Thursday, October 24, 2013

Looking Back

A brief and long overdue report on Bighorn 100. I thought I'd delay the report a month for every hour past my goal time for the race:) Okay not really. I was just lazy about writing one until now.

Oh and comments are open to everyone again. Not even sure how that got switched to members only. Like I would set up a members only list.

With Javelina only a couple of days away, now is a good time to write this report and close the chapter on Bighorn 100 2013 edition. I've been thinking about the things that went wrong at that race and how I hope Javelina will be a much better experience. It seemed like only a couple of weeks ago when I was death marching the last hills of Bighorn thinking to myself, "I need another 100 this year to make up for this disaster". Also a big part of my excitement is that for the last 5 years I've been crewing and pacing Javelina. Now is my chance to earn my own "pig buckle" as Adam Blum calls it.

Whatever happens I just hope it's a race experience 180 degrees from the one I experienced at Bighorn. Oh it wasn't all bad. Bighorn was amazing in that I was running the race with good friends; Kara Teklinski, Dana Katz, Jon Lacanlale (same Jon who I paced at WS last year - we are forever bonded through that ridiculous yet awesome turn of events), Gary Gellin and Noe Castanon. And with them was more friends who were crewing and pacing. The course is spectacular, rugged and beautiful. It was also the first 100 that Masha got to participate and witness in person. She's never seen me at a 100 before. From a celebration standpoint, it was the best, I have great friends. From a performance standpoint, it pretty much sucked. On my right butt cheek it says "Owned by Bighorn 100".

  • I went into the race undertrained because of interruptions to my training; bad case of the flu which landed me in the emergency room and a $6k bill despite insurance and a problem with my sciatica which knocked me out for another 2.5 weeks - what I got trying to learn how to cross country ski.
  • Ran well the first 48 miles with the company and help of Dana and Kara.
  • Had nausea problems from miles 40 onwards which I believe was from the hammer gel. Hammer gel doesn't agree with me and I only used it because I ran out of my own gels at mile 25 and didn't have more until the turnaround at mile 48. This was crippling because I wasn't able to get in enough calories.
  • Experienced hypothermia for the first time, this was at the turnaround at mile 48. Kara and I ran in together to the turnaround wearing only our shirt and shorts that we started with despite having jackets in our packs. It was dark when we came in (race starts at 11 AM), the wind was up and the temperatures down. We were fine while we were moving but as soon as we stopped at the aid station to eat and change our temperature plummeted. Kara went down first and was attended to right away. I was able to leave after piling some layers on and choking down some hot noodle soup but was in bad shape and came right back to the aid station after only a few minutes. I couldn't stop shaking and had to borrow my wife's tights! Aid station folks were excellent and were ready for emergencies.
  • Walked a lot of the second half and came in at 31.5 hours, worse than my 30.5 in 2007.
But like I said it wasn't all bad.

  • Awesome friends who were running, crewing and pacing.
  • Running part of the race with Dana and Kara.
  • Running the last 5 miles of the race, non-stop with Dana and Brian. The last 5 miles is road and it's slightly uphill. I had just entered the section, walking, when Dana and Brian caught up to me and got me to run with them. Brian was pacing Dana but he pushed both of us to give all we had left. With 5 miles to go I just sucked it up not wanting to be left behind. Dana complained audibly by mile 3. I cried on the inside but we did finish together.
  • Misery loves company. I wasn't the only one who had a bad day and it was good to swap stories at the awards ceremony the next day.
  • Great course, great people. Like the first time, I felt welcome and celebrated.
  • The beer is good.

So the goal is to have the same amount of fun but have a better race. Lots of friends are going again, Javelina is popular with the Bay Area crowd and Dana and Kara will be there as well. Kara is running and Dana is pacing and crewing Kara.

I feel great about this race and I'm as ready as I'm going to be; spirit, mind and body all in harmony. Hamstring feels a lot better! Will it translate to a good race or another finish, we shall see. Anything can happen right? Will it be number 15 for me, I'm excited to find out!

Reunited and it feels so good... Haha, back together with Jon at a brewery in Billings, Montana the Thursday before the race.

Photo courtesy of Maria Sharoglazova. Seeing America! Masha totally stoked to get out of California and see other states. This totally reminds me of that scene in "Red October " where the Russian officer says "I want to see Montana". Yes, yes I know the sign says Wyoming but on the other side of the freeway it says welcome to Montana.

Courtesy of Jessica Fewless_3
Photo courtesy of Jessica Fewless. Our gang, dinner the night before the race.

Courtesy of Jessica Fewless_2
Photo courtesy of Jessica Fewless. At the start, all kinds of happy and smiles.

Courtesy of Jessica Fewless_1
Photo courtesy of Jessica Fewless. Still smiling at mile 80. I was feeling all kinds of crappy but I was confident I was going to finish the sucker. Besides I didn't know at this point that it was going to be another 30+ hours finish.

Courtesy of Maria Sharoglazova_1
Photo courtesy of Maria Sharoglazova. Finisher's photo after the award ceremony. We all wished we had better races except for the guy third from the left, Jason Lehman, he kicked butt and placed 8th. Those cheetah shorts also come in yellow and black.

Courtesy of Maria Sharoglazova_2
More hanging with Dana and gang before heading home to San Francisco.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Race Week

This morning at 6:30 AM I was woken up by what I can only describe as soft, muffled sounds that would go in and out. It sounded a bit eerie actually but as my head cleared I realized it was the start of the Nike Women's Marathon. I'm only 4 blocks from the start at Union Square but this is the first time I've heard it. Well it was a warm night and I had left a window open. It brought back memories of the time when I used to volunteer at the race. Then thinking about NWM made me think about Javelina next weekend and I wasn't able to get back to sleep after that.

Two weeks of taper done, one more to go. I like a three week taper for the hundred milers and I enjoy it, no going stir crazy for running less. The summer has definitely been much better training wise than the winter and spring was and I wanted the rest. I hardly had any problems this time around and had a number of great runs. I even got a 50k race on the schedule; a muddy, foggy, windy and wet affair with Masha chasing me all over the place finishing only 20 minutes behind and coming in 4th woman (she closed to 12). It was her first ultra too. I was pretty proud, she had a great race.

I didn't come out of training and racing totally unscathed however. I strained my left hamstring on that 50k and it's been bothering me since. On my last long run it was quite unhappy with me so I cut my mileage way back once tape started. Not the kind of taper I had in mind but it's been working. I've been careful not to aggravate the cranky hamstring any further – been going easy on the runs and even walking my uphills. I'm happy to say it's been responding well to TLC which has also included a lot of icing, stretching and even some body work. It's been feeling great and I have one more week to go.

Most important of all I feel spiritually centered. I'm operating from a great and blessed place. I'm all lined up, from top to bottom, and I plan to keep it that way:) I'm feeling good heading into this weekend.
Post race photo at the San Francisco Running Company with; Keli, Masha, Jorge and Denise. Jorge won the race and set a new record.

Being on taper has freed up time for other activities. That's Masha in the red cap, trying her hand on outrigger canoeing courtesy of the Tamalpais Canoe Club. They were great hosts and even threw us a bbq afterwards. I stayed on photo and video duty for the whole day, content to watch and not try something new this close to a big race. Knowing myself, I'd end up pulling something!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Running for a Cause

I've been involved with ultra running for over a decade but it's only now that I've gotten the chance to run for a cause. Oh I've donated/supported many different causes over the years and I've even run non-ultra events for this cause and that but never an ultra. It's crossed my mind over the years but I've never done anything beyond thinking about it. A shame really but now I have a chance, better late than never right?

Bighorn 100 this past June was a bit of disaster. Knowing that I was in for a tough time because I was going into it undertrained due to injuries I suffered during training didn't make it any better. I was out there for a long time, way past the time I wanted to finish in. As disappointed as I was with my performance I was immensely blessed to have finished at all and I was inspired to keep training through the summer in the hopes of having a better 100-mile ultra experience in the fall. I can happily say now that the summer indeed has been good. I'm entered for the Javelina Jundred set for late October this year. Those who know me, know that I'm no stranger to this race. For the past 5 years I've been crewing and pacing my friend Tony Portera. I've logged 160 pacing miles on the course! I'm excited to finally get the chance to run the race myself.

Even more exciting is the opportunity to raise funds and bring awareness to the work Asante Africa Foundation is doing in Africa which is focused on tackling educational challenges through the creation of safe and healthy learning environments, raising of the teaching quality and learning opportunities, by providing merit-based scholarships and the leveraging of partnerships and local expertise. This organization believes in the power of education, knowledge, and  opportunities – globally! They also have a passion for teaching others how to overcome challenges and conquering fears. All of this takes money of course and a part of raising awareness for Asante Africa Foundation is to spread the word for the need of financial support. In an effort to support us in our 100 mile journey Asante Africa has secured $10,000 in matching funds to match 1:1 of every dollar raised by October 30th. Kind of cool right? I think so. I wish I had someone who would do that for my contributions to my 401k. If you feel inclined to do so, click here, this will take you to the fundraising page for Luis and I.

It was Luis Velasquez, who got me involved and I didn't have to think twice. I've been telling family and friends. I've mentioned it before; training and participating in ultramarathons forces me to put myself first, it becomes all about me. I mean I'm always thinking about my training - how much to run and where, what I'm eating (and what I shouldn't), how I'm feeling, me, me, me! Volunteering at events, crewing, pacing and now, running to raise awareness for Asante Africa, helps me to un-focus from myself and do a good thing for others. It's a wonderful feeling and a great reminder that there are more important things, things of higher priority than myself. Even in my own universe, I should not be the center.

Asante Image1
Photo courtesy of Asante Africa. Photographer: Howard Jue.

Asante Image 2
Photo courtesy of Asante Africa. Photographer: Howard Jue.

Asante Image 3
Photo courtesy of Asante Africa. Photographer: Howard Jue.

Asante Image 4
Photo courtesy of Asante Africa. Photographer: Howard Jue.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

And just like that….

it has been 6 months since my last post. Where does the time go??? I'd like to say that my fiance moving here from London and our recent wedding has taken up all my time but I can't:) It's more of the fact that my running has been kind of lame and I really had nothing to say about it. So in a way I'm in the same position I was 6 months ago when I made my last post - hampered by setbacks and fighting for race fitness.
Second half of last year I had an issue with over training then a calf injury. Made it to the start line of the Quad Dipsea at the end of November, slowest finishing time ever but I did so in high spirits because I had realistic expectations and had a great time. Instead of taking my usual break from running in December I just trained right through since I had spent enough time off my feet due to the injuries. Everything was great until I got the flu in February, put me in the emergency room and knocked me out of running for two weeks. I bounced back from that nicely and then a sciatica issue late March/early April put me down for another 2.5 weeks and it was another 2 weeks just to get back on my long runs. Two steps forward, one step back. Frustrating to keep losing what have I built up, especially when it takes me so long to build my speed and hill climbing abilities.

Courtesy of Chris Jones_1
After finishing Quad Dipsea last year. That smile says "haha, I got away with it!" Photo courtesy of Chris Jones.

So here I am, a few days out of Bighorn 100, feeling inadequately prepared for the distance. Three weeks ago I did a solo, hilly, 52-mile run (to the top of Mt. Tam and back). I did it on a tired body with not enough sleep. Mind was flying high but body was in the dumps. I was destroyed after that run and it took me 12 hours (11 moving). It gave me an honest assessment of where I am physically - slow but able. It was gratifying to know I could cover the distance despite my reduced speed. It was also great to know that up there, I still know how to keep it together. It's true I'm less willing to tolerate what I used to tolerate, like pain that comes with prolonged intensity or the patience to deal with running on a sleep deprived body or undesirable weather however during that run it was like old times. Kept it moving, stayed positive and handled the details; nutrition, hydration and motivation. It hurt, it sucked but I enjoyed most of it. It never felt right from mile 1 and I ran the whole thing with a sore posterior tibial tendon, same one that bothered me the last 45 miles and kept me out of sub-24 at 2011 Western States. It was totally fine the next day, it's a very weird ailment. I just kept telling myself the last 50 at Bighorn will be worse:)
Like last year, I've been ambling along as best I could despite setbacks but unlike last year I've stayed involved because. I have company this time. My wife who could run around circles around me when she first got here in January, even ran a 1:45 half-marathon a couple of weeks after she arrived, had a relapse of her thyroid condition. Her hyperthyroid issue gave her the ability to eat whatever she wanted and still lose weight but she had no energy and had a high heart rate (we once recorded a resting heart rated of 190 - crazy right). Then there is our friend Janet Thompson who has a bad ankle issue that has her not running at all and she had to clear her racing schedule. The three of us have been volunteering and hanging out at races. We've also been seen at Devon and Nathan's new bakery in San Anselmo scarfing down baked goodies in their outdoor patio. Life's been rough. Masha is now on the upswing with her new meds taking effect and Janet has been recently cleared by her new podiatrist, Dr. Hannaford, to go on easy trial runs. In fact we just signed Masha up for her first 50k (she's completed a 30k before), the Northface Endurance Challenge in December.

At Lake Sonoma, volunteering with Greg Lanctot and Janet Thompson at a water only aid station. Photo courtesy of Masha Sharoglazova.

Masha at Lake Sonoma. Photo courtesy of Janet Thompson.

Unfortunately I'm not where I wanted to be when I thought of this year back in November but I am damned excited to have the chance to start Bighorn. I thought when the sciatica hit that my summer was over. I thought at first that it was a hamstring strain that developed into a tear after I did some heavy chores/moving despite the symptoms increasing. I couldn't tie my shoelaces for four days, even sleeping was an ordeal in the wrong position. I was a DNS at Lake Sonoma 50 (a race I've been wanting to run the last three years) and I declined the chance to run Quicksilver 50-mile when I got off the wait list. Luckily it wasn't and huge thanks to my wife who said "go see a professional and stop self-diagnosing via the internet". Wise, wise words. I don't know everything but I act like I could when paired up with my computer and google. You know what they say, a little information is dangerous.

Lastly, I just want to send a big ol'hug and shout out to Olga Varlamova-King. Olga reached out to me when I was a young pup in this sport and helped guide my training. Later on I got the chance to learn from her directly when we participated in events together, sometimes as her pacer, sometimes as a fellow runner. One of those times was at Bighorn in 2007. It was both our first time and we had planned to do the whole thing together, pacing each other throughout the run. I learned a lot that day. I'll pass on two; don't take your time at the aid stations unless you really need it and walk like you run - with purpose. She wore me out on that run, running after her leaving the aid stations (her 30 second stops vs my 2 minute lounge time, running after her when I get dropped trying to keep with her walking. Since 2007 a lot has happened in Olga's life, life changing events, injuries, etc but she has always managed to come back strong and swinging. Last weekend at San Diego 100, my favorite all-time 100, she came under 24 hours on a very hot day. 188 started and only 82 finished. She would state later in Facebook that it was worse than 2006 "Fire and Ice" Western States. I was there too in 06, I can believe it. Olga is impressive because she is a strong person on and off the trail and after all this time she is still kickin' ass. Continuing to drive forward through all the ups and downs. I'll think of you this weekend my friend, hopefully hours ahead from our splits from 07. Wish me luck!

Till next time….

Olga, descending to the river during the 2007 Bighorn 100.