Thursday, July 25, 2013

Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Mile #4 -- Things Warm Up a Bit...

Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Mile Endurance Run
Saturday-Sunday 20-21 July 2013

coming into Tunnel Creek aid station, mile 12, right before changing into the tank top
photo by Janeth Siva

I came in and out of the Spooner Lake start/finish/50 mile aid station a few minutes before 4 pm (11 hours) feeling pretty optimistic-- if things continued to go well, I could finish under 24 hours, and maybe even beat my 2010 race PR.  Night was coming-- things were going to cool down.  I felt like I was running smartly and conservatively, having avoided "racing" anyone all day, saving my quads by not hammering the downhills, drinking and eating enough, dousing my sleeves, putting ice in my cap, even applying sunscreen on my shoulders, exposed with the new La Sportiva tank top uniform the last race (Inside Trail Marin Ultra Challenge 50 mile).

photo by Mountain Peak Fitness

with Juan and Federico Sanchez ultrarunning brothers from St. Helena
saw them often first half, intentionally running close together,
 though they had really good sun protection on their heads,
so had no idea what they faces looked like

When I felt really hot, I backed off, allowing a few extra minutes compared to my 2010 splits.  Although the previous week I had not been able to run due to a post-John Muir Trail speed hike groin strain, that same week pushing my limits at high altitude had to have been worth something.
Pre-Race Acclimitazation Effort

In a few stretches, I had been able to cut some of my times-- I attributed this largely to the extra night I spent at altitude. 
Normally I come up to Tahoe the day before the race, and then more often than not sleep in Carson City, which is below 5000 feet elevation. This year, I got off my ED shift before 3, drove up to Carson Pass near Kirkwood Ski Resort on Highway 88. 
Mental note: when you buy a pint of B&J's chocolate ice cream at 2000 feet and take it to 7000 feet and open it when you are stopped for road work, the melted ice cream on the top will explode and splatter all over your face, work scrubs and car seats and dashboard, which sucks though in a funny kind of way since it's not like you have to go to an emergency department.  Don't try this in your own car! 
Three first-come first-served campsites on my list were full. As it grew dark, in a pinch, I parked in an overflow parking lot in the mid 7000s, and just set up my tent.  Told tell the rangers!

The next day I drove up to the pass (mid-8000s) and studied an emergency medicine board review book (though not due until next year, I might take the recertification exam this September.  Which is another reason I should stop trying to blog...)  I read all morning by this rock

until the last minute to get to Carson City to drop off my drop bags, and attend the pre-race meeting. 

with some Quicksilver Ultrarunning teammates
Jean Pommier's (far left) report
That evening I slept at Zephyr Cove campground by the lake. Probably the extra 1500 feet altitude compared to Carson City was not worth the hassle and legwork of a long uphill hike to the campsite and the noise on a Friday night (ear plugs helped a bit).
I might have screwed over Quicksilver teammate Marco Denson by inviting him to share the campsite, 
since he said he barely slept; but he finished the 50 mile race nonetheless
I woke up at 2 am and never got back to sleep, so knew I might get sleepy running the next night. But during that first day, it was obvious that I was spared the previously inevitable altitude sickness including the pounding headache I usually get whenever I try to run at this altitude races, or even power walk above 7500 feet. 
Back to the Race-- I Start Crumping in the 2nd Half

photo by John Burton

So anyway, after getting in and out of the 50 mile Spooner Lake aid station fast (thanks including to Quicksilver Ultrarunning Teammate John Burton, who was crewing his wife Amy, at that time behind me), I headed out and toward Hobart still optimistic.  It is easy to underestimate this climb, probably because the 1st time runners do it, they are all fresh at the start of the race.  But it is almost 7 miles, with per my Forerunner, 1788 feet gain and 452 feet loss.

My 24 ounce bottle quickly ran dry.  I was going to pick up my Ultimate Direction Wasp hydration pack at Hobart, whoops-- one aid station too late.  A couple of the 6-7 runners who passed me this stretch offered me some water they could spare.  I used to worry this was a form of muling that might disqualify me, but no longer sweat it, and besides, I am always at a disadvantage being unpaced and uncrewed.  It took me 2:07 to get to Hobart, compared to 1:21the first time.

Then it took me another full half hour to recover-- rehydrate, refuel (gels or food can't help you when you are out of liquid) at Hobart.

The next splits were all disproportionately slower:  84 versus 1st time 53 minutes to Tunnel Creek over Marlette Peak, 2 hours versus 1:15 for the Red House Loop.  Back at Tunnel Creek I spent more than half an hour trying to eat again.  I thought of lying down for a nap, but the food I forced into my stomach would reflux when I laid down and there was too much noise including loud music (a great mental boost otherwise) to really sleep.

Going out to Bull Wheel, a section I did faster this morning than when I sub-24ed in 2010, I really got the sleepies.  Caffeine didn't help.  I started swerving, would lean against trees or rocks and close my eyes for a few seconds, and several times, laid down on rocks, using my Wasp pack as a pillow for a few minutes, until I started getting cold or attacked by bugs.

When I was up, anything resembled running made me nauseated, and this was something that couldn't be medicated away by ginger or any medications.

Brief Update Regarding My Thoughts About the Need to Sleep and Ultrarunning 
In addition to how much sleep you get the nights before a race, the other factor is what happens during the first day.  The heat during the day probably increased the number of people getting the sleepies (and other problems during the night).  General consensus was this was the hottest TRT ever.
Cot space was often in high demand.  I think there can also be a delayed effect-- hence, I felt pretty good the whole first 50-mile lap, then deteriorated.  There were others who experienced similar, with onsets even later than mine (when it was cooler). 
The caffeine resistant drowsiness, extreme malaise when I tried to run-- both of these were my body deciding to take control: "Okay, I let you get by for 50 miles feeling pretty good, but enough is enough.  Stop and rest now.  I said now.  Okay, you stubborn idiot, you asked for it...."

By this point, it was clear that even if I could recover, 24 hours was out of the question, and even the thought of pushing things to make 30 hours (the next tier buckle) increased my nausea.

I tried to sleep on cots at both Bull Wheel spending almost 40 minutes there.  I thought this would renew me enough that the sleepiness would go away, but away a slow descent to Diamond Peak, I repeated the process.

Total time from Spooner (mile 50) to Diamond Peak (80) including my nap there :  11 hours 45 minutes (compared to less than 11 hours for the first 50 miles).  This was starting to resemble my first TRT 100 in 2006, when I finished DFL.

I had my Black Diamond Z-poles, one of them half destroyed when I slipped while going over scree next to a mountain stream while speed-hiking the John Muir Trail a couple of week earlier.  This helped my legs, though I still continued to get passed.  I started to see runners heading back down the other way -- dropping out of the race after 80 to 90 miles (!)  Most of them without the limp of the maimed.  Looking back down, the setting moon was the color of a blood orange, reflected in Lake Tahoe.  Although not obvious at the time, all the suffering of the past 30 miles was probably worth those views.

not this guy though, whom I'd never heard of until I googled "blood orange"

I couldn't find one with mountains on the horizon.  The moon I enjoyed everytime I looked back was better!

Things stayed tough, but I didn't take any more naps the last 20 miles-- it helped that the sun came up.  I still needed maximal aid station help.  There were many volunteers at the aid stations I can't thank enough (and many of whose names I can't remember, except for a Daniela, thanks so much too).  You were all great!  As an unpaced, uncrewed runner, I rely on you all, and even more so when I deteriorate. xoxoxo

with Tunnel Creek volunteers Kelly Haston and Noé Castañón at the finish

Tiered awards are a good thing-- something to shoot for.  During the night, I thought the 30-hour silver medallion buckle might be too hard to reach, but by the time I got up to Snow Valley, I took the luxury of finishing off some mango sorbet the volunteer Boy Scouts offered me, and was able to make it in with 25 minutes to spare (60th overall, 29:35:29).

master craftsman Peter Schuler, who spends 2-3 hour making each buckle by hand,
engraving the times onto the backs at the finisher's area.

GPS recordings:
miles 0-50
miles 50-80
miles 80-100 must wait an anticipated new computer purchase in September, since my current one can't handle the Forerunner 310XT software

official results
Note, since not in the results:  There were exactly 200 starters in the 100 mile race, so a 59% finish rate, the lowest in the event's history.

Giving eventual 100 mile overall champion Bob Shebest some valuable advice.
If you get to talk with me right the start of one of these things, you be way lucky and might win too.
photo by Janeth Siva webcast (can view splits by runner or aid station, includes a list of starters-- I suspect this link won't work forever)

with Ray Sanchez, pre-race. 
Ray was nice enough to tell me during the race that I was one of two people he really respected.I can't remember the name of the other guy he mentioned, and the reason I made his list made no sense to me, but hey, thanks, Ray!  So to mention respect, Ray continues to earn mine, having just finished Badwater a few days ago

photo by Jeff Stowall

Meanwhile, Tetsuro Ogata, had just completed Hardrock last week.
Sugoi! as they say in my ancestral land.
See you back in the states sometime next year!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Bighorn 100-- Cold, Mud, Miracle Drugs, and a Dud Wearing Pink Underwear Who Stole My Shtuff

Bighorn Mountain Wild and Scenic 100 Mile Trail Run

Friday-Saturday, 15-16 June 2012

Bighorn was my 2012 didn't-get-into-Western-States-again consolation run. I had heard vague great things about the race, it was the 20th anniversary run, and they offered an early entry option in which you send them a self-addressed-stamped-envelope.  Plus, the Friday start salvages some of my weekend.  My family (my siblings and parents) had taken a trip to Jackson Hole and the Tetons the previous summer, which was stunningly gorgeous.  This race was kind of nearby, so I would get a broader geographic view of western Wyoming's scenery.  I signed up.

Given the somewhat remote location, flights weren't cheap.  Sheridan, WY (30 minutes) for $500; Billings, MT (2 hours) for $400.  I went cheaper only because I could get home earlier Sunday morning. There were no Saturday return flights that I could definitely make.  I didn't want to get home too late-- movers had transported our big furniture just a week prior, and my parents were arriving from the Midwest the day I flew out to help us settle in to our new house.

Packet pickup was in Sheridan, which was smaller than I'd expected.  Really a very small town.

the one bike rack in Cheyenne. 
alright maybe not, but I heard on NPR since there are only 2 escalators in the entire state.

A few days before, the weather forecast for the area was scattered Thunderstorms, chance of rain 60%.

I left my drop bags with this nice family of volunteers set up in an alleyway.  I was told the course could get cold, colder than I had expected.

As I discussed the weather, Brian Kamm, from Salt Lake City (with whom I ran briefly with at Zion before he went ahead, finishing several hours faster) lent me some cheap gloves, which I much appreciated.

At the pre-race dinner at a spaghetti restaurant, I ran into some Japanese friends.  In 2005 I had run several miles with the woman to my right, Yukiko Nishide who lives in New York at the Crater Lake Marathon.

Later at the dinner I met this couple:

You may have already heard about them by now-- Liz Bauer and Scott Brockmeier, were both on their way to breaking Monica Scholz's record for the most 100-mile run completed in a year. Scott himself was going to finish 27, but Liz was ahead of him and would set the new record of 36.  Fascinating chat. Incredible accomplishment/s.  blog posting about them after they finished on

I dislike late starts--11 am-- ouch!  At the pre-race meeting that morning, we were told it would get REALLY REALLY COLD at night around the turnaround, and that we should have decent rain gear in our drop bags.

Unfortunately, our drop bags had been due and turned in the evening before.  I don't think this is emphasized enough on the website. Thanks for telling me!

Being skinny and easily chilled, I scrambled to figure out my options.  I was advised to carry a garbage bag from the start, but this seemed a bit ridiculous to do for 30-50 miles.

Getting to the start was random and fun--runners piling into cars driven my nice volunteers and crews-- everyone got there in the end.

The course was pretty, the air was thin.  Luckily it didn't rain on us, especially before I could get to my jacket (though not waterproof).

I took a wrong turn shortly after leaving Cow Camp, mile 19.5, but fortunately others shouted at me before I put too much bonus on.  Over the next few miles there were supposed to be springs with drinkable water, but I missed most of them.

At around mile 40 as the sun set on me, the course got muddy and wet.  VERY.  The many course veterans told me that this was a good year though-- this mud was nothing--- usually the bad mud starts around mile 25 or 30.  I was more impressed by the times cranked out in prior races.

I was warned by Keith Blom on facebook pre-race about the turnaround 50 mile aid station, Porcupine:

  • Mark, the goal i(s) to get out of the turnaround! It's so warm and they have such good food...

So true.  I spent a fair amount of time at there, a building with heat.  But I had to head back.  I put on everything I could but was still chilling.  One mile after heading back after the turnaround, at the Devil's Canyon Road this pacer took pity on me and lent me (gave me) his knit cap and gloves.  You saved me, Jeremy!  Thanks, again!

with Jeremy Ebel, pacer for Mark Larson, both from Colorado, post-race
The sun came up, I somehow managed to become less sleepy (no lying in cots this race), but I developed knee pain that I'd never experiences before.  Not ITB.  Weird-- it hurt too much to run on the flats, and was easier to run downhills.  Even in a hilly trail race there is enough flat stretches that this sort of problem will kill you.

I think I suffered through this for more than 10-15 miles, and got passed by many many people.

Finally, at an aid station, I asked for drugs-- some volunteers had ibuprofen, I think I took 800 mg.  Yes, it's potentially risky to take non-steroidal anti-inflammatories during a race, but I was hydrating and peeing well, hardly working near my max, and as a doctor, I told myself it was damn well okay.

I see all these patients in the ER who are addicted to narcotics for their real or purportedly and dubious real chronic pain problems who tell me that ibuprofen does nothing for their pain ("I need Vicodin/Norco/Percocet/Dilaudid... ").  But for clean "just say no to drugs" me, ibuprofen is a MIRACLE DRUG.

Within 30 minutes, I was running again.  The shit works.  Duh.

At Dry Fork Ridge aid station, mile 82.5, there was a flurry of people as numerous runners from many of the shorter races that started Saturday converged at this aid station (and not at the previous ones).  I got weighed, ate lots of avocado and a pizza slice (perhaps my first in a race since Headlands Hundred, when I got sick soon after eating one, and feared the lactose of pizza was the cause-- since my GI tract didn't revolt, I guess it wasn't.  Yet I'm still hesitant to eat too much pizza during these races.)

In my exhausted state, worries about getting home safely and drop bag return anxiety increased.  I worried that my drop bags wouldn't get back to the race finish until late, which would delay my 2-hour drive to Billings, cutting into my sleep before having to wake up butt-early for my early morning flight back home.  So I thought I would ask someone crewing another runner who was returning to the finish.

Volunteers asked around for me and found a guy, I think wearing hot pink girls panties over his shorts.  This should have wet off a warning light in my brain, but after 82.5 miles, it wasn't working too well.  I tried to talk to him, but he was talking with his pacee (apparently he was also pacing), so he had me wait a couple of minutes before I made my request.  He agreed to get take my bag to the finish.

Next aid station, Upper Sheep, mile 87.5, they served boiled shrimp.  Tasted amazing.  I started chowing down on them, until I felt I was pushing it.

From there was an ascent, and then the next 5 miles or so was all downhill.  Since I had been running so slowly due to the knee pain and altitude, my felt remarkable good.  The air felt wonderfully thick and oxygenated.  I acclerrated down the hill, and felt like I was running as fast as I would on a 2-3 hour training run.  I passed tons of people.  It felt good.

The Tongue River Canyon looked more gorgeous on the return than it had the previous day on the outbound.  What a great finish.

photo by Rick Gaston, at race start, 2013 race

However, the last 4-5 miles of the race took us from the start point to the pre-race and finish area--pavement.  Ugh.  But flat.  I caught up with a 50 mile runner, Andy (Pearson, Boulder, Colorado, but moving to Santa Monica, California).  I started talking with him, and maybe he convinced me to try to stay with him.  Since I had been passing tons of people and feeling on the upswing, I took him up on this, and really pushed it.  Having been running for 19 hours longer than he, this was so painful.

Popped ginger since the pace was getting me nauseated.  An aid station had popsicles, I think I had motor problems trying to eat it.

So, however unimpressive my overall time and place may seem (28:52:59, 60th overall), at least  finished strong-- with the guy who placed 15th overall in the 50 mile race.  For the last 10 miles of this race, I ran like a badass.  Thanks for the painful pacing, Andy!

Andy and I have ended up running several of the same races since then-- so now I finally recognize him.  Usually he kicks my butt, but not always.

with his first 100 mile buckle, the 106 mile Mogollon Monster

I forgot this guy's name, but we chatted during the race, and we were both happy to finish!

to get a buckle with a Bighorn sheep on it, I guess you have to run......Hardrock

So I got to the finish, and my drop bag wasn't there.  I kept looking, but I couldn't find it, and it never showed up (I emailed the race directors several time).  So unexpected at an ultra, and so disappointing.  I lost:

  • my favorite black tech La Sportiva top
  • my 2009 deep yellow/orange Sportiva jacket-- although I've gotten a couple of others, the new company's jackets don't breathe, so I can't/don't wear them while racing.  This also had two pockets.  It was a great to stick in a 100 mile race drop bags.  You need to plant more than one, since it is hard to predict when it will get cold enough.
  • a pair of clean tech socks
  • the gloves that Jeremy lent me above (I guess he didn't really need them back, but...)

The worst thing was the drop bags from that mile 82.5 Dry Fork Ridge aid station got to the finish within an hour after I finished.  Ouch!  Lesson learned.  1. Don't trust skittish pacers wearing hot pink underwear over their running shorts.  or,  2. Just wait for the damn drop bag.

At least the shwag was good.  The yellow jacket has a light running along the sleeves you can turn off and on.

More schwag:

I made it back to Billings with only 2 stops without killing myself or anyone else-- to find my reservation at the hotel, which I booked through, wasn't there.  The hotel manager told me he hates that website, implicitly comparing them to the mafia.  Lesson: never book through, but directly through the hotel.

GPS recordings:
part 1, first 32+ miles
part 2, middle 29+ miles
part 3, last 27+ miles

results (100 mile race)
out splits
in splits including finish


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Mile #3-- Sh*t Happens Again

Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Mile Endurance Run, July 16-17, 2011

(Was gonna start on this year's TRT race report, when I realized I needed to finish and publish the one for two years ago.)

I drove up with Baldwyn Chieh (running the 50 mile) and Joe Swenson (in the 100 mile with me).  

at pre-race check-in in the Carson City main plaza
Dinner was at the Olive Garden in Carson City with several of my Quicksilver Ultrarunning teammates, some of whom I met then for the first time.  I never realized how popular some of these chain places were.  There was this line going out the door.   Luckily, a few of us had left early to stake out a table.  These are a great bunch of runners.  If I lived in Silicon Valley and had a normal schedule, I would hang out with them more often.  We would sweep team wins in all divisions of the Pacific Association of the USATF Ultra Grand Prix.

There was more snow left on the course this July than I'd ever seen before. 

forget whom I stole this photo from, but thanks!
One slope the most obvious option was to sit on your butt and slide down.  Fine when it was soft in the daytime, but probably not so fun if not downright treacherous when it froze over at night.  Fortunately a few dedicated volunteers had dug out steps in the slopes for us to use (though it still required much caution.)

Things started pretty well.  My altitude headache wasn't too bad.  I was thinking this might be another sub-24 year.

Early in the race, I ended up running a while with Jen Benna.  She (and later I would learn several others) had read my 2010 race report and studied my GPS recordings with the goal of sub-24ing.  It blew my mind that she was still lactating her infant daughter, and was going to pump her breasts on a few uphills.  I wondered: if my breasts were overflowing with milk, would I be able to run nearly this fast?

Even two years later, I still don't know the answer to this question...

pretending to lead the way for Jen, photo by Brett Rivers

Once out of the Red House Loop, I started to really feel the altitude and I just couldn't keep up with her.  I need to come up with a term that conveys that this isn't just being chicked, but chicked by lactating woman pumping her breasts while racing.  "Lactochicked?"  She made a pretty decent charge for 1st place, finishing 2nd only to my Quicksilver teammate Bree Lambert, who was not lactating.

Jen's race report

Having been dumped by Jen, I tried to be a guy and just hang out with guys, but with my midday outfit I looked too dorky, so got abandoned by all fellow dudes too.

(I think) this was Matthew Schmidt, who would sub-24, on our way out of Diamond Peak.

Major fashion offense in order to protect my skin.
I hope my wife never sees this.
She would be so embarrassed and never let me run again.
Or leave me for good.
I have worked on this since.
My third outfit above Marlette Lake, as the sun and temperatures started to dip, by Baldwyn Chieh

All the snow and rain meant lots of puddles and wet feet.  Since not so warm, I changed shoes before and after 2nd Red House Loop.

puddle on Red House Loop earlier in the day, by Baldwyn Chieh

At Diamond Peak the second time, I realized there was no way in hell I would make 24 hours, so I decided to take care of some blisters forming, probably due to running with soaked feet, and sliding around on ice and snow.  There was a volunteer podiatrist who taped me up.  I forgot the doc's name. He was awesome.  It was well worth the time.

Then I asked where the bathrooms were, and people there pointed me up this seemingly long flight of stairs.  I went up, minding the bonus elevation that wasn't getting me any closer to the finish.  After trying to use the toilet, I went out and noticed the elevator.   Mental note-- don't take the stairs next time.

Okay, this next part is kind of gross, so if you don't want to be grossed out, skip the next paragraph.

Soon after I left Diamond Peak before the really steep part of the ski slope, I felt like I had to pass some gas, but when I did, runny fecal liquid shot out all over my shorts.  Was this a leftover from my HURT 100 run half a year earlier?   It was a huge mess.  I looked for leaves or something at the side of the trail to wipe up the mess in my pants, lest I start chafing.  Unfortunately it was several miles before I could wipe myself up and sanitize my hands in the portalet at Tunnel Creek aid station.

Sometime after this fiasco, I then tripped over a branch sticking up from the trail.  I was majorly plantar flexed as the stick got caught on the upper on my right Raptor, ripping a huge hole in it.  Would have made continued running quite problematic, but I made it to the next aid station.  Another nifty use for duct tape:

Fairly new shoes-- thankfully, I am sponsored by La Sportiva.

The sunrise while around Marlette Peak was beautiful-- last year I ran these miles in the dark, so consoled myself that my slower pace allowed me appreciate a great view.  No camera, so you will have to settle for a much less orange, less pink and less dramatic pic taken by my Quicksilver team leader Greg Lanctot 1-2 hours later.

Finished more than 3 1/2 hours later than 2010, but still helped my Quicksilver Ultrarunning team with PAUSATF Grand Prix points.

Our Quicksilver Running Team finishers:
Jim McGill (who finished DFL this year, continuing the honored tradition I started), me, team coach and cheerleader Greg Lanctot, RCAA female champion Bree Lambert, Harris Goodman, Pierre Couteau, Sean Lang
I suspected that I was the only runner in this universe to have earned all three buckles.  Come to think of it, I'm glad I didn't finish under 24 hours again.  From top to bottom: sub-35 hour buckle (2006), sub-24 (2010) and sub-30 (2011):

race results with splits -- men's/overall winner was Jorge Maravilla, whom I met 10 weeks earlier running PCTR's Diablo 60k (which he also won)

race website

GPS recordings of my run
part 1: miles 0-35
part 2: miles 35-70
part 3: miles 70-100

Baldwyn drove my Rav most of the way home.  I don't remember being jostled by any huge bumps, but....

The next morning before driving to the BART station for work, I found I had a huge flat, and had to load the kids in the car so their mommy could drive me there.  I wasn't quite in the mood to run there (and hadn't left the time anyway.)   Nail stuck in there.  Thus, adding several hundred dollars in new tires to the value of my silver buckle.