Monday, June 29, 2009

Quick Update on Western States

Sometime in May:
Carrie: I don't think I will make it past the Foresthill Aid Station (100k mark / Mile 62) in Western States. My injuries are not getting better. I went to the training camp and had to quit early. I didn't bother getting crew lined up or a pacer. None of my family is coming I think.

Rick: I can't commit to pacing you because I don't know what my condition will be after San Diego but if I'm okay I 'm willing to pace.

Carrie: Alright.

Rick: Cool.

Well the picture says it all. I'll be back with all the gritty details, photos and videos. I'm busy editing all this stuff so she can share it with her family and friends. Hopefully before she leaves for her short vacation in Wisconsin. I feel for her and her family. Last year they all came down from Indiana, rented a house in Lake Tahoe for the weekend, had shirts and hats made and the forest fires forced the cancellation of the event. They couldn't be here this time around so I shot a bunch of photos and took several videos with them in mind. Similar to what Jessica did for me at the San Diego 100-Mile earlier this month. Jessica's job was harder, she had to deal with me:) Just how we roll. As Gary Wang said: It's what our sport is all about: aloha, kokua and ohana. Amen Gary, amen and way to go runner 362. Way to fight, persevere and hang on Ms. Carrie Sisk. If I don't pace another person again I would be okay with that. A roller coaster ride to remember.

Somewhere on the Western States trail sometime between midnight and sunrise:
Carrie: In 30 minutes you are eating another gel.

Carrie: Please, I can't eat anymore gels (whiney voice here:) I'm gonna throw-up.

Rick: You don't have a choice and throw up if you want but you will have to take another one.

Carrie: Ugh. Okay.

Carrie and her Western States buckle.

Friday, June 26, 2009

To Western States

Here comes the crew. Bob and Olga heading out early. They are crewing for Dave James. I'll see them in a few hours.

Off we go. The last two days I've been entertaining Bob, shown him around town a little bit, took him on a run. The first day I took him up and down the hills in the neighborhood and yesterday we ran to the Marin Headlands then down to Sausalito where we took the ferry back home. Bob's from Florida where it's warm and flat so it was amusing at times. Olga was waiting for us by the time we got back having just driven down from Oregon. It got a lot funnier with the three of us together. Those two are already off, headed to Squaw an hour ago. I'm off myself in another half hour. The runner I'm pacing, Carrie #362, is picking me up. I wasn't supposed to leave till Saturday but I got peer pressured to head up early. It will be fun but my work doesn't start until Saturday afternoon when I pace Carrie the last 38 miles. Those two have to be there early because they have to crew with Olga running sweep on the first part of the course. This race actually has sweeps, what a luxury. Should be a great time in the most popular, most hyped up 100 in the country. Supposedly this year is one of the most competitive fields. A lot of our fastest runners going head to head for 100 miles. Pretty exciting. Looking forward to wishing friends a good race and hanging out with the other crew, pacers, volunteers and spectators. Wish us luck.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Volunteering at the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon

So there I was last Saturday morning, getting briefed with a bunch of other volunteers on how to check people in. I was only there for 5 minutes before the race excitement took hold of me and I started formulating a plan to get myself posted with the boat start crew. I have never had a desire to participate in this race, some of my friends think this is strange, but I do like volunteering for it. This past weekend makes six times I've worked this event the last seven years. I missed last year because I was running the Kettle Moraine 100. Anyway I've been a volunteer on the bike and run course and at the start/finish line but never on the swim. I was hopeful since we were the host club and I knew some of the folks in charge of running things. There was no guarantee but it all worked out Sunday morning.

It was an early start. We were at the race site by 4:30AM then it was a bus ride with the athletes to the dock where the San Francisco Belle was waiting for us. Body marking ensued which is one of my favorite volunteer activities. Nothing like the smell of marker and the hopeful, excited, sometimes nervous demeanors of the athletes. It was race numbers on the top of the hands, both arms, both legs and their age on the left calf. The boat itself was one crowded mess on both floors. 40+ athletes were directed upstairs, 39+ below on the first floor deck and the Elites and Challenged athletes had their own special are which allowed them to exit the boat first. Challenged athletes are a good cure for whining. Triathlon is hard and I can't imagine doing it with one arm or one leg. I couldn't imagine swimming with one arm or running with a prosthetic leg. A group of challenged athletes who had prosthetic legs asked me if their "legs" would be okay if they left them tied with their drop bags. In the past they had a crew person who collected it for them after they left the boat.

Once the boat was full it was all neoprene and nervous anticipation. They were packed tight in there. I took some time to walk around the crowd and wish friends good luck. I was given the task, along with other volunteers, of trying to separate the age groups and keep them in order. Each group had a different color for their swim caps and it determined the order that they left the boat. Uh, yeah right. First of all they were all mixed, second once the boat doors opened they all stampeded to the front. I just told my high school volunteers to get out the way. Stupid, stupid idea. Like trying to stop concert goers from pushing their way to the front of the stage. The other volunteers were just as ineffective and so was the "plastic tape" they used to separate areas of the room. Plastic tape?! Hahaha, I just shook my head. Regardless of the ineffectiveness of the wave start everyone was off the boat in 6 minutes. I made my way to the top as the 40+ athletes were coming down. On our way back to the dock we collected the drop bags, all 1800 of them. These were then loaded into a truck which were then transported and separated by number at the finish line. Thank God for high school volunteers!

Shortly after arriving back from the boat, my friend Lara who was in charge of the finish line drafted me for water and medal duty - giving out water and hanging medals on the necks of finishers. It was fun. I got there just in time to see the first pro finish. This race attracts a good pro field. I got to hang medals on some of my friends. It turned out to be a very good weekend. I got no workouts done but I did spend a lot of time on my feet which was probably fine for my recovery anyway.

Race briefing. That's the Marin Headlands in the background. The site of what should be my next 100.

With some of the tri-club members who were present Saturday. Some were volunteers like myself, some came to register and some just came to hangout.

Jenny getting ready.

Jim and Dave minutes before they were to jump off the ship.

To San Francisco! Jenny said she saw a dark swimming shape underneath her. Yikes! It was a large seal, c'mon. If it was a shark one of these folks wouldn't have made it to shore.

Karaoke with a water bottle. Handing out water at the finish.

Happy finishers, Sandrine and Son.

Lots and lots of medals.

For the complete photoset click here.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Prayer for a Champion and a Fellow Runner

I had a post all ready to go, with pictures and everything about the fun we all had at the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon last weekend. An email just came in however from the ultralist and I felt it was important enough to share here. I don't know Ben Hian but from what I've heard he is an incredible runner and a truly down to earth, nice guy. He sounds like a lot of people I know in this sport. Ben won the San Diego 100 two weekends ago, his first 100 mile win after being absent from the sport for a decade. I echo Mike Palmer's sentiments, the ultra list member who forwarded the news this morning, about being saddened by the turn of events. The good news is that Ben is doing well now and will make a full recovery. The story is a great reminder that we are not invincible. Sobering news. We all push and work very hard, from the front to the back of the pack. It could have been anyone of us.

Back in high school at a large wrestling meet, I was with friends yelling, cheering, laughing with my teammates when we suddenly heard yells of pain from the center mat. One of the wrestlers had snapped his arm bracing himself from a takedown. As rowdy, loud and competitive as high school boys can get we all stopped and watched. There was a hushed silence. Thoughts of competition left me and I felt genuinely bad for my fellow athlete. It could have been anyone of us. That's a bit of what I'm feeling now. Ultra-marathoning is fun, competition is fun, pushing my body to the point of breaking and deliriousness is fun but at the end of the day I want to survive in one piece with no trips to the medical tent or the hospital.

The news about Ben Hian from Scott Mills, forwarded to the ulra list by Mike Palmer:

Shortly after finishing the race, Ben wasn't feeling well in the shower area and asked Audry to get a paramedic to check him out. While talking to the medic in the shower, Ben fainted and was luckily caught in his fall by the medic. He came to shortly there after and we then called for an ambulance as the medic was very concerned with Ben's vital signs.

He was rushed to Grossmont hospital and given an IV along the way. Over the next several days, Ben's kidneys shut down and even though he went through over 20 IV's his kidneys wouldn't process food or saline solution. The doctors think that excessive amounts of damaged myoglobin from extreme muscle trauma and dehydration caused this. His weight shot up from 147 lbs to 177 due to retention of fluids in his extremities. After all of last week, his kidneys finally started processing again and his weight and appetite began to return. He expects to be out of the hospital soon but has been in for over a week and a half. This was very serious stuff. The doctors indicate he will be alright but he won't be able to return to serious running for several months. They also discovered a small leak in one of his heart valves (heredity related) while doing a myriad number of tests on him.

Ultra running is very serious business and we all need to respect our limitations and take care of ourselves throughout training and races. Ben pushed very hard ....he told me on the phone that with as much as 30 miles left in the race...he wasn't feeling right but persisted in spite of slowing down and working harder than normal. He is one tough dude and we are all happy to see him get past this and back to health. He is already talking about running Noble Canyon 50K but acknowledges that he won't be ready for AC.
AC refers to Angeles Crest 100. A race Ben has won several times in the past. A race course much harder than SD. Here's to Ben's full recovery and how about that medic.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Saltwater for Breakfast

I had an easy weekend planned as part of my recovery week from San Diego but the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon was this weekend. One of the most popular, non-Ironman distance tri's in the country, Escape sells out, has a lottery system and is limited to 1800 participants. If they had a bigger boat they could have more participants. Anyway I came out to volunteer just a little bit on Saturday morning, wanted to hang with Samantha and Jessica who were running registration but ended up coming back today for more volunteering. I can't help it. Maybe it's a sickness, I thrive being around active people. I'll tell you guys more about it later but for now check out these two videos. I'm not big on swimming especially the pool but I like open water swims and it is an unfulfilled dream of mine to swim from Alcatraz to San Francisco. One day, maybe when I return to triathlon.

I apologize. The sound is a little loud, you may want to turn down your speakers.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Rollin Rollin Rollin

My San Diego 100-Mile 2009 Race Report. Oh it's long, long like a 100-miler. I don't do short race reports. However there are other things to do besides reading a whole bunch of text, there are pictures and photos. Take in as much or as little as you want. Enjoy.

01. The Quick Report
02. The Short Report at
03. Videos Courtesy of Jessica Fewless
04. Pictures by Jessica Fewless
05. Pictures of the Course by Chris Marolf
06. Official Results
07. Splits
08. Race Director Scott Mill's Report

Olga's splits. I had these taped to my water bottles and Jessica had a copy so she knew when to expect me at the aid stations. The cooler than normal weather allowed me to stay ahead of them. Had it been the usual warm weather of the race I would have been closer to her predicted time.

So Close
Missing going under the 20-hour mark a mere 25 seconds grated on me for a couple of days. It was tough to let go even with the 6th place finish because it was a goal I had been aiming at for most of the day. My constant progress against the projected splits kept me motivated and moving well. Jess said she had never seen me so focused, I think I scared her a little bit. I smiled a lot less, all business. Who needs a pacer with that kind of focus for company? Me, me, me, for the last 7.6 miles. The distance between the last aid station of Sweetwater and the finish. The goal slipped into my hands at Sweetwater, gaining 1:05 against Olga's predicted finish time. All I had to do was cover the remaining distance in an hour and 50 minutes. I choked. In the dark, with single digit miles left, the wheels started wobbling and I wobbled my way to the time you guys already know of 20:00:25. Another lesson learned for next time - a good hundred is running the race hard all 100 miles not 92.4:) Oh I'm fine now. I am satisfied with my race now that I can see the big picture again. So many things went right and the support I got heading into, during and after the race was phenomenal, just phenomenal. The time I ultimately finished in was more than I hoped for.

A Great Race
The course is basically made up of two loops, a 19-mile and 31-mile loop that you run twice to make 100. I liked it! I knew what to expect the second time around. It was also more beautiful than I had imagined. Even the remains of burnt trees from a fire years ago looked majestic and serene. We were constantly surrounded by hills and mountains, this course could have been more hilly if they wanted it. In fact the old course had more elevation gain. The current elevation gain of 12,300 ft. made it the less hilliest of the eight 100-milers I have finished but it feel a lot harder. Some of the 40 or so people who dropped can probably back me up on this one. Scott Mills did an amazing job, so did his cadre of dedicated volunteers. Emergency personnel were also on hand to lend their assistance. Special thanks to the volunteer at mile 75.3, Paso Picacho aid station. I came in bonking and out of it. I went straight to Jess for food, drink and extra clothing. The sun had already set and my body temp had also dropped from the lack of calories. As I was shoving food into my mouth, drinking and changing, this volunteer came over and threw a heavy blanket on me. When I had difficulty putting on my long sleeve shirt, doesn't slip on well when you put it on over a wet and dirty shirt, over a wet and dirty body, he helped me. Another volunteer came over and took my number. The volunteer with the blanket then walked with me past the aid station, gave me last minute directions and waited until the very last minute in taking the blanket off. That volunteer went the extra mile for me. At the finish Race Director Scott Mills treated me like I was the first place finisher amidst loud clapping and cheering. They sure know how to make a person feel like a rockstar. When we came back at 8AM Sunday morning he was still going strong along with the volunteers, crew and spectators. Two thumbs up for this event. What a great event!

Ohmygooosh 100 Miles! No way! Really? Goofing around at the start, eh it was a way to keep warm. Photos courtesy of Jessica Fewless.

The First 19 Miles of Loop 1
It was cold at the start and it would be unseasonably cool for the entire race. I came prepared for the heat but I am at home in cool conditions. Notice I didn't say cold. I had a feeling the day was going to go faster than originally planned. I had a heart rate number in my head, a low number which I aimed at for the first half. It was tough, I've never started so slow for a race. Days before I consulted with my track coaches, coach Duane and Dorette, and they helped me with my target pace. Despite feeling like I was moving too slow I was hitting the aid stations faster than the splits suggested so I was happy about that. After only 13 miles however I started to feel "off". I felt sluggish and off my grove. Something inside went off track somewhere.

Jess' take on the start.

I started in the middle of the pack and stuck to a conservative pace. There's people in front of those people. Photo courtesy of Baldwyn Chieh.

The Next 31 Miles of Loop 2
I see Jessica for the first time since the start. It was still too early for me to really need anything but I'm glad she was there because she filled me up with Gatorade. Some of the aid stations served Heed, my body doesn't do well on that. Some of the aid stations served Accelerade, my body doesn't like that either. When did my body become so friggin high maintenance? It did however run fine on Gatorade, strange because it used to hate Gatorade. My body was playing games with me but if it likes Gatorade it will get Gatorade. Along with the Gator juice I ate gels. For most of the race I pretty much subsisted on gels. Later I would have small pieces of cheese and turkey sandwiches but not much. I didn't feel the need for solid food on this one and I wasn't gagging on the gels. Moreover it took too much effort to chew, breath and swallow all at the same time. I was on a mission remember, gotta keep beating Olga's splits. At the 30-mile mark was the biggest climb of the day, about 1050 ft. in 2.75 miles followed by 800 ft. of descent the next 2.84 miles. It's not gigantic but it wasn't nothing either, the ensuing downhill was not kind. It's a rocky tricky descent. At night, on my second trip up this climb, I dubbed this section the "twilight zone" which I'll explain later. Coming down I was still feeling funky and sluggish, worse I was starting to feel a bit warm and achy, like I had a fever or something. I finally popped two Tylenols and within minutes I started feeling better. By the time I got back to the start/finish at Camp Cuyamaca everything was running like clockwork and I was 30 minutes below Olga's splits.

Jess' view of the first 43-miles.

The Climb up from Big Bend
The climb up from Big Bend. An absolute pain in the behind at night with the wind and light scattering heavy fog. Photo courtesy of Chris Marolf.

50 to 69 Mile of Loop 3
Left Camp Cuyamaca at 12th place but I started to slow down. Deep down I knew it was temporary. I was only halfway through the race and I paced myself well. At the mile 55.9 aid station I hit the caffeine. It was too early, it was only 4:24 in the afternoon but the Starbucks Mocha Frappucino looked so good. I turned over the bottle and it said 180 calories so I took a gel to make it 280. From that point forward I would have the fraps regularly and I didn't have to dip in to my caffeinated gel stash, something I was happy about because those tend to make me gag after awhile. Jess would end getting more frappucinos at the supermarket. I could get used to having crew at these 100s. Slowly I rebounded and I stopped losing the time I gained on the splits and started to get ahead again. By the time I returned to Camp Cuyamaca I was 40 minutes ahead and in 8th place.

More of Jess' commentary for this section.

San Diego - Mile 20-25 026
Wow that shirt could be a few inches shorter, well the runner could be a few inches taller, hahaha. Naw, those short legs are moving faster these days and for that I am happy. I do have to stop carrying the water bottles so high up, no reason for them being up there.

Miles 70 to 100 of the Last Friggin Loop!
The hardest one of all. I entered Camp Cuyamaca in 8th but I left it at 7th. Another aid station pass, hahaha. I love those! I didn't mean to do it though. I was just trying to get through the aid station as fast as possible as I had been doing all day. I didn't even know I did it until I looked back and saw the runner with his pacer (correction "her" pacer). She wasn't any of the guys I passed so I knew she had been in front of me. This time however I would pay for rushing through that aid station. Between Camp Cuyamaca and the 75.3 aid station I ran low on calories and needed at least a gel to get me through the next 30 minutes. I didn't eat much at Camp Cuyamaca because I still had enough calories in me and I didn't want to take in too much. I have a strong stomach but no need to tempt fate. Problem was that I forgot to get a non-caffeinated gel. The only gel I had was caffeinated and I didn't want to take it because I had a lot of caffeine in me from the last frappucino. Too much caffeine makes me queasy and nauseous so I opted for the bonk. This time the only thing in my water bottles was water so no help there. I bonked badly, that late in the race a slight miscalculation on my part had big repercussions. I started slowing down and I had to focus hard to keep moving. It helped that I knew what was going on. Funny that I was more scared of the nausea from too much caffeine than bonking from lack of calories. When I got to the aid station I headed straight for Jess and the rest I already relayed earlier when I wrote about the exceptional volunteer with the heavy blanket. That was the longest stop. Jess said I didn't even look at her once. I acted like she wasn't even there. My mind was focused on the basics; food, drink, warm clothes, and getting the hell out of Dodge before runner 8 and his pacer caught me.

I recovered quickly but not quick enough. Runner 8 and pacer did catch up to me. It was dark now and not only could I hear them chatting away but I could see their lights as we wound our way forward. A part of me wanted to let them pass. It seemed like they were gaining and it was only a matter of time. I didn't want to be harried, hunted, chased so closely. However a bigger part of me said "FIGHT!". So I firmed up my resolve and made like a rabbit and bounded away. If they were going to catch me it wasn't because I let them. It seemed like I wasn't losing them at first but then slowly and surely I pulled away. I met Jess just before the aid station of Big Bend at mile 80.4 and I apologized for my bonked behavior five miles back. I got what I needed and was even in more of a hurry than I was earlier in the day. I said something about people chasing me and she thought I was crazy cause she saw no one. After crossing the road I looked back to see if I could spot their lights and quickly went down, sprawled out all over the asphalt road that lead to the trail and the actual aid station of Big Bend. Lucky for me no one saw and I was gratified to see that there were no lights. At the station they tried to convince me to go back down for a jacket citing the wind and heavy fog at the mountain. Oh you mean like home, I thought to myself. I politely declined, they were concerned so I told them I was from the northern part of the state. They offered me some soup and I politely declined that as well citing the runners chasing me which by the way were still nowhere in sight. Did they get lost? They were making me look like a raving lunatic! What followed was the toughest part of the course, the "twilight zone" section I mentioned earlier.

The second time up the big hill was quite challenging. Heavy fog had rolled in and covered the mountain, limiting visibility greatly. All you had was the few feet in front of you. It isolated you. Like Gunderson said later, "it was hard to see the ribbons and it was easy to fool yourself that you are going the wrong way". Frankly I don't know how he did it with a single headlamp. The fog scattered the light of my headlamp and I was glad to have had my flashlight which cut through some of the fog. Thanks Zombie Runner! Don Lundell had rushed me a new light, mailed to our hotel the day before the race. I discovered my light wasn't working the day before I was about to leave. Anyway the cold and blowing wind didn't help things either. I heard reports of runners calling it quits on the climb and coming back down. It was a slower climb up the second time around and the trip down just as slow. Nevertheless I was hustling at a good pace, yes, yes, yes, still running away from runner 8 and his pacer. On the way down I caught the second place woman and her pacer and the first thing I said was "thank God, people!" Shortly after that I was below fog line again and out of that twilight zone. 10 miles later I would even catch a glimpse of the full moon between the clouds.

Along the way to Sweetwater, the 92.4 aid station, I caught sight of runner 5. I think he saw my lights too because he shifted to another gear and pulled away from me. Sound familiar? Not a faint glimmer from his lights was visible ever again. He was the Road Runner to my Wily E. Coyote. When I pulled into Sweetwater for the last time I was 1:05 below Olga's splits and stoked but not before falling and rolling all over the dirt first. This time I was seen, I guess it was obvious when my lights suddenly dove down and disappeared. Nice one Gassstone!

I left the station elated but feeling everything now. Physically I was ok but mentally I was close to done. A volunteer correctly assessed my situation when she said I was wobbly. I had turned around briefly to say something to Jess and the motion of swinging my head and shoulders back and forwards again was almost too much. Good thing I didn't fall again. I would have given them a fright. I had plenty of time but it was really hard to focus and stay motivated. I struggled my way to 99. The last mile I lit up once more trying to beat the clock. I was sprinting towards the finish, sprinting! See it was all in the mind. My focus had scattered like a headlamp's light in heavy fog those last few miles. The finish was bittersweet, so close. On the bright side it could have been 20:01. As it was I was exactly at 20 hours and I'm content with that, for now.

And her final post.

San Diego - Mile 70 and Finish 020
With Scott Mills the race director shortly after I finished. Checkout his Miwok 100k hat. He was with us at the rain and mudfest that was this years Miwok 100k. Photo courtesy of Jessica Fewless.

Post Race
I hung out briefly to chat with Brian Krogmann and Suzanna Bon at the finish then it was off to the hotel. Clean up was relatively painless because I only had minor chafing from my heart rate monitor strap. My feet were in great shape, thanks Drymax Socks, and I didn't have any injuries or scratches. I was good, just overall general soreness. My stomach was not happy however and it wouldn't be until another 9 hours before I felt like eating anything. I think I had ingested too much caffeine or too many gels. Shortly after slipping into bed I got the chills and my legs were so sore they kept waking me up. I've never had that kind of soreness and I only used to get chills my first year running, back in 1999. I would get them every time my long runs passed 15 miles. I must have been running hard, hahaha. Not sure why I'm laughing right now. After a few hours we were back at the finish by 8AM. We met up with Chris Marolf who was carpooling with us and stayed long enough to cheer runners in and take in another nap in the car.

Sunday evening my mom couldn't stop laughing about the way I walked and Monday I got to celebrate her birthday with her along with a good number of our relatives. We had lunch at this incredible Filipino restaurant and I ate my fill. There were questions of course. The "why" and "how" and more "whys" of running a 100-mile race. One of my aunts just couldn't understand why I would want to enter a race with no prizes. Haha ah yeah.... The prize part bothered her more than the distance. Well there is a prize just not in the way she envisioned. My mom was good, she handled all the questions.

Huge Thanks
I can't say it enough. Huge Huge thanks to my friend Jessica Fewless for being my race sherpa the entire weekend! I don't know if they used this girl to call the cows home back in Wisconsin but she can yell. I could hear her yelling my name from 100 yards away. Put her together with our other friend Samantha and it's over. She committed back in February and I thought it wasn't going to happen after her really bad bike crash in April. Oh she was riding her bike with her boyfriend Jeff, flying with a tailwind at 30mph when her front tire touched his back wheel. End result: bloody head, concussion (helmet saved her noggin), collar bone broken in two places and two fractured ribs. I heard the ribs were absolutely painful during allergy season. A week out of surgery, with a titanium plate screwed in her shoulder, she reaffirmed her commitment to crew. They make em tough in Wisconsin too I guess. Speaking of which big congratulations to the Kettle Moraine 100 runners, the event is run in the same weekend. My race there last year was also something special and I said a little prayer for them when we started our event.

Last Thoughts
San Diego is my 8th 100-mile race. What's next? Oh I've got plans, time to put them down on paper and map out the rest of my year. I'd like to participate in the new 100-mile ultra in Oregon late September and I am toying with the idea of joining friends in the Headlands Hundred early August. I've never repeated a 100 that I've done but this race is local, in my training grounds and I have a coupon that will help with the entry fee. Really, I'd be a sucker NOT to do it. In two weeks I get to pay forward all the help that I received for this race. I will be crewing and pacing my friend Carrie at Western States. Same runner I was supposed to pace last year when the forest fires cancelled the event. Another night trail run without having to run all day first. I'm all over that.

San Diego 100-Mile Videos

Jess didn't know that video's taken from digital cameras work best in the horizontal format. The one video that does start sideways quickly reverts to the proper format which is why I didn't bother rotating it like the second video. All videos were taken by Jess.

Scouting the race course with Chris and Jess the day before the race.

Race morning. Freezing my butt off and looking for Andy Kumeda who lent us a chair for Jess.

Race Start!

At the halfway point. Don't worry the video will turn the right side up after a few seconds.

San Diego 100-Mile Photos

All images courtesy of Jessica Fewless.

San Diego - the night before 017
Race briefing at the cafeteria Friday night.

San Diego - race morning- the start 018
Meeting Brian Krogmann, race morning, at the cafeteria.

San Diego - race morning- the start 048
Ready to start!

San Diego - race morning- the start 065
And we are off under overcast skies.

San Diego - Mile 20-25 004
Jon Gunderson (white) on the course.

San Diego - Mile 30 - 43 027
Course markings were excellent.

San Diego - Mile 20-25 024
Powering through.

San Diego - Mile 70 and Finish 011
Suzanna Bon finishing, first woman, 4th overall and a new course record.

San Diego - Mile 70 and Finish 018
Finishing! I had slowed down to a jog once I missed the 20 hour mark.

For the rest of the photoset click here

Sunday, June 07, 2009

San Diego 100: The Quick Update

Thanks to Bob Gentile, some of you already know how I did. Apparently the webcast wasn't very successful. Too bad really because everything else was great about this event. Race director Scott Mills, the rest of the race staff and the volunteers did an amazing job. The people were incredible and so were my fellow participants.

We started at 6am Saturday and I finished at 2am Sunday for a time of 20:00:25 which was good for 6th place and a new 100-mile PR. Yes, you can bet I was rushing in the end to try and get in under 20 hours. It was going well until the last 7 or so miles, from the last aid station to the finish. I was spent mentally which made it hard to stay motivated and keep pushing. Nevertheless I'm happy with my performance and my time. Huge thanks to Olga for preparing my splits which was my guide throughout the run and a huge, huge shout out to my best friend Jessica who was my crew, photographer and chauffeur for the entire race weekend. She racked a lot of miles driving from aid station to aid station and replenishing supplies.

Photos and race report to come.

Preliminary results from UltraRunning magazine.

Partial results. Ben Hian was first with an 18:15. Suzanna Bon was first woman with a 19:32 and a new course record.

Brian Krogmann (3rd) and myself Sunday morning at the finish line. This shot is for Bob MacGillivray of Drymax Socks.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Live Webcast

Forgot to put this up. You guys can track me here

Rick Gaston, Runner #37

Finally meeting up with fellow Filipino runner Ben Gaetos who is based in southern California.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

NorCal to SoCal

Mom: So I'm here at Walmart and I know you said you only want a cheap styrofoam cooler but there's one here that's a soft bag type and I'm thinking you should invest in one of these since you can bring it to other races.

Me: How big is it. Will it hold a 6-pack?

Mom: Dang Rick is that all you think about?

Me: No, no, just wanted to get an idea of space capacity of the cooler
(lying through his teeth).

A part of me is still out there in Del Valle Park, the finish of Ohlone 50k, drinking beers, chatting it up with fellow runners, volunteers and spectators, watching people finish. I'm in a super relaxed, summer vacation type of mood. That's a good thing, as opposed to being anxiety ridden and totally stressed. Not my style anyway. I get to go to this one big, self-contained trail party where people are cheering for me and taking care of my needs. They even provide food. That's a big step up from my usual solo long runs where I have to take care of everything myself and there is no clapping when I finish.

Maybe I mentioned this already. It's my mom's birthday this weekend too. I'll spend the night with her tonight, borrow her car for the weekend, back to spend the night with her Sunday night and celebrate her birthday with her on Monday with some of our relatives. I'm also bringing empty tupperware containers which I will fill with her cooking and take home. I'll never be too old to borrow Mom's car or enjoy her cooking.

My trail mom, Olga, sent me an excel spreadsheet with her predicted splits for me. If it was anyone else I would have said they were crazy. I mean I always tell her she's crazy but not when it comes to predicting splits. Am I right about this Larry? Your fiance has a special gift when it comes to this. Without having been on a race course she can do a pretty good job predicting her splits based simply on the elevation chart and the type of terrain/trails. Fortunately for me she has been to SD100 before, crewing and pacing in O7 and running the race in 05. Although it was a different harder course then. And she knows me very well. So I am willing to give it my best shot. I have those splits reformatted, printed and taped to my water bottles. I'd like to tell you but I'm not that brave. Not sharing the overall time she has predicted for me. I don't need the pressure:)

Chris Marolf sent me a link to a great race report he found on the web from a guy who ran the race last year. Great pics and a nice video. On the video, the crew is amazingly efficient! Watch them move in and out, feeding him and taking care of his fluids. Like clockwork. Not only does he have this tremendous support but he also paces his race nicely. I will paste an excerpt from Active Toby's report. This is exactly where I want to be mentally and physically come the 100k mark/mile 62.

"...With the Anza-Borrego desert vista to the east and the sun setting over the mountains to the west, I was beginning to cool off and could feel my core temperature leveling out. Soon we ran out of daylight and switch on our headlamps and hand-held flashlights. From somewhere deep within, I felt my energy surge and soon Rebekah and I were kicking fast. We passed a whole bunch of runners during this stage and surprised our support crew at the next aid station by our prompt arrival.

This is when the tempo changed for me--62 miles and 15 hours into the run and I felt better than I did when I started that morning. I also ran this section faster the second time through. This is when I realized that I had prepared for this race correctly. I still didn’t want to push too hard but I could see the relief and the excitement in the eyes of my support crew. They were supporting a runner who was still very much in the race and gaining strength."

My friend Jessica is coming to crew for me. She's no slouch. She's an Ironman athlete who has been around many races. She has never been to one of these though and she's been wanting to help crew since last year. Considering that the last four 100-milers I've done have been without the help of crew or pacer this is a major treat. Given a choice between pacer or crew I would always choose crew. Why? Because a crew person(s) can carry extra gear/food for you. A forgotten piece of gear doesn't have to be a major deal when you have the chance to retrieve it from the back of the crew vehicle at the next aid station.

Alright then. See you guys on the other side. Keep your fingers crossed for all us. May everyone have a great time, regardless of results.

Rick Gaston has left the building!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Volunteering at Ohlone 50k

The Ohlone Wilderness 50k Run. I like how that sounds. Long climbs, big downhills with exposed trails. It can get hot and a favorite with the crowd training for Western States. When I did it in 06 it was foggy and drizzly. Last year I came back to volunteer and I enjoyed myself so much I was back again this year.

Helen and Samantha picked me up a little after 6am Sunday and we headed East to the race Start. We got there early and I was able to greet a bunch of friends. Helen and I wished Sammy good luck on her run and we raced to our aid station. Helen and I can't be in a car together anymore, we kept getting lost, although the worst one can be blamed on Google maps. The directions sent us on a single lane road that climbed and twisted for a couple of miles before we encountered a sign that said "no outlet". We got to the parking lot 45 minutes late and we still had a 3.35 mile hike ahead of us to reach our aid station. We ran and got there sweating buckets but we made it. Thankfully there were enough volunteers. Ann and Carl run a tight aid station and everything was in order.

So here's something that has never come up in a run I've volunteered for. One of the elite runners, who will remain unnamed, came through our aid station declaring she was runner 91. I was angling to take her picture and noticed that her number was pinned on backwards. I didn't think nothing of it until our radio guy, cell phones don't work reliably out there, told us that there were two "no.16s" and they were trying to figure out who was who. I remembered and cleared up the confusion. The lesson of the story and this is right up there with making sure you have your number pinned and visible to make the job of tracking you easier for volunteers and photographers, make sure your number is pinned the right way unless of course you are runner no. 11:)

What was new this year was that we had to enforce a cut-off time. Ann was the first to declare she didn't want anything to do with that duty. Carl was not too psyched about it either so the responsibility came down to another volunteer, Floyd. When he blew on it, it sounded like an old locomotive. We were around mile 13 on the course and our cut off time was 11:30. As 11:30 approached we argued as to whose watch we should go on, wanting to choose the slowest one. Inevitably 11:30 came and we had to cut-off two runners, only two but it was still a hard job. The first runner we cut off was Ken Michal, a member of the Endurables running group, a group I've gotten to know a little bit this past year. To ease the pain of a dnf I gave him Floyd's can of Spam as an award for being the first one to be cut off. I'm not sure why Floyd brought it but now Ken has his first running award. Minutes later I wanted to steal it back. We love that stuff in Hawaii. Ann thought it may be a good tradition for the future, well I don't know about that. It only works if the runner is as gracious as Ken.

Helen and I drove to the finish and gave Ken a ride. Two more friends arrived and we waited for Sam to finish. I spent the time catching up with people and asking them how their race went. La Sportiva Mountain Running Team took the top spots again. Leor Pantilat won the race and Caitlin Smith was first for the women, both set new course records. Those two are so fast and so were the racers right behind them. On the way down to the finish I had bought two 6-packs of beer for Samantha, to drink and share. By the time she finished there was exactly one beer left, haha. What I didn't drink it all, I shared it too! The race finishes in park complete with a lake. Some runners went in for a dip. Most of us just lounged in the picnic tables and the grass. The post-race food is one of the best. A large tree snapped in two while we were out there, far from the picnic area, which resulted in oohs and ahhs and some clapping.

Another good day on the trails and no mishaps on the trail like last year. Seeing those guys race has given me some extra inspiration going into next week's race.

Samantha, Helen and myself at the start.

Brian Wyatt heading out.

Lem Oandasan and Janet Thomson head up the trail. Big climb ahead.

Ken Michal, his SPAM award and Ann Trason.

Minutes later I wanted to steal it back. I lived in Hawaii for 10 years. We love that stuff! Spam Musubi's anyone? In WWII, fresh meat was scarce in Hawaii so people loaded up on the stuff which was brought over by the military. These days, supposedly, people from the state of Hawaii and the territories of Guam consume the most Spam. I believe it.

We ran into one of the locals on the hike back to the car. It was a long one. Evan this shot is for you, I know how much you love them. I'll take the snakes over the bears in your run.

Clare Abram and her 2nd place age group award with Jeff Barbier and Jon Kroll.

Rubbing elbows with women's winner and new course record holder Caitlin Smith. I'm hoping some of her speed will rub off on me. Always smiling, easy to talk to and very, very fast.

Sammy finishing. Is that a look of relief or joy, maybe both.

For the photoset, click here.