This is one very long report.
It was my goal this year to do more than one 100-mile race. I thought, if my friends can do it so can I. Glad to say that I've accomplished that goal this past weekend! I also wanted to go under 24 hours but that remains a work in progress. Maybe one day as I continue to gain experience, get stronger. I think I've finally hit the point where I have to ramp down the triathlon activities if I want to go faster. I love the training and I'll continue to keep up with some of that but I need to back done from the long distance races. The long run on Sunday isn't as strong or quick when it follows a long bike on Saturday. I noticed that Graham Cooper this year opted for the short course at the Wildflower Triathlons, then proceeded to break his own record the following weekend at Quicksilver 50-miler. Maybe I'll follow his lead, shorter triathlon races, more focus on ultra. Something to thing about. In the meantime the race report.
Race morning was cold and chilly. It was foggy and the wind was strong in some parts. There were about 100 entrants for the 50-mile and about 40 for the 100. It was the usual scene at the start. People hanging out, catching up with friends. Folks dashing to and fro, taking care of drop bags, taking care of last minute details. Some racers hanging out in the edges, arms folded, serious. The usual long line for the toilets. This part I don't understand, why don't people go before they leave the house/hotel? Nerves?
I decided to go without crew or pacer. Living so close I had the opportunity to recruit friends but I wanted to do it old school. My first two 100s were run without both. I started with a waistpack and took advantage of the drop bag stations, it added more time but there's no way around that. Originally I thought I'd ditch the Carbo Pro energy drink and just use the Conquest that was usually served at PCTR events. It would have been more convenient. It would save me the weight and hassle of carrying and mixing the powders. It would also save time. Fortunately I tested this out at the Angel Island 50k three weeks before hand and found that Conquest doesn't do it for me. It doesn't upset my stomach but I found it too watery and not enough calories per 20 ounce serving. I ended up eating two gels per hour plus the Conquest to get enough calories at that race. So back to Carbo Pro in my little dope bags.
THE FIRST 50M
The first part of our run is the 50-mile loop with the 50-mile runners. One big mass start by the beach. I wore gaiters for the first time and I'm now a believer. I didn't get any sand in my shoes, let alone pebbles and other misc. debri. They are called Dirty Girl Gaiters and were baby blue in color but they worked. ZombieRunner threw them in with an order last year. I was very relaxed and kept it cool, hanging out in the back as usual. On those first miles I met several 100-mile virgins, wished them luck and told them to take it easy on the first part. They didn't look nervous at all, quite the opposite, they were chatty and in good spirits. Eventually I surged on ahead and out of their lively conversation. I kept my mind off the distance but kept a tight watch on my heart rate monitor. With the help of my the monitor I was able to keep things at the proper speed and intensity. The tool is not absolute, it has it's drawbacks but until they figure out a way to measure wattage output in running as they do on the bike it will have to do. I also kept note of the time for nutritional purposes, an energy gel every hour and a bottles worth of energy drink. It wasn't long before I settled in. The plan from the start was to go easy on the first 50-mile loop then decide at the end of that whether to speed up or maintain. I was worried about my overall conditioning because the last weeks of my training was affected by the strained hamstring. My goal for the first loop was anywhere between 10:30-12 hours.
The weather was foggy and cool but it quickly burned off as we headed north towards Mt. Tam. As I was making my way to Muir Beach I meet up with Leslie Antonis who remembered me from Quicksilver 50-miler back in May. We chatted for awhile but she was going at a faster pace so eventually I fell back. The scenery was beautiful, especially at the coast. I run here all the time and I never get bored of it. It's nice in any weather, even rain.
Soon we were at Muir Beach where I met up with my friend Jen from the tri-club who was volunteering along with Will. From Muir Beach it was on to Pantoll Ranger station, this is where the heat got to me. It wasn't even that hot but I was bothered by it. My heart rate reflected it, I was 10 beats higher for the same effort. Good thing I'm not planning on doing any hot races for the rest of the year. It ain't like I'm heading to Angeles Crest 100 or anything crazy like that. Lucky for me there was a breeze. From Pantoll Ranger Station we traveled further north on to Bolinas Ridge. This trail offers spectacular views of the Ocean and Stinson Beach, no trees to obstruct the view. This was where I caught up to Addy and Sarah, out on a run taking pictures. The trial itself however is a bit of a pain. It's narrow, relatively level and canted. My outside foot kept slipping off the trail. It was on this trail the we finally saw some of the lead runners of the 50 and the 100 headed back to Pantoll and the start/finish. Brian Wyatt came flying by at third place for the 100 and looking very good.
My friend Stephen came through as well but looking very serious and focused. Not me, I was taking pictures, yelling at the other runners. On the way back I made the acquaintance of Joe and Ryan. Joe and I would end up running pretty much the rest of the race from that point forward. Ryan who was running his first 50-miler was picking our brains about this and that and we were happy to oblige. We leave Pantoll at different times however and soon I was running by myself again. I catch up to Jonathan Gunderson who was having some gastro issues. Fresh from a recent finish at Badwater, he was popping roll aids as he went along trying to settle his stomach. It wasn't long before Joe caught up to me again and we chased after Ryan. That kid however would burn everything he had for a good finish and we never caught sight of him. Good for him. It was at this point that I noticed I hadn't pee'd in 3 hours. I was getting a slight headache and my stomach felt bloated. My first guess right away was lack of salt, but I wasn't convinced at first. I had been taking one salt capsule per hour which should have been enough. Confused I went for the salt anyway, taking one right away and following it up a half hour later with another capsule then another a half hour after that. I felt better quickly, then I started peeing again after an hour. When I did urinate it was a dark yellow color - dehydration. My guess is that while I was taking a salt tablet every hour, I waited too long to start doing so - 3 hours into the race. I was also sweating more than I realized. I didn't drink enough or take enough salt. Fortunately I caught it early.
THE SECOND LOOP - 25 MILES
Soon we were back at the start. On the way in I ran past Brian Wyatt. I was surprised to see him, especially since he was walking. Both knees were bothering him, IT problems on one knee. Having had chronic problems with IT I counseled that he should cal it a day. I felt another 50 miles wasn't going to do it any good. He confided that he came to the same conclusion. I felt bad for him but I had to go on. First order of business was a sock change. I came in at 10:35 and was very pleased but my feet had swelled and I needed to get rid of my thick Smartwool socks in exchange for my thin Wright socks. When I took off the sock I treated some hot spots and repaired some of the torn duck tape. I had blisters on both my outside toes but those are normal. The gaiters worked like magic. My feet and shoes were sand and debri free. Leslie who came in before me was also there doing some foot care herself. She suffered from some bad blisters, some were bloody. Yargh! I found out later she was a trauma nurse and was in complete control of the whole situation. She even lent me some of her supplies.The whole process took longer than needed but necessary but after 15 minutes I was ready to go. I dumped my waist pack for my pack and it had everything I needed to make it through the night; 2 lights, 1 shell, fresh energy gel powders and fresh caffeinated gels. As I was leaving the station I saw Brian call out to Wendell that he was leaving, as in done for the day. I left with Leslie and we stuck together for awhile. Joe was ahead of us having left earlier but eventually we caught up with him and his pacer / girlfriend Nicole. The four of us journeyed together as the sun went down. On our way to Muir Beach we lost Leslie when she had to drop back to nurse her chicken soup. We pressed on. The fog had come back but in patches. Where it was clear we were treated to amazing views of San Francisco, Sausalito, Tiburon and Muir Beach, lights ablaze with folks no doubt enjoying their Saturday evening. If I felt my camera would have captured the scenes I would have taken it but I needed a camera that would have allowed me to control the shutter speed, not to mention a tripod. It was great in the dark and quiet, enjoying the views all around us. I wonder if some of the folks living on the hills above Muir Beach looked out their window and wondered what all the moving lights were on the hills. Where there was fog it reduced the effectiveness of our headlamps. Fortunately for us, the terrain is not too technical and my handheld flashlight was powerful enough to cut through the fog. I held it low, using it to shed some definition on the trail in front of us. I'm with the DC Lundell school of trail lighting - the more light you have, the faster you can go.
Stan Jensen is the aid station captain for Muir Beach and he was a sight for sore eyes. They kept that station powered down and only lit it up when runners are approaching. Aside from Nicole, Joe also had Steve, Steve and Nicole took turns crewing and pacing with Nicole taking the lion's share of pacing duties. Steve always had food and gear on the ready. At Muir Beach Joe and Nicole sat down for a quick Inn-n-Out burger and fries. They offered but I refused, I kept a tight watch on my calories per hour intake. To be honest I had already started to gag on the gels but I sucked those puppies down anyway and drowned them with my energy drink. I was determined not to deviate from that formula. My stomach itself wasn't doing great, I felt queasy and almost nauseous. Still don't know what caused it. Maybe too much caffeine? I doubt however that a burger and fries was going to make it feel better. Joe was a good guy, he offered to me what he had available. Soon we were off again. There is a climb in the race that you have to do for the 50-mile loop then again for the next two 25-mile loops. It's a stinking pain in the a** climb but it's on the way back to the start. It starts at a place called Pirates Cove. You start with some steep stairs continuing up more steep trail. Truth be told it's not that high or that long of a climb but it's steep and it connects to a fire road that continues to climb. I hated that section and I dreaded it throughout the race. Now I love it of course. There's talk of removing that section in the forums and I vote keep it on. We'll see, I got some people to agree with me. I end up doing loop 2 in 6:10 and I'm stoked. While we were out there I find out that Brian Wyatt went back out on the course and I was worried for his knees.
10:35 First 50-mile loop
15:00 Feet Care at end of 50-mile loop
06:10 Second loop, 25 miles.
THE LAST AND 3RD LOOP - ANOTHER 25 MILES
I was left with 7 hours or so to complete the last loop if I wanted to come in at 24 hours. A little faster for sub-24. It was doable and I left the station pumped. Unfortunately it was in the last loop that things started to unravel a bit. First I lose my handheld light. I stuck it in my pocket while I fiddled with supplies in my pack. Somehow it came out of my pocket and by the time I realized it I had traveled a good amount of distance. I leave it with a note to look for it in the morning. Then I get turnaround in the dark, lost. Maybe it was the fatigue setting in or my lack of concentration while I was busy cursing myself for losing my light. I lose about 12 minutes and off my game. Then my left IT band started hurting, right above the knee. When I was training for my first marathon (Portland, Oregon) I pulled my hamstring. With the help of massage and 4 hour training runs on the treadmill I was able to still run the marathon but at mile 19 I developed my first IT pain and it's been with me since. Whenever the hamstring gets weak the IT band follows. The IT itself however can flare up all on it's on without any weakness on the hamstring. The whole race I had no problems with the hamstring, no direct soreness but since the muscle was weaker I'm assuming the IT has been working harder to compensate and here at mile 78 or so it had had enough. I felt it stiffen during the day but now it was starting to get really sore. Using my bandada I wrapped a compression bandage around it, making sure the knot pressed directly on the tendon. It required constant readjustment but it bought me more miles. By this time Joe was long gone. I trudged on. Stomach was getting worse but there was nothing to hack out. I had a couple of dry heaves. I tried the Ginger candy that Zombie Runner had put in our drop bags but to no avail. Nevertheless I kept sucking on those gels and kept the liquids on. A good way to end a race is to stop eating and drinking. On my way to Tennessee Valley and eventually Muir Beach I run into Joe and Nicole again. Apparently he was having some stomach distress himself and it really slowed him down. I gave him some of my chewable Pepto Bismol tablets and chewed a couple myself. I felt better, he felt better. The return to Muir Beach saw us in heavier fog, it really hurt not having my handheld. At Muir Beach we bade Mr. Stan Jensen goodbye for the last time. Stan we love you but we don't want to see you one more time. It was just another 10.5 miles to go before the finish and we were getting excited. We hustled our way to the foot of the Pirate Cove's stairs for the last time and I relished every step up. "Every step you take from here is a step home" I told myself. The sun started to rise before we made it to Tennessee Valley. I could no longer keep up on the downhills with my knee getting worse by the minute so I had to drop back. In the light I could see all the other folks heading out. One of the last people I would see heading out was judge Linda McFadden. She asked me if I was on my last loop, clapped and touched my arm when I said yes. Ultra people I tell you. I was feeling quite good at this point. Wasn't running much but fast hiking everything. I did manage to get some running in when the trail flattened out in some parts. Soon I was on the parking lot and boy it felt great to finish. About 30 minutes after I came in I would witness Brian Wyatt run down the hill for his 7th place finish. Friggin' unbelievable. Last time I saw this guy he was barely walking and here he was barreling down to the finish line.
I bid farewell to Joe, Nicole and Steve but not before a picture, handshakes and hugs. These guys were tough, they braved the cold outdoor showers. They were driving back to San Diego after breakfast. I chat with Wendell and some of the other runners before packing it home. I wanted to stay but I had to hustle back. Olga was waiting for me to get back to SF so she could clean up at my place. Sure enough there was a message waiting for me on my cell. Reunited one again back in SF and like the last time in Wyoming, she's fine and I'm limping. She was a chatterbox too having just won her race. Ultra people, I tell you.
The IT Band is doing well. I've managed a couple of miles on the treadmill on two separate occasions and it doesn't bother me at all on the bike. I might be back to hard training sooner than I expected.