Friday, August 23, 2013

Cascade Crest 100 Mile 2011: Return of the Tunnel, Including a Bonus Bicycle-Riding Ex-Meth Addict

Cascade Crest 100 Mile Run, August 27-28, 2011

Having the race start at 10 a.m. has its pluses and minuses.  Two years earlier I stayed at a motel nearby, so there was too much nervous time between waking up and running.  This year I took advantage of the late start by staying with friends in Seattle, and driving up race morning.

view from my friends' rooftop patio
I suspect my drop bags were one of the last to enter the piles.

Two years ago it was cloudy.  This year clear and sunny.  The amazing views new to me this year were well worth the extra heat.  I decided early that even if I didn't meet my pre-race goals of finishing under 24 hours for whatever reason, the better views this year were more important than my time.  But having missed the one-day mark by just a half hour, I was going to shoot for it.

Most of the stretches between aid stations are 7 or 8 miles apart (aid station chart), but I only carried one water bottle, as I like to have a free hand and arm.  I managed my fluids by chugging 20 ounces of fluids upon reaching an aid station before having it filled again for the stretch to come.

I probably briefly chatted with most of the guys who finished around me.  I ascended to Goat Peak with Keith Knipling and then a local Dan for 3 or so miles out Tacoma Pass.

by Glenn Tachiyama

James Varner, RD of the popular Northwest Pacific Rainshadow Running, was I think crewing for a friend and kept showing up at the aid stations. 

photo by Glenn Tachiyama

I also saw a lot of Betsy, who I had run into with her husband Matt, running his first hundred, with whom I struck up a conversation at a local market near by friends' house in Seattle, where I was looking for something so I didn't show up empty handed (like I did at my other friends' house, where I stayed post-race Sunday night, but I guess I had a better excuse).

Headlamps should be carried on your head

The stretch from Stampede Pass (m33) to Olallie Meadows (m41) was the most runnable up to that point.  I was feeling great, when I noticed the headlamp I picked up from my drop bag at Stampede and wrapped around the top of my bottle (because I hate having headlamps on my head when it's still light out) was no longer there.

A Tanaka-Hundred is not complete without some bonus miles.  I turned around with much apprehension-- the single-track was quite narrow with the thick vegetation on both sides.  Quite possibly some plant had knocked it off, which would mean that it was lying hidden from view under the foliage.  How far should I backtrack?  How slowly should I run so as to minimize the chances of not missing it?  If I gave up, would some volunteer have a light I could borrow for the tunnel, or would I have to await and tag along with another runner?

Luckily it was only 0.35 miles per my Forerunner, so not much more than 0.70 miles bonus for the extra round trip, and no one passed me, though the next guy was approaching the Meadow Mountain aid station as I left.

The next stretch to Olallie Meadows was more uphill and technical and less runnable than the previous.  I thought it funny that I didn't readily remember the gorgeous waterfall fed by Mirror Lake from running the same course just two years earlier. This course offers so much variety-- perhaps one pass doesn't allow you to absorb it all.

The culinary highlight of the course came at Olallie Meadows-- freshly made pirogis!  After too many PB'n'J quarters, fruit and sports drink, these really hit the spot.  I downed two and carried one to go.  Since 2009 was the first of two years the tunnel was closed and runners took a painful detour up and down a ski slope, this stretch was new to me.

Downhill for three miles-- initially fun single-track, but this converted to this awful, never-ending fire road covered with small, ankle-threatening rocks.  Then ribbons led into thick forest with a steep slope and loose dirt. There was were these ropes or wires that I had to crawl under twice as I slid down maybe 100 feet. 

Chihping Fu (posted earlier today)
One tip - wear gloves during rope rappelling down to the rail trail. Very steep and slippery. Have them ready from your drop bag at Stampede Pass. You can drop them at Hyak after an hour or so.

I eventually figured out that the wires I crawled under twice were actually the ropes I was supposed to be grabbing to help me get down the hill.  Duh.  MD = Majorly Dumb...

At the bottom, it was completely untechnical, flat dirt road to the right.

I passed what I thought were two teenagers right before entering the tunnel.  

I was a little disappointment with the buckle the first time I ran the race, since we didn't go through the tunnel.
This time, I liked it better


I had been playing classical music on one of my iPod since about mile 35 (aside note-- that particular Nano has only two types of recording on it-- classical music, and downloaded podcasts of NPR's This American Life and SMART EM (an evidence-based excellent way to try to keep atop topics in my field.)  I was never feeling good enough to concentrate on the podcasts.

As I entered the dank, dark tunnel, I thought to turn off the music.  I was feeling a little tired.  Indeed turning off my headlamp resulted in complete and utter darkness.  I was warned by another ultrarunner on facebook that the tunnel was exciting for about two minutes, then it turned into just a lot of flat running in the dark.  I was thinking that I would be able to appreciate the sensory-deprived experience for what it was.

Unfortunately, I never got a chance to find out.

I started hearing a crazed screaming from behind.  Undoubtedly one of those two kids I'd seen at the entrance.  Probably what a lot of people do when they enter the tunnel-- shouting and hearing your echo.

Pretty soon I realized he was yelling at me.

"Hey runner!  I'm coming after you!  I'm fucking going to kill you and chop you up!  I'm a crazy serial killer!  I've love murdering runners!  You can't fucking outrun me!"

So do I REALLY think this guy was going to chop me up and kill me?  If I were to bet money on it, no.  But, the kid was crazy, maybe on drugs, obviously, and his idea of fun MIGHT actually involve bodily harm to others.  I was exhausted and alone, and years since I last practiced martial arts, and so I was feeling nervous....


Speaking of tunnels, I took my family camping for a week a couple months back in Lassen National Park up north near the border with Oregon.  One of our day hikes was up Cinder Cone.  

I was especially proud of my then 3-year-old for doing this hike.

On the way back, we stopped by some lava flow caves.  My older son was a bit spooked when I had him turn his headlamp off.


When the loser finally caught up with me on his bicycle, it was clear he wasn't going to really kill me.  But he could screw with me.  Or try to screw me.  (Incidentally, one of these days I should blog about all the mostly urban situations I've been in while running when I REALLY did get concerned about my life.)

Soon, he was telling me about his former methamphetamine and multidrug addiction, and how he liked to ride his bike now as a healthier alternative.  Normally, I am inspired by stories like this, of people turning their lives around for the better.

But, it felt more like I was out of the frying pan into the fire-- of his irritating incessant chatter.   His family owns a restaurant in Hyak (the next aid station).  I had to answer questions about my pace and where I was in the race.  Maybe it was just the way he talked, or his freaking me out prior, but HE WAS DRIVING ME NUTS!  I REALLY WANTED TO KILL HIM.

Out of the tunnel, he kept on going, and it was a little easier to ignore him.  I think I started breathing more loudly so that he might think I was too out of breath to talk.  It worked; the dumb-ass finally left me alone.

At Hyak I traded my small headlamp for a more powerful one (Petzl Myo RXP) and put on my Ultimate Direction Wasp pack, with lots of pockets (but I took out the bladder to hold liquids).  I was now fully loaded.

I had developed an intolerance to sports drink, and switched to water (this has happened to me in several 100 milers).  The potato soup at Hyak was so good, I had three cups of it.  On the seven mile stretch to the next aid station, the saltiness of the soup made me increasingly thirsty, and, after my bottle ran out, increasingly nauseated.

Up and down a big hill.  Mostly nontechnical fire road.  At times I turned off my light to enjoy the night sky with the Milky Way.  I downed a Clif 100mg caffeine gel I'd packed to stave off my first bout of sleepies.

I came more prepared for the Trail from Hell (Lake Kachess to Mineral Creek).  I remembered if unsure about where to go, to turn right, though this was more clearly marked this year apparently. I also carried my handheld light in addition to my headlamp this year.  This definitely made the trail less dangerous, and I didn't stub my toe once, whereas two years ago my feet got bruised from all the roots and rocks I hit.  Also I didn't slide out of control like I did my first time.  Nonetheless, I didn't get through this section THAT much faster, accounting for my bonus miles second-guessing myself and backtracking the first time.

Probably two runners passed me through this section, but fueling up at the Mineral Creek aid station, I could have sworn that 3 to 4 guys that came in after me left before I did.  Still, not as bad as two years ago.

My new goal was to try to break 24 hours.  I remembered the last time leaving No Name station with my headlamp and only a few minutes later wishing I'd left it in my drop bag.  This year I was still feeling it was necessary or longer, though I could have done away with the handheld.  Since I finished almost half an hour over 24 hours last time, I figured I could make 24 hours if I kept working and nothing bad happened.  I did calculations in my head based on my split pace, the time and the estimated mileage left.

Then I hit the first needle.  They call them needles because they seem like they go straight up and down.

As my pace slowed to a 30 minute mile, I remembered what these needles were all about-- working hard, not going very fast.  Maybe sub-24 will happen, I thought.  Or maybe not.

Finally I got to Thorp Mountain, mile 86, where Glenn Tachiyama await us all and take stunning pics. Luckily I was slow enough this year that I get there around sunrise, so got some cool GT shots.

by Glenn Tachiyama

sunrise by Glenn Tachiyama

by Glenn Tachiyama

by Glenn Tachiyama

I ran into and passed Keith Knipling again right before the descent.  Earlier when he passed me (can't remember when), he didn't believe me when I told him we could make 24 hours, but now he realized I was right-- and all gung-ho about cracking it.  (He ended up being to last to make that cut-off, at 23:48).  By the way, there is no 24-hour buckle, so it's only a virtual special honor.

Keith finishing

Keith stalking me at the airport

My finish compared to two years ago:

2009:  24:28:08, 24th overall, 9th age-group
2011:  23:25:08, 14th overall, 3rd age-group

I had a volunteer take a staged picture of giving of RD Charlie Crissman handing me my finisher's buckle. Unfortunately, the iPhone camera is a little tricky and in my exhausted and exuberant daze, I forgot to check to see if it took.   It didn't.   Oh well, guess I'll have to sign up for the race again and run those 100 miles again to get that photo with the RD!  (And then you'll have to wait another two years to read my report....)

race schwag.  coffee mug is larger and heavier than average.
I was, as usual unpaced and uncrewed.  Volunteers, you were my lifeblood.  Thank you so much!

GPS recordings:

To avoid the almost-missed flight disaster, I booked to return Monday rather than Sunday, so saw a friend from my emergency medicine residency and her family at their new house.

I miss many of my old friends.  I don't see enough of them.
Maybe I should run less.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Santa Cruz 50k (and 5000k) -- the first two years of a fun race

Inside Trail Santa Cruz 50k and 5000k
Saturday 4 August 2012 and Saturday 3 August 2013

last year

I first ran this August race on the Inside Trail calendar last year.  It was a great time.  The course had single track meandering along a creek, fast fire road, about 1 1/2 of sand near the top of the initial ascent (repeated once for the 50k), a short fast section of pavement, trails in or next to the UC Santa Cruz campus, and the most memorable part-- a crossing of the San Lorenzo River (done four times for the 50k).  These pics of our river crossing were well worth any pain and suffering any of us might have endured.  I can't figure out why #607 (Nils Eastburg from Michigan running the 30k race) put on his sunglasses to cross the river.

photos by Inside Trail, can't remember the person

I thought this would would a fast course, but it took me 5:12:50, which is barely faster than my 2nd fastest time doing the much harder Ohlone Wilderness 50k (2006).  Still 3rd overall and 1st age group.

I couldn't stay too long, since I had to drive back to the East Bay and pick up my family at the airport, but had more than an hour to hang out.   I hadn't seen them in two weeks.  The next year (this year, 2013) I would be away from them four weeks, but they would fly back the weekend before this race.

with Chris Eide

I think this is Rolly Delfin, who I think does more tris, and who finished 9th.

RD Tim Stahler and Tanya Davis

race schwag and La Sportiva Skylite 2.0's

this year

My work schedule wasn't too bad, but I had been sleeping badly.  I was literally yawning once or twice a minute most of the 75 minute drive to Felton near Santa Cruz.

photo by Allen Lucas
I switched socks at the last minute, so in the last seconds, had to retie my shoes and reattach my gaiters

This was only my 2nd 50k race of the year.  It felt really great to run hard.  I talked some with two 30k runners, Adam Blum initially before he fell back and Yasushi Saito, before he sped ahead for his finish.  Yasushi told me he had finished shortly after me at the Inside Trail Marin Ultra Challenge 50 mile race in June; we hadn't run any stretches together that race, so this was the first time we had talked.

photo by Dwight Brown

Allen Lucas (above) doing the half marathon as always was nice to take pictures of me.  The first time he saw me, he told me no one had come by ahead of me.  I told him I was sure I wasn't in first.

even if I was running so fast I was a blur
though I think maybe had a little to do with being overcast all morning and lots of tree cover

The second time after I hit the 30k mark at the start/finish area, I told him maybe he was right, though I suspected there was at least someone ahead of me, and so far ahead of me that I our paths hadn't crossed. Around mile 25, the guy who was winning came back after finishing the lollipop we did twice.

the two guys who beat me, left to right
2nd overall: Jay Thomson of Santa Cruz, 48 minutes ahead;1st overall: Jacob Singleton of Socal after recently moving from Virginia, over an hour ahead
and beat Chris Wehan's (last year's winner's) time by 50 seconds;
Jacob's woman
My legs got progressively stiff the last 10 of so miles.  My 9 minute mile pace for the first 30 km slowed quite a bit.  Nonetheless, neither of the guys close behind caught me.  And I managed (didn't realize this until later) that my 5:12:43 beat last year's time by a mere 7 seconds.  I guess you can call that consistency.

the two guys who finished right after me, left to right:
Kevin Thayer of Salinas, 8 minutes behind
Patrick Fulton of Santa Cruz, 7 minutes behind

I unfortunately didn't have as much time as last year to hang post-race.  I had thought I would leave IMMEDIATELY after my race, but my legs informed me that doing so would be a very bad, and potentially dangerous stunt.

Maybe 20 minutes later (still too short), I asked RD Tim Stahler if there was any special race schwag for coming in 3rd overall.  He directed me back to the table where Lauri Abrahamsen was working.

beloved self-described Grunt at Inside Trail, Lauri A.
My facial expression-- not what you may be thinking.
The first shot I took appetizingly featured half-chewed food in between my teeth, so I reshot with lips sealed.

schwag, including extras for 3rd overall
left out my shoes-- this year I ran in my La Sportiva Helios
 My caffeine wearing off, I yawned frequently driving to my older son's soccer tournament.

soccer tournament Redwood City an hour after I drove out of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
my son's team won!

After taking my kids to the park to let Mommy finish packing, I got home and very quickly finished packing myself for the red-eye flight out of SFO.

It was a tough couple of flights.  I felt similar to how I feel after a first of a series of overnight shifts.  Since the day-night-day started with running, it also felt like a 100-miler in which I did some napping

It was harder for my wife, and especially my kids.  But at least they can sleep anywhere.

During the 2 hour layover in Detroit, after 3:45 in the first plane.
It would have been better to have a flight lasting longer than my run.
Delta managed to send two of our suitcases to the wrong city, and then told us the 5 pm expected arrival time was too late to have a driver deliver it to our rental home. 

GPS recordings:
2013 (my Garmin Forerunner 205 malfunctioned and only recorded 6.75 miles, so see 2012 for the course)


train we heard off and on through the course
apparently it comes right through the main aid station
50k runners go through 4 times
photo by Dwight Brown
presumably a volunteer at the aid station
Thanks, Dwight, and all your felllow volunteers!

2 days later, after finally getting some sleep
Acadia National Park in Maine
technical climb up Mt. Gorham with family

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Angeles Crest Death March

Angeles Crest 100 Mile Endurance Run
Saturday-Sunday 21-22 July 2012

Having added bonus mileage the first time I ran AC100 and still (barely) finishing under 24 hours, I figured that I had another good shot at the under one-day buckle again, even if I ran an hour more slowly the second time.

drive down:
2010-- with Jon Gunderson, an AC veteran, his wife, Wilma and his friend who was going to help crew and pace him some.  race report
2012-- with Toshi Hosaka, an AC rookie, his wife Judy, and no additional friend

So the official drop bag deadline is noon.  I haven't yet encountered another 100 mile race that makes you drop your bags off so %*#$@! early.

What this means is that for those traveling, including those coming from the Bay Area, we have to leave early in the morning.  One I could try to preempt this by flying and renting a car, but besides cost, this is a point-to-point race, so that becomes logistically complicated since I would have to get someone to drive the car from start to finish. It is greener and more fun to carpool.

Toshi suggested 3:30 AM originally as a pick-up time at my (old) house, 15 minutes from where I live. I bargain-texted him to 4 AM.  They were running late, during which time I moved touch up paint cans that I had been using around the house to the garage.

I slept a little on the way down.

stayed at the same place
cheap and convenient-- blocks from the start

random pre-race meeting shots:
Matt Schmidt on left
mystery guy on right

with Catra Corbett and Andy Kumeda (no longer a pair)

We ate Mexican for dinner.

It is always dark at the start.  Having finished 10th two years ago despite major bonus mileage, I felt hanging near the front with the fast boys and girls at least for the pictures was appropriate...

Okay, after all those pre-race pictures, almost none of me on the course, since I didn't carry a camera.

My race in a few paragraphs:

I paced things, made sure I didn't go out too fast, remembered the spots where I second-guessed myself the year before and added bonus backtracking mileage.  I was maybe 30 minutes off last year's pace around the half way mark.  I ran out of water twice, first during the 12 mile stretch from mile 14 (Vincent Gap) to 26 (Islip Saddle), which took me almost three hours. I should have planted a hydration pack, but I guess I was lucky enough to have noticed the length of the stretch the previous day when drop bags were due-- at least I planted another bottle the last minute.  Duh-- do your prerace homework!)   The other was the Eagle's Roost to Cloudburst Summit split in the 30's that was two miles longer than I had expected-- I stupidly chose not to stop at a water fountain at the campground about a 1/3 into the split.

I was already starting to decelerate the latter part of the 3rd quarter, dropping from 31st place at mile 59 (Shortcut Saddle) to 47th place by mile 75 (Chantry Flat).

At Chantry I was approached by this guy I had never met before, looking to pace someone.  After last years navigational problems and knowing that I would have to work hard to maybe beat 24 hours, I gladly accepted, though I did warn him I had been slowing down.  His name is really long, but he told me to call him Von.

Soon after we started running, I started to get the sleepies.  I believe I downed whatever caffeinated gels or blocks I had on me.  But things started getting worse.  During the climb up to Mt. Wilson during the first few miles after the aid station), I started swerving and faltering.  By the time we finally reached the summit, I was so out of it, I had to lie down on a bench.

  • Mark Tanaka Hey, Von, I'm going to write up my 2012 AC100 report. Gonna keep it short and focus on the interesting part. I can't remember-- were you going to pace someone else and they dropped? or you just came to Chantry looking to pace someone? I can't remember. In fact, it's all a big blur. What was the story? I started to fade really fast, correct, like before we even started the big climb?
    14 hours ago · Like · 1
  • Von Borstel J. Armando Dude you were falling over! lol! falling a sleep left and right. Taking naps , 5 minute naps every mile. it was a long night. I went to chantry falls to help anyone who needed it. and i picked you up at 330am there at Chantry

I must have apologized a million times-- although Von was altruistically looking to help a runner get to the finish, I also knew he was also planning on getting a decent nighttime workout.  Flashback to my first Headlands Hundred, when Jonathan Gunderson impromptu started pacing me at mile 75, and then I soon crumped.   I kept telling Von he could go ahead or find someone else to pace if I was moving too slowly, but he stuck with me.  Let's be superstitious-- maybe it is a curse.  Either I need to actively seek pacing help ahead of time, or, if you want to ever offer to pace me, I suggest we start anywhere EXCEPT mile 75, or do so at your own risk....

The one thing nice about my falling apart like that-- we got to see that whole final section of the course in the daylight.  Two years earlier I ran it all in the dark.  There is some sweet, kick-ass scenery we enjoyed.  It did get hot too.  So Von, if he didn't get to practice running in the dark, did get some heat training.

By the way, Von is running his first AC100 this weekend.  Buena suerte, amigo!

I was able to pick up the pace a bit and pass several runners for a net gain of 9 places during the last 10 miles, but still almost 7 hours slower than my first time.

Here are my split times (clock time) and overall place.
link from my split page from the live webcast site


CheckpointTime InTime OutPlace
Inspiration Point06:5706:5730
Vincent Gap07:4407:4833
Islip Saddle10:4210:4739
Eagles Roost11:4911:5738
Cloudburst Summit14:0014:0634
Three Points15:0815:1433
Mount Hillyer Trail16:3716:4731
Shortcut Saddle19:5620:1531
Newcomb Pass22:4623:3644
Chantry Flat01:3302:0647
Idlehour Trail06:1406:2054
Sam Merrill Trail08:3609:0262
Millard Canyon10:4010:4558

With my loyal pacer, Von Borstel J. Armando, from the San Diego area.  Gracias otra vez!

The other advantage of running crappily the second time around-- I get a different buckle for my collection.

sub-24 buckle from 2010
the regular finisher's buckle from 2012
not yet earned: 2nd Sunrise buckle, though hard to time
Hey, I guess I DID get the bighorn sheep on a buckle that they don't give you at Bighorn 100.  Nonetheless, I will put my name in for Hardrock 100 again this winter.

drive back:
2010: brunch with Billy Yang, who dropped me off at Burbank Airport, flew into Sacramento, picked up by wife, week with friends at Tahoe (race by the way, was at the end of August that year.  dates keep getting moved)
2012: family in the Midwest for the month, so no rush to get back.  drove back with Toshi and Judy.

Toshi and Judy wanted to catch some dumplings so we ended up going to a Taiwanese/Shanghainese place in Arcadia, Din Tai Fung.  Toshi had killed his AC100 debut, despite not being able to keep ANYTHING down for the last 25 mile, still coming in 6th (literally holding hands with Jimmy Dean Freeman, wearing black cap in photo below.)

woman looking at you-- Keira Henninger, women's winner
her man, Jesse Haynes bottom right
This most awesome effort took its toll.  Toshi was still feeling sick and nauseated as we sat down.

As the 53rd finisher (30:44), I told him to toughen up and smile for the damn camera and eat something.   The food was awesome!  Really hit the spot.

GPS recordings (didn't try to do record the 3rd quarter, battery ran out during the last quarter)

results (125 starters, 75 finishers)

Thanks to all the volunteers-- you were all great!