Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Get Me to the Church On Time -- Not So Quick at My 5th Quicksilver 50 mile

Get Me to the Church On Time -- Not So Quick at the 30th Anniversary Quicksilver 50 Mile
Saturday 11 May 2013

I realized that it was unlikely that I was going to come close to my fastest previous times on this course:
  • 7:17 in 2007,
  • 7:22 in 2008 (race report), or even
  • 7:38 in 2006.  More realistic was something like 
  • 7:51 in 2006 or 
  • 7:58 in 2009 (race report).  
Hell, I really didn't care if I finished in more than 8 hours for the first time. My only goal was to make it to my older son's piano recital.  The teacher had actually moved the starting time back an hour by my request.  I knew I could be cutting it close....

This year it was fairly hot-- making everyone's times relatively slow.

But I finished WAY over 8, in 8:48:40 -- 1 1/2 hours slower than by personal best.

I had no idea this would be the last time running this race, since the next year the 50 mile distance would be replaced by the more hair-on-chest-producing 100k distance.

look at me, I'm a blur
always wash your hands after wiping!
dang I forgot to write down who took this pics!

During the last several miles, I thought I could console myself with a top ten finish, but in the final descent, stiff legs (rather than being short of breath, or too fatigued) prevented me from trying to match the surge by Greg Bruso of Santa Rosa, whom I met for the first time at the Inside Trail Marin Ultra Challenge 50 Miler the previous year (when I beat him).  He passed me with with less than a mile to go during the final descent, and there was not way I could mount a counter-attack against his 13-years less aged body.  Nothing to do with aerobic capacity, but just my joints can't take the pounding.  This is what happens when you get older.

with Greg
photo by Allen Lucas
So I really really needed to get moving, but I realized I had to eat and drink and cool down a little before getting in my car for at least an hour.  During which time I took my usual post-race pics.

Harris Goodman, another doctor and fellow Quicksilver teammate

Chau Pham, 50k finisher

with winner Chikara Omine, 6:16:54
despite the heat, he was only 73 seconds behind his own PR and the race's 2nd fastest time ever

ran into Darlene, childhood friend of my ex-girlfriend
when I was living in San Francisco, pre- and early med school
she is now a dentist
wanted to talk more, but had to keep moving

got my schwag from race director and Quicksilver teammate Pierre Couteau, here with one of his daughters

Gary Wang on the right, keeps finishing closer to me each year
this time he was less than a minute behind
schwag, including my Bear II drop bag, special Quicksilver 50 30th edition, by Victory Sportdesign
All ultrarunners should get themselves at least one of these.
no shirt
one of the best schwag packages ever
Since I was parked maybe half a mile away from the start finish area, Allen Lucas' offer to drive me to my car, was life saving.

me and Allen, almost a year later
with my family  I randomly ran into him wit his wife and friends
at El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space Preserve
I ran into two stretches of really slow traffic on the way to the recital at my son's piano teacher's church in San Lorenzo-- while I my bladder filled up and almost exploded.  (I'm an ER doc, lissen-to-me, not an urban myth, yes, this happens! ...)   I missed the inconspicuous turn into the parking lot hidden in the back, and had to stop at a discount grocery store down the street, peed onto a tree in the back, before finding my way back.

My son's teacher had held up his performance and had several students go ahead of him.  Finally I arrived, still covered in sweat, salt and the fragrance of a hot ultra race.

photo of a later performance
The best part was the teacher giving a post-performance speech, in which she gushed about my running 50 miles that morning, how amazing this was, and about my being such a dedicated father to try to make sure I could make the performance.

I was, uh, taken aback.

My wife meanwhile almost threw up!


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Zion 100 Mile, Revised

Zion 100 Mile
Friday-Saturday, April 19-20, 2013

The course was revamped by RD Matt Gunn, who had always demonstrated a commitment to making this race the best possible.  Lots of changes, all for the better, if not for the easier.  Having run both the previous inaugural year (2012) and this year (2013), I think the new course better showcased the beautiful scenery next to Zion National Park.  my 2012 race report

2013 elevation profile
2012 inaugural race map, laid to rest
I was undertrained for this race.  Here is my litany of whiny reasons why I was under-trained (that you may skip to the next bold font section):

I paced the Oakland Marathon 2 weekends before.  I would have done 3:20 or 3:30, as I had done previously, but my friend was aiming to run 3:40, so I decided to lead that pace group.  My friend ended up qualifying for Boston, but the run was hardly a workout for me (I was barely breathing faster than normal, it felt like).  Due to my work schedule, I could not get a good run the following week.  Then I left for a vacation in Mexico.  I finally got to get my runs in, but it was flat there and not the best running.

?picture of Mexico?

The day after we returned from our trip real late, I worked an 11 hour shift, somehow managing to evade exhaustion, but at 3 am awoke with leg cramping, and then the urge to defecate, following by severe cramping abdominal pain and thin liquidy diarrhea the rest of the night until my system was cleared out.  I called in sick for maybe the 4th time in my career, and slept all day.  Despite improving, I was too weak and tired to go running.  By another day off on Friday, six days before Zion, I was determined to get a long run in.  Besides wanting to exercise, I needed to assess my fitness level with the undertraining followed by illness.

I ran Chihping's Fu's inaugural Moon Eye Fat Ass, going for the longest distance of 40 miles.  It took me 2-3 hours longer than it should have, but I was able to finish.  The last 10-20 miles felt like the the last 10-20 miles of a 100-mile run.

?Moon Eye photo?

I didn't know if I was fully recovered over the weekend, since working overnights always makes me feel a little sick.  Finally Tuesday, after a normal night's sleep, I realized I was better.  Just in time.

I got in really late and missed the packet pick up and the free wood fired pizza.

My flight out of Oakland on Thursday was scheduled for 1:30, getting into Las Vegas around 3.  While working from home, I was horrified to read an email saying my flight was delayed, eventually the departure time settled at 4 pm. As it turned out, the Southwest jet was coming from somewhere in the Midwest where they were having horrific storms, causing the delay.  I ended up getting in close to 6 pm, and since I was missing the included free pre-race dinner (wood-fired pizza),

Grumpy Goat pizzas, from their blog
I had to stop for food and look for a hotel near race start.  I got in late.  I was already short of sleep, so knew I would likely get sleepy during the race.

aerial view in Michigan two days later
I guess I shouldn't complain too much about losing my free pizza and some pre-race shut-eye...
The other thing I missed was picking up a baton to carry during the race, to honor the Boston Marathon bombing victims.  They were delivered to them afterwards.

The course was modified from the previous (first) year.  The part we did at the end, which I ran in the dark, we did first, so I got to enjoy some gorgeous scenery for the first time.

I got to run and chat with Jennifer Benna again, whom I met at Tahoe Rim Trail 100 mile two years prior.  This time I suspect she stayed with me to make sure she didn't go out too fast early.  We ran together off and on for 15-20 miles.  She was no longer lactating.  I got to hear she was working with her husband JB on a documentary about ultrarunning women.  I think I suggested they also include an older woman to give the film some more longitudinal depth; maybe they already have their hands full.  I was amused when she complained after we passed through the first aids station that her hubbie was too busy shooting footage on her, rather than helping crew her at the aid stations.  JB, where were your priorities?

Jenn with her daughter in Barcelona (ran Transvulcania 83k) the following month
Before too long, Jen got tired of my pace and went ahead, she would eventually finish almost 5 hours ahead of me in a formidable 19:01, women's champion and 5th overall.  Jenn's race report

I had another crotch mishap
This happened at Eagle Crags aid station, mile 44, different from my worst running crotch mishap.
This was atop a hill with a nice view, the end of an out and back three miles each way, and was not on the course the previous year
It getting quite warm, I want to relube my crotch.  There were two jars, one of Vaseline, and the other this fancy looking stuff.  Unable to figure it out myself, I asked a volunteer is the other stuff was safe as crotch lube.  He looked at it, maybe asked around, and told me it should be.  So I take a large glob of it, apply it to both sides of my jewels, and proceed to the portapotty, where a useful good thing occurred, and a not so useful really bad thing was felt.

It wasn't this, but same idea.  Do NOT apply to genital area.

How the race ended
Last year, climbing Flying Monkey Trail at the very beginning of the race, was challenging but fun-- you sometime had to use your hands, there was one part with a hanging rope to help you get up an almost vertical rock side.  This year, coming at between miles 85 and 87, and for me in the dark, it was REALLY challenging, run and at times downright scary (when I realized much of it is atop a steep cliff).  I did enjoy the eerily cool ring-shaped cloud formation illuminated by the half-moon up ahead.

photo of the climb at the beginning of the previous year's inaugural race
photo from fastcory.com
no monkey this year either
After flattening and even descending at times, the route turned right, up a fire road.  Less intellectually stimulating, and despite two caffeinated gels with 50 mg each in the preceding 15 miles, I started to get really sleepy.  I swerved at times, and then finally, found myself off the side of the road, about to fall (so actually fell asleep for a couple of seconds).  Oops-- falling asleep was neither advantageous for my time nor conducive to staying alive.  I would later post this facebook, which my dad (who really doesn't say much about my running) would read and then scold me for (on facebook) for behaving recklessly and endangering my life.  I fumbled through my pack and found a caffeine chew, as my headlamp gave more warning blinks that the batteries were running low.

My GPS read 3:55-- I recalled changing the time zone on one of the three Garmins I brought, but couldn't recall which.  If this were Pacific Time, then there was no way I would make 24 hours, and I had assumed hours ago that is wasn't likely to happen.

At the aid station just past 4 am, I learned it was Rocky Mountain Time--ugh, I could make it and therefore need to inflict more pain on myself, even though there is no special sub-24 hour buckle.

but they are all hand-made and unique and quite pleasing to the eye

I had to change the battery pack for my awesome Petzl Nao headlamp, though.  The strings got tangled though, and being a new model, I knew better than to ask a volunteer to help.  I thought to myself that if I missed 24 hours by 2-3 minutes, I might be irritating at myself for screwing up the headlamp maintenance.

I was quoted a 3 mile out and back.  After downing two 50 mg caffeinated gels and water, I left my bottle and my pack at the aid station to save weight and took off at a relatively fast pace (by my estimate, about as fast as the leaders would have run it, it they kept a constant pace).

Even with the pack back on, I continued to pass runners.  My glove came off when I opened a gate leading to the roads close to the finish.  Normally I'd look to pick it up but I was in a rush as the next guy (later ID'd as Jack Carey) was catching up (I later drove back to get it).  I accelerated even more, but hitting the road, couldn't see any sign, and I or the runner chasing me couldn't remember if the start/finish area was on the same or the opposite side of the street.  The other guy then saw sign across the street and took off.  I was sort of irritated at giving up a place so late until I realized that I was likely going to be the last person to finish under 24 hours, which always way cool, and cooler than finishing as the 2nd to last sub-24 dude.  Hence, I let the other guy finish less glamorously.  Sucka!

apparently the next to finish was the famous Pam Reed; I have yet to meet and chat with her

GPS recordings of my run:
miles 0-52
miles 52-77
miles 77-100

the ever-changing blog race old website

This year (2014), Matt Gunn has picked up Tim Long (who finished 17th) as a co-RD, and added several new races under their new company Ultra Adventures.  The date for Zion has been moved up a couple of weeks to the first weekend in April...oh, I guess in a few days.  Do I have to get packed really fast?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Oakland Marathon pacing stint #3

Oakland Marathon, 3:40 Pace Group
Sunday 24 March 2013

When I asked the new coordinator about pace-group leading this year's Oakland Marathon, she really wanted someone to lead the 3:10 pace group.  I wasn't quite sure I could handle that a week after Marin Ultra Challenge 50 Mile.  On top of that, I am on call for work race day, and told her there was a small chance I would have to bail.  So I am not pacing this year's race.  But here is my report from leading a pace group last year that I hadn't bothered to publish.

My friend from medical school, Berenice, an Emergency Medicine attending at Alameda County Medical Center, asked me if I was pacing the Oakland Marathon again this year.

I had emailed Melissa Ownsby, the pacing coordinator since the marathon's inaugural year in 2010, but never heard back from her.  I wondered if it was because I barely made it to the start last year.  As it turns out, I just had an outdated email address for her.  So I came on board relatively late.

Berenice told me she might try to run 3:40-- she wasn't real sure since this was only the 2nd marathon in her life.  She needed foot surgery the previous year, so had missed running for months. So not only would I help pace the 3:40 group for her, but we could carpool both the pre-race packet pickup and the race itself.

There was a themed school fundraiser the evening before, so I thought I might be stuffed with too much Mexican food and a little hungover, and so 3:40 wouldn't seem too slow.

Use your Freedom of Choice!
Rest in peace, Devo Guitarist and Keyboardist, Bob Casale.
This year's theme was Hawaian-- much easier.
My Devo energy domed hat took a ridiculously long amount of time to construct.
I knew there would only be one sign per group, and last year's sign survived our move, despite my wife throwing it in the trash at least once.  I replaced the screwed in "3:30:" laminated card with a larger, two-ply box for Trader Joes tempura.  I could feel the extra drag through the whole race, and really felt the extra weight  the last several miles especially.

In addition, I had a sign for my back, with my Wasp pack to stash my phone and take pics.

I think I wore my discontinued La Sportiva Skylite 2.0s-- work great on the roads.

Ultrarunner and writer/blogger Sarah Lavender Smith was in my pace group.

Sarah on my left.  I forget who was on my right
I thought this pacing stint would be a good chance to chat for 3 hours 40 minutes, but Sarah kept shooting ahead by a minute or so, maybe because she wanted some insurance.

Sarah, who has been injured much of the previous year,
 earlier this morning
about 7 1/2 hours before this year's (2014) Oakland Marathon,
finishing 2nd place overall female
in a nocturnal trail marathon by Pacific Coast Trail Runs
I considered accelerating my pace to keep up with her, but felt obligated to stay as close to the splits on my pacing wristband, so that people having a harder time to keep pace could always see my sign and would not become too frustrated or run too fast.  But it wasn't like I was lonely, and I could concentrate more on taking pics.

Berenice is near the center of the pic, just right of the road lines.
There was enough to see on the course even after I lost her.
My chip time was 3:39:44, my clock time (what I was going by, since I didn't record how long after the start I cross the start line mat) was 3:39:56, and 130th place overall.  Sarah, meanwhile, could grab an age-group award finishing a minute ahead.

Check this out!  (not the Raiderettes, but my clock time-- precision!)
By the way, the NFL's nonprofit status is total BS.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell made $44.2M in 2012.
Meanwhile the cheerleaders are getting pissed off!
Is the middle cheerleader plaintiff #2? (click link)

2nd Raiderette joins suit over wages, expenses

I ran into several ultrarunning friends also pacing post-race
Raveev Patel, Keith Blom, Melissa and I
I didn't feel exploited (free entry, free training run), but I'm imagining it was a lot of work for Melissa

Berenice caught up with me past the finish line. Her family showed up, and we headed toward the beer tent, where I got separated from her.  After a massage in the tent, I still couldn't find her, and the crowds really made me appreciate the more laid back and friendly atmosphere of ultra finish areas (where at least in the Bay Area I know a lot of people).  But luckily for my 3:30 sign, they spotted me.

Berenice qualified for Boston and is registered this year's (2014) race!

GPS recorded run
official Oakland Running Festival websited

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Marin Ultra Challenge 50 Mile-- 2nd edition

Marin Ultra Challenge 50 Mile by Inside Trail Racing
Saturday 22 June 2013

Race morning I woke up before 3 am, couldn't get back to sleep.  I had been sleeping poorly the previous three nights.  If this were a 100 miler, I would be screwed, but being "only" 50, I figured I could once again caffeinate my way through it.

The portalets were way far from the start area, this year moved from Rodeo Beach to Fort Baker closer to the Golden Gate Bridge.  I actually drove my car closer to the toilets avoid a pre-race partial mile bonus.  As often happens, I missed the pre-race talk.

I had printed up the race map beforehand and the turn by turn directions, but since the printer I used lack color, the map and therefore the directions made no sense.  The course had to be changed from last year's.  Although RD Tim Stahler had procured the race permits long before, the State Park officials revoked them, due to some fundraising event that came up (and didn't actually overlap the race geographically).  So the race was limited to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area trails-- no Muir Woods, Mount Tam or Stinson Beach, and there was more winding of the course back onto itself.  We would run the Coastal Trail through Pirate's Cove twice.  I had initially been a little disappointed in the course change, but I couldn't say the repetition was boring-- the scenery was still awesome, and there were several sections of trail I had never run before.

In fact, the beginning of the race going to Rodeo Beach used a single track trail, Rodeo Valley Trail, that I had never been on before. This was fun, but there was a lot of poison oak and the trail wasn't trimmed.  Even if I had thought of applying Tecnu post-race, it probably was too late.  Many of us would be quite itchy for the next couple of weeks.  I made a mental note to offer to trim this for a future trail work requirement, but Mount Tam would come back in next year's race.

can't remember where this was but I like it, even my gaiters
photo by yiles Smythe, Michigan Bluff Photography

about to descend Coastal Trail to Pirates Cove, I think the first of two times
Repeating a loop with this trail is far from monotonous torture.
My gaiters match the blue of the water...
Thanks again, Myles Smythe, Michigan Bluff Photography!
This caused some confusion and angst at times, as in a few places, I was seeing too many pink and orange ribbons. Again, I was in the bathroom during the pre-race meeting.   I was never confused about eating.

photo by Sam Hsu

courtesy of and featuring Sean Curry
I got to run with Trace Bee, from SoCal again.  I had run with her 1 1/2 to 2 of the 6+ 15-mile loops at Javelina Jundred the previous (2012) November before she left me behind.  I then had felt pleased to be so useful -- after Jenn Shelton dropped that race early, Trace was going to win that race decisively.  However, her shoes were too tight, so she developed bad blisters and would end up dropping around mile 90.  link to my Javelina report   Today, she was looking great, and her shoes fit properly.

by Miles Smythe, Michigan Bluff Photography
So this year, it was satisfying to help her run a smart race (hanging back with middle-aged me) off and on for 35 miles.  Usually I went ahead on the uphills and then she would catch me on the downhills (sort of).  After leaving Muir Beach aid station the last time (about mile 39) ahead of me, she kicked into a higher gear and I didn't see her the rest of the race.  She was nice to call me her "rock" posting this post-race photo on Facebook.  Trace, you rocked it!

 with Tracy Bowling, women's overall winner, finished 6 minutes ahead

Volunteers, once again, big thanks!

GPS recording

photo courtesy Sean Curry
Although it was pretty warm throughout the race, at the finish it was windy and then got pretty cool.

actually managed to eke 3rd in my age group
RD Tim Stahler handing me my medal


Scott LaBerge, Clare Abram, me, Chris Eide


canvas bag, shirt, La Sportiva Helios
Same as last year, my family was already in the Midwest, but I had taken some work hours from home, so couldn't stay long and didn't try to take a bunch of photos.  Instead of another backpacking trip with my brother, this year I had a fast-packing adventure coming up-- the entire 220+ mile John Muir Trail in a little more than a week.

with my 2013 JMT buddies: Sachin Sawant, Toshi Hosaka, Baldwyn Chieh, Pierre Couteau
I was the only one to start and finish the whole thing.