Thursday, May 28, 2009

Of Devil Dogs, San Diego 100 and things that go Boom

I love dogs however there are two in this building that need to be taken out. Perhaps shipped to a country side somewhere where they can bark all they want and bother no one. These devil dogs are two small white poodles who live on my floor and every night around this time they go for a walk. These dogs go off on people, barking like crazy and stretching their leashes. I put the blame squarely on the owners, no discipline whatsoever. I can hear them right now and they are half a block away.

Anyway I felt like I just went through a long race. Work has been erratic lately because of the economy but a couple of projects came in. One of them got me working 50 hours through the Memorial day weekend. From Friday to Monday and most of it at "race pace". By Monday morning I felt the exhaustion I usually feel at mile 80 of a 100-miler. It was the mental aspect of the job I think, all that creative thinking under stress. Haha it was good mental training for San Diego, what I kept telling myself anyway. I did get my taper workouts in though, thank God I'm on taper. Our track coach, Coach Dorette, caught up to me Saturday morning 9 miles into an 18-miler. She's like "nice pace" and I told her "It's cause I have a conference call at 11am and I'm 10 minutes behind schedule". I made it, I negative split that baby. After that was done another project came in. Smaller, not as intense but the deadline is a.s.a.p. How it goes sometimes and I'm not complaining one bit.

With only a little over a week to go I am now starting to get excited for San Diego. The RD's just emailed us final directions this week. I've been reading up on the details of the race and will start reading race reports this weekend. I've also been talking with some of my fellow entrants; Ted Nunes, Suzanna Bon, Ben Gaetos and Andy Kumeda. Andy has been a big help, he has done this race a number of times and has answered my questions about the course. Thanks Andy.

The taper is going well. I'm worried that I started it too early but I was pretty beat after Miwok. The following weekend after that race I went out for my last long run and it took me over 5 hours to cover 18-20 miles. Took a lot of mental power to keep moving on that one. I was fine again the next day but I had no distance in me. I've been tapering since that weekend. Short workouts, keeping the intensity up when I could. I don't know about other runners but when I enter the taper my body becomes sluggish, slow and the food cravings go up. I was taught it's a normal part of the process and having done it many times I'm used to it now. Eventually my body "pops back up" and I think it did that yesterday at track practice. We were off-site, at a beach, running on the sand and doing repeats on a steep hill made of sand and small logs for steps. We call it the "Sandladder" and it's pretty tough. Steep and long enough to make your quads and glutes burn. I was slow and sluggish on the beach run. I got passed by most of the group but when we hit those Sandladder repeats the legs went BOOM. They started turning over at a higher rate and loosened up considerably. Today I went for a 6-mile run after work and I came in at a time I haven't seen in a couple weeks. I wasn't working too hard in fact I had to keep reminding myself to pull back a bit on the run. Well I'm a week early but then I started the taper early too. Feels good though, now just to maintain till next Saturday. A few short but high intensity runs should do it.

Hope you all have another great weekend.

Coach Dorette and Tracey at the start of our Baker Beach / Sandladder workout.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


So Sunday morning I was out the door by 7AM to return the car rental that I used for Jon's wedding and I had forgotten it was Bay to Breakers Sunday. I was wondering for a minute why there were about 50 or so people dressed as pink flamingos on my street corner. They had pink skirts with the head dress complete with a black beaks. The women had bikini tops and the men were shirtless. It was warm. These were followed by 20 or so folks who looked like Waldo from Where's Waldo? and a handful of Gilligan's Island characters.

Bay to Breakers is an annual footrace here in San Francisco known for it's costumed runners, nude runners, centipedes (13 runners running connected), floats and public drunkenness. Kegs on wagons is a common site and some of the floats are moving bars. Supposedly they were cracking down on that this year and I wonder how successful that was? It's really more of a parade. The two times I've participated I pretty much walked the 7.46 miles / 12 kilometer course. There is a real race in all of this, an elite event with prize money and everything but they start first and are long gone while the party is just getting started. Here is a fact that I just found out, the race is the official site of the World Centipede Running Championships. Wild huh, some of those centipedes are crazy fast too. Some are made up of sub-6 milers running amok in the streets of San Francisco in costume.

Here is a link to SFGate's pictures from this years race. The hot pink Gorilla who started with the elites is a 2:18 marathoner. It was a hot day though, I'm sure he wasn't anywhere near his usual pace:) It must have gotten quite hot in that gorilla suit.

I don't do the B2B anymore. Good beers, no bathrooms. However when I saw all the costumed participants a part of me wanted to go. "When did you get to be so serious?", a voice echoed in my head. My friend John picked me up a little after 8AM and by 8:30 we were carpooling with friends, Dave and Tracey Ewart, for a short run on Mt. Tam. Since it was a short run, about 11-miles, and it was a warm day I layered up to get some heat training in. I had a skin tight long sleeve dri-fit as a base layer, a short sleeve shirt over that and a shell over everything. I wore compression shorts too but I was testing those for chafing prevention not really to add more heat. I'm afraid I killed a bunch of my swimmers that day. The first 45 minutes was quite hard. It felt like the Philippines in Spring inside that shell, like Wisconsin in the Summer. After the initial shock my body adjusted, thankfully, and I was great after that. I was even able to run with the hood up for the rest of the run. Definitely got some strange looks from the other runners and hikers. Sa'll right, I'm pretty sure none of then are running San Diego 100 in June. The sauna heat training is working. I was fine out there, slower but comfortable. On a long downhill complete with roots, rocks and logs, I gunned it smiling like the Joker. At the end of that burst I thought I was going to pass out but I cooled off quickly while John and I waited for the Ewarts.

After the run was over we fought the crowds at Stinson Beach for a parking spot. We almost left for another beach but luckily we scored. A couple of hours laying about shirtless in the sand didn't help my farmer's tan much but it felt good, so did the burger, the beer and the ice cream sandwich. Thank God for such pleasures that also cost so little. I left Stinson no longer wishing I had joined the debaucherous celebrations at B2B.

Dave and Tracey Ewart, John Branderhorst.

"But I don't wanna heat train anymore! Waaah. I can't keep up with those guys!"

Tracey on the Dipsea Trail.

Here come the runners, hide your food and beer.

A hot summer beach day in Stinson.

For the photoset click here.

Monday, May 18, 2009


A couple of summers ago at PCTR's Angel Island 50k, in the last hour of the race, I found myself following a red runner in a red shirt for miles before I dropped my last gear and went for the pass. We would meet at the finish line and he became one of my good friends in ultra and an occasional training partner.

Jonathan Gunderson is a great runner. Three finishes at Badwater, each finish faster than the previous one. He is going back for his fourth this July. He has three finishes at AC100, a finish at Western States, San Diego, Javelina and a few other 100-milers. He does mission work in Uganda. For 2009 he is trying to raise money to build 6 wells in the country. A strong runner and a good guy.

This past Saturday I saw him enter his biggest event - marriage! Congratulations Jon and Wilma, wishing you both the best. He gets back from his honeymoon (Fiji, New Zealand) just in time to pack up and head south with us. He's also running the San Diego 100 June.


Jon, his bride Wilma and myself Saturday night at their wedding reception.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Volunteering at PCTR's Redwood Creek 50k

10 and 20k runners post race. Look at all that sunshine.

Finish line food. I had chicken soup and chili duty again. Tri-club mate Heather is cutting up the fruit and refilling all the other food stuffs.

Friends who ran the 20k race.

Shan (dropped from the race, wisely enough, because of a pesky achilles), Brett (2nd), Larissa (10th and 3rd Female) and Nathan Yanko (1st).

Finally some new content. I was getting tired of looking at pictures of myself.

People were thanking me again on Sunday for the time I spent volunteering. Yeah that all makes sense because I say the same thing to the volunteers at my races. Really though, it's not 100% altruism on my part. I enjoy being out there and it's hardly work. I get a lot out of it too. It's more of a "hey how's it going?" kind of time. And, and, it's fun watching other people run. I would say that volunteering is my favorite taper or race recovery activity.

Just like at Skyline to the Sea 50k with our friend Dana where a bunch of us came down to see her finish her first 50k and I volunteered at the race, a group of us came down to see Cheyenne finish her first 50k at Redwood Creek and I volunteered for the event as well. I figured since I was going to be there for most of the day anyway I might as well make myself useful. This event had a 10k, 20k, 30k and 50k race. Cheyenne's mom who was visiting from Mexico was also on hand to support her and witness her finish. It was a good thing that this was a loop course as she got to see her daughter come through a couple times during the day. Cheyenne had problems early with a strained calf muscle but she persevered. She did it but she says that will be her last 50k, right, right, we'll see. Frankly I don't really care about the distance. I am more stoked about the fact that many of my friends, the triathlon "Ironman" types, have really taken into trail running. Even better, it is something that they continue to do, race or no race and thats cool. This is my favorite activity and I'm glad to see other people enjoying it too. Hilly dirt is a great thing. Viva la Trailrunning!

Nathan Yanko and Brett Rivers of The Endurables and Trail Run Times took first and second. Their Endurable teammate Larissa Polichuk would come in third woman and 10th overall. It was a good day for them. Other friends also came to participate in the 10k, 20k and 30k races. It got warm out there and some people suffered but most raved about the beautiful trails on the course. I'll have to take their word for it since I had never run the race.

Cheyenne coming in while her much relieved mom (in blue) looks on.

The gang with Cheyenne at the finish.

For more pictures, click here.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Miwok 100k Videos

These videos were shot by JB Benna AKA "Journeyfilm". In two parts and of great quality. The first video shows the start and the leaders coming through the first aid station. The second video captures the weather, mud and lushness of Mt. Tam's trails. The last 30 seconds made me wish it was last Saturday all over again. The guy in the green jacket and white visor who you see for most of the video is Hal Koerner from Ashland, Oregon - current WS champ.

I'm actually in it and I was able to do a little video analysis of myself: bring down arms, lose more weight and purchase larger race ready shorts.

Miwok 100k in Pictures

Because of the rain I left my camera behind at the start. Sorry guys, there really are some great views on this run just not this day. I was a wreck after the run, much like Mt. Diablo but I'm okay now. Got new trail shoes to break in before San Diego, got them at Zombie Runner today. Fun, good stuff, more about it later. Enjoy the pictures.

With trail pal Carrie Sisk at the start. She says we met here on these trails training one day, passing each other twice. We train on these trails. I have no recollection...I only remember last year's Mt. Diablo and her telling me at the turnaround that she was going to catch me.

Coming in to the finish. My last mile was my fastest mile, helps that it was downhill. Photo courtesy of Bob MacGillivray of Drymax Socks.

Can you see the "relief" mixed in with the smile? Photo courtesy of Bob MacGillivray of Drymax Socks.

This photo is interesting because it shows the finisher's tent in the background. Small huh, that's ultra. Photo courtesy of Bob MacGillivray of Drymax Socks.

With good friends Samantha and Jessica. I remember discussing a moratorium on pictures of myself between the two of them back in December because they make me feel so short. As you can see the talks are still in progress.

I am happier than this picture suggests, just a weird moment. With Bob MacGillivray of Drymax Socks. Bob does his best to come out and support his athletes. He says I'm a Drymax athlete so I guess that officially makes me one. I am a big fan of the product and have never done a race without them since I discovered them last year. No blisters at Miwok!

With Andy Benkert. I am indebted to this runner for helping me in the last miles. His cheery disposition and can do attitude energized my run and got me moving faster than I would have alone. It was Andy's first 100k, run with an impressive sub-11 hour finish.

With Mark Lantz (13th overall) at the finish. Yeah he's faster but c'mon who is more good looking:) Don't answer that. He told us to stop dancing around the puddles and just run right through them. I did and ended up shin deep in a puddle and almost slipping on the mud that had settled on the bottom. I started laughing, making the runners coming in the opposite direction laugh too - this was near the turn around at Randall. Good times. The puddles here were the width of the fire road, about 6-8ft across, there was really no maneuvering around.

Suzanne "Sexy Legs" Carrier with pacer Victoria Folks. I gave her that new nickname. Call me biased but I think a little mud is a good thing.

Runner, Pacer lovefest at the finish.

The wait continues for the folks still out there. I consider this one of the best finishes in ultra. It's about a mile of downhill and folks waiting at the finish line can see you coming in for your landing on this last hill. The Headlands Hundred/50-miler and the Marin Headlands 50k share this finish along with a couple of other races I'm forgetting right now. The Marin Headlands 50k was my first ultra so I was treated to this finish from the very start. You can hear the celebrations from the top of the ridge and it pulls you in like gravity.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

A Surprisingly Tough but Fun Miwok 100k

Bolinas Aid Station. Photo courtesy of Victoria Folks who came out to pace and cheer on friends.

I thought it was better on the hills because the water drained off the trail. The fog was like this for the majority of the run. No views but you felt like you were in an enchanted forest, a movie set for the Lord of the Rings. For those who came for the usually spectacular views, consider coming back next year. Photo courtesy of Victoria Folks.

On my previous post I declared that I was "ready" for the Miwok 100K, well the race was ready for us too. It treated us to all the mud, puddles, cold wind, heavy fog, slick rocks, slippery roots and rain that we could handle. It's the kind of conditions that makes the outdoors more fun than the usual, a run an epic experience if you're prepared for it physically and approach it with the right mental attitude.

There was an estimated 50 no-shows at the start and by the time I left the race at 7pm, there were 60 drops. I heard a lot of people dropped because of hypothermia. The start wasn't that cold and soon many were shedding layers, tying jackets around waists. Some of these folks may have dropped off their layers at the aid stations leaving them ill prepared when the conditions got colder later in the race. Maybe that's what happened. As we made our way to Mt. Tam and Bolinas Ridge to the eventually turnaround at Randall the weather got worse or better depending on your frame of mind. Bolinas Ridge was a particularly tough place to be, neither a downhill or an uphill climb, it is a tight, narrow single track that meanders on the side of a ridge for several miles. There is no cover here from the elements and the path covered with slick mud, churned by runners feet. It was tricky on the way out, quite challenging on the way back. You could see spots where people just plain slid of the trail:) A swath of mud and clumps of grass going downhill. Here it is on a good day, here too.

Well like I mentioned, if you're prepared for it, you can have yourself a really fun day with these conditions. Part of what makes the outdoors the outdoors you know. Several friends were doing their first 100k yesterday, had no big expectations except to finish and had themselves a grand time. It was however a bad day to try and PR. A smarter runner would have factored this all in at the start and made the decision to try another day. Not me boy - "We can still do this!! Just run harder, you are in your element with the cold, fog and rain. What mud?" Hahaha my own idiocy amuses me to no end sometimes. I'm laughing right now as I type and drink coffee. I was in the wrong place mentally for the first half of this race. Fortunately I had the presence of mind to chuck all goals halfway through the run and just enjoy the day for what it was.

Physically I was fine. I was at home in those conditions with nothing but shorts and a t-shirt. I shed my layers early and dropped off my gear at Jochen's drop bag. He was nice enough to let me do that. Just one of the advantages of living in San Francisco especially since I run after work in the evenings with the fog and wind. I was slipping and sliding all over the place though. Never fell. My strides are so short, I'm usually sliding with my weight centered above my feet. I was also careful around the rocky sections because they were slick with rain. It took it's toll sooner than I expected. After the 35-mile turnaround my legs felt heavy and stiff. They pretty much stayed that way for the remainder of the run. It was probably a combination of pushing too hard on the first half and not being fully recovered from the last race. No pain though, just fatigue.

My motivation flagged on the way back since I gave up on my goal for a big PR. Being passed when I'm usually the one doing the passing on the second half of a race wasn't helping either:) Thankfully Andy Benkert came along, we ran the last 15 or so miles together for the finish. He let me pace off of him, pulling me up the hills. On the last 6 miles or so, knowing that we still had a chance for a sub-11, I whispered on his ear - "pssst Andy, this going to put pressure on you but you can take it anyway you want. You have a chance to finish under 11 hours for your first 100k. You should go for it!" There was less talking and more hauling at this point. With a sense of renewed purpose my legs revved up for the last time and I returned the favor of his company by leading the charge home the last 4 miles. We hauled up the last hill and sprinted the steep downhill home. We got it! He did it! Andy Benkert pulled a sub-11 for his first 100k in challenging conditions. I'll be back again for a PR attempt when the weather is more conducive to it.

DSC02754.JPGAndy and I hauling past Jo-Lynn at the last aid station in Tennessee Valley - "Thank you! We don't need anything!" Thanks Jo-Lynn for being out there all day volunteering. Photo courtesy of Jo-Lynn.

Pals Jessica and Samantha were there at the finish with an open beer at the ready. The finish was warm and welcoming after a trying day. It was good to see the mud in the other runners along with their tired smiles. Hung around for several hours at the finish enjoying the company of friends, sharing stories and joking around. Mark Lantz I will no longer be taking your advice about running through big puddles. I almost had to swim across the one I tried your technique on. I'll be back with more photos from the event.

It was a good day for a big run. I never stopped smiling and thanking my God for the privilege. Congratulations to all the finishers. Thank you to the race organization, volunteers and cheering spectators. Big thanks to my friends who came down.
San Diego 100-mile is next, June 6-7. Lot's of time to recover and wrap up final preparations. Scott Mills the race director ran the race and he looked happy about his day.

Miwok 100k
Approx. 10,000 ft. (3048 meters) of total elevation gain / Same for loss
Cold, foggy, windy, rainy, mud and puddlefest adventure.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Ready for the Miwok 100k!

And here I am. One day away from the Miwok 100k. I'm pretty excited. The race boasts an incredible field of runners, just finishing in the top 30 would be quite a stretch for me. Ultra Running magazine ranked it as No.4 in the list of most competitive fields for the Men and No.3 for the women for 2008. I'm looking forward to seeing and running with everyone, from the front to the back of the pack. The forecast for tomorrow calls for cool temps but with a good possibility for rain. It's here now, the rain, the worst of it is supposed to hit tonight and tomorrow night with scattered showers in between. I'm good with the cool temps, not psyched with the rain. Oh I love running in the rain but I'm going after my PR and anything that might make that harder, delay me, is not welcome. Besides rain makes it hard for volunteers and spectators and dampens the post race celebrations. But whatever, we are all terrain, all types of weather kind of runners. What a difference two weeks made in the weather. Rain in May, I guess that's happened before.

The last time I participated in this race was back in 2006, back then there was no lottery to get in and you could still sign-up in February. It certainly has grown in stature in the short 3 years I've been away from the event. After two bittersweet races in 04 and 05 I came into the 06 race well trained and uber prepared. I used Olga's splits for an 11 hour finish and had Stephen Goldmann as my pacer while our other good friend, Jason Arth, paced Olga. When I crossed the line at 10:47, a PR by about an hour, I felt on top of the world. I did my best, surprised myself and had the greatest company. At the finish line while Stephen and I were admiring the cute, tough ultra gals and female pacers I thought to myself, "This will do, this is perfect and I want to savor this for awhile. Time to do something else."

Well it has been awhile. The Wildflower Triathlons is the same weekend and that's where I've been the last two years. While I'll miss the hard tri-racing on Saturday, the boisterous company of about 100 club members not to mention the thousands of other athletes also camping and racing, the post-race cold beers and desserts Saturday night by the campfire, and the cheering and spectating on Sunday, there's no place I'd rather be this Saturday morning - shivering and anxious in the company of a much smaller group of athletes, ready to start the 2009 Miwok 100k!


Feeling high and on top of the world with Jason, Olga and Stephen. Miwok 2006.