Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ultrarunner Ticketed in San Jose for "Safety" Reasons

We ultrarunners do a lot of volunteer work for parks, and we sure use them a lot. So in general, I like to think park rangers are our friends.

But sometimes not-- Click for Silicon Valley Mercury News on-line article

Several have deftly commented on the article website (I'm about to also) regarding the obvious hypocrisy of paying rangers to patrol and issue tickets on a day they have closed the parks due to the lack money to keep them open for reasons of safety. (If the previous sentence was confusing, supports my point.) To boot, it wasn't a regular Monday, but a federal holiday, when a large portion of workers are off. We taxpayers have the right to be, and should be, pissed.

picnic area at Alum Rock Park

Great quote of an administrator holding the official line, but speaking out of his ass nonetheless: "Alum Rock Park is a huge park," said Mark Marney, deputy director of the city's parks division. "When you're training on trails in the back area, you could be a long way from any help."

Right-- on all my multi-hour training runs out on remote trails when parks are officially open, I always appreciate the rangers cruising around everywhere, ready to help me out if I trip and hurt myself in those "back areas." (I also love running behind their trucks to breathe in the exhaust, lest I go into withdrawal.) Whatever you say.

I believe in an ordered, safe and civilized society, and respect most laws, but I have a serious problem with irrational and arbitrary rules, especially when their enforcement disproves and negates the specious logic on which they are based.

Well, if Mr. Nguyen is down $100 (hopefully not much more), plus the major hassle of a court date, I know he has found the priceless joy of running long distances on trails communing with nature. No ranger is ever going to take that away from him. I'm guessing he's training for American River as his first 50-miler. (By the way, he's an ultrarunner, not a "scofflaw jogger.") If you ever read this, John, good luck at AR, keep running, and hope to meet you on the trails some time!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

La Sportiva How Much Do You LOVE Running Contest

Brief heads-up and pitch for an on-line contest by my main sponsor, La Sportiva. Talk about how much you LOVE running, with an optional confession of guilt. You have until the end of March to enter.

Submitting the best entry wins you a pair of La Sportiva Mountain Running® shoes, First Endurance OptygenHP, a pair of Defeet Socks, Petzl E+Lite, and a mystery Green-Layer apparel item!

I felt validated reading several stories regarding running and being sweaty and smelly at work, though no way in hell I could ever take off during a shift to run-- I don't get a lunch break, and this would equal abandoning my patients.

Sorry if you're one of those who've entered so far, and I've decreased your odds, but like at a race, competition makes things more fun.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

(Not) Applying for Badwater

Three nights ago I woke up late in the call room after a late partial overnight shift with a nagging feeling:
  • I really should apply to Badwater this year.
The race had been on my list of things to do before I die for a few years. Hearing 4-time finisher Jonathan Gunderson tell me about it at last August's Headlands Hundred sort of got me thinking about doing it sooner. But as I started filling my race schedule for this year, I deleted the reminders for "Badwater race application opens" and "Badwater race application ends" on my personal calendar. I had enough other challenging courses to run, and Badwater didn't easily fit into my other vacation and running plans. If nothing else, I continually felt some misgivings about paying $895 to enter a race providing no aid to the competitor.

But then I thought, maybe you pay for the event. The officialness. And all the hype that comes with a high profile event that many people not into ultrarunning know about. Even if you can easily argue that this is NOT, as Adventure Corps touts, "the world's toughest foot race." And I figured if I were going to get a crew together, do all the special heat training, shlep my crew down and do it, I might as well do it "for real," out on the course with 80-90 other competitors, and get the official time and place,and "official" bragging rights. Might as well do it now, rather than when I'm 60. I assume this sort of things gets more difficult with age.

The other issue is feeling of urgency-- even with the price tag, it will probably only get harder to get selected. Also, I figured I should do it while we still have our membership at the gym, with a sauna and steam room, as it doesn't get that hot that often here in the East Bay.

So, for those not familiar, they application is now put up on line for two weeks, this year was available on-line from the 1st through the 15th of this month. A lengthy application requiring a fair amount of thought and reflection, and probably some endurance.

Applying to Compete in the 2010 Badwater Ultramarathon -- the general entry info page only, as the appliaction itself was available on-line only for 2 weeks, ending a few hours ago.

The two questions where I could really support my application (and therefore could and should spend a lot of time on, and which I kept mulling over in my head 3 mornings ago, when I should have been sleeping) were:
  • Is there anything you'd like to mention here that wasn't described within the Qualifying Standards section above? (PLEASE DO NOT TYPE IN ALL CAPS!)
  • Why do you want to compete in the Badwater Ultramarathon? (PLEASE DO NOT TYPE IN ALL CAPS!)
What it boiled down to though, was that, on a triple holiday (Valentine's Day, Chinese New Year, Presidents Day) weekend during which my kids' preschool was off both Friday and Monday, when I was working overnight shifts, the time to sit and answer those questions well-- well, didn't even get close to happening. At least not without sacrifice. Aside from the birthday party on Saturday, I just HAD to run home through the Southeast Bay hills from work Sunday afternoon because I was having exercise withdrawal. Monday (yesterday) I spent all my waking hours with my kids, at the zoo (a lot of animals that are always hiding were out!) and then a local playground.

If I wasn't feeling I could handle filling out an on-line application, the logistics of doing the race itself seemed too much to contemplate. Not knowing if this was the year to pull this off was a further disincentive to start typing. (Maybe I'm talking out of my ass, but honestly I am more intimidated by the hassle factor of logistically finding and preparing a crew for this race, than my actual running it.)

Maybe next year...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Ending My Vacation with the Relocated Jed Smith 50k

Last year I didn't start racing until late March. I've come to believe early extended speed work is necessary for faster times at later longer races. Although I run ultramarathon distances as training runs, without the excitement of competition and an official time, it's hard to really push it the whole time. So I thought running Jed Smith 50k the first Saturday in February would be a smart move. Never mind my brother-in-law's destination wedding near Cabo San Lucas two evenings before-- if I wasn't rested, I would deal.

Friday we got back to SFO in the evening, and in between lugging all the suitcases up too many stairs and helping put our exhausted and fussy kids down, I was able to figure out and communicate a good place to meet Pacific Association USATF Rho-Quicksilver team members Jean Pommier and Andy Benkert to carpool. (I'm now supposed to be on the team too, although I haven't yet negotiated the jersey issue, since my priority is to represent my main sponsor La Sportiva-- I'll maybe address this in a future posting.)

They live south, so I figured out a place near Stoneridge Mall in Pleasanton about 12 miles east of where I live along I-680 to carpool the next morning. Surprisingly I didn't zonk out in the back seat and enjoyed chatting with Jean whom I hadn't seen in a while, and Andy, whom I'd never met in person. It was supposed to rain all morning, and rained several times on the drive up. Right before getting to the park, we had more than an hour to spare so stopped at a Raley's for a bathroom break, when it was confirmed that I might have some leftover GI issues.

The venue, and thus the course, changed this year, due to California state budget cuts. I knew the 3-mile repeating loop of past years at Gibson Ranch north of I-80 was going to be replaced with a larger 10k loop from or around William B. Pond Park (part of the American River Parkway), but beyond that, had no idea what the course would be like. (The race organizers gave updates on the web, but the internet connection at the resort sucked.)

map of old course, courtesy Jean Pommier

    new course

We were there pretty early. I used the bathroom again, brushed my teeth, mingled nervously based on the bathroom break. I got to meet my Sportiva Teammate, elite female runner Jenny Capel (who had won the women's 50k last year, but dropped from the 50 mile race this year.
Though she ran 50k+ fast, no "partial credit" at this race).

And then realized that Melissa Ownby, one of the assistant coordinators for the Oakland Marathon pace group leaders, was also with Daniel Fabun, whom I met at Headlands Hundred and SF One Day last year, and who would get his 50 mile distance PR today with 7:22, congrats!

Perhaps because of the new venue, they started the 50 mile race 12 minutes late.

As a result the 50k race would also start 12 minutes late, since they were using the same clock.

Mark Lantz (who would win the 30k) came up to me in the role of a Buffalo Chips Running Club member (thanks Buffalo Chips!), and meticulously described to me the course, mentioning in one long breath: "parking lot...trail... gravel...levee" and a bunch of other details I couldn't follow, that the bicycle pacer hadn't shown up yet, an he wasn't in shape to lead us out to guide us.

I looked at him in askance--you think I'm actually leading the way? Fortunately, one of the bicyclists showed up at the last minute and the course was well marked anyways.

The course (click for my recorded map) went through the parking lot area, then off pavement to a dirt path with plenty of unevenness in the terrain and puddles of water to avoid. Then a little more pavement. After the 1 mile (water only) aid station, 2 miles straight out on a slightly gravel levee to the mid-point (5k) aid station (fully stocked, with a chip timing mat that I missed the 2nd loop and had to backtrack to cross), before heading back on mostly single track trail, surprisingly filled with lots of slight ups and downs to keep things interesting if a little slower, back to the 5 mile (same as the 1 mile) aid station, and then mostly the same way to the start-finish. Thus, they kept the bent dumbbell shape of the course as in years past, only this year one side of the dumbbell was much larger than the other, and each loop was twice as long. (If that made no sense, just click the link for the map.)

click for the RD's photos of the course

I initially had my Forerunner set to time and current pace, noticing that I was fluctuating between 6:20 and 7:30 minute miles, until I figured out I should switch to lap pace and time. To my surprise, I was settling in at just under 7 minutes per mile, which put me on my course PR pace.

I had brought two Ultimate Direction bottles and came up with a system of dropping off an empty bottle and picking up a third to partially filled bottle. I actually needed 3 bottles to make this seamless, but was happy enough I was even that organized and environmentally correct. Thanks volunteers! I hate Gatorade but that was my main liquid. The pace was too fast to eat real food, so during the race I would consume the 4 Cliff shots with 50mg caffeine in each and a pack of Gu I'd quickly stashed in my pocket before leaving home.
Toward the very end of the 2nd loop (during which I kept the same pace as the first without feeling like I was going too fast), my lower abdomen started feeling unsettled, and the urge to dump liquid and gas hit me. I barely made it to the Portalet maybe 100 feet past the chip timing mat. For the next 90 seconds the only running I did was done by my bowels. I stepped out drenched in sweat, somewhat relieved, but still feeling bad.

So much for the 7 minute per mile pace.
I don't think it was from drinking the resort water. (Everyone drinking bottled water from those evil plastic bottles were still drinking ice cubes from tap water.) Maybe eating too many leftovers in the fridge, too much swallowed pool water, or all that open bar the last couple of days.

Loop 3 was tough. My pace slowed (7:19 for the loop), I felt stitches in the sides of my abdomen and then my chest wall. Mild nausea. Wondering if I'd have to pit-stop again.

Slowed even more for loop 4 (7:36), even as I was able to get over a lot of the cramping and didn't feel as sick as the previous. My legs felt tired. Maybe from too much running on these great trails I found in the hills inland from the resort. Those were some great runs, so I was okay with that.

(For an ultratrailrunner, running on the beach, as sexy as it sounds, gets old fast.)

What I WASN'T okay with was this: Taylor Swift's "You Belong With Me" kept playing over and over in my head. Despite not having heard that earworm on the radio that morning. The same thing happened to me during my McNaughton 150 mile last April, only with her "Love Story." I had briefly thought of bringing my iPod, which would have averted this, but was expecting it to rain.

Last loop it was hard to look cheerful and greet everyone I passed or saw coming the other direction on the handle of the barbell part of the course. My neck started tightening up, like when you sleep on it the wrong way. I knew this was probably from all the luggage lifting the day before--room to lobby to shuttle to airplane to shuttle to car to the 20 steps to the 2nd level of our house. I'm not the kind of guy who has valets and shuttle drivers lift everything, and during most of those transitions, it was mostly me (my wife handles the kids). It took a lot of effort to focus and try to relax so my neck wouldn't go into full spasm. I felt like I was able to kick a little at the very end, but the overall loop pace was still 7:52 minutes per mile, which is slower than my 50 mile and almost as slow as my 100k PR pace.

Overall time 3:51:06. My anti-PR for the course (compared to 3:45:28 in 2008 and 3:36:39 in 2007), but the best I could do, so not upset about it.

Given the events of the prior week (including too much food, and too much alcohol at the awesome welcome reception on Wednesday and wedding on Thursday. What do you expect? I have an open-bar drinking problem. Here is the 4-question CAGE test modified for open-bar (score 1 point for each yes answer):

  1. Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking when there is open bar? --Yes, I tell myself that all the time,'s open bar.
  2. Have people annoyed you by criticising your drinking when there is open bar? --Yes, but usually they tell me I should lighten up and have another drink. Since I don't have to pay for it, how can I refuse them? Then I am less annoyed. Okay, I am sort of lying. No one tells me I should have another drink. They usually think I've drunk more than I actually have.
  3. Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking at open bar? --Yes. But I felt worse about giving my kids the chocolate drink Thursday night. I had no idea it had alcohol in it, it was so chocolatey! But maybe it was all for the better because after my 2-year-old passed out, I only had to keep track of my 4-year-old, who actually did fine, dancing the night away with his cousins.
  4. Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or get rid of a hangover (eye-opener)? --Hell no. Now that's messed up. I never understood that champagne breakfast thing. If I'm hungover, I run instead, which is healthy so I get negative 1 point even though I'm not supposed to subtract.

But the total is 2 points, so I still have an open-bar drinking problem. (Actually, this is not the best test-- link for various alcoholism screening questionnaires. There are many, and if you take them all, you may feel the need for a drink.
Schwag-- no t-shirt (no complaints, got WAY too many of those). Plastic sippy mug with the Jed Smith Ultras motto-- "I ran far, I ran fast." Socks that get warm when wet--interesting concept, maybe I'll review these sometime. Good enough. Jean got a bag for placing. He came within 19 seconds of winning overall, but the rookie who won--get this, had a pacer for more than half the race. A pacer for a 50k?

winner Ted Archer

Even though I was 4th overall, I was 3rd in my division, so no prize schwag. Andrew from our car broke 4 hours for his personal PR, great job!

Amazingly, it never rained while we were running. So I probably could have peeled off my yellow La Sportiva jacket over a long-sleeve tech shirt. I was a times a little hot, but other times there was a cooling wind.

Nonetheless, I did start getting cold afterwards. And dizzy. We were waiting for 4th teammate Jim Magill (4:47 at age 63, didn't drive with us) to finish, and I was enjoying hanging out and talking, but maybe all the accumulated sleep deprivation caught up to me-- I started feeling really tired, so went to lie down in Jean's Corolla backseat. Probably a good move, since after sort of napping I was able to stay awake and chat for the drive home, during which it rained a few times--wow, were we lucky with the weather

Before driving home from Pleasanton, I was charged with food shopping for the family, and helped get the kids dressed before going to the annual holiday dinner party at which I amazingly held up, though by the end of my evening ED shift the next evening, I was as beaten down as the Colts.
50 mile 50 km 30 km

Congrats to Michael Kanning, UC Santa Cruz freshman, winner of the 50 mile race with a PR of 6:15 (beats mine)-- kids grow up so fast!

other blogged reports

Jean Pommier

Monday, February 8, 2010

My lack of self control-- Jed Smith recovery run

What was I thinking? I left my call room in the "Hotel Fremont" intending to put in a quick one hour recovery run (also ran to the BART station 40 minutes yesterday), to then shower, nap and then be rested for my 2nd straight 4 pm to 2 am shift.

I have no self control. Even 2 days after an intense 50k race.

Decided to run up Morrison Canyon Road. Hadn't run it in years, especially since I figured out my long (3-5 hour) mostly trail commute to or from Fremont. If I have time to run right before or after a shift, why run roads?

Surprisingly nice, one of the best dangs for the distance in the East Bay. Very narrow, lush, parabolic-shaped farm hills on both sides, cows and horses, fairly steep incline before emerging onto the Vargas Plateau, the land bank on the left eventually to become another East Bay Regional Park. No through traffic, and too steep and narrow for the residents to go over 30 mph, so for a danger rating I give it 1 skull-and-crossbones (versus 5 for nearby Niles Canyon Road).

Saw the fence and signs to stay out of the land bank. Good boy that I am, I kept it legal. Coming back down, again saw Vargas Road heading down to the left. I just HAD to take it down, all the way to I-680, as well as explore another side road, before heading back up to the intersection and then back down Morrison Canyon Rd.

run map

No self-control. Went over two hours. There goes the nap. Hope my shift isn't too bad.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Jed Smith Eve Musings

Mental Note: Don't sign up for races the day you return from that resort in Los Cabos, two days after your brother-in-law's wedding at which you inadvertently gave each of your preschool kids a shot of something that you thought was just a chocolate drink and managed to walk into the swimming pool even though you really didn't drink that much, and three days after you yourself drank WAY too much alcohol at the welcome reception. There are several other mental notes related to all this, but I do need to go to bed right now.