Thursday, April 24, 2008

But I still Took Pictures

Jess and Dana monkeying around at a van exchange point.

Almost done, another 12 or so miles to Santa Cruz. Photo courtesy of Dana.

Group shot.

For the photoset, click here.

Good friends come and go all the time, people are always coming or going. You know how that goes. When I was first approached about doing this relay I declined because of the timing, this event used to be run in October. I knew I would be busy with my preparations for races and training for KM100. Wisely, I reconsidered - sometimes I can get so serious with this whole training and racing thing:) Janet who organized the team and her fiance JP will be moving out to Chicago in August and I thought it would be great to do one more event with them. As it turned out I not only got to spend time with these two but other really great friends as well - a win win.

Fortunately, I will be seeing more of these guys in the summer. JP signed up for the 50-mile distance at Tahoe Rim Trail, Janet will crew for him, and I'm in for the 100. Some of the runners in our van, like Jessica, will also be up in Tahoe the same weekend for the Trans Tahoe Race. A 6-person swimming relay across Lake Tahoe, no wetsuits allowed but partying sailboat crews acceptable. In for another 100. I haven't posted a schedule for my events this year. I was loathe to plan out a whole year and be stuck with a schedule, just signing up for whatever sounds right.

So I went in to the event just to have fun; 12 runners, 3 legs each, runs anywhere from 4 to 7.5 miles. The distances are something, they could even be hard if you run each leg strong and fast but no long run training. As it turned out I ended up working quite hard the whole weekend and was a runner for both vans. Lisa one of our runners for van 1 got sick and I ended up picking up two of her shifts. Since I was van 2 I had no sleep whatsoever. Soon as our van was done and my crew headed out for their 4-5 hours of downtime I was with van 1 running, when van 1 was done I was back with van 2 and this continued until the end of the event.

I was more than thrilled though; more running, more hangout time with all the folks in our group and the possibility of no sleep. Haha sign me up! I got to practice running tired, that queasiness in the stomach and shoulder burdening fatigue that only comes to me after being up for 24 hours. I ran every run hard, every single one of them, to the best of my ability short of sprinting; through the hills, through the flats, the trails, the bike paths, the crowded streets, all of them. I did however down a Starbucks Double Shot Espresso for two of those runs and before my last run I had some salt tablets with one Aleve. I met my personal goal and was quite stoked at the finish in Santa Cruz - run every route strong and fast, don't sleep.

We started in Calistoga at 12PM and we finished around 4PM Sunday in Santa Cruz. It was an amazing weekend. It was a bit cold, we'd start our runs freezing but we had a full moon and the night was as beautiful as the day. On my third run, a couple of hours before dawn, I was on a secluded bike path that wound it's way through trees next to a reservoir. I was alone and my lights were off. I looked to my right and saw the lake, the hills behind it and the big bright full moon above - breathtaking, awe inspiring.

Sometimes a good beer is what's needed, put away that Endurox R4 or whatever recovery drink you're having!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Video is Even Better

Whine+Cheese Logo.jpg
Our team logo, drawn up by yours truly. Something fun and irreverent, like most team names for the event.

The Relay was another great experience, this was my 4th time back for this particular event. I've also participated in the Mt. Hood to Coast relay in Oregon. If you have a good group it's a total blast. The Bay Area version starts up North in Calistoga heads down to San Francisco then South to Santa Cruz for a total of 199 miles. There are 12 runners, each running 3 legs each which vary in length and difficulty. The runners are broken up into two teams, Van 1 and Van 2, together they leap frog their way to the finish. While Van 1 runs, Van 2 rests. The organizers make sure it's a full moon weekend to make the night section even more spectacular. A great way to celebrate friendships and make new ones.

There's too much to tell so for the moment I'll just share my videos. These babies, short as they are, pretty much sums us how our weekend went. I ran shifts for both vans because one of our team members got sick. The only thing I missed out on was sleep but I was witness to a lot of the action.

The song came on and this happened. Caffeine? Sugar? Exhaustion? Maybe all of the above. Day two of "The Relay", Van #2, the push for Santa Cruz! The ladies rehearsing their dance/cheer for our runners.

So the way you finish this relay is that all runners from 1-11 wait for runner 12 at the top of the finishing chute. As runner 12 approaches, everyone joins in and we cross the line as a team. We had our own twist to it however.

The other videos:

Boys Cheering

The guys cheering on the ladies on the course.


One of our runners, pacing another through a night section.

One of runners, runnin on by.

It's Hilly!

Our fearless team captain, telling us all about the hills.

Last Van Exchange Point

Van exchange points are where the two vans of a team meet up. Here the last runner of Van 1 handed off to the first runner of our Van 2 for the last time at the Santa Cruz county line. Day two of The Relay. Next up is the finish at the Boardwalk.


Sassy heading out.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Last Word on Mt. Diablo 50M

For the photoset click here. Only a few pictures cause I got all serious and stuff. No more "training" races, just races.

So before I take off for The Relay, here is my last and final post on Mt. Diablo. I've been busy reading other people's reports rather than writing my own. Great stories. There's not much more to tell really.

I came with the "training only" mindset much like Donald and at the start of the race I positioned myself that way, all the way in the back. It was a slow start indeed, after 45 minutes I was chomping at the bit to go a little faster but we were single file in tight, technical single track going uphill. It all came apart when at the summit I saw a bunch of friends heading back down. I gave chase and training was over. Eventually I would run into Donald who was sticking to his plan. We ran a few miles together, Donald's easy is fast for me. Eventually however he let me go as he continued to take pictures all day. I felt stronger as the day continued. The heat didn't bother me as much as I thought it would and the slow start was a blessing. I found that the pace I could muster allowed me to catch some people and it motivated me to keep on pushing. At one point I ended up behind Jon Burg and Scott Dunlap heading towards Juniper Aid Station at mile 40. Not too long after that I made my blunder and ruined a perfectly good race. I didn't lose sleep over it and drank 3 beers on Sunday for running and climbing extra.

I'm still amazed at how beautiful and difficult that whole race was. We had heat, lots of elevation and some pretty messed up technical trails. There were a few WTF?! moments on my part. There were downhill switch backs where I thought I'd go over the edge - slippery with dust and loose gravel, narrow and tight. You can't help but praise and curse Wendell and Sarah as you go through the course. It was a thing of beauty. Oh if you ever do this race and they tell you that it's all downhill from mile 42, after your second summit, don't fall for that. It's not all downhill and some of it is the kind where you can't really open up because of the technical quality of the trail.

I'll close with the weirdest thing that I witnessed on the trail. Around the marathon mark I was running behind Kathy Donofrio when suddenly she yelled and bent down over something on the trail. It was a turtle, about a foot long. We were on a hill and it was a long way from a creek. Kathy stopped us while she shushed the turtle down the hill. I said something about a hidden lesson in here somewhere for all of us and took off.

Well I hope ya'll have a great weekend. See you on the other side of The Relay. A big shout out to Gundy, Scott Dunlap, Samantha Pinney and John Branderhorst who are running Boston this weekend.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Beating the Heat

So it was a warm weekend. The kind of weekend temps that San Franciscans dream about. Not just warm during the day but also at night. The type of evenings where restaurants will set up tables outside so patrons can enjoy food and weather out in the open. However if it's warm in the city you just know it's gonna be much warmer outside of it and that was definitely the case Saturday at Mt. Diablo.

It started out chilly but boy did the temperatures rise. Now folks like J~Mom who live in Arizona or Bob in Florida might smile if I said the temps were mostly in the 80s, once hitting 90, but for us trail runners it was hot enough - especially in the exposed dusty trails of the race. According to PCTR it was the hottest day of the year and the hottest April 12th in that area in over 50 years. Lucky us!... I mean that sincerely, those training for Western States got their money's worth. As a runner who lives in San Francisco and runs primarily in the evenings I was quite surprised I didn't suffer more. I felt the heat, was affected by it but there was never a point in the run where it felt oppressive and stifling. Here are some of the things that I did to combat the warm weather.

1) I monitored my effort and exhaustion level, when I felt myself overheating I'd slow to a jog or walk regardless if there was an uphill or not. I'd do the Yoga thing of breathing deeply and mentally relaxing my whole body. I would naturally feel stronger as my body temp dropped and I would resume running.

2) This is a no brainer, I drank a lot and took a lot of salt. I only carried one bottle which was not enough but I tanked up at the aid stations and always left with a full 25 ounce bottle.

3) Making use of the ice available. Will G. at 31 mile aid station graciously added ice to my bottle. On the ensuing up hills, which I would hike, I took out the bottle and iced one of my jugular veins. According to ultra gal Dr. Lisa Bliss, in her pre-race talk at the 2006 Western States 100, this was one of the best places to ice since a lot blood was flowing near the surface. I also had aid station people put ice in my bandana, another trick I picked up at WS100. Again I would use it to ice my neck or hold in my hand as I ran. To have that one spot that was cold was very helpful. I would also use the bandana to soak in cold water which I would then use to wipe away the salt and dust, felt awesome.

5) I would lift my shirt halfway up every time I was in the shade or whenever I encountered a slight breeze. I didn't want to go totally shirtless because I didn't want to burn.

6) Except for my shorts I wore light colored clothing.

7) And lastly, don't laugh, I shaved my legs the day before. I got into the whole leg shaving thing through triathlon. It was vanity to be sure. I wanted to look like the swimmers, like Lance Armstrong, like the top triathlon pros. However by doing so I also did notice that it did indeed got a little cooler down there. Since I was reluctant to shave my head to take it another step further I just settled on the legs.

There you go. What worked for me on Mt. Diablo this past Saturday. However as of yet I have no plan in place to combat the possible humidity at KM100. I may have to pick the brain of last year's champ, Mark Tanaka, or do a little research of my own. Gundy, a fellow San Franciscan, uses the sauna to prepare for Badwater so I might try that as well. He is 2 for 2 at Badwater where the race is 135 miles long and the temps can hit 135F (55c). Something's working.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


At the starting miles of the run. It starts off with a 7.7 climb to the summit. Talk about uphill starts.

If you're dumb enough to make the mistake, man up and pay the price to make it right.- About mile 42

You know what sucks? Running well in a race then getting lost. All of you who have done it, raise your hand.

I ran a really good race today, up until about mile 39. I started slow as usual and slowly gained momentum, my classic M.O. 30 miles in I was running strong looking at a possible 11 hour finish and not the 12 that I originally estimated. Then I kept going straight when I should have turned left.

I made a wrong turn 2 miles from the summit of Mt. Diablo, our second summit for the day. I skipped an aid station and went straight for the top. The trail I used was used earlier in the day and still had it's ribbons on so I thought I was ok, also got some bad info from hikers. At the summit I realized my mistake and had two choices, go back down to the aid station and back up to the summit again, which is more distance and climbing, or just cut the run short and head home from the top. I opted for the former. The extra miles minus the section I skipped only got me running another mile or so extra but it was a long climbing mile. Getting lost sapped a lot of my reserves and losing my place and momentum in the race took a lot of the fight out of me mentally. Nevertheless I somehow managed to get it back together and the rest is history.

In the end I ran a little more and got a little bit more climbing than I wanted, bad when you're trying to place well, great for training.

It could have been a better day. I hate getting lost but who doesn't. Sometimes that's just how it goes. It won't be the last either.

Mt. Diablo 50-Miler
13,300 ft. total climb, same for total loss
11:35 for 18th overall
Hot day, dusty, very light breezes, brutal climbs, hairy downhills, lots of exposed sections and lots of technical sections. The course is no joke. The hardest 50M I've ever done. I think it's harder than the Miwok 100k which is 12 miles longer.

More stories and photos to come.

Friday, April 11, 2008

In Knots

I'm gonna admit something to you guys. I'm a bit scared heading into this Mt. Diablo 50-mile event. I think it's an irrational fear rooted from my first year of doing ultras. My second ultra back in 2003 was the Mt. Diablo 50k. It was a hot day and it took me 8 hours to finish. It would be another 3 years before I would return to the course. Here I am in 2008 and a veteran of many triathlons including an Ironman, many, many ultras including 6 100-milers and my stomach is in knots thinking about this one 50-miler. Precious.

You're never too experienced or too strong for a butt-whoopin I say.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

WFTW 08 Recap

For the photoset, click here!

I'm still recovering from the weekend. A night owl, I find myself wanting to hit the hay before 10PM the last two days. Didn't hurt me too bad at track last night though so I should be good.

WFTW (Wildflower Training Weekend) started at 4PM Friday for Spamsiwan and myself. The Iron Knitter+Baker was my ride down and one of my cabin mates at Cabin 2. She's awesome company because she always travels with food but you have to like vegetarian fare which I don't mind at all.

After a 3.5 hour drive we got there with a lot of daylight left with four options for the afternoon; swim, bike, run or eat and hangout. I opted for the run and ran the long course route which is 13.1 miles. I ended up with a little more since I got lost twice. The route is partly on trails which was sweet.

Cabin 2 was awesome, there was 10 of us total and I knew everyone. Everyone brought food and drinks and by the time I got back from my run the kitchen was in full swing. Jennie our cabin leader is also the social director for the club and the early folks had to come to our cabin for check in. This was nice because we got to see a lot of folks. The bulk of the 140 or so participants came in the evening however not being able to leave work early.

Not getting enough sleep the week before did catch up to me. Hit me on Saturday afternoon after a hard bike ride. I was out for another 13 and ended with 9. I was dragging on Sunday too. Fortunately for me I am blessed with great friends and on both occasions my workout was saved by friends who were willing to run with me. There is just no substitute for good company on the run. The weekend workouts looked like this:

Friday: 13+ mile run
Saturday: 56 mile bike ride (hard) + 9 mile run
Sunday: 25 mile run (two loops on the long course run minus a mile)

Spams got me home in time for church Sunday (4pm service) and a Redbull got me through the rest. It was an amazing weekend and I could go on and on and on but you wouldn't want that. It was warm and sunny the whole weekend, not too bad on the wind either. The water temps were great although I didn't swim. People were great, the social BBQ Saturday night was fun, cabin hopping for desserts Saturday evening was even more entertaining and I got my workouts done. Plus I whopped some butt on the bike too despite not having ridden since I left for Florida. We were joined at the lake by our companion tri-club, a group from Silicon Valley, 2 clubs from LA, a couple of college teams and individuals who were out training on their own. The college kids, from both teams, got us up at 12 midnight Friday when a bunch of them ran down to the docks screaming and yelling while they jumped in the water. They did this over and over again. I met a couple of them the next day. Darn kids!

Now I'm just concentrating on getting enough rest and recovery for the Mt. Diablo 50-miler this coming weekend.

I hope you all enjoyed the pics. Jennie here is my vid of the transition race that you requested. Shorter but no less entertaining. Jennie I know why you like this video so much:)

Monday, April 07, 2008

The Transition Race

Video courtesy of John Hayato. Great job capturing the fun John! Friggin Chris, haha, I just noticed it now. He drinks his beer first before taking off his wetsuit - priorities!

Oh man what a freakingly good weekend. Now I can finally recover, from Florida and from the training weekend. Got pics and a report to share but in the meantime here is a video of the "Transition Race" we had this past weekend, it's a training weekend tradition. It's a mock race that emphasizes not the three sports of triathlon (swim, bike and run) but the fourth sport which is the transitions - the transition from the swim to the bike known as T1 and the final transition from bike to run known as T2. If you watch the video you'll know what I mean. I shot my own footage with an even better angle on the crash but John's video tells the whole story better.

It starts with the participants dressed in their wetsuits by the waters edge. They run up, transition to the bike, bike a lap around the parking lot, transition to the run and do another lap for the finish. Winner was Jake M., representing Cabin 2. Way to represent Jakey! Not only did our cabin had the most sugar (isn't this the drug of choice for endurance athletes?) for the weekend but we also had the honor of having the winner for the transition game. Oh and no one really chugs a Heineken in the transitions just another twist. I'm sure you guys already knew that.

The last video is a quick 11 second footage of actual pros at a race last year. Watch how fast they go from running their bikes out of the transition area to riding them. Since I'm talking about transitions, thought I'd throw this in too just for comparison.


Friday, April 04, 2008

Touch and Go

Hanging with blogging ultra running friends in the middle of nowhere in Florida. Olga with her youngest, Stephen and Bob.

With me in the picture this time as Stephen takes the shot.

Got in yesterday, paid a bunch of bills, worked a bunch, had dinner and a movie with my favorite girl, packed, had breakfast with my good friend Jessica and her mom, cleaned the bike and now after meeting one deadline I am getting ready to head out to the afore mentioned Wildflower training weekend. I slept 3 hours in two days. 7 in three. Ha, a good exercise in keeping it going despite the need for zzzz. If my ride Spamsiwan will let me I'd like to zzzz part of the way there - it's about a 3.5 hour drive south.

I hope you all have a great weekend. To my blog friends, I apologize for being away, catch up with you guys soon.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Still Here

Still here in Florida. Having fun hanging with the family, eating their food, drinking their beer and driving their cars. It's not all vacation though, work followed me here. Sa'll good, I'm blessed to have work. Family is doing great. Stepdad is still kickin despite the smoking and drinking, mom can still make me feel like I'm 12 when she yells at me from across the room and I've been making 2AM snack runs to 711 with my sister - one of our traditions. The difference this time is that I don't buy anything. I look at everything and buy nothing, okay I'm lying, just something small. I'm committed to dropping the weight prior to the May and June races. Mom and Dad's cooking is harder the harder fight. The day before I arrived I told them I'm super training mode and I only want the really healthy stuff, my dad responds by thawing some pork baby back ribs for first dinner. A few weeks ago he won a large BBQ grill, an Italian made shotgun and a silver watch at a local VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) fundraising event. Where the heck am I? BBQ and a shotgun? So he's been using the grill but he plans to sell the shotgun. Not like he hunts or anything.

Been running a bit, one hour spurts. I'm 2-2. Succeeded twice, failed twice. It's just so boring and warm here. It's alright, I'll get one more run in before leaving for home Thursday AM, then it's off to our triathlon club's annual Wildflower training weekend in Paso Robles. Down there it can get very warm, some hills, lots of trails and a lake for swim training. I plan to do it all plus multiple loops on the half marathon course. We've got coaches on hand, a bike wrench, some massage therapists and a catered dinner on Saturday night. What's not to like. There will be about 150 of us and word is that our companion club will also be there as well as a club from Silicon Valley. As J~Mom said, "It's on like Donkey Kong!"

I'm lame, brought the camera but I forgot the camera cord to download to the comp. Finally met Bob, finally. Olga just happened to be in town too visiting her son Alex and taking her youngest, Stephen, to Disneyworld. We all met in the middle of nowhere, that was a trip. Pics to come.