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  As it turns out, I just had an outdated email address for her.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.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Inaugural ITR Marin Ultra Challenge 50 Mile

Marin Ultra Challenge 50 Mile, by Inside Trail Racing
Saturday 30 June 2012

Rodeo Beach, race start and finish (when taken) for the inaugural MUC.
This is La Sportiva country.
This was Inside Trail's first 50 mile race, and with a no-repetition long-loop going from Rodeo Beach past Stinson Beach, was extremely ambitious.  I had to be a part of it.  As a plus, it was a nice consolation race for a (then) six-timeWestern States reject.

The day before the race, I worked from home from 6 am to 10 pm, with a short late afternoon break to drive my family to the airport so they could spend the next few weeks with my wife's side of the family in the Chicago suburbs.  Race morning I was up by 4 am-- earlier than I'd planned.

waiting for the light at the bridge
no longer an issue for the persistently almost late since the race start was moved
During the first 8.5 miles (a loop that went back to the start) I talked with Elan Lieber, who would cruise ahead and come in 4th.

I am not sure if I have seen Elan since.  I suspect he moved to SoCal.

Around mile 12, while descending to Tennessee Valley, I started feeling sleepy.  My body was tell me "nice morning run, now go back to bed!"  I knew I would need to caffeinate aggressively to get through the day
The descent to Muir Beach used the new Dias Ridge Trail, which I'd never hiked or ran on before.

shhh, lifted from web
Most other races (including the original Talmapais Running Club's Headlands 50k in late August) have runners descend from Pantoll and the switchbacks of Heather Cutoff-- all runnable and quite fun.  In this race for the first time I had to run up this.  Since the grade isn't steep, there is neither excuse nor opportunity to walk, making the ascent potentially extra awful.  Jason Perez cruised past me during the climb.

Speaking of Jason, I hadn't run into him at any races in a while, though I would see facebook posts about mountain and motor dirt biking.   I suspected he went over to the other side!

So I just got tagged in a fb post by him a few days after I originally published this, asking if his stitches could wait 14 instead of 10 days.

Since he didn't pay me $500 up front for his personalized, state-of-the-art medical advice and care, I am going to hippo-violate him.  (Note: Most of the other comments and advice from his uninformed layperson "friends" have been omitted.)

3 hours ago 
So I was told I can remove my stitches in my arm after 10 days, so that'll be Tuesday the 25th. But I have a Mtb race on Saturday the 29th which is 14 days. I don't plan on crashing but then again its a race so shit is always possible. I don't want to have a simple front wheel tuck and open my wound just because its weak. So can I leave the stitches in till after the race or should I remove them at 10 days? — with Mark Tanaka.

Jason Perez I figured I could do like Brad Pitt in world war Z and duct tape a magazine to my forearm. Should protect my arm from anything from road rash to zombies.

Mark Tanaka Generally these become gangrenous and necrotic exactly at 12 days. So either switch your sport to curling ( more exciting ) or ( safer) prophylactic amputate.

Jason Perez So Mark pull them out at 10 days and protect the shit out of my arm? 
Curling is on Sunday so I can still do both.

Mark Tanaka Try not to shit on your arm. If there is shit in your arm, wash it out, don't "protect" it out. WTF is that?

name withheld, as she seemed nice  If you were a cat, advice would be keeping sutures in is fine as long as there is no new inflammation ( pus, redness or heat). Cover it w something tough enough not to rip just in case  Been there, done that......good luck!

Mark Tanaka Sorry, in bad taste. 14 is fine, pretend you are a cat. When I crawl out of bed and reach a keyboard I can give you more unofficial instructions and my PayPal account so this all becomes worth my valuable time!

  • Jason Perez Mark your killing me

  • Jason Perez Should I just go back to ultra running 

  • Jason, what do you think the answer is?
    Remember: this is what can happen to you when you turn your back on the cult of ultrarunning!

    If this happens to you, don't look to this blog post to figure out what to do.
    Call your doctor!
    (Who will tell you to go to the ER, duh)
    By the way, Jason, I'll give you $50 for you bike.
    On the shorter descent of the Dipsea Trail to Stinson my glasses kept fogging up and slipping off my nose, maybe because it was humid, or I'd just gotten them.

    At the bottom, newbie ultrarunner Greg Bruso from Santa Rosa caught up with me, and I think we caught up with Jason Perez. We occasionally chatted as we ascended from Stinson on Willow Camp Fire Road, another new trail for me.

    Thec climb is brutal, but gives very clear and great views of Stinson Beach and Bolinas.  Jason dumped us first, then I left Greg behind.

    After finishing the Willow Camp ascent I slipped and fell on Coastal Trail.  I then reminded myself that in a new race I don't have to have any hard-set goals--  just to have fun and not get injured or so beat up that I wouldn't be able to hike with a loaded pack on Monday and Friday near Mammoth Lakes with my brother and his friend.  I hadn't backpacked in over 15 years, so was a bit apprehensive.

    that week on the John Muir Trail, Mount Ritter or Banner, near Thousand Island Lakes, near Mammoth
    At aid station near Pantoll, a volunteer told me it would be 9 miles before the next aid station, but also that there would be a few spots where I could can get water.  I took this with a grain of salt, and drank an extra 24 ounces before having my bottle filled up again.  Actually I took a pinch of salt, not a grain.  Luckily no more than a pinch, because I never saw the water.  

    During this stretch and for the first time in a race I ran through Muir Woods.  There were people pushing babies in strollers, older people in wheelchairs or walking with canes. It felt like I was a running back, fairly surreal, but no one got hurt.

    It was quite warm and my bottle ran out with maybe 3 miles to go before the aid station at Muir Beach.  I made a mental note for the future to place a hydration pack at the start of the split, but with subsequent year's course changes, this would never become necessary.

    finishing 6th overall around 9 1/2 hours, photo by Allen Lucas
    An amazing, epic run, and a very  successful first attempt (talking about Inside Trail, not me)!

    My family out of town, there would have been no pressure to leave the finish but I had friends from out of town. During almost 2 hours hanging out at the finish, I tried to eat as much as possible to prevent making a pig out of myself with them.  Similar to how it can get dangerously costly to go out to sushi when you are starving.  Much more pleasant than hanging out at the end of North Face Endurance Challenge in December (too cold, too crowded, too impersonal.)

    my (married) friends Randy and Andra, from Brooklyn, in the city.  Andra was in town for a veterinary conference.
    Thanks for dinner!
    Thanks, Inside Trail and all the volunteers!!!
    I will try to post reports on 2013 and 2014 soon.

    my GPS recording
    my post-race photo album on facebook

    partial race schwag and
    my 2012 demo Ultra Raptors (now part of the official La Sportiva trail shoe lineup)

    winner and La Sportiva teammate Leor Pantilat beat me by more than 2 hours