Thursday, June 28, 2007


Somewhere in Northern MarinSwim Finish
On the bike with Spamsi and friends. At this point she was the only one who knew the way home. And the swim finish for the "Escape from the Rock", low budget version of "Escape from Alcatraz". More fun and accessability for the spectators, more laid back. There was also the option of competing just in the swim.

Can someone find my real legs cause these ain't the ones I went to Bighorn with. Har har har, oh man this race has got me on longer recovery than usual. Really did a number to my system. It definitely tested my limits and I appreciate, much more now, my finish.

Recovery is slow but steady. I set myself back a little bit by going too long on the bike ride last Saturday but it went a long way into controlling the weight gain from all the eating I was doing. Besides it was really nice to get out and I knew from the map that we would visit a couple of my favorite places; Pt. Reyes and Tomales Bay. I was also promised a car ride out of San Francisco for a Marin start, much nicer because you get to avoid the time consuming, rhythm breaking traffic of San Francisco, the Bridge and Sausalito. I've kept up with the spin classes but have not been on my bike since the Wildflower Triathlons in May. My weekends after Wildflower were devoted to the final preparation for Bighorn. It was nice to be riding around again. I tell ya, being able to travel so far, so smoothly with less effort was a welcome experience and to be in the company of good friends. These guys I was riding with, Spamsi and friends are training for the Seattle to Portland ride in two weeks. Thank God for my bike.

This past Tuesday I went to Track and ran the whole workout. Slower but steady and even though I felt somewhat awful at the start, all tight and with "leaden" legs, I felt a lot better in the end. Definitely a big disparity between my perceived level of effort and how fast I was going but I'm so thankful I don't have to deal with blisters anymore or sore toes. Nutrition wise, today is the first day that my appetite feels normal again. The last 10 days I've been eating like a farm animal, pig comes to mind. Lot's of brown rice, meats, sweet drinks and my weakness, sugar. I was pretty sure I had gained all that I lost from the race and maybe even gained a couple of over compensatory pounds. Today I got on the scale and was pleasantly surprised. I'm 1.5 pounds lighter than my starting weight. I must have burned a lot of calories for me to be under despite the "eatfest" I've been on the last 10 days. And yeah that bike ride was a huge help too, notice I'm not giving out the distance or time. There is at least three people who follow my blog who would give me the cyber equivalent of a slap in the back of the head if they know who you are.

So what's next?
Bunch of races. The next A race on the horizon is the Headlands Hundred on Aug 11-12th. I hope it doesn't fill up because I have yet to sign up. I have to recover from my expenses from Bighorn before I can sign up for another race. This racing stuff is getting expensive, IS expensive. The other A race is the Big Kahuna Triathlon in Santa Cruz, a half-ironman event in September. That one is going to be fun, planning on getting folks together and renting a house this time. No more driving the day of and driving back after the race. There's a bunch of other stuff happening in the fall but I'm still sorting those out; Firetrails 50M and the Quad Dipsea is in the mix. I'd probably also do a 50k here and there just for training. According to my schedule there's the Angel Island 50k next weekend. Hmmm, sounds like a great race to get back in the groove of things. We shall see. All depends what my body tells me at this point. It will be ready when it's ready.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

WS100 2007 Photos Courtesy of Luis Escobar

Luis is a professional photographer and his images are some of the best at these ultra events. Seeing his photographs makes me want to run out and purchase a digital SLR, of course the equipment is only part of the equation. He's got three sites but this link will take you the race photography, clink on the first image. While there you will also find links to other run related photography. I particularly enjoyed the images of Krissy on the Hawaiian HURT 100 course. That Montrail/Nathan orange really stands out in the lush trails of Manoa. Now he's got me missing Honolulu too:) If you like trail, you'll love these.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

A Weekend full of Racing

A round of congratulations all around, what a busy weekend of racing. As I went about my activities, my mind was filled with all these races. Excited for all of them, I can imagine and reminisce. Warmest regards to my friends and fellow athletes who started:

• Western States 100
• Pacific Crest Triathlon, Oregon
• Big Blue Adventure XTERRA Triathlon, Tahoe City
• Double Dipsea, Marin

And those racing right now this beautiful Sunday AM:
• Ironman Coeur D'Alene, Idaho
• Ironman France - Nice
• Escape from the Rock Triathlon, San Francisco
• San Jose International Triathlon

Woke up early this morning and shuffled down to my local Peet's Coffee for a big ol' cup of the good stuff and where I met fellow triathletes Jenna and Scott. We then proceeded down to the swim finish of the "Escape from the Rock Triathlon" where several friends from the club were competing. This race is like a budget, grass roots version of the "Escape from Alcatraz", unconventional in it's own way. Also been following the WS100 webcast and the comments on the ultra list. Phenomenal performances. Been watching the "You Tube" casts and the interviews of the top finishers. Andy Jones-Wilkins, the 4th place finisher was so animated he cracked me up; high-fived his kids, volunteers, fellow racers, with smile from ear to ear - "I felt great!, you know what it was the perfect day!" So damned inspiring, go Andy! Sadly however I also saw some friends names on the DNF list. There's a DNF list out there with my name on it, that's if I'm blessed to continue doing what I'm doing. All part of the sport right? Comes with the territory when you're constantly putting yourself out there. Well it's 15 minutes past 11AM. WS100 2007 is now history. On to the Ironman Coeur D'Alene webcast. Go J.P., Go Janet, Go Sassy, Go Helen, Go Cheyenne, Go Andy, Go Jim and Go Mark! They should be in the midst of their 112-mile bike ride right now having completed the 2.4-mile opening swim, with a marathon run after the bike to conclude event. A special shout out to Mikko at IM France-Nice, he's got less than a 10k to go for a finish.

Recovery is going well. Went farther than I needed on my bike ride yesterday, I was with good friends training for the Seattle to Portland bike ride scheduled for mid-july. While it was long it was also mellow ride. The views were amazing, the company excellent. The only problem was allergies. There is a certain type of pollen that irritates my eyes/contacts and stuffs up my nose, other than that I was a-ok.

Congratulations again to all who started their respective events, regardless of the outcome. On to my Krispy Kreme donut, not to worry I am an experienced donut eater - there has been no personal history of DNFs at this event. One more treat before I head back to training.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Details Details

At the start with Olga and DC Lundell. Bighorn Photoset.

I was anxious and excited days before the race. I arrive at the airport in Casper, Wyoming and Olga is already there. She was more nervous than I was despite having three times my experience with these 100-mile races. I knew because I had spoken with her on the phone in between flights. So the moment I see her I say something thoughtful and sensitive "you better not cry, they don't give those nice Montrail jackets out to crybabies", you know...something supportive:) We stay in Casper for the night and drive to Sheridan in the morning. I didn't sleep well primarily because I always have had a hard time in unfamiliar surroundings not to mention a sleeping Russian next to me who threatened to throw me out if I snored.

We were in Sheridan by 1PM and were checked in at the America's Best Inn, 5 minutes away from downtown. The place was full of runners, notably members of the VHTRC (Virginia Happy Trails Running Club) They make the trip every year and were a great bunch of people. We got to meet several of them throughout the weekend. Race check-in, drop bag drop-off, pre-race dinner all went as planned. Made lots of new friends and through Olga I got to meet a couple of runners who I've always looked up to, David Horton and Hans-Dieter Weisshaar. This woman knew so many people. I also got to meet Van (pigtails) Phan and her husband Ken. I had heard so much about her from Olga and Rob. Everyone was so nice and laid back. If people were as nervous as we were it didn't show. Maybe being with each other calmed our nerves, that's how it was for me anyway. Seeing my fellow runners psyched me up, made me feel sane. I was in a community of people with a shared interest, one that is weird outside this community:)

Again I didn't sleep well, I don't get much sleep the night before races. 2 straight nights of so-so sleep was of a concern but I woke up with nothing but excitement and confidence. All I wanted to do was start the race. The 11AM race start was nice in that I didn't feel rushed and was able to take my time, it was bad because all I wanted to do was to get going. Race briefing was especially informative and by 10:15 we were at the start which was 4 miles from the finish. At this point I avoided all the small talk and standing around, I found myself a log and laid down. No sense getting too excited. I was in such a good place I almost fell asleep. This thing was finally happening and all I had to do was wait just a little more.

Race goes off after the anthem was sung and a blessing by David Horton. I was in "race mode". I think Olga expected me to be right in step behind her but I needed to be in my own space and pace. Both of us are slow starters but we still warm up differently and I needed the alone time. The ultra runner psyche was starting to take over and thoughts of family, work, friends, and other non-running matters all started to fade into the background. I like the simplicity of a race event, it's like a breath of fresh air. Make it to the start and fight for the finish. No drama, no excuses and a lot of camaraderie and support to boot.

Bighorn 014.jpg
The start on the Tongue River Canyon.

The first few miles go by fast. Before the first aid station I've caught up with Olga. However I found it hard to be running right behind her, I felt like I was pacing rather than running my own race. The most comfortable place was to be at least several yards back or several yards in front. This was pretty much how we played it for the entire race and at times we were even miles apart. It allowed us to race together but to have our own space. When the going got tough we took turns "pulling" each other. I'll surge ahead and vice versa. One thing I noticed though, when I was the one following I felt weaker and slower. Somehow I could not close the gap but only to hold on. When I was in front I was stronger knowing I was leading the two of us. Olga mentioned that she experienced the same thing. I'm not sure what to do about that. I thought the person leading would "pull" along the other mentally, giving the person a target to keep track of. Seems like it hurt us more than it helped.

By the time we get to the Upper Sheep aid station at mile 8.5 it was clear I started with the wrong shoes. The Salomon XA comps were just too light compared to my Vasque Velocity's. They didn't have enough grip on the mud and didn't provide enough protection against the rocks. The course was muddy with lots of water and we were all doing our best to keep our feet dry. There was a lot of jumping, skipping and other energy robbing activities. Thankfully it was dry going from Upper Sheep to Dry Fork Ridge aid station, not too hilly too. There Olga changes to a backpack, the waist pack wasn't making her stomach feel any better. She was having some stomach issues at the start and the waist pack only made it worse. Unfortunately from there the terrain gets wet and muddy again and we slogged through all of it. It was amazingly beautiful out there but the trail was rough on us. Between the mud, the rocks and the creeks there was also the dried cracked uneven mud that was a real ankle turner, this race was getting better and better! After leaving Dry Fork we passed a runner who had twisted his ankle twice, he made the decision to keep going using ski poles to alleviate the pressure on his ankles. Sadly he didn't finish, I never saw him again after that. The shoe situation itself was getting worse and worse and all I could think of was the second drop bag aid station at Footbridge at mile 30. I dreamt of my Vasques for many miles. The drop to Footbridge was some of the best views and worse footing on the trail. It started gently enough, a gradual downhill with spectacular views of the mountains. The trail cut through a field of Sunflowers which was just breathtaking. Soon however it became a steep downhill filled with mud and running water; down, down, down we went. A mile out from the aid station you can hear the river raging, louder and stronger from the snowstorm the week before. The aid station is just at the end of the bridge, a welcome sight for sore dirty legs.

Descending to Footbridge, mile 30, from Bear Camp.

At Footbridge I had a big drop bag containing two pairs of Vasque Velocity's, extra socks, extra clothing, extra energy drink powder and extra gels. I also had my Camelback packed and ready to go. When we got there I immediately went to work on my feet. They had buckets filled with water, fresh towels and Vaseline. After washing and drying my feet I put a thick coat of Vaseline, a fresh pair socks and one of my Vasque's. It felt so good! From there it was food and weigh-in. I spent a total 20 minutes but time well worth it. Olga left early but not before leaving me half a can of her Starbucks Double Espresso. My pack was heavier than my waist pack but it contained everything I needed to survive the evening; lights, ski cap, tights, gloves, extra long sleeve shirt, shell, fresh supply of energy drink powder and fresh supply of gels, two of which were caffeinated. I left that station feeling like a new man. Zombierunner's DC Lundell was right behind me and we would travel the next few miles together. He was armed with his newest camera, a Panasonic model that was a hybrid between a snapshot and a SLR and a ham sandwich, at least that was what it looked like. I wonder what his pictures look like. Don's been taking pictures on the trail for a very long time.

Debating the usefulness of the "watch out for falling rocks" sign.

Eventually I catch up with Olga at the next aid station, it was a quick climb. Along the way I met volunteers who told me she was going to be waiting for me, presumably at the next aid station. She didn't have to wait long, I got there just as she got there however she took off before I could finish, this is a pattern we would follow for the rest of the run. She taking off, me rushing to catch up. It was dark by the time we arrive at Spring Marsh Station at mile 40 and we were just a half mile out of the station before we encountered Karl Meltzer and only a couple minutes behind him, Mike Wolfe already on their way back in. On this section you could see people's headlights as runners made their way up the hill. It seemed like forever until we eventually arrived at Elk Camp mile 43.5. I was faltering at this point. I felt tired and fuzzy, it kind of snuck up on me. Olga takes off again and it wasn't until I was back on the course that I realized it might be the lack of caffeine. I popped one of my caffeinated gels and it was like someone switched on a light. I recovered quickly, thank God for caffeine. The way to Porcupine Ranger Station, the turnaround point and mile 48 was slow going. The footing here was particularly bad, mud and water everywhere. The markings on the course had been excellent all day and at night they used glow sticks which made it even easier to follow the trail. Once I turned off the trail accidentally and was able to tell right away because of the glow sticks going out in the opposite direction. Two miles from the station we encounter snow, whoa! We had to climb up and over these banks of snow, in the dark, getting cold as our legs would occasionally punch through. Between the snow sections was more mud. What can you say, nothing really, you just grit your teeth and persevere knowing warmth and food was not too far off. I catch up to Olga right before we make it to the ranger station. It was warm in there and full of activity. We got weighed again and we were quickly hustled in for food and supplies. I had no shoes stashed there but a fresh pair of socks which I put on newly vaselin'd feet. I also ate the best tasting ham and cheese sandwich. The cheese was still warm and gooey, all washed down with Starbucks canned double espresso courtesy of Olga. My drop bag there had a stash of caffeinated energy gels and extra energy drink powder. I also had more clothing there but I needed none of it.

WTF who ordered the snow?!

The trip down was a bear, going right back down the mud and snow. It seemed like forever, things seem to take forever in the dark. Olga was in a good mood, she was loud and talkative. Talking kept us cheerful and awake. It also seemed like all my swims in San Francisco Bay had helped with my cold tolerance. I didn't need much more than my shell and gloves. We chatted with other runners, chatted with the volunteers, we were in a good mood. It was a dark night but it didn't last long by 5AM the sky was already light. Olga was enjoying the sound of birds in the trees. I was looking forward to putting away my lights. The sun was up in the sky by the time we made it back to Footbridge at mile 66. Olga suggested that we don't change shoes there but to carry our change of shoes with us back up to Bear Camp. The reason being was that the climb up was full of mud and water. We only stopped briefly for another weigh-in and food and then we were on our way.

Volunteering, a family affair.

The climb up was a bear. It killed our mood, this darn thing was steep and long. On and on and on it went. It false peaked a couple of times. I would think it was over only to find more climbing. We passed one gentleman and he looked out of it, moving very slowly with very tired eyes. Halfway up we take a photo break and that really helped bring us out of our low point. By the time we make it back to Bear Camp we were bushed with very muddy shoes. We were greeted by a single Moose that ran away as Olga tried to take it's picture. Quickly we changed. Olga left her shoes there while I carried mine, are you kidding, they're new with only 70 miles on them. They weighed a ton though with all the mud in them. At this point we both had our music players on and worked on our own for several miles. We stayed this way all the way to Cow Camp Aid Station at mile 76.5. At Cow Camp we see our first 50k runners which I mistakenly thought were 100-milers but Olga didn't remember seeing any of them on the course and guessed correctly that they were from the 50k. Our mood was back up again at this point, we were getting close. Unfortunately it wouldn't last long, the 3-mile trip back to Dry Fork Ridge took FOREVER and brought us low again. Up down up down like the hills.

Still kicking and smiling. Mmm...mud and water, just screams "run me" don't it.

At Dry Fork Ridge our mood goes back up again. We are at a point that every aid station was essential to our sanity. I was glad to be rid of my muddy shoes here, putting them in Olga's drop bag. Here I meet up with Tom, a guy I ran with at Miwok a couple of years ago. I also meet Riley, a 50k runner. This stretch wasn't so hilly and I was enjoying the break. However this is where I start to detect blisters on bottom of my feet. I had no new socks left and make the decision to just bear it. It wasn't too bad but I knew it would get worse. I was just going to suffer through it. It wasn't too long before the first 52-mile runner passes us. We knew we were going to finish at this point barring anything catastrophic. We go, go, go, by the time we get to Upper Sheep Station at 87.5 the blisters are more than a nuisance. Olga goes crazy for the shrimp. It looked so good but I'm allergic.

On the last major climb of the race, between Upper Sheet and Fence Spring - mile 90, I catch up to an older gentleman in blue. I had seen him earlier, a 50-miler who had come from behind and surged on ahead as we took our time at the last aid station. I said hello, we chatted. Turns out he was Ed Demoney, father of one my good friends - Lisa Demoney. I met Lisa years ago when her relay team lost a runner and I answered the call. Since then we've kept in touch and when she became director of the American River 50, I offered my services as a graphic designer and helped with the creation of the new logo, t-shirts, finisher's certificates, etc. Just recently we reconnected again because her new job is a mere two blocks from my place. She even helped me land a freelance gig with her new company. I also picked her brain about the course having run the 52-mile race a couple of years ago with her dad. So to meet Ed out there on the course was an honor. Ed's an old timer and well known in the East Coast scene but I was really much more excited about the fact that she was Lisa's dad. Something I noticed, let me know if I'm crazy, when your friends like you and hold you in high esteem they are genuinely excited to meet your family. Maybe I'm off base here but that's how it seems like to me. I went on and moved forward eventually but on the ensuing downhill I hear him yell behind me, "here comes Downhill Demoney!" and that was the last I saw of him till he greeted me at the finish line.

At Lower Sheep, mile 92.5, Olga and I celebrate the single digit miles left on the race but at this point my feet are trashed. Besides the blisters under my feet I had blisters on my heels and on my toes., grrrr....The only thing I was thankful for was the fact that the situation wasn't as bad as it was at WS100 last year. The blisters on my toes made it hard to run downhill however. My feet would get smashed to the front of my shoe and the pain was almost unbearable. The pain on the bottom and the heels were more tolerable. Olga could have gone on at this point but she made the decision to stick by me. I wish I had known at the time because I would have sent her off but I doubt she would have gone. Never one to hold anyone back.

How did you get those blisters?

The last 5 miles was the worst part of the race for me. It's a long 5 mile gravel road. Because it was neither uphill or downhill I was able to run again but I noticed Olga was set on powerwalking so I kept pace with her. I'm not a powerwalker but it was good for us to stay together on this section, after all that we've been through together. It seemed to last forever and a day. This was our last low point heading to the finish and it threatened to dim our view of what had been an excellent race for the most part. There wasn't a whole lot of talking here, just gritting teeth and a fast walk. Once in awhile I'd look over and see only pain and determination - this was getting done even if we had to crawl from this point. Mercifully we reach the "one mile to go" sign and pavement. It's been a tough race if I'm happy to see pavement, hard yet predictable and smooth - gentler on blisters. No more tiny rocks to hurt the bottoms of our blistered feet. We walk all the way to the finish, managing a sarcastic comment or two and crossing the finish line together.

There was no celebration on my part, just relief. The conditions of the trail, the blisters, the long hours had zapped most of my cheer. Sean Meissner met Olga and I got to meet him for the second time. We get back to the car for fresh clothes and sandals. Olga changed quickly and was back out socializing and eating. I on the other hand was just in a daze. I really wanted to just crawl into a nice dark hole and I said as much to Olga. The car would have been a suitable substitute had I not been so hungry. I took off my shoes and was shocked to see the condition of my feet. I washed my legs out in the river and went to see the EMTs. To my surprise they wouldn't pop my blisters for me, apparently that's no longer the method of dealing with them since popping them only invites infection. However I do come away with a needle and an anti-biotic, at least they were nice enough to give me the tools that I need. Despite my agreement with the head EMT guy about the dangers of infection I had no plans to suffer the pressure of all these blisters longer than I needed to. I'm not a masochist for God's sake. Got myself some food and plopped down on a bench opposite the finish line. Oooff some of those guys looked just as bad as I did, some worse. There were those who were just fine, just exhausted. Before I left I got to see Hans finish and he sat across me at the table, the look in his eyes...haunting. This was his 5th finish at Bighorn but he said it was the hardest. Olga gave him a big hug and we took off. Before going home I stopped off at Safeway for some first aid supplies and I attended to my feet after a bath and a shower. I coated each blister with anti-biotic before draining them and covered each with a bandage. I walked a bit better the next day but not much faster. The challenge was trying to fit my puffy traumatized feet into my sandals. I need to get comfy oversized sandals to wear after these races.

What an honor, with David Horton. I didn't say much, I get tongue tied when I'm star struck. Stupid I know.

The awards ceremony was a blast. The Kiwanis club served us pancakes, ham, fruit and juice. It hit the spot. We got our awards and got a chance to talk with the other runners and their families. I got to sit next to Hans again and while eyeing his extra pieces of ham I asked him how he felt, "Damaged" he replied. Chatted with DC Lundell and possible blister remedies for the future. Poor DC, the first time he ran this was a couple of years ago when the conditions were similar, he comes back only to have the same but worse. I also got to meet Capn' Kirk, another friend of Lisa's. So many new people, so little time. As bad as I felt during and after the race I still loved it, everything about it was great and I was sad it was all coming to a close. Race organization was fantastic, the volunteers amazing and the town was warm and friendly. On the road back to the airport at Casper Olga and I started making tentative plans for the future. I'd like to comeback with more friends next time.

Viva la Bighorn100 what a great experience!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Bighorn Photos

The start, running on the Tongue River Canyon.

A compilation of our photos from the race. Enjoy!
Bighorn Pictures

Monday, June 18, 2007

Epic Run

Approximately 5 miles into the race and into our first climb.

The quick rundown on the Bighorn 100-Mile Race.
Full report to come Thursday.

This run was the most beautiful awe-inspiring place that I've ever had the privilege to run, race or otherwise. This became apparent to me the first 5 miles of the race and a sentiment reflected on the faces and words of the other runners around me. However it was also the most difficult and challenging course that I've ever completed. Under normal conditions the trail itself is technical enough, full of rocks, tough climbs, and steep downhills. This past weekend it became a full blown grade A challenge. The week before a snowstorm had blown through the area downing trees and deposited snow on the higher elevations. Fortunately the system moved out quickly but the snow it left started melting right away creating the worst trail conditions in the history of the 100-mile race. There was lots of water and mud throughout the course and at the turnaround point there was snow. Because of the 11AM start, most of us runners made the ascent to the turnaround point under the cover of darkness. So imagine, you're running at about 8000ft. approaching 9000ft., exposed on the mountain range, feet constantly wet and muddy and you come upon snow banks. You make your way through, climbing up, punching through occasionally, having your legs coated with snow and only to find there's more of the same ahead and you're thinking "it's only mile 46 or so, not even halfway and I have to return the exact same way". I felt like I was being slapped around all over the course, just one issue after another. Eventually I started laughing in the darkness, good ol' coping mechanism. Oh there was some fist shaking too and some mental middle finger waving but only laughter got me through emotionally positive with my fighting spirit intact.

Olga and I would continue to survive and finish pretty much intact mentally. Were physically beat and hurting and we had many low points, the worst low point coming the last 5 miles to the finish but we remained defiant till the end and the thought of quitting never, at least I never saw it in her eyes or body language or heard it in her words. We ran the race together as planned, at times we were miles apart but we never lost each other and finished together at 30:22. She was an awesome race partner and our styles compliment each other well. I owe her much for this accomplishment.

When we finally finished the pain and stiffness closed in quickly. I sat on a curb in front of the car for a long time. The plan was to clean up quickly and have something to eat but I just wanted to crawl into a dark hole for the rest of the day. I never had that feeling before. Eventually I made it to the finish area and got some food, I wanted more but it was too much to walk back. I sat on a bench directly in front of the finish line. I saw in the faces of the other racers what I was feeling, a bit shocking because some of these guys were more experienced than I was. They're looking at you but their stare is somewhere else, they should be smiling but you only see exhaustion and relief. To be fair not everyone was like that, there were folks who came through just fine and yes there were those who celebrated.

Race organization was amazing. The volunteers phenomenal. A lot of work was put into the race. After the storm, volunteers hiked in equipment and supplies and worked on the trail. They cut down most of the trees that was in our path, plotted run arounds for those that they didn't have time to remove. They also built several foot bridges that was washed away by the storm. The only thing they couldn't do was dry the course for us but if there was a way to do it they would have given it a try. Sheridan the town was friendly, warm, and laid back. This is a place where people take the time to say "you're welcome" when you say thank you, where people greet you on the streets, where downtown is closed on Sundays, by 5PM on weekdays and where's it's okay to drive slow - I never heard the honking of a horn, not even once.

Bighorn was an amazing experience and you don't even have to run the 100M to experience it, they have a 52-mile and a 50k (31-mile) race option. Thoughts of coming back were already on my mind before I finished the race.

Finished with Olga at 30:22
Karl Meltzer broke the course record with a 20:12
149 Starters and 70 DNFs (did not finish)
Only 30 finishers made it under 30 hours (makes me feel a little better:)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Here Goes Nothing!

So I am off. I wrote an entry earlier during the week, full of excitement and trepidations for the upcoming race/event/adventure but time has been of short supply - as usual. So I'll just distill the mood into two short words; excitement and fear. I can't wait yet a bit fearful of the challenges. Will I suffer from blisters again this time because of the water on the course? how hot is it going to be? how cold? is it windy? are the steaks really big in Wyoming? gosh I hope so, blah, blah, blah.

Love this feeling. Great things have happened when I've felt this way. So onwards, to another race, another adventure. I heard it's "Sound of Music" beautiful up in those hills. I hope so. I just got a 1GB card for my digital camera.

Hope ya'll have a great one as well.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

EFA Volunteer Report

EFA07 SwimStart.jpg

Racers anxiously waiting the start, photo and video courtesy of Swim Start Coordinator Julie P. That video makes me want to do the race...almost. I just want the experience of jumping off the boat.

Bighorn! Bighorn! Bighorn! It's been on my mind the past week. Turns out to be a butt kicker of a run. Why this is a slight surprise I will explain later. It's got something to do with me not reading reports before signing up for big races. Well first things first, recap of last Sundays race. Another memorable volunteer experience.


Tammy and Spamsi, pumped up at 6AM. Tammy was an area lead like me, Spamsi on the otherhand was one of two Race Directors from GGTC. She had to keep us area leads informed and inline as well as dealing with the races' innumerable details, from volunteers to coffee and bagels.

After all the meetings, course drive through, last minute checklists and last minute preparations, we were ready to go by Sunday morning. I was a little worried because I didn't have a 100% grasp of my duties but was assured that at least one of the GGTC race directors was going to be at the Volunteer Tent with me. We had two, Spamsi and Heather and those guys had a good grasp of everything. On top of that we were equipped with radio's and cheat sheets pasted on the back of our race ids which listed the channel directory as well as cell numbers. Because of my inexperience with the radio and not such a good experience with them at the Nike Women's Marathon last year, I kept to my cell. Help was only a call away. The radios looked good on me though, made me look all official and stuff. If there was an emergency I would have been able to use it, that procedure I memorized.

With AE.jpg

Hanging with AE at the finish area. He was out spectating.

It was a hard and early rise at 2:30AM, Spamsi picked me up at 3:40 and we were at race central by 4AM. We had to split the tent with "Registration." Unbelievable, there were people picking up their race packets 5 minutes before the last bus was set to leave. Racers were bussed from the transition area to Pier 3 where they boarded a ferry for their trip to Alcatraz. Race start went off without a hitch. My job on race day was to man and direct the Volunteer Tent. Those volunteers with stations out on the course were out of my control but those serving at with us at race central had to be directed to their proper places: hospitality, finish line food, timing, transition area, finish line medals, etc, etc, etc. I also had to field some requests from area leads who were thin on people. Jon, the timing director, only had half of his 20 volunteers show up, fortunately we found him more. There were several volunteers who mistakenly showed up at finish area when their stations were out on course, fortunately we were able to find a way to get them to their stations. By 8AM most people were setup and taken care of. The volunteer tent faced the transition area. I got to see the leaders the entire race everytime they came in to transition to the next event, swim to bike to run. That was a big bonus. The guy who won never relinquished the lead he had from the get go. Andy Potts took first after coming close in the past with 2nd and 3rd place finishes. An amazing athlete he had gone to the Olympics twice, once as a swimmer and again as a triathlete. I also got to see a lot of friends race, even managed to snap a few good photographs. The only hiccup to the whole deal was that lunch was an hour late. We had a lot of hungry volunteers but no food. When it eventually came there was too much. We ended up with 50 boxes of Cheese pizzas and 50 boxes of Pepperoni pizza for the 70 or so volunteers that patiently waited. We ended up giving alot away and the remaing 25 boxes was sent to another tent.

EFA Fans.jpg

Fans greeting athletes as they come in for the finish.

Since I was one of the area directors for this year I have a reserved entry for next years race. I still have to pay for it but I don't have to enter the lottery. I say no thanks. Give up the fun of volunteering and the appreciation of my fellow racers so I can pay $295 and I'll pass. One day but not next year. I already have my eyes on the Swim Start director position. You get to go on the boat and launch off the athletes and when you get back to race central you have the option to help give out medals at the finish line. Sounds perfect to me.

After the race it was a quick nap and off to the club after race party. It was great to hangout and get first hand accounts of the race from both the racers and volunteers.


Chomping on cupcakes at the after party. See those two at the end, the one with the cowboy hat and with the tongue sticking out - butt kickers on the bike. I know from firsthand experience:). To my immediate left is J-Fang. Everyone loving their new race kits owe her a thank you.

Lastly, some of our volunteers, some taking up area lead positions were club members from this years TAG group for Wildflower. If you remember, TAG is a program specifically tailored for beginners. These guys have gone on, completed the program, completed the race and have now come back to get further involved and give back to the club. Pretty damn cool.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Athlete Down

Monday night I was at our monthly club meeting. Our guest speaker was pro athlete Matt Reed. He had won Escape last year and took 4th this year. As the evening was winding down, Terry, the head of Tri-California, addressed the club briefly. He thanked the club for our continued support of the race and more importantly updated us on a serious accident that occurred on the bike course. Accidents happen all the time in triathlons but sometimes you get a real serious one, this was one.

According to Terry, a male cyclist was on a downhill section headed out towards Golden Gate Park and Ocean Beach. The road is wide and clear for the most part, a good cyclist could pick up a lot of steam here. It's unclear how fast he was going but he hit a hidden obstacle on the course. Basically its a bump on the asphalt where a bike could pick up air and a cyclist could lose control. It wasn't marked because unlike a pothole or a crack it wasn't a break on the surface of the road. The athlete lost control, crashed, went over his handlebars and hit the ground with his head. Undoubtedly saved by his helmet, he was able to get up only to be hit by an oncoming male cyclist. I've been on this hill, it's not unreasonable to be going 30+/40+ miles per hour on this stretch. A female cyclist was also injured when she wasn't able to avoid the ensuing crash. The first guy suffered the most and remains in the hospital, the other two were released from the hospital the same day. He's reportedly safe now but his injuries will take some time to heal. He's expected to stay in the hospital for about a month and his parents who came to see him race will be staying here in San Francisco while they attend to their son's recovery.

In the athletic endeavours that we participate in there's always that element of danger that for the most part never materializes. Now and then however something happens and we are reminded that it's not all fun and games. My friends, train hard, race hard and do your best to be safe.

The race itself, from a volunteer's point of view, was great. I got pictures and a report that I'll share later.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Taper Time!!!

Hawk Hill in thick fog. More pics from Saturady click here.

6.5 hours, 3 hill repeats on Miwok (Rodeo Beach side), miscellaneous hills to and on the way home. And with that ladies and gentlemen, I've concluded my last heavy workout in preparation for Bighorn. I was laughing again the last two miles home, you what that means - I was "uncomfortable", ultra euphemism for I felt like crap. It was the IT again but this time the left. Nothing crazy, just soreness that does go away after a day of rest. It was also a lot better this week, I was able to run home. Now I'm looking forward to tape and preparing myself mentally for the big race ahead. Gonna read some race reports, study the elevation profile and all that, confer with my Bighorn partner Olga. She's got her marbles all lined up already so I have to catch up.

Now it's back out to take my turn at our club booth at the race expo. Maybe smile at a few ladies, ogle some new bikes, lust after a few accesories. I heard somewhere that Triathlon is considered a sexy sport and I agree. It's not just the people it's the gear, cool well designed gear. From the bikes to the running shoes, it's all so polished, matching and all that. Consider the wetsuit, it makes people feel aquaman, all trim and ready to go. Thank God for ultra, otherwise I'd be one of those guys who race around in lycra and spandex, shaving his legs to be like Lance and coveting every new shiny piece of triathlon trinket. Oh wait I do that already....haha. All joking aside I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the sport. The biking and swimming saves me from all the pounding of running and the triathlon community has been very good to me, made a lot of friends in this sport. Most of all it keeps me humble. It's hard to be full of yourself when you swim like a dog among fishes.

Friday, June 01, 2007

EFA Weekend

Crap another crazy weekend!:) We, Golden Gate TriClub, is the host club for the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon. Being part of the board of directors, I've got duties to perform like taking my turn at manning the club booth on race weekend and taking a turn at door duty at the club party on Sunday night. However, besides those duties, I also volunteered to be a director for the race. I am the Volunteer Director. Basically my job is to help the volunteers; distributing food, giving out info, helping the lost volunteers find their way to their stations, and all the other duties that will help smooth out the volunteer experience for everyone. I also need to help the other leads if they find themselves short of volunteers. Boy I hope it doesn't come to that, everything is in place and if everyone just shows up in their designated areas we should have no problems. Keeping my fingers crossed. This last several years I've really gotten into this whole volunteering thing. I enjoy it as much as racing, in fact last year I was crew/volunteer for more events than I raced. It's a lot of fun especially in big events. I am still in awe at how popular this race is considering the distances don't fit in any standard. Your time in EFA is only unique to EFA and comparable to no other triathlon. We get people from all over the country as well as a good number of international racers. Boggles my mind to this day.

Today on our afternoon swim there were a bunch of out of town triathletes getting in some bay time. They were not hard to spot, they were the ones cursing the cold water:) Oh we complain about it too, we're just less surprised, less shocked you might say. At the end of our swim we ran into a couple swimming, sans wetsuit, in fact I'm not sure they even had swimsuits on. What was remarkable was that the woman was blind. According to an informed bystander she's out there frequently, enjoying a good swim in the bay.

Tomorrow I am running hill repeats again. This time I'm planning on a bigger, badder hill. My friend Stephen is going to come out and join me although I think he'll be bored. We'll see. I was supposed to race the Mt. Diablo 50k but I ended up bailing for financial reasons. I spent more money on my Florida trip than anticipated and with Bighorn coming up it seemed prudent to stay home. Ironically most of the money I saved on the race fee and car rental went back to the same outfit who holds the race - Pacific Coast Trail Runs. I need a new pair of Vasque Velocity's and they had them on sale on their online store. Need shoes!

Well I hope everyone has a great weekend. Between my training and all the fun duties I'm going to need my sleep after this one.