score to settle, and soon enough I can't keep up with him, despite running faster than I think I should be. Too fast for 6 days after a 50k, and too fast for the terrain that is mildly technical while the lighting still dim. Around this time, eventually winner Jon Olsen passes me, obviously better able to control his pace at the start than I.

Jon Olsen, new course record holder

I soon realize that this race is a great complement to the Diablo Trail 50K (actually 54K) I ran 6 days ago. Where Diablo has lots of expansive views over ridges, Lake Sonoma involves weaving in and out of forest, on more technical single-track, with changing views of the same lake.

photo by finisher Anil Rao

After the first stream crossing, I see two very fat downed trees above with 3 ribbons tied onto them. I climb over them, banging the front of my left ankle, which I soon realize produces the same effect as mildly straining it-- it's tight the rest of the race. Over the logs, the trail heads both left and right, and I hesitate. The guy right behind me says "it must be this way," heading right. Only 45 miles later on the return to do I realize that the trail to the left was simply the trail winding around the downed trees, and that my clamber was a waste of time, energy and ankle comfort.

The first aid station, Island View (mile 4.7), is accessible to volunteers by boat, and to runners via a quarter mile detour off the main trail. Because I carried an empty bottle from the start and the next aid is 7.3 miles, I down two cupfuls of Gu2O and a Gu gel, in addition to stasing a gel in each pocket and getting my bottle filled.

Heading out, it seems the many heading into the aid station behind me are closer than I'd thought, perhaps compelling me to push the pace a little. Two guys stick close behind me for the next few miles. One tells me "Thanks for doing all the work...you're setting a great pace!"

Great pace or not, I balance my mild left ankle pain by inverting my right ankle on some uneven surface hidden by leaves. I limp only briefly, figure I'm okay for this race, but decide that I should take it down a notch, lest it cause problems in the upcoming weeks.

One of the guys drops back, and I start chatting with the other, a newbie defector from road to trail running, Nathan Yanko.

Near the end of the long 7.3 mile stretch are several small stream crossings, at which we nimbly dance on rocks to avoid getting wet. But soon, that exercise seems silly as we get to a wide creek over our ankles.

photo by Steve Patt, 2008 race

Soon after is the long awaited Rancheria Creek aid station (mile 12.1), named after the creek. Not long after we encounter another creek, but without any hesitation, just run right through it.
I always suspect that any runner who is a rookie at the distance still running with me several miles into a course is a 2:30-2:45 marathon runner, and Nathan confirms his PR is 2:40, to which I reply "whoa, you're fast....once you get this ultrarunning down, you have the potential to be really good, a true elite runner." Perhaps with all my blathering of my recent and upcoming races, and this "you're fast" comment, he pulls ahead well before the Wulfow aid station (mile 17.4), but I actually keep him occasionally in sight up to the halfway turnaround.

Nathan Yanko a year ago, still running roads. photo by Martin Taylor.
The trail becomes less treacherous after the first 15 miles, with more open stretches, and the rapid up and down give way to more sustained climbs and descents.

To illustrate, here's the elevation profile for the course:

The Liberty Glen aid station (miles 20.2 and 29.8), like the Rockpile Road halfway turnaround aid station, is atop a large hill.

Near the lake at the 22 mile trough, I see 2 guys in military fatigues carrying crossbows, which is slightly disconcerting....
As usual, my Garmin Forerunner undermeasures mileage, so the turnaround comes closer than I expect (it reads about 24 1/2, rather than 25 miles). Jon Olsen is probably less than 1.5 miles ahead of me, and 2nd through 4th (last year's winner, Dan Barger, Ron Gutierrez, and Nathan Yanko) are actually not that far ahead. I finally pass Jady Palko, after passing and getting re-passed by him in the previous miles. We chat one last bit, before he sends me ahead. Second race in a row that I didn't pass him until after mile 25; previously this would happen much earlier.

Jady Palko finishing just under 9 hours and 10th overall

Although I think that maybe I can catch the guys in places 2nd through 4th, I'm pretty happy with how I'm running. I figure that seeing how close everyone is behind them, they are going to hammer it down the hills. Thirteen days before a 150 mile race, I figure I should give my knees a break.

me coming down one of the hills after the turnaround, photo by Anil Rao

Apparently those guys ahead of me feel good enough to pick up the pace, since I don't see them ahead of me, even when climbing bigger hills. With no runner to reel in, I decide to relax a bit, listen to my body, and make sure I end this race able to recover in 13 days for my next one, 3 times longer.

The nice thing about out-and-back courses is you get to see, face-on, everyone running the race. I say "good job" or "same to you" to everyone. Unfortunately, I don't know the names of everyone who greets me with "Great job, Mark." I am racked with guilt.

As I turn a corner and suddenly hear a sudden loud noise-- mountain lion?!-- it turns out to be two mountain bikers, but I'm still alarmed and have to veer out of the way. Other than this incident, I do a good job relaxing and enjoying the beautiful scenery.

photo of the far side of the lake by Steve Patt, 2008 race

The views indeed are great. Although it's warming up, it's not unbearably hot, and I help stay cool by soaking my sleeves with the sponge bucket water at the aid stations.
At one point, I start feeling queasy and am hit with a wave of nausea. My mouth fills up with water brash, which I spit out, dreading a sudden urge to hurl. It doesn't make sense-- I've eaten nothing but gels, feel balanced with my fluids and lytes (I was remembering to take lyte capsules), and am not pushing the pace. Fortunately I'm able to get over the nausea spell. Perhaps unfortunately, I think to myself that it was good I hadn't eaten anything solid.

At Rancheria Creek (mile 38) is awaiting my extra bottle, an insulated Ultimate Direction bottle, and I have it filled witch ice water. The bottle I've been carrying gets filled with Gu2O. I stash 3 gels, but no more since 4 in the back starts flopping up and down too much. I feel I am prepared for the long 7.4 miles before the Island View station. The splash through the creek feels good, as it is warmer, and I know my feet will dry quickly, especially with my fast-draining Sportiva Crosslites.

I finish the Gu2O in about 3 miles as planned, and fill that bottle up with cool stream water to spurt onto my head and neck to keep cool. The drinking water in the extra bottle is still cool. I then plan the consumption of my 3 gels--at miles 4.5, 5.5 and 6.5, more frequently then normal since I have water and no Gu2O.

RD John Medinger had given me bib #41, I am guessing because I am 41 years old. My 42nd birthday is in a few days. So perhaps it is only fitting that in the transition from mile 41 to 42 that I get into big trouble. Within the span of a minute, my tank empties, I am unable to run, then I get lightheaded and almost pass out. Happy birthday!

I stop, avoid becoming horizontal, but don't feel too much better. Almost due for my first gel, I take it out, suck out every last molecule, swig some water. Still dizzy. I'm standing on level ground, but can only walk. I still want to space out my gels, but I realize that if I were in a video game, I'm flashing red and about to die. So I take another gel out, and carefully squeeze it dry.
Two regrets-- 1: not carrying caffeinated gels-- I had suspected that I sometimes can't sleep well the night after races because I'm so wired from caffeine, to which I'm fairly sensitive. So I had decided to avoid too much caffeine after the turnaround, taking care to ask for gels without caffeine. 2: bigger regret: not carrying more gels.

I no longer feel lightheaded, but I'm totally drained of energy. After a mile or so, I decide I need to get moving and I finish off my 3rd and last gel. I can now run a little up the gradual uphills, but only slowly. I fear my tank will empty again any second now, still surprised no one has caught up with me yet.

No one does until I'm at the last aid station (mile 45.3), which comes none too soon. Joe Palubewski comes shortly after me, then leave, telling me I will probably catch up with him. "No I won't," I tell him, but he's gone before I can explain.

Joe Palubewski (5th) & Ron Gutierrez (4th)

Screw 5th place. I'm hungry. I am SO not leaving anytime soon.

For those unfamiliar with Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which is a pretty good children's book, aside from the unforgiveably huge biological inaccuracy of saying a caterpillar turns in a cocoon before emerging as a beautiful butterfly (only moth caterpillars turn into cocoons; butterfly caterpillar change into chriysalides), the protagonist, after a gradual increase in his intake from Monday to Friday, goes on this feeding frenzy on Saturday, eating through about 12 food items, mostly high calorie stuff like a sausage, a pie, and piece of chocolate cake.

Well, like him, I basically go all-out at the aid station, eating about 4 of the little PB & jelly sandwiches, a handful of pretzels, 4 pieces of watermelon, and washed down with 2 bottlefuls of Gu2O-- a lot for the last aid station of a 50 mile race. I would never recommend this to anyone, but I as I do not want to tank again in the 4.7 miles to the finish, I can't control myself. I do all this in about 5 minutes (my average aid station stay is under a minute). I grab a huge handful of pretzels and energy chews, wrap them in a napkin, and stick them in my largest back pocket. It's ridiculously bulky, but since I'm so full and bloated from my feeding frenzy, I figure I can manage. As I head out, I continue to work on the stash, popping 2-3 gels and pretzels each at a time every 5 minutes, the whole way back.

Amazingly, no one else catches up with me during another positive split. (For the 7.4 mile stretch, it took me 98 minutes on the return versus 64 minutes on the outbound; for the final 4.7 mile stretch, 68 minutes return versus 40 minutes out.) I am prepared to sprint if someone starts approaching from behind, but having endured enough exhaustion, I figure I'm allowed to be relatively a little lazy.

Heck, I'm just happy to finish, and to learn that I can still screw up my nutrition on 50-mile run #17. I actually don't think I've hit the calorie wall nearly that bad during an ultra (prior catastrophes due to low sodium). And I'm still wondering, does having just raced 34-35 kilometers 6 days earlier have something to do with it or not? Questions, mysteries..... Ultrarunning rocks!

As it turns out, I came pretty close to being chicked, as talented local Suzanna Bon finishes less than 2 minutes after me.

Suzanna Bon, female winner, 7th overall, and race volunteer organizer, with wine bottle prize

Nathan Yanko ended up passing all the 40-something runners, coming in 2nd place. I told him too bad no rookie award. I don't feel too sorry for him, though, because he'll have a nice collection of overall and age-group awards in a few years.

The swag is pretty amazing. Everyone gets a balck Brooks jacket (like the AR50 jacket from 2006), but they have leftover tech-fabric T-shirts from last year, along with socks and stuff, so I get a shirt, and they give me a skort to give to my wife. An Ultrarunning tech cap is always useful, and then lots of packets of the chews, 2 Vespa gels and other food products. I carry the loaded sack 50 yards to the car. Screw that!-- I then drive it back across the lot so I don't have to walk across it again, drawing chuckles from a few watching me.

Georgeanna Quarles with finisher's jacket

The post-race food hits the spot and is equally first-rate. Two varieties of freshly made tamales by a local vendor.

I stay to schmoozy and eat one plate, but decide I need to get home so stick my second one on the passenger seat. I could have kept eating these the rest of the afternoon.

close up of tamales

Likewise, I want to hang out and take pictures of everyone, but I've been gone all day and need to get back to my family, so I turned my camera off lest I keep snapping and chatting. Here's the lucky couple who got a photo:

Last time I photographed these 2, Darla (nee Brader) (2nd place woman, 13th overall) and Chris Askew (21st overall) I was past ready to go to bed....in the cramped backseat of my sister-in-law's Jetta after last year's Kettle Moraine 100 mile.
At home I enjoy this amazing multicourse meal made by my brother.

Gratitude to him also for letting me borrow his Prius-- I got over 60 miles per gallon on the drive back. Thanks, George!

Other blogged reports:

Jon Olsen (overall winner and new course record holder)
Kelly Ridgway (3rd place woman)
finisher Anil Rao's photo gallery

results with splits

Garmin Forerunner recorded map on Motion Based website

1st published Friday, April 9, 2009 at 3:30 p.m., Central Time, 21.5 hours before the start of my next race.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Why I Am Scheduled for an Especially Special Brand of Idiocy This Weekend (When I Will Try to Run 150 Miles at McNaughton Park)

Oh dang, in less than 4 days it will already have started. Too late to get in better shape-- am probably still recovering from my 50 miler six days after my Diablo Trail 50K to kick off my race season. (Lake Sonoma 50 race report almost done-- if anything, I've been too busy with an impacted work schedule to find much time to run or sleep enough, much less blog). If trying to function short of sleep counts as training for my next race-- I suspect it counts for something-- then I should be tapering for that.... by sleeping.

not sure if this guy is sleeping or just faking it

So, how did I come to attempt this prolonged exercise in stupidity?

Last fall, I didn't run Helen Klein 50 miler, thus ceding what would've clinched my PAUSATF Ultra Grand Prix points series Master's division first-place finish to speedy Jean Pommier. Having lost the 50% discount on races and feeling really.....lame, I decided to make the most of an avoidable, disappointing situation by shifting the focus in 2009 away from PAUSATF to other things-- races I haven't run before (and would not run as long as I kept trying to run PAUSATF races for points), and more 100 milers than ever before.

In addition, I hadn't taken my family to Ohio to see my parents since my 20th high school reunion a few years ago (they usually come out to California). So we planned a trip there in June, timed so I could participate in the 20th running of the Mohican 100 mile about 3 hours away. We visit Chicagoland where almost all of my wife's family lives every year, so I still thought of running my third Kettle Moraine 2 weeks prior (though leaning toward the 100k instead of the 100 miler), but my wife felt uncomfortable taking off work for 2 trips in the same month. Thus, trying to find another long run near Chicago, I decided upon McNaughton in April. This way I wouldn't feel the sting of paying (gasp) full price for AR50 (yes, I was spoiled, though I did work for the benefits).

I held off on sending the money though. Frankly, I'd heard about the 150 mile race, but had thought what a completely stupid thing, good thing I don't live in Illinois so I don't feel compelled to try it. Evil, sadistic race director!

"But Daddy I don't even like running!" :) Evil, sadistic race director and endurance athlete Andy Weinberg and daughter.

But if I were going out there, shouldn't I take a stab? Aren't I supposed to be pretty good at this, and on the fast side? Guilt, uncertainty..... nausea thinking about it....

After the end of last year's Quad Dipsea, I chatted with endurance athlete and celebrity David Goggins, who I knew had run the 150 mile race both years held and last year set the course record. He gave me the scoop-- it's tough, it's wet, your feet will be soaked the whole time, it's horrible, it goes around and around in a loop. But if I were trying to decide between running the 100 and the 150 mile runs OF COURSE run the 150. His reasoning: if you're going to run 100 miles, why do that course, which is a 10 mile loop repeated-- run some other more scenic point to point or loop course. For the would-be hard-core at least, "the point of McNaughton is to run the 150, so then you can say you ran 150 miles."

Endurostud David Goggins after last year's Quad Dipsea


So, having heard it from the Goggins himself, I became convinced. If it's going to suck, let it suck big time! Of note, Also John Gunderson from the Bay Area was there at the finish too, and was planning to run it. We exchanged some emails to make sure at least one other person we'd met was joining the suffering.

Still I waited until almost the last day before the price went up to register. On the on-line form, the waiver skipped all verbose legalese crap-- just "I may die."

Since then I've have regular doubts about the decision, along with occasional anxiety dreams and palpitations and near-syncopal episodes. Maybe like many casual virginal runners do before they try their first marathon.

I really don't know if I'm going to be able to finish this one...

1st published, Monday, April 6, 2009 at 7:30 pm