Monday, June 30, 2008

The Pacifica 50k

DSCN0107.JPGWith 50k race champ Will Gotthardt. That mug says "First Place". Now is it just me or is there more fat in my head alone than his entire body? No seriously look again. Yes I'm wearing my "Western States" finisher's shirt. I just wanted to fit in you know, let people know I also ran trails. Yeah ok I was showing off a bit, that's allowed occasionally right?

DSCN0106.JPGI really need another pair of Vasques to go with the three pairs I have now. Since Montrail dropped the Leona Divides I've been wearing nothing but Vasques.

For the photoset, click here.

So this was the race last weekend. Not this past but the one before, ok just wanted to make that clear. It turned out to be a hot day. When I left at 6:30AM for Pacifica it was already warm, no wind and no fog to speak of. Folks who are from here or are familiar with San Francisco know how rare that is. I could have walked to my car with my shirt off and be ok, no don't visualize that, only my legs look good. Visualize me in shorts. It was going to be a hard day and it was.

My first job was manning the registration tent with Jon Olsen and Flora Krivak-Tetley. A sweet post because I got to catch up with some of my friends. I also finally had a chance to talk with Jon Olsen. I've heard of his accomplishments, seen him in a couple of races but never met him in person. It was a busy morning. There was a big turnout for the run but many people were changing their distances. The 21k folks wanting to drop to the 9k, the 30k to the 21k and the 50k to the 30k. Very few wanted to move up. There were also a lot of no shows. The race consisted of a 9.3k loop and an 11.6k loop, the loops you did and how many depended on the distance you signed up for.

After registration we set up the aid stations, there were two and both were at the start finish. One aid station catered to the finishers, the other for the runners. There was no need for an aid station out on the course because of the loop format. I worked the aid for the runners. It was the usual duties; preparing food, snacks and liquids. Because of the heat we also had the extra duty of managing the ice. We ran out of our initial supply quick but volunteers got more. We also had runners like Miki and Jean who after finishing their race put in some volunteer hours. Miki went out on an ice run and came back with 21 bags!

Seeing the finish line so many times definitely messed with some of the 50k folks, a good number called it a day before they got all their miles done. The heat wore on everyone. My friend Ed didn't look so good from the very first loop but he hung in there. He didn't look any better as the race progressed but he didn't look any worse. He suffered not being trained for the heat despite having trained on the course, he lives in Pacifica. He persevered and finished however and he'll never look at those hills the same way again, haha. Welcome to ultra Eddie, you did great.

Lots of other stories that day, some I already forgot but here are a few.

A young runner named Josh who sprinted hard and wild for the finish after completing 21k, we cheered. One problem, he signed up for the 30k. When he came to our aid station he had an incredulous look on his face, couldn't believe he wasn't done. Took a lot to rally and go back out but he did it.

A 50k runner who ran in surfing shorts and a thick long sleeve shirt, almost like a sweater. Older gentleman built like a fireplug. I was gonna say something but thought the better of it, maybe he was heat training. Guy turned out to be Josh's dad. Josh after finishing his race gave his dad his finishers t-shirt to change into. Dad went on to be the last official finisher, it was his first 50k and was super thankful to his son for the shirt. He was like "man, what a difference that shirt made!".

A female runner who came to us with a bloody knee. She was very tall and very soft spoken. I'm 5'-4" and had a hard time hearing her. Damn my short legs. We patched her up and she went on her way but we left the blood on. We never saw her again and presumed she dropped. Guys when you drop from a race, tell someone, don't just leave. Anyway there were lots of bloody knees and hands that day but it's not a technical course. It was probably the heat.

There was the case of two female runners, young, probably mid-20's. One of them gets our attention because the other was not doing so well after the 11k loop, they signed up for the 20k. The runner was dehydrated and a bit dazed. It was her first trail run and the hills plus the heat beat her up a bit. Friend continues and asks us to keep an eye out on her. Dazed runner is laid out on one of the picnic tables and we give her fluids and ice. 20 minutes later dazed runner is a new person, "un-drops" and goes back out on the course and finishes the race.

A 50k'er named Brian who couldn't believe his second 50k finish came at over 8 hours. He said his first only took 6.5 hours. So I shared with him the story of my first two 50ks. My first was the Headlands 50k, touted as a very hilly, hard race and not recommended for first timers. Scroll down to the elevation chart. I finished that baby in 5:45. Two weeks later I show up all rested and confident like at PCTR's Mt. Diablo 50k and finished sometime after 8 hours. I couldn't believe it either. Welcome to PCTR Brian, it won't be the first time you'll leave one of their races shaking your head, hahaha. Come back! They are just really good at dishing out some tough love.

Well there you have it. Another great day on the trails and I didn't run a single mile.

Friday, June 27, 2008

No Other Way but Forward

Well the last couple days have been...what's the word? Sad? Somber? Those aren't quite it. It didn't happen to me personally but I had some involvement in the event. The Western States 100, the big deal long distance foot race, the Ironman Hawaii of the 100-milers, the Boston of Trail Ultra has been cancelled due to the fires that has affected the area. The first time in the race's 35 year history the event has been cancelled. California is on fire, fires sparked by dry lightning with more anticipated during the weekend. This map shows a big picture of what's going, a lot of fires spread out all over the northern part of the state. Up in Tahoe there's fire, smoke, and emergency vehicles that needs the roads clear for all the work that they need to do. The air is bad to breathe and no one can guarantee the safety of the runners.

It's bad all around. Participants are stunned and disappointed. Family and friends are sad and there's nothing anyone can do. This too shall pass but at the moment just silence and disappointment. However ultra runners are like a lot of tough people you know, they'll come around in a few days. Their mental training will kick in and they'll start putting one foot in front of the other again, so to speak, if they haven't already done so. The same mental fortitude that allows them to continue through grueling long distance races will serve them well here. I feel especially bad for my friend Carrie who I was going to pace from miles 80 to the finish. Eight members of her family came down from Indiana to see her race. Despite being in the sport for about 10 years this is her first attempt at the distance. Airline tickets were bought, home in Tahoe rented, caps and signs were made....I can't imagine the disappointment. She too will overcome and race another day. I'll call her after a few more days have passed. One thing I am thankful about is that all are safe and that race management has put the safety of it's runners first.

All runners from this year will have automatic entry for next year. This pretty much kills my chances for running the race next year but it's ok. I'll just go somewhere else like I did this year. San Diego 100 is also in June, there' Old Dominion 100 in Virginia also in June, there's Massanutten 100 in May, also in Virginia I believe...I've got options.

Prayers and wishes of safety to all fighting the fire. Hope the damage to the area is not too extensive. No one wants to see homes burned down or large areas of trail wiped out even though fires are a natural part of the life cycle of a forest.

Nature has called the shots for three of June's 100-milers. My race in KM had the heat, thunderstorms and threat of tornado's. Olga's race last week at Bighorn had it's course changed due to heavy snow still covering parts of the course and now Western States with the fires sparked by dry lightning. Crazy stuff.

Next up. A return to more positive running talk with my report from the Pacifica 50k race last weekend in which I was a volunteer. I even got my mug taken with winner Will Gotthardt. Also a picture of me lusting after the new Vasque shoes. Okay maybe lust is too strong of a word, desire to the point of hugging and kissing shoe...there.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Some Bad Dream

Last night I dreamt I was in a race, a road 10k to benefit some cause or another. It turned out to be some crazy bad dream, a race nightmare. I've never had a race anxiety dream, if I did I don't remember. Funny that I should have one now, I'm not racing again until the third week of July. Anyway the dream went this way:

I was late to the start. It started at 6AM and I showed up at 6:13AM.

My first mile took 22 minutes because trying to run fast in this dream was like running in knee deep mud and the faster I wanted to go the slower I got.

I got lost and ended up back at the start line after only 4k or so.

There were no markings or signs on the course for direction.

The volunteers and race staff tried to explain to me with a map how I could get back on track and at least finish the run. I couldn't understand their directions.

The race is in downtown San Francisco by my old college.

I also used to work in that part of town.

I quit eventually. I take the DNF (Did Not Finish).

Then I remember I've never dnf'ed a race and proceeded to tell the race director that I was going back out.

I was politely told that now I'm going to miss the cut off. They didn't think I could finish the remaining 6k in an hour and a half.

I believe them.

On my way out, I explain that I'm big on running and have run countless races and that this was going to be my first DNF - someone shushes me.

Embarrassed I leave the race. Then I wake up.


Monday, June 23, 2008

What a Bunch of Finishers!

On my way to church I got a call from Bob who relayed the good news. Olga rocked Bighorn. How well did she do? Well that's her story to tell.

Ironman Coeur d'Alene
All six friends on that dinner photo from our Ironman kick-off dinner crossed the finish line. All of them! Several more members from our club also finished.

Pacifica 50k
Ed finished. He was hurting from the first loop. The weather was hot and people were suffering. He persevered though, one loop at a time and finished his first 50k. It was a great time out there. I'll put it all in a report complete with pictures.

This glass of wine is for all you.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Racing Weekend

Well not for me but for friends.

Olga at Bighorn
Parts of the Bighorn course is under a lot of snow. According to the website the ranger station for the 100m turnaround and the 50-mile race start is under 3 feet of snow and will be unaccessible for the race, course changes are in effect. We ran the race together last year, pacing each other, almost a similar set up to Bob and Tom's race plan for KM100 this year. It was as painful as it was beautiful. I still remember telling her something like, "90+ miles and I am still in awe of how beautiful this place is but I feel like sh*t and my feet are trashed yet again!" It's the longest I've been out on a race course (30.5 hours) and the only race where after I finished I just wanted to curl up in a hole for 24 hours or more. Here's our photos and the report from last year, it really is a beautiful course but hard. Wet and muddy it can be heinous especially if your feet are like mine, sensitive to blistering when wet. The Russian Ultra Gal will be at it again on the course. You crazy lady, you crazy! I called her this afternoon and I had caught her at dinner with some of the runners including Steve Ansell. The other big news besides the course changes is that they are giving out buckles this year. Last year they gave out watches and a large Asics duffel bag with "Finisher Bighorn 100-miler" on it. The bag has gotten a lot of use but I'd go back for a buckle.

DSCN2433.jpgWhere'd the trail go? We were actually lost at this point and saved by runners yelling at us from the proper trail. This is 90+ miles into the race. Dirty, smelly, beaten and blistered but still laughing and smiling. It was what it was.

Jessica, Brian, Jennie, Chris, Malik, Kara, and a bunch of other friends at Ironman Coeur d'Alene in Idaho.

"I get to the airport and NOW I am nervous and/or excited.
I need a drink."

I got this text yesterday afternoon from my good friend Jessica. A big group from our club is going, so many friends, so many people in one race. Most of them are already there with parents, significant others and friends arriving today for the big weekend. For those of you not familiar with the Ironman distance format it's a; 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and a marathon for the run which is 26.2 miles. For you folks who like it in kilometers, multiply the distance by 1.6.

DSCN0055.JPGLeft to right: Kara, Brian, Chris, Jennie, Jessica and Malik at the IMCDA send off dinner last Saturday night.

PCTR's Pacifica 50k
I'll be here as a volunteer and will be cheering on my friend Eddie Swanson. He succeeded me as our triathlon club's volunteer run director (thanks for taking the job Ed!) and is running his first ultra. He's working himself up to 50 miles so he can run a 50-miler when he turns 50 this coming January. Ed's tough and has been active all his life. Last year he did the Vineman Ironman with two sore shoulders and sore ribs from two separate bike crashes. I think he even had a modified swimming stroke to get him through the 2.4 miles of swimming. He'll be fine in ultra. I can't imagine swimming with sore shoulders and ribs for 2.4 miles, then riding a bike, the run must have been the least painful of all the events.

So there you have it. I will be busy looking up results this weekend, both for Bighorn and IMCDA. At some point in the weekend I'll see about getting a 6 hour run in.

DSCN4178.JPG Nothing crazy here, just breaking in a pair of Vasque Amps. I've never had them and they are a discontinued line but the $30 price tag was hard to resist. Thanks Chihping Fu for the heads up on the sale. If I get 200 miles out of them it will be worth it, something tells me I'll get more than that though. Lighter than my beloved Velocity's but surprisingly it requires more break in time.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Back to Work

Recovery week is over and it has went well for the most part.The muscles surrounding the left knee is still sore but I can run on it. I am concerned that it's still giving me some back talk after a week of recovery but it's responding well to rest and active recovery. I got 6 miles out of it yesterday and it went just fine. Been working out every other day. I started with walking then walking with stairs. On Thursday I went to spin class and spun easy, no problems. Saturday I rode for 3 hours easy with friends, no issues. Sunday was the 6-mile run, some soreness but nothing that got worse after a certain point. I'm also finally over allergies that I acquired from running the race. I got back with red, itchy eyes, congestion and coughing, that too is finally on it's way out. I've had it before running the East Bay's trails but nothing that lasted as long. My appetite has been normal, no crazy cravings or eating over drive although I indulged a bit this weekend. One last hurrah before going back to normal training. We'll see what this week will bring. Weights are back in the mix to shore up everything before the next main event, the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 on July 19-20. I'm now busy getting my final papers done for that event. I have to submit proof of qualification that I've run ultras before and proof of my volunteer hours. They require 12 hours of trail work, community service or hours volunteering at a race. I've got enough hours since they also count part of last year but this weekend I'm volunteering at PCTR's Pacifica 50k just to throw in some fresh hours in the mix. It will also be a pleasure to watch and support other people racing. A perfect time to give back no?

Saturday's bike ride was, no, amazing. I hadn't been on my bike since the Wildflower Triathlon, after that race I was busy with the final preparations and training for Kettle Moraine. I kept up with the spin classes but hadn't been out on the road. The bike was tuned up before the triathlon and felt like butta out there. Felt good to move fast, quietly and gracefully. So much good for my legs. I also got to ride with good friends who I hardly get to ride with these days because of their Ironman training. Rangsiwan was still recovering from Ironman Brazil, Jessica is tapering for Ironman Coeur d'Alene (race is this weekend!) and Sammy, well Sammy is Jess's faithful training partner and those two are almost inseparable. We met up with other club mates, rode to the coast and back for an easy 3-hour "muffin" ride. There were good climbs, fast descents, and windy straight aways. There was riding through Redwoods, brown hills populated by cows and horses and a quick stop at a place they call the Bovine bakery which is a popular hangout for cyclists in the weekend. There was singing of show tunes but not by me. All followed by some beer and good food at the Marin Brewing Company. If there was music to go with all of this it would be Hawaiian....again. I can't seem to get enough of it this past week. No I don't understand Hawaiian but the Spirit of Aloha never left me when I left the islands. I think of it when the sun is shining and things are good. I should have had it on my player at KM100, the irony of it would have been good for a couple of laughs - not that I wasn't laughing already. I laugh when things start heading towards ridiculous. The people of KM100 had a lot of Aloha.

Speaking of recovery, my old Nikon is back. It just started working again. Nice huh. Three one hundred milers, countless training swims, rides and runs and it's still ticking. I also like my new Nikon, something I can take to dinner parties. The old Nikon looks like it's been out trail running; chipped, scratched and faded. It looks like how I felt after KM100.

DSCN0006.JPGClubmates / friends heading out on the same route.

DSCN0015.JPGHeading towards Pt. Reyes and Bovine Bakery.

DSCN0021.JPGThrough the trees on Lucas Valley road. Yes it really is named after George Lucas.

DSCN0025.JPGEnjoying my post ride beer at the Marin Brewing Company.

DSCN0027.JPGThe sistahs enjoying their beer; Jessica, Rangsiwan and Sam. Yes I ride with girls and they're the iron women type. I can't hang when their rides start breaking 60-miles because it messes with my ultra training. Those beers are looking pretty good right now.

For more images, click here.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day

Happy Father's Day Everyone
I was just at Jean's blog and his Father's day post sent me down memory lane, an incident with my dad which also involved a boat. So the recovery report will have to wait a couple more days.

We were still living in Honolulu at the time and my family's thing was water skiing. We belonged to a Water Ski club and my Stepdad launched the ski boat every friday afternoon or first thing Saturday morning. He'd stay out there till Sunday afternoon regardless of whether we stayed the whole weekend. He loves spending time by the ocean. One Sunday afternoon we were getting the boat out of the water. It was at a former dive shop that he rented to house the boat that year. The ramp was slick with moss and the truck could only back down so far without getting stuck. It made getting the boat out a lot trickier and luckily many friends were on hand to help, there must have been 10-12 of us. Once they finally got it centered and situated on the trailer dad moved it out of the water and everyone unloaded all the gear and bags. Once it was empty Dad gave me the keys and told me to move it further forward. I was about 16 at the time, still awkward around cars with more than 4 cylinders. I got into that 76 Ranchero, turned the keys and proceeded to hit the gas pedal - with the shift on REVERSE! When I saw that I was moving backwards I hit the brake hard, except that my foot didn't leave the gas pedal. I had just floored the gas instead. A 76 Ranchero has a throaty, powerful V-8 and that thing roared to life sending everything flying backwards toward the water. There was shouting, screaming, people jumping out of the way. Finally I was able to hit the brake before the back wheel hit the water, trailer submerged and boat floating in the water.

After painstakingly going through the whole process again of getting the boat out, dad parks it at the same spot he had done originally and gives me the keys and tells me "Now do it again, correctly this time". Some folks were incredulous and others yelled their disapproval, mom included. I certainly didn't want to try again and was surprised at having been tasked to do it again. Dad waived them all off, I got in the car and got the job done correctly this time despite being shaken and embarrassed. I was shaken and embarrassed all the way home:)

Happy Father's Day Dad. Thank you for everything, especially second chances.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Kettle Moraine 100

Running with Meghan in the early miles of the race. Happier times, before we really got whupped by the humidity and thunderstorms.

Here you go guys, as little or as much as you want to know about my race. You can even go straight to the pictures if you want, sa'll good. Enjoy. It was truly a great time and I could have gone on and on about it.

01. Overview

02. Full Race Report

03. Images

Overview KM100

DSCN4168.JPGVolunteers at the Bluff Aid Station, miles 7.4, 55, 70.3 and 92.8

First and foremost I would like to clear up a mistake that was made on the results. Those whose saw the initial results Sunday would have seen that I came a minute behind Mark Tanaka. No I did not come a minute behind Mark. I was an hour and a minute or so behind Mark. I had emailed the timing folks on Sunday afternoon and the correction was made by Monday morning. I got a lot of grief and good natured ribbing from Bob, Meghan and Tom for that one.

Well it was an epic journey. I came in for the most part prepared and confident. I was ready for the humidity, wasn't worried about the hills and confident that I could handle any of technical trails that presented themselves. I had a great Spring season of racing and was as fit as I was back in 06 when I was training for Western States. I had one big worry, one anxiety producing thought on my mind however - will this 100 be like the previous five. I've had never had a good 100-mile race. I've finished every single one but only through a lot of suffering, aggravation and frustration. The 100-mile event was the rocky shore that the wave of my speed and strength broke upon. Despite being capable of breaking the 24 hour mark at the 100-mile event I had never done it.

We got beat and spanked out there. Conditions for the race were not the best to put it lightly. Of the 123 starters of the 100-Mile Solo race, only 37 made it across the finish line. A good deal dropped off at the 100k point, some after, some before. The 100k race had similar attrition rates. It came down to the weather conditions on the course, certainly nothing I've ever experienced. It was warm and humid at the start, humidity got up to 96% later in the day. Thunderstorms rolled through the area in the afternoon and drenched us with heavy rain in the late afternoon and evening. Lightning flashed across the sky which caused some runners to wait out the storm or drop out completely. While the rain and wind was a relief from the heat it flooded the trails and made the technical sections at night more treacherous. Soaked runners suffered from chafing and blistering. Tornado warning sirens sounded throughout the day and evening although I personally didn't hear them. Maybe I did but thought it was something else, it was for the best because it would have spooked me. The lightning alone was enough.

I had problems early but recovered halfway through. At mile 62, with the sun mostly down, body fed and injected with caffeine, sporting a fresh pair of shoes and socks and blisters taken care of I re-entered the course with renewed vigor and felt my best during the entire run. I came through the finish line at 3:40AM and was promptly informed by RD Jason that I finished 3rd overall with a time of 21:40. It was a pleasant shock since I had known that at least 6 people was in front of me, apparently some of those guys were on the relay event. A nice surprise to a challenging day. Mark Tanaka was on hand to shake my hand and congratulate me, he ended up finishing 2nd. Jason then took our picture before more rain fell. At that point it didn't really matter, I was done. Despite being soaked to the bone and sitting on a wet bench out in the open I felt warm and giddy inside. I was aiming for a sub-20, missed it by a lot but I had no complaints.

The race directors and the volunteers were phenomenal. They braved the elements to man their stations. It could not have been easy either, manning the stations amidst the heavy downpours, the lightning, the tornado sirens, the bugs and humidity when it wasn't raining and the sound of crashing trees. I got a lot of care and personal attention. I really felt that they were there for me.

DSCN4142.JPGWith Co-RD Timo at the race packet pickup on Friday.

I was treated very, very well in Wisconsin. I found the people friendly, laid back and down to earth, from Madison, to Whitewater to Waukesha. My cousin Margie put me up in her apartment for Friday and Saturday and showed me around Madison. I got to meet her fiance Adam who is a really nice guy and I will see them both again when they move to San Francisco in September. On Sunday night I was a dinner guest at Bob and Beth Wolf's home in Waukesha. Beth is the mother of one of my very good friends - Jessica. I was treated like a superstar; wine, Wisconsin cheese, a delicious home cooked meal and good conversation. In two weeks they will fly out to Idaho to see Jessica participate in her first Ironman - Ironman Coeur d'Alene.

I had a blast with Bob, Meghan and Tom. I spent a good deal of time with these guys all weekend. Bob I've known but Meghan and Tom were new friends who I've only heard about from Bob until this race. They were a good crew and they shared their place with me despite their already cramped accommodations. Bob you are one funny guy even when you are not trying to be funny. Meghan thank you for playing nurse when I could barely move on Sunday and putting up with me making fun of you.Tom I'm glad to finally have met you, Bob talks about you a lot. Entering a 100-miler for the sole purpose of pacing a friend through his first 100-mile race is an amazing act of unselfishness.

DSCN4179.JPGMeghan, Tom and Bob.

Finally my prayers go out to those affected by the storms. While we were out having fun, many people were adversely affected by the weather with some even losing their homes.

Kettle Morraine 100-Mile Ultra-Marathon
Also offered were the 100-mile Relay, the 100k and the 38-mile Night Fun Run.
12,000ft of elevation gain / same for loss
21:40 for 3rd place overall and 2nd in my age group

If you're not used to hills you will find it hilly. Coming from the Northern California Bay Area where we have small mountains but lots of rolling hills the hills on the course didn't bother me. They are also small hills, no big climbs. I would reach the top before I could start whining. The most technical part of the trail is on the second down and back for the 100-milers, 100k folks have it easier terrain wise. The humidity factor needs a lot of respect. I came prepared with my heat training and I would have been toast without it. I used the sauna method and it was a steam sauna which was perfect for humidity. Bring bug spray, mosquitoes, deer flies and other bugs abound on the course. If flies buzzing your ear and head bother you I suggest wearing a hat with ears, a bandana or a Buff Headwear. The race organization was top notch and I was impressed with the race volunteers. Even spectators rushed to the aid of runners. Julie Fingar's pacer, I forgot to catch your name but you were a lot of help to me before you started your pacing duties. I'm sure other runners benefitted from your help.

Maybe my needs were simple but they were all met. My expectations of the race and Wisconsin were exceeded despite having already heard good things before signing up for this race. Thank you Kettle Moraine 100, Thank you Wisconsin!

KM 100 Full Race Report

The last time I was this prepared for a race was Western States 2006. I had put in the training, might have done a bit more racing than needed but had a great taper and got in some good heat training to boot. My weight was in the right range and I was having my most successful year yet. I had a lot of respect for the humidity factor but was not at all concerned about the elevation gain. At 12,000ft of total elevation gain, it would be the less hilliest of all the 100 milers I've signed up for, by a good margin. I don't consider myself a mountain runner but I run a lot of hills and enjoy a good technical trail. Nevertheless I went it with a lot trepidation and anxiety, I didn't sleep well the last 3 days before the race. So danged worried about having another bad 100-mile race. Having under performed on all 5 previous 100-mile races, I couldn't put out the negative thought of having another one to add to my collection

Bob, Mark and Meghan before the start.

Well not really but the scent of Citronella dominated race central Saturday morning. I had driven down from Madison at 4AM and met up with Bob, Meghan and Tom at their hotel in Whitewater. Meghan was entered in the 100k, Bob and Tom was entered in the 100-mile race. Tom was in the event for the sole purpose of pacing Bob for his first 100-miler. Bob and Tom were roommates at a Death Valley running camp and Bob met Meghan at the Grand Teton races last year. I already knew Bob but met Meghan and Tom at race packet pickup on Friday, the awkward "hello new friend moments" didn't last very long, not for me anyway. By 5:30AM all of us were at race start smelling like everyone else and dropping off our drop bags. Mark Tanaka already had his camera trained on me before I saw him. Adam Blum was walking around, a surprise since I didn't know he was signed up for the race. Even a couple of other Northern California runners introduced themselves. One of them commented that he'd seen me in some of his races and noticed that I was always close to the front. That was ego boosting and I took it graciously but clearly he had me confused with Mark.

Julie Fingar, Joe Kulak and Mark Tanaka on the starting line.

A quarter of a mile into the run a strap on my new, only a week old Fuel Belt brand water bottle holder snaps. Do not buy this product. Not all things manufactured in China is bad but this one is downright terrible. I say out loud that I hope this isn't a portent of things to come and get a laugh out of the runners around me. Eventually I come up with a fix and it works almost as well. At mile 15 the other strap would break and yet again I find a way to work around the problem. This would characterize the entire run; breaking and fixing, breaking and fixing all the way to the end.

Almost immediately I fell into my groove. Boy was it warm but my sauna trained system was handling very well. I was moving at a pretty good clip at the heart beat range that I needed to be. I leave Bob and Tom and catch up to Meghan around mile 10 or so. We hang out for a little bit before I get the itch to move on. I'm still taking pictures and short videos at this point, feeling good, pacing myself correctly and slowly moving up towards the front despite the heat.

MILES 16-36: Funky Town
I started to get sleepy. The first thing that came to mind was that my lack of sleep for the last 3 days has finally caught up to me. I was a bit surprised - sleepy this early in a 100-mile race? As I continued a throbbing in the back of my head became more pronounced so I took a couple of Ibuprofens. The next thing that happened was some stomach discomfort. I felt bloated too. I was drinking about 2 bottles of liquid every hour because of the heat and I incorrectly diagnosed the problem as taking in too much liquid so I cut down. It was around this point that we hit the prairie, marsh areas. It was exposed, flat and went on for about 10 miles. I felt tired, bored, hot, and sleepy, I couldn't keep my heart rate down despite moving slower. I get to the 50k mark (mile 31) at 5:39. I had covered the first 15 miles comfortably in 2:30 but it had taken me over 3 hours to reach the next 16. I was slowing down way too early. From here we headed back to the finish the same way we came. We run the entire 100k course with the 100k racers before setting off on a separate 38 mile down and back course to complete 100 miles. Mark was leading at this point. A lot of the leaders were not looking too good either. Some food, a quick sponge bath and some liquids quickly revived me but 10 minutes out I was back into funky town. I see Meghan again, she looked good but I found out later that she was having her own problems. I got a great hug and we were off. Bob had this bright idea that we would all greet each other with hugs every time we saw each other on the trail. I didn't hug the boys, just Meghan, hahaha. I'm sorry I'm not the boy hugging on the trail type of runner.

Right before the 36 mile aid station I get this intense craving for regular water, not energy drink but water. I also get the urge to pee and when I did I noticed that it was a very dark yellow. The situation became clear to me at that point. I was dehydrated have been dehydrating and the culprit was the HEED energy drink. I wasn't suffering stomach discomfort because of too much water it was because of too much HEED. I have had HEED before at Bighorn 100 with no problems but at this race I was having a bad reaction to it. At the aid station volunteers filled my bottles with ice and water, I downed one bottle right away and had it refilled. Within 5 minutes my heart rate dropped 10 beats and I slowly started to come out of my funk.

Meghan leading a couple of boys.

MILES 36 - 47: Not Quite Out of Funky Town Yet
I kept drinking and I felt better and better and thus was able to move faster. I started to catch up to some of the runners, one of these guys was Scott Meyers who entertained me with his stories from Arrowhead and his previous runnings of this race. I think he's up to 9 finishes now. We kept going back and forth, back and forth. We were back in the prairie marsh areas and it wasn't as bad as it had been earlier. My music player was on this time and the music was a good distraction. I only kept one earphone plugged in and heard on the other ear the rumblings of an approaching thunderstorm. Before I got to Emma Carlin, the mile 47 aid station, I started slowing down again. When I took HEED out of the equation I didn't account for the lost calories. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Soon as I got in to the aid station I headed straight to the food table. I downed an energy gel, a salt tablet and took 5 small Cheese and Turkey sandwich squares. I even sat down for a bit while I accessed my drop bag. I had some of my own gels stashed there and left some gear that I no longer needed. After filling up on more ice water I high tailed it out of there. Running on a full stomach is uncomfortable but much more tolerable than bonking!:) I would follow this nutrition plan for the rest of the run, gels and small sandwiches. When sandwiches were not available I ate small boiled potatoes and it worked like a charm.

MILES 47-63: God if You're Gonna Kill Me Do it Quick
My body was back on the upswing for good. It was in these miles that the first thunderstorm struck. We had been hearing the rumble and the winds have picked up but now the rain was here in full force. Sheets of water came down on the course, it felt great but now the trails were running with water, water everywhere. Lighting arced across the sky and my thoughts went to the runners who were caught in the prairie march areas. Out there you are the tallest thing on the ground. I ran next to the trees as much as possible. On one exposed stretch a lightning bolt struck somewhere to my right and back. It sounded loud and close. I looked backed wide eyed and started running even faster. Laughing and scared I prayed to God, "If you're gonna kill me do it quick cause I'm not stopping". When I got back to the Bluff Aid Station at mile 55 I thought for sure they were gonna hold us there, they didn't and I was relieved. There were no terribly exposed sections from here back to the 100k finish at Nordic.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, Bob and Tom were indeed caught in the prairie marsh areas when that lightning bolt struck, the trail was under inches of water by this time. Tom got Bob to lay down flat in one of the wooded deck paths that they used to traverse the marsh sections. They were laughing when they related the story to me back at the hotel on Sunday afternoon but I'm sure it was not funny at the time. Can you imagine? Laying down on a wet flooded trail, exposed in the middle of a thunderstorm with lightning striking from the sky. They were there for about 10 minutes.

By the time I got back to Nordic Aid Station the rain had stopped. My feet had two blisters and I was deciding whether to take care of them or just run through.

Through the Pine trees.

MILES 63-77: The Hunt Begins
I hit the 100k mark at about 12.5 hours. I'm in 12th at this point but take an extended break at Nordic. I end up at the station for a full 20 mins, most of that time spent fixing my feet. One of the volunteers assists me, he kept checking on my condition an sourced out band aids for me. He would have taken my socks off and lanced my blisters if I had let him. My feet don't do well when they are wet and in anticipation of this problem I had stashed an extra pair of shoes and socks at this station as well as a blister repair kit. When I took my socks off the duck tape that I used to protect my feet separated. In the past I've just thrown it away but this time I saved it and gently rolled the new socks over it, right after I lanced and slathered antibiotic on the blisters. It was still a liner that added protection to my feet separated or not. Included in that drop bag was my Camelback type pack. Inside was gear and food that I needed for the night; caffeinated energy gels, a shell in case it got cold, headlamp, flashlight, pepto bismol tablets, salt tablets, ibuprofen, some toilet paper in a ziplock bag and my blister kit which consisted simply of a needle and antibiotic ointment. With the cooler temps and being over hydrated this time, I only carried a single water bottle. After eating and downing a bottled Starbucks Frappucino I headed out. I run into Joe Kulak who opted to call it a day at the 100k mark. We exchange greetings.

Another smiling volunteer chases after me to make sure I have everything and yells out my number to the record keeper. I yell too caught up in the moment, "No.39 heading back out!". It felt good to say that. The first 100 yards after lancing blisters is always painful but it subsides quickly. I catch up to Scott Meyers again, he didn't stay long at Nordic and was worried that I had dropped. We chat for awhile before I take off again, sadly for the last time. He was good company. With fresh shoes and socks, blisters taken care off, hydrated, full and caffeinated, I felt brand new and ran like it. I see Meghan again for the last time. I get another hug but this time she lets on that she's had a hard day. Nevertheless she would end up placing third female for the 100k distance.

Invigorated further I charge on. My nutrition and hydration problems were now behind me. I was back in control and I had the energy to go hunting. Who can I catch and how many can I catch up to before the finish? I'm running very well; relaxed, fast and strong.

MILES 78-81: Doldrums
Strength and focus finally started to flag on the 4 mile push to the last turnaround at Rice Lake. Ground was wet, muddy and slippery. This was also the most technical part of the entire course. Lots of embedded rocks that was hard to see in the dark, vegetation growing on the sides of the trail hid some of it as well. I nailed a few but never went down, the going was slow and tedious and I lost some steam. I was content on some parts to just walk the trail. On the way up I meet up with Mark Tanaka already coming back down from the turnaround point. It was a merry get together. Two Northern Californians laughing at how bad the day had become but happy to be still in the race. It was the third and last time I would see him on the course, no more turnarounds after this point. He looked much better than he did earlier in the day and so did I. Four more people would come down from Rice Lake before I reach the aid station putting me at 7th place or so I thought.

MILES 82-95: A Kick in the Butt
I was only at Rice Lake briefly. 5-8 minutes out of the station I saw a group of runners headed the station. I knew them to be 100-milers because I had seen them throughout the day, in fact some of them were ahead of me earlier in the race. They looked especially strong, relaxed and laughing. One of them is a pretty fast dude who was back there because he had gotten lost earlier in the day. That was bad news, a group of relaxed fast runners less than 20 minutes behind with 19 more miles to go. The realization was a kick in the butt and fueled my next surge. I run the section about 12 minutes faster than the last time. I blaze through the next aid station stopping only long enough to top off my water bottle and grab more energy gels. I ran and ran and ran and it felt effortless. The fear just lit my burner and I rode the energy like a wave. It felt really good. I catch up to the guy in 6th place. I apologize (I still don't know why, it's a race after all) and tell him that I didn't mean to catch up to him and that I was just running from a bunch of runners headed back from Rice Lake. He looked puzzled, understandably, but verified that he too saw the group of runners I was talking about. Unfortunately he himself was done. He said his running was done for the night and was on a slow walk. I hope he recovered, it was a long walk back to the finish from where he was. I start to have problems myself, with my right calf where the Achilles Tendon and the calf meet. I pull out my bandana from my pack and tie a compression bandage on the area. Worked like a charm, just like it did at Cascade Crest 100. This is in addition to the neoprene sleeve on my right thigh to stabilize my right IT Band. I was starting to fall apart:) Duck tape? Does anyone have duck tape?

MILES 96-100: Running Scared
I hit Mary Gorski's Tamarack Aid Station for the last time. This crew has been energetic all day and night. I also got a lot of flattery with my food and water. Shortly after I leave the station my left knee starts hurting like a mother, enough that I can't run. I can't run because I can't bend the knee much without pain. It wasn't the joint itself but the muscles immediately above it, on the inside. I tried running through it but no dice. Was I going to crap out now so close to the finish? After all of that I am going to get caught now? Quickly I switch the bandana to my left knee and place the neoprene sleeve on top of it to keep it in place. That done I walked then shuffled and ran until I couldn't bear the pain then went back to walking, soon as I felt better I tried it again. The last 5 miles is a rolling section which made the up and downs particularly tough but I kept moving. I kept looking back for lights even though I knew there was nothing I could really do at this point if I saw one charging towards me. Habit perhaps. I was down to 14-15 minute miles and it took everything I had just to get that much. There were mile markers on this section of the course and it was a slow excruciating countdown...4, 3, 2, 1. On the last mile I shuffled even harder and finally gave a sigh of relief on the last 30 yds or so. No one caught me at my most vulnerable moment of the race. It was only another 25 minutes before the next two runners came in, they crossed together. Had I walked the entire section I probably would have been caught.

On those last miles I was seriously contemplating giving up the 100's at least temporarily. I just get so beat down and broken on these races and it was pissing me off. I was still thinking that when Race Director Jason tells me I came in 3rd. It's a good thing I was already sitting down because I was shocked. "Well that's just impossible because I counted 6 people ahead of me" I blurted. "Three of them were Relay runners" he answered with a grin. Mark Tanaka comes over and congratulates me as well, he finished second. He tells me that he had to power walk the last miles because of IT Band pain, that makes me feel better. Maybe I wont stop doing the 100's yet:) Jason takes our picture, we talk for a bit then mentions that he has to go inside and get his jacket. Mark goes in as well. I had been sitting on a wet bench, it had started to rain and I didn't even notice.

Bob and Tom had opted out at the 100k mark. I knew since I didn't see them out there but they verified it for me.

AT THE FINISH: Please Get my Car for Me
I hangout for a bit. Not hungry, not thirsty but I down a glass of Coke and a bowl of Chili. I get my "kettle" finisher award and Race Director Timo comes over and checks up on me. Darla Brader, the first female and her crew, come in while I'm still eating. She looked like she could run another 10-miles, all smiles and beaming. Soon it was time to go and Timo, concerned for my well being, informs me that he's going to walk me to my car just to make sure I'm ok. He asked me how far I was driving and where. I must have looked really spent and fragile. At this point I'm barely walking. The knee that gave me so much trouble has now stiffened considerably and any type of action that caused it to bend produced a lot of pain. So I shuffle slowly and apologize to Timo because my car is parked a long way out. He offers to be my valet and I gladly give him the keys. While I wait I start to shiver uncontrollably, the first time I was cold all day. When I get in the car the heater was already at full blast. How is that for service?

POST RACE: Friends to Make You Feel Better
I get back to the hotel, knock on the door and wake up everyone. I worried about Bob and Tom's mood for not finishing the 100-mile and slightly embarrassed about waking them all up. To my surprise they were in good spirits and wanted to know about my race. I gave them all the details and got "oohs and aahhs" for my story. After that was done, I made a bath and gently cleaned myself up. Had some blisters but they weren't bad, the knee however... Then it was off for some zzz's. I wasn't able to sleep right away, the caffeinated gel in my system was still in effect. Eventually I did manage a few hours. We grabbed lunch together and yakked away about the race and everything else. With Bob and Tom involved it was a friggin riot and laughing made me feel all my sore muscles. Whenever I walked Meghan would follow close or from behind, I can see in the corner of my eye that she's fighting the urge to hold me up or push me forward. It didn't help that I would occasionally sway to one side. The more I walked though the better I felt.

Tom, Meghan and Myself. Saying our goodbyes, packing the cars.

Sunday night I had dinner with Bob and Beth at Waukesha. I got lost and it took me an hour to find their home but while lost I drove by some of the trailheads and it brought me right back to the race. I was treated to a fantastic dinner, oh man just thinking about it makes my mouth water right now. There was also wine and chocolate cake while my the crew were dining on Pizza, 2 larges just between the 3 of them. As we ate another storm came rolling through and the area was on another tornado watch.

The rest of the night was spent back at the hotel. The original plan was to drive back to Madison but I was having too much fun with the crew. My cousin Margie agrees with my decision since the weather in Madison was not something anyone should have to drive through.

Monday morning found us packing and making gross out noises when we unpacked our wet, stinking drop bags and gear. The shoes were the worst. Soon it was time to say goodbye, they to Chicago and myself back to Madison. I have a quick lunch with my cousin and it was off to the airport.

Good times and a memorable race. If I had to do it all over again I wouldn't change a thing.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Just wanted to send a quick note that I'm back safe and sound albeit with a distinct limp which is a great improvement from where I was Sunday morning when I could barely walk. Muscles around the left knee finally gave out on me at mile 95. Not wanting to be caught from behind so close to the finish, I tied my bandana around it as a compression bandage and forced the issue until I finished. I knew full well that I would pay dearly later but it was worth it. All it needs is some rest and light work until it's ready.

I have a race report in the works and I have pictures to process as well. The camera is toast from the heavy rain. I failed to protect it properly but I was able to salvage some good pictures and a couple of usable videos. The report will be long and epic but like the run you can opt out at different points and still get the gist of the experience. In the meantime I just wanted ya'll to know that I was touched and flattered by all the support and well wishes and I am home safe and sound.

Some of you have already heard, I placed third - a strange new place to be. As Mark Tanaka posted on his 2007 race report of this race which he won, "...the nice thing about our sport, is that it sometimes allows the little guy to get some cookie too...". I'm a little guy and I'm very happy with my share.

With the gang this past weekend. I crashed their get together and they welcomed me with open arms. This is at the race start Saturday morning; Bob Gentile from Florida, myself, Meghan Hicks from Wyoming and Tom Triumph from New Jersey. Great, great people. Bob I already knew from before, Meghan and Tom I met at race packet pick up on Friday afternoon.

Friday, June 06, 2008

I Like it Here

Loving it here in Madison. Got in yesterday at 2pm, hung out in downtown while waiting for cousin to get off work, drank great beer by the lake with said cousin at the University of Wisconsin Union Hall and had some great food. The people are friendly and the atmosphere laid back, my kind of town. Oh and lots of beautiful women jogging:) Focus Gaston focus!

It's warm and quite muggy but there are thunderstorms in the area and it's bringing wind and rain which is nice. I hope my shoes don't get too wet though since I get major blisters problems when my feet are wet for a prolonged period of time. I also hope it doesn't rain in the middle of the night. Brought an extra pair of shoes and 4 sock changes, will pick up small tubs of Vaseline for my drop bags. I'm anxious to start. It might have been a mistake to arrive two days early for the race. I haven't been able to sleep much last night due to anxiety and excitement. If I had a chance to do it over again I would have arrived today and just stayed a day later to enjoy the town. An early flight out was another mistake, lack of good sleep is going to be factor for this race. Nevertheless I am here and loving it.

Here at the University of Wisconsin Union Hall again using their free internet lounge which is all Macs. Will be leaving for race registration in a few hours and meeting up with Bob and friends. See you all on the other side of KM100! Hope you all have a great weekend as well.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Feeling a Little Horsey

Sunday I got up and felt the usual sluggishness that has marked my taper the last two weeks. It wasn't until I was 12 mins into my run that I realized that all my internal gauges were green and I was moving very, very well. I had to force myself to slow it down a bit. Halfway through the run I threw some sprints and accelerations and it felt very good, clean - almost effortless. Ran like a horse, unfortunately however I'm still eating like one. My appetite has gone crazy the last week. I wake up hungry and stay hungry. I've been winning most of the battles; reaching for fruit instead of baked goods, whole wheat breads instead of rice, lean meats instead of burgers and ribs. I don't always win though. I plowed through a small box of chocolates today. Craziness.