Monday, February 23, 2009

Slowly but Surely

Ah Mondays, how sweet they are since they are my no guilt days off from running and any type of workouts and this Monday I'm celebrating a little. For a couple of years I was experimenting on the least amount of mileage I could run while still surviving these 100-milers. I had the whole swimming and biking thing from triathlon anyway. I think I got it down to 40-45 a week. Now last year there was a big discussion on the benefits of higher mileage on the ultralist forum and I decided it was time to experiment with more miles. After a short break late in the summer last year because of an injured knee I raised my weekly mileage to 60-65 for Fall training and racing. I think it truly helped. My weight stayed down and I had big personal bests in two races. Most of all I finished the season feeling strong and less beat up.

So this year I've decided to continue raising my weekly mileage. I'm aiming for 80-90 miles a week for the hard weeks. I don't know about 100, seems like it would take too much time. I'm reminded about something I read about endurance sports a few years ago; you know you're an endurance athlete when your workouts are not dictated by what you can handle but by how much time you have available.

Last week I hit 80-82 miles (128 -131k), up from the week before which was 76-78 miles. I've never hit that many training miles! Even on the weeks where I did a 50k or 50-mile race I've never gone past 70. We'll see, I either break or get stronger. I do miss the bike though and the cross training benefits it provides, I'll endeavour to put some of it back in the training. Slowly but surely I'm racking up more miles.

Jon was out since it was his back down week but I lucked out with Lynn. She is training for the Miwok 100k as well, ironic because it was in this race that I met her 3 years ago and that was the last time we both ran the race. Since then I've only seen her twice, an injury took her out for a year and a half. Like Jon she's been in the sport longer than I have and she regaled me with stories of her runs and her new and exciting relationship. I love how a good conversation can make the time go by faster, the hills smaller. Like in previous weeks we ran into other runners training for Miwok. Gals representing the East Bay were there; Flora, Suzanne, Leigh and Jo Ann. Also ran into Doug from San Francisco. Anyway this is us after the run, people watching at Rodeo Beach.

Friday, February 20, 2009


I love these kick-ass socks. I got hooked up with them Fall of last year. Olga gave me a couple of pairs during the Summer and Donald forwarded my name to Bob who is the rep. My initial feedback included one suggestion, that they either make short crew versions of their trail socks or create non-white versions of their regular white short crew running socks. Bob told me that they were going to be working on it but that it would be several months at the latest before they get any prototypes done. Well mid-January I got these babies and I've been running in them since. Even took a pair to Rocky Raccoon where they did fine during my 40-miles out there. They feel cushier than the regular white running socks and the color is perfect. My regular white Drymax socks look like they've never been washed. You trailrunners and hikers know what I mean. I've telling my friends about them, posting on this blog now and then. I've been whispering on Gunderson's ear about the new socks but he just laughs it off. I know very well he's sponsored by a sock company. He did agree to take one of these pictures though. Now that we actually have been seeing some good rain around here I've got to test them in those conditions as well. So far so good.

What I have learned from my personal experience? No one sock will solve all of your blisters problems but Drymax socks have been the best of the ones I've used. I wish I had them at Western States 06 when 16 blisters ruined my feet and my chances for finishing under sub-24. They've worked great for me and it's the only sock I use now. Gaiters and common sense still apply, debri in the sock is never a good thing no matter how super my sock is. They seem to perform fine wet but on long wet, muddy races like Kettle Moraine was last year it would be good to have several pairs handy along with the extra pair of shoes. My feet just don't do well with wet shoes for too long. Lastly they are made here, made in the USA.

NFI (No Financial Interest) on Drymax. Not a sponsored athlete. Haha heck I'm sponsored by nobody. I would have to run faster for that and as Scotty once said to Captain Kirk, "Captn' we are already at Warp 9!"




Monday, February 16, 2009

Singing in the Rain

So we finally got the rain many of us here in the San Francisco Bay Area has been hoping for and thankfully there's more to come. Just in time for Lance Armstrong and the Amgen Tour of California (link to some great photos) to come rolling through town. The route today takes them from Sausalito across the Golden Gate Bridge past San Francisco on their way to Santa Cruz. Some friends will be in the crowds to watch them go by. It must be a sight but I ain't got the energy. I think Lance will understand. I spent some good hours this past weekend playing and working in that rain.

Yesterday I got started late after a busy and tiring Saturday. Left my house at the crack of noon:) Had the company of three friends and one mixed mutt for at least 1.5 hours before I had to cross the Golden Gate to hit the Headlands. It was colder there, the rain picked up and so did the wind. The trails were deserted; very wet, muddy, windy and beautiful. Something nice about having the trails all to yourself. Something wonderful about having your core warm inside a shell and a hood as the wind and rain comes at you, sideways at times but never really heavy. Something fun about plowing through mud and puddles, felt like a kid again. Then the "Counting Crows" came on the iPod and I started belting along, off-key and somewhat breathless - it's hard blowing out air while trying to run fast! No matter, bigger breaths in and more off-key singing and lip-synching. At a ridge there was a momentary stop for some air guitar and karaoke like action with the water bottle as a microphone. I'm not an exhibitionist but there was no one there and on deserted trails no one can hear you singing. I was bonking at this point so maybe it was the lack of sugar. I took an energy gel and I came off that ridge like a bat out of hell. Flying, singing, screaming, laughing my way down to the bridge. I heard a laugh that came from such a deep place it made all the other laughter sound like giggles. What the heck was in that energy gel? I kept that pace as I went across a similarly deserted bridge. Admittedly I was worn by the time I hit the San Francisco side. Freakin glorious. It's only February and I already had one of my best runs. My best ones have never been at the races. By the time I cruised past the Marina, the lights were on and the smell of firewood drifted from the homes. I was home a half hour later, about 6 hours and 32+ miles.

I went long on Sunday because I only managed a 3 hour run on Saturday and it was only 3 hours because I chose to join the Tri-club on their kick-off bike ride in the morning. Despite not having ridden my bike for 7 months it was the right decision for many reasons, this photograph being one of them. As we were crossing back across the bridge to San Francisco Fernando, the rider in front of me, points down to the water and this is what I saw.

Kayaks with outriggers headed towards Kirby Cove, Point Bonita and the lighthouse, at the mouth of the bay, Marin side.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Rocky Raccoon 100-Miler

Race morning, 5:45AM, 15 minutes to race start people.

A crewing and pacing report.

01. Initial Quick Recap
02. Videos
02. Pictures
03. Tony's Race Report
04. Official Results
05. Event Website

From the lead pack. Write ups of the race from the top three. It's crazy how these days, because of blogs, you can get a personal report straight from the top runners. Not all runners blog of course but many do. As in a race, I get my blog inspiration from all types of runners, from the front to the back of the pack.
1st Andy Jones Wilkins
2nd Scott Jaime
3rd Jamie Donaldson (First woman). Her Photos.

So there we were at race central Saturday morning at Huntsville State Park, Texas, 30 minutes before race start. I was with Tony, Wayne and Kira. We were all sharing a hotel room and I was crewing and pacing for Tony. To keep busy I kept an eye out for Wayne and Kira too. Tony was a little stressed since he couldn't find the Dreamchaser tent. All three are coached by Lisa Smith-Batchen and part of the Dreamchasers. Also met up with fellow San Francisco ultra-runner Jonathan Gunderson who looked like he was about to take a trip somewhere with his suitcase and backpack in tow. Since his pacer wasn't due in until 3:30PM I placed his stuff with ours.

I know all my race start videos all look the same but I love them. I like how the guys in the front take off and the back of the pack takes their time. Usually there's someone saying or doing something funny too.

On a run in January, Gunderson tells me about his experience last year at Rocky where he came in on the first loop at 2nd place with a 2:43 split. He was going too fast and he didn't realize it until he saw eventually winner, Jorge Pacheco, heading back out for his second loop. Well guess who comes in at 2:45, right behind leader Scott Jaime? He was in no mood to slow down. Next up was Tony and Wayne who were also moving faster than they planned. The course is not flat but it's not too hilly either. The cool morning temps also made it easy. Kira is the last of the group to come in, already suffering from stomach issues which was unfortunate because she was looking to beat her 21+ time from last year. Eventually it got warm and the runners slowed down. The three guys were affected by the heat, especially Tony and Wayne coming from the cool temps of New York but Kira was fine. She had bigger pains to deal with I think. I spent the time in between loops buying extra supplies and eating. I went back to Walmart for a second cooler, ice, some bandanas for the ice bandanas I planned to make, some over the counter stuff and wipes. Later in the evening I went out for a couple of pizzas, getting them early enough to give them a chance to cool. I got a chance to catch up with Larry, Olga's guy. He would end up pacing Andy Jones Wilkins who would win the race. Got to see Mark finish the 50-mile race at 9:50, a huge PR for him.

Or how I wanted to leave Tony out on the trail after our first 26-miles together. Tony finishes the third lap looking very good, alert and in good shape for finishing under 24 hours. He lays out his plan of running 5 hour laps for the next two and possibly finishing under 23 hours. Great, I said. I was encouraged, he was motivated and doing well on time. That only lasted 6 miles or so, just about the amount of time it took my flashlight to die out. He went into a deep funk and it was like pulling teeth to get him to hustle. He became stubborn and unresponsive, working against me rather than with me. About mile 70 he nails a root that causes him to tweak his knee. According to his doctor which he saw this week, a bad strain on his MCL. We didn't know it at the time though, he just knew something was not right. So naturally this doesn't help matters further. Every time he hit a root we had to stop and walk on top of the walking we were already doing. Somehow we still got loop 4 done in 5:10, only 10 minutes off and are left with a little over 6 hours to complete the last loop for a sub-24 finish. This time we take two of his flashlights with us, same make and model as my own. 3 miles into it those lights die out too #@&%#!!! and Tony isn't doing any better physically. Eventually I asked him if the pain in his knee was severe enough for him to want to pull out of the race. It seemed pretty serious, like there was some major damage. He say's no. So then I ask him if he still wants sub-24 and he says yes. Well ok then, yet when I tried to get him to get going he had reasons not to. That was it. I gave up trying to help him get under 24 at that point. I told him "Tony this is your race, your goal, only you can make it happen", with that I promptly pulled ahead keeping him 30 yards behind me.

Around mile 26 he realized things were not right and we have our talk. I laid it all down and told him he wasn't making it happen and I was tired of him fighting me at every step. He apologized and turned it around right then and there. He snapped out of his funk. With his mind back in the game he ran when I said run and he walked when I said walk and when we walked we walked fast. Because of our poor lights there was a 6-mile section where we walked carefully. I was worried he would nail a root and go down for good. Even I, fresh and adept at running technical trails was nailing the darn things left and right. Once he did nail one nicely. A nice solid hit. I thought our bid for sub-24 was done right there, we were either walking home the rest of way or he had to drop because of the knee. Tony kept right on moving though. When I asked him if he was okay, his answer was thick and choked. "Are you sobbing back there?", I yelled back. He answers, "no but that one almost put tears in my eyes." Painful. I then told him how much I appreciated he didn't cry out in pain like a baby. I know, I know, mighty sensitive of me. The pain wasn't enough to keep him awake though. He started to get sleepy which in turn made him drag his feet which of course made him nail a few more roots, nothing as bad as that big one though. He went back and forth between the fog in his head and the pain in his knee. Thankfully that didn't last too long and we were able to get some Coke which woke him up. The last 7 miles or so was a breeze compared to the last 33-miles that I had been pacing him. At this point I didn't have to push as hard, he was flying on his own. Fly Tony Fly.

Two miles from the finish he recognizes a friend who is just suffering. We hear him first before we see him. He's just groaning and moaning every other step. Guy was hurting all over and had an issue with his achilles. Tony who was feeling pretty darn good at this point slows us down so Rich could follow. I was thinking that there was no way this guy was going to be able to keep up at his current condition but I was proven wrong. Having us there and with Tony's encouragement put a little life back in him. We lost minutes doing that but by then it was a moot point, barring any major catastrophe Tony was going to finish well under 24 hours. On the last stretch both of them would run strong to the finish, finishing seconds from each other with RD Joe Prusaitis himself handing them their medals. When I got to the tent the two were talking animatedly and Joe just had a big smile on his face. Must be a great feeling, as a race director, to see your runners push and finish.

By the time we finished Gunderson was already gone, Wayne was still on the course and so was Kira. We waited for Wayne who came in a couple of hours later then headed for the hotel. Waiting for Wayne gave us a chance to catch up with some of the runners. Andy Jones-Wilkins was at the tent despite having finished hours earlier. He had cleaned up, probably got some good sleep and had come back out to check on the progress of the race. A class act that guy. We also got to talk to the 4th place guy who like Andy was hanging out at the finish tent. He was a runner from Mexico who clocked a 16:55. The heater took me out shortly after that though, nap time.

Not much rest for the weary. This is what happens when you schedule your flight on the same day you finish your 100-mile race. I was fine but these guys were exhausted. They were also screaming in the bathroom when they cleaned up, oh you know from the chaffing and blisters (shuddered a little bit while I typed that). After we got cleaned up, we got breakfast, went back to race central to check on friends, pick up drop bags and took off for the airport. Kira had come in to the hotel 30 minutes before she had to leave to take her flight. Quick clean up and then she was gone. So crazy but she didn't count on being out on the course for 27+ hours.

We capped off our time together with some crappy food at an expensive airport restaurant. Tony and I spent most of our time laughing at Wayne who could barely walk. Hey that's what friends are for right. All the runners I knew finished but only one got the time they wanted - Tony. That buckle is sweet too I have buckle envy.

This isn't a race that I would do. It felt monotonous to me. The same types of trail through the same scenery. There is no view of anything really, just trees and parts of the lake. It helped that it was a full moon. Seeing the moon through the trees for most of the night was a sight. At one section I even turned off my crappy light and ran by moonlight. It was well run though and the volunteers were great. They had 239 runners which is good for a hundred. On my first hundred I think there was only 70 of us. You never feel alone out there, always people around. The one thing that really surprised and angered me though was the amount of trash on the course in the form of styrofoam cups that they used to serve the soup. I would see them way past the aid stations carelessly tossed to the side of the trail. I saw a couple that were a couple of miles from the nearest aid station. If you don't want to carry it don't leave with it. If you leave with it then carry that shit to the next aid station. Angers me just thinking about it now and this is a hundred mile race, participated in by people who have put a lot of time on the trails. I've never seen that much trash on a course, the last time was at the Northface 50-miler. Incredible.

Well I don't want to leave on a negative note. It was a successful outing and I'm glad I took part in the experience. Tony and Wayne will do it again in April for the Umstead 100-miler, this time they will be joined by Mr. Bob Gentile. I'm sorry I'll miss that outing. Always something funny when Bob's around and no one gets bigger, uglier blisters than Bob.

Rocky Raccoon 100 Videos

This is Tony excited on race morning, super excited.

I know all my race start videos all look the same but I love them. I like how the guys in the front take off and the back of the pack takes their time. Usually there's someone saying or doing something funny too.

No.84, Tony, finishing his second lap.

Wayne limping around Hertz car rental Sunday afternoon. Hahaha so funny. I can laugh cause I've been there, heck I'm usually worse. Ah the sweet sweet after race pain.

Rocky Raccoon Pictures

Runners getting ready at the start.

Runners run past the timing matt on the right, get their aid further down at the tables, chairs for resting and blister repair in the middle and drop bags to the right. Some folks camped at the park and you can see some of the tents back there.

Gunderson after his first 20-mile loop, coming through the timing matt at second place with a 2:45. Way to represent with the Quad Dipsea shirt Gundy!

Runners take off from and come back to the finish via this trail.

Mark heading out for his last loop on the 50-mile race. Many people were suffering from the warm temperatures at this point. I had already given away three of the four bandanas I got at Walmart. I made ice bandanas for Tony, Wayne and a runner who was so affected from the heat he puked out his sandwich and Coke. That guy by the way would finish in 22+ hours, he survived his lowest point and came alive when the sun went down. Anyway while all this was happening here's Mark running around in a long sleeve black shirt, looking more comfortable than the guys with their shirts off. Well he is from Texas.

50-mile runners finishing their event. The woman in blue with the binoculars, it's her job to spot the race numbers so the announcer can have the runner's names by the time they reach the finish. I'd go cross-eyed doing that job. There's that Boston Athletics logo again. One day, maybe when the qualifying time is 3:30. old would I have to be for that?

Larry King (red) getting ready to pace Andy Jones Wilkins (white) on his last 20-mile loop. Larry had showed up earlier in the day and told the race staff that he would like to pace, preferably someone quick. Well he got the big guy himself. Andy would end up winning and in his report, credits Larry for helping him out those last 20-miles. You can read Andy's report here and Larry's report here.

Dave Elliot's new Texas running buddy Dmitry. Dmitry helped out Dave in his second 50k at Bandera and here he was at Rocky to pace Wayne. He didn't even know Wayne, just responded to Wayne's request for a pacer on some forum list. Yes he did run in that hat.

Wayne and Tony after the race. They're like bears sniffing out food and drink, slow moving sore bears.

Want more pictures, click here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Real Quick

Just popped in to say hello and give a quick summary of the past weekend. Will be back with the usual details with videos and pictures. I'm embarrassed to admit but I've been lounging around today like I was the one who ran 100-miles. Was exhausted and dragged my feet all day. I woke up this morning feeling like a Sumo wrestler had sat on me; felt crumpled, creased and broken down. No major pains or injuries though, just fatigue unlike Tony, Wayne and Kira. Those three runners I shared a room with were probably hating life today.

Overall I had a great time. Never been to Texas and Rocky Raccoon so it was a good opportunity to experience both. From a spectators standpoint I thought the race was well organized and well run. Knew hardly anyone but the people were friendly. Weather wise it got warm but never hot on the course, there was some cloud cover and a breeze. Nevertheless some people did suffer with the heat and it no doubt contributed to some of the dnf's.

Tony, the runner I crewed and paced for, went out too fast and too hard on the first loop despite knowing better. He pulled back on the second and third loops and came in at the 60th mile mark looking strong, alert and in very good time. His goal was to come in under 24-hours and he was on pace to do so. I paced him on the fourth and the final fifth 20-mile loop. Shortly after we left for the fourth loop he started to really struggle, worse he tweaked his knee around mile 70 stumbling on a root. Exacerbating our situation was our powerful handheld lights stopped working despite fresh batteries, all three of them. We still had our headlamps but my own was quite dim. It was like running by the light of a candle, on rooty trails! I was fine being fresh and used to technical trails but Tony kept nailing this root or that root which only made the knee and his mental state worse. We kept losing time to the point that he was in real danger of not achieving his sub-24 finish. Things were not good between the both of us either. He became stubborn and unresponsive. Then at mile 86 he did something remarkable. He pulled himself together and made a terrific come back. He hauled ass as best he could and came through the finish line at 23:24. There were 239 starters, only 162 finished and he was 53rd. Race director Joe Prusaitis personally gave him his race buckle and what a sweet buckle it was. Engraved underneath the star and the state of Texas were the words "Sub 24 Finisher". Frankly I'm kind of jealous. I don't have a buckle that says anything like that.

About three hours earlier Gunderson had finished. Wayne would finish almost 2 hours after Tony. We were at the race tent by the heater waiting when he came in. Kira would finish after sunrise. They all had a rough time but every one finished. A very successful outing and I'm glad to have been a witness to all of it. That said it might be awhile before I crew and pace at another hundred again. It's a lot of time, hard work and an emotional roller coaster.

Waiting for Tony to come in from his 3rd loop, mile-60. I don't know if you can tell from my eyes but I'm ready to do the opposite - plop down somewhere and nap. I got up with the runners, watched the start and spent my time away from the race getting supplies and eating. Dressed to pace - "let's get this show started already!"

Friday, February 06, 2009

So Here I am

In the great state of Texas. Chillin in a hotel room with three runners who are running the Rocky Raccoon 100-mile race tomorrow. I'm crew and pacer for Tony but Wayne is here and so is Kira. I just met Wayne and Kira tonight but they're like most of the other ultra runners I've met in races, easy going and easy to get along with. Tonight at dinner with other friends they were all so good with their waters, diet sodas and easy meals. I had two tall deliciously cold 22 ounce beers and chicken fajitas. What? I don't have to be ready until 60-miles or when it gets dark. That's the rules, pacers are allowed at 60-miles or when it get dark.

The runners are going through their last minute preparations now. They all seem fine, veterans of other long races. Tony is excited and can't wait to start. I've been telling him since this afternoon to calm down. Save it for tomorrow Tony! At the moment they are talking to Bob Gentile on speaker phone, laughing their butts off. Ah Bobby, you should be here too. Now get off the phone and let my runners rest!

Alright, I'm out. Time for me to get ready for bed as well. I plan to go down at the start and watch them all take off. Gunderson has his cooler to hand off to me too. His pacer won't be here until 3:30PM tomorrow. Sure your cooler can bunk with our gear I said. The more the merrier.

Wayne, Tony, Mariana, Serg and Mark.

At the center, Kira, Tony and Wayne at the pre-race briefing.

Joe Prusaitis presiding over the pre-race briefing.

Monday, February 02, 2009

San Francisco Kaiser Half-Marathon

Whew, man that was hard! Send me back to the long ultra's where I can put other race skills into play that I don't get to use in these short fast road races. This half-marathon felt like one long track interval. I don't even remember the year I last ran a half-marathon, must have been 8 or 9 years ago but I remember the time was around 1:38. These days I only get to run the distance as the run part of a half-ironman triathlon and those numbers have been hovering around 1:45-48. So the goal for the day was to get to 1:30 or below.

The rest during the week worked, I recovered from my mini burnout and the rest also served as my taper. On Thursday and Friday, on my short 4-mile runs, the legs still felt sluggish and leaden but by Saturday they had come back to life. It's like they were sick but made a successful timely recovery. Besides resting them I had spent time in the sauna stretching and sat in the tub for a couple of ice baths. I went to bed Saturday with a smile on my face knowing that I would have a decent race in the morning.

I warmed up a bit before the race, caught up with some friends and ran like a thief with nowhere to hide when the gun went off. The first two miles were a bit fast but I let it go then backed off a bit the next two miles. Soon as I recovered from the faster than usual start I put the pedal to the metal for good. My heart rate monitor was pegged at maximum for the entire duration of the run from that point forward. I even saw numbers I hadn't seen before on that watch, crazy.

Ran into a lot of friends. Ultra running folk were out participating or spectating, so were the triathlete types. Quite a festive event especially with the good weather. Met up with a good friend, Stephen Goldmann, who ran a great race with a 1:21. I'm trying to convince him to come down to San Diego in June for the San Diego 100. Some have come up to me before and after the race saying that relative to the distances that I usually run this must have been a walk in the park. Well it was certainly short but by no means easy. It was hard and painful in it's own unique way. I can tell you that by mile 11 when it really started to hurt I stopped thinking about the possibility of running more of these road events in the future:) Hmm... considering the result maybe I quit ultra for awhile and dedicate myself to some marathon specific training to see if I can qualify for Boston...right, right, sure that will happen. Not sure if I can qualify anyway, I'd have to run a 3:10 and I wouldn't know where to fit the training for that in my future trail running plans. I would like to run Boston one day though, something magical about that damn unicorn logo on their finisher shirts and jackets, so select and prestigious. Unlike the Ironman brand, you can't go to a store and buy gear with the logo stamped on it. Maybe I suffer in another hard and fast road race to dispel all notions of running another marathon. Yes I think that will do the trick!

I gave it everything yesterday but when I finished I felt like I was capable of more. It was a good feeling to have. I don't think I could have run harder and faster yesterday but I know I have it in me and I'm capable of more. Anyway this was my first time running the event. I've never been ready in the past to run a fast race so soon after the holidays. This year I was ready and we were all fortunate with the weather; sunny, cool temps and no wind. The last two years it was cold, windy and rainy. I couldn't have picked a better year to join in on the fun. If I'm in the same shape next year I'll be sure to sign up again.

San Francisco Kaiser Half-Marathon

I got my goal of coming in at 1:30 but bemoaned for most of the day that I wasn't able to run just a bit faster to come under it. So close! That was quickly displaced however by the disappointment of the Cardinals falling short in the Super Bowl after a great 4th quarter rally. Again, so close!

Looking much better from the back. You can't see me drooling and breathing hard. Photo courtesy of Lisa Abrons.

Hanging with Steve Goldmann post race.

Cosmo, Rachel and Andrew. Rachel and Andrew are personal trainers at Club One and Rachel has been the one who has helped me with my workouts.

Veronica and Sandrine. Hanging with the triathlon club post race.

With Jan and Jen. Jan ran a great race with a 1:24. At the cafe, post race brunch.

My new race bike. Just have to figure where to put the water bottle holders. At the cafe, post race brunch.

More Photos