Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Counting Down

I am still in Southern California. Still plowing through calories, traffic in the comfort of a car, not running and doing a good job of being a couch potato. The week before I left I had spent some time with an old buddy of mine, Jason Arth, and we were laughing at how easily and quickly I can transition from being a long mileage runner to a sloth. It's quite a feat requiring talent and skill I must say. The truth of it is that I'm the kind of person who likes to be lazy and eat all the wrong things. There are people who don't participate in athletic endeavours but keep themselves in good shape and eat responsibly. You know those people. I am the opposite of that. Don't make me show you pictures of my art college years. A time in my life where I was constantly stressed, sleep deprived and compensated by eating all the tasty bad things. Ironically it was also in art school that I got to know one of my instructors who told me that she "recovered" from her years of art school by taking up running and participating in marathons. Five years later I ran my first marathon, yeah I know, slow growing seed.

I'm coming down from this food and couch high though and priming myself for a return to training. I got big plans for 2010. I entered three race lotteries, didn't get into Western States 100-mile but got into the Miwok 100k and the Way Too Cool 50k. I've never run Way Too Cool but it's a popular one, fast, competitive and early - March 12th. I've pretty much decided on returning to the San Diego 100 in June and putting some serious thought to the Leadville 100 in August.

I'm heavy(ier) with no miles in my legs (12 miles logged for the month of December) but I'm also well rested and my two little but nagging pains (calf and plantar) is now gone. I've been pampered by my mom, aunts, uncles, great aunts, great uncles, cousins and friends. I'm ready to return to my "man cave" in San Francisco.

Before I go I would like to give a big shout out to all the active parents out there. You guys are such studs. I have always had respect for your ability to carry on despite the rigors and time demands of parenthood. My first four days here I was in a home with two young kids. A lot of fun but exhausting. A different kind of non-stop event.

A ride with Jason the weekend before Christmas. Maybe more biking in January and February to keep the pounding down.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Volunteering at the Rodeo Beach 50k

Man that was a cold one, brrr... I should have had more layers. When I left my house Saturday morning it was still dark, cool but not cold and not at all windy so I thought I was okay. We get to Rodeo beach and it was windy and many degrees colder. It was so windy that one of the tents broke. Sandbags held the supports in place but one of them buckled and bent so we it took it down as well as the other smaller tent over timing. Thankfully it wasn't raining or else it would have been a big mess. As it was we had to leave most of the food in bags at the finish aid station because the plates and bowls would have been blown off the table. Speaking with some of the runners I heard they got hit by the wind on the first climb. Nice, nothing like fighting a headwind as you're going up a hill. Thankfully as it got closer to noon the winds lessened and the sunshine felt very good.

Many friends were running and I was glad for the opportunity to see them one more time before 2009 is in the books. Because of trail work, the course had to be modified and according to Sarah, an easier route than the original. Nathan Yanko had an amazing performance - 3:43:51. Phenomenal time on a hilly course, wind and all. I had to leave early but I was fortunate to have seen him cruise in for the win and a new 50k PR as we drove away. He looked so smooth out there. Chikara Omine was in second place for 3:56:50. Chikara ran a strong race at the Northface 50-miler but the weekend after, at the Christmas Relays, he was on the sidelines because of issues with his knees. He wasn't sure if he was going to be able to race Rodeo. I'm glad he was able to race and I hope he is happy with his time.

A funny thing I heard that day was from new trail friend Marla Moresi-Valdes, cracked me up - "I don't feel so good, I want to quit but I'm not going to!". She ends up finishing second in the women's race.

Enjoy the pictures. Merry Christmas!

Elves Luis Velasquez and Janet Thompson.

Victoria Folks, Theresa Hatch and Norbert Leinfellner trying to stay warm at the start.

The starting line up.

Hills for breakfast! At the back of the line.

Preston holding down the tent from the wind while Marissa scrambles to organize things.

The Endurables' Nathan Yanko leading at the 30k mark, looking and feeling good. He's looking even leaner these days which I didn't think would have even been possible.

Brett Rivers of The Endurables' at the 30k mark.

Another Endurable, Larissa Polischuk at the 30k mark. She has been non-stop this Fall, running many big races including the Quad Dipsea and the Northface 50-miler. Where are these Endurables getting all their energy?

Jeffrey and Beat.

More pictures here

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Steady... Steady... Keep it on Idle

GGTC at the Christmas Relays
Post-event photo. Courtesy of Geoff Farrell

After the Northface 50-mile two Saturdays ago I've have done, nothing, zilch. This past Saturday was our triathlon club's holiday party and the dancing Saturday night was the most exercise I've had all week. The next day I showed up early to the Christmas Relays at Lake Merced. Our club had 7 teams. Each team had 4 runners and each member had to do a lap around the lake which was roughly 4.5 miles. Despite the cold and rain there were plenty of runners and holiday cheer. There were also some, really, really fast runners in attendance. I was told the race was part of a series. You had all these running clubs with very quick runners, some running sub-5 minute miles for the 4.5 loop.

I came home inspired with the desire to cut short the time-off. Actually I showed up to the event with running clothes underneath my layers, you know just in case they needed a sub. I was offered a spot a couple of times but I ended up playing it smart an once I got started on the food table it was all over:) I really didn't need to do a recovery run in the middle of an event.

After 8 days of complete rest I jogged 4-miles yesterday and hit the gym. Run felt great, hated the gym. Well it is what it is, I need the strength and core training anyway. I'm in full Winter Season mode now.

Wet morning, wet start.

Outgoing club president Julia Prescott in her Christmas Relay outfit.

More holiday cheer.

2010 Run Director, Helen Kao.

2010 Bike Director, Dave Ewart. It was Dave's birthday at the Northface races and he celebrated by running his first ultra - the 50k event.

Outgoing Social Director, Ariane Buser with her Pacific Bicycle triathlon team. Don't let the Tutu's fool you, the Pac Bike ladies are quick. Ariane also ran the 50k event at Northface.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

2009 Northface Endurance Challenge

What a freakin fantastic day that was on one of the best race courses I've ever been fortunate to run in.

The day started out early enough, 3:30AM pick-up at my place and I carpooled to the start with friends John Brandershorst, Preston McCaskill and Scott Nesbett. All three were running their first 50-mile, for John and Preston, their first ultra. In addition there were several more friends running their first 50k. I was excited for them and hoped for the best. They choose a great race but one of the harder ones. Many more in our triathlon club were taking part in the half-marathon and 10k race. I also met up with some of the usual suspects from the ultra community, The Endurables for one were out in force, with coach Jim Vernon covering many miles himself photographing runners. Carrie was working registration with Dan and Jessica was working the Muir Beach aid station with friends. Many more friends were out volunteering, crewing, pacing and cheering. It promised to be a great day of running with tons of support.

I felt great, just absolutely super. My time for last year was 9:18 and I figured I was going to be at least half an hour slower. My goal was sub-10 hours but if it took longer I was fine with that too. I was pretty chill about the whole thing and it served me well for most of the day. My main goal was to run hard and finish well, as in coherent and in a good place.

Having done the race the year before helped tremendously. I knew where everything was; the best views, the sweetest downhills, the suckiest climbs, etc. It was fun but tense at the start but soon we were off at 5:15AM after a 15 minute delay. In the dark I ran alone and focused on myself. I like dark starts, it provides me some alone time to warm up to the race. I started slow and kept things in check. The view from the top of the first hill was breathtaking and the lights from the other runners inspiring. I slowly cranked it up but stayed conservative for most of the first half and I felt great.

The real work started for me around the 18+ mile mark. It started with our first big descent on the Steep Ravine trail. I love downhills and Steep Ravine is a beauty, lush and technical in some parts, complete with running water and a short wooden ladder. It started there and I kept at it hard all the way to the finish. I was definitely feeling the Quad Dipsea race from the weekend before, especially on the downhills. The trails on Mt. Tam are lush, tree covered and soft but the climbs can be steep and the downhills technical. Running downhill is one thing, running downhill while hopping, skipping, braking, accelerating, dancing side to side continuously is a whole other thing entirely. So fun but so taxing on the body. I love it though. I wish there was a ski lift to the top of Mt. Tam, I would ride it and bomb the downhills all day or until my legs gave out! The last 2.5 hours was the best. What happened was that I had a real chance of missing going under 10 hours and while I would have been happy with a sub-11 hour effort, a spark lit inside of me and there was a cry for "sub-10! sub-10!" from deep down. I shifted to whatever gear was left and hauled ass. Digging deeper and finding that there is more left is such a beautiful thing. I felt re-energized and alive with the effort. It wasn't fast but it was steady and more than I expected. From the Muir Woods parking lot to the finish was one supreme effort. I was stressed, happy, exhausted and energized as I hauled along with my short legs.

I finished 9:46:58 to the yelling and cheering by friends, 58th out of 200 or so. Like last year the post-race festivities was one big blur, too many things happening in one place and with only half a brain to cope. As far as I could tell all the people in our club who tackled their first 50-mile and first 50K distance finished. Along the way I had made friends with folks from Colorado, Christy and David, who had never run the event. I told them to hold on to their shorts because they were in for a treat and it was gratifying to hear that they did enjoy themselves. These are my training grounds, I race here often, I am proud of our trails and I dig it when other people enjoy them too.

Because I had raced the weekend before I wasn't able to run hard enough to really stress my muscles. I got tired and winded before I could hold a high heart rate for long. I felt deep down soreness and fatigue which slowed me down. It resulted in slower times but also a short recovery. I was fine two days later and could have run if I wanted to. I feel fine now with the desire to do more. A good thing I think. I ended the year strong, healthy and hungry for more. Last year was a great year better than most and this year is right up there. I am blessed and my cup overflows. I will be spending part of my time-off reliving the events of this year.

This is a link to my buddy John Branderhorst's race video. I convinced him to run the 50-mile race one evening at track practice during the summer. A video montage of his day and I felt it needed it's own post. Some of you already saw it. I'm in it here and there. I think it does a good job of giving a glimpse of the highs, lows, of an ultra race.

John Branderhorst Race Video

I didn't run with my camera but there were many people taking pictures who graciously donated their pictures; Jessica Fewless, Carrie Sisk, Jim Vernon and The Endurables, Kevin Luu, Brett Rivers and Ken Michal also of The Endurables, Chihping Fu, Troy Wendt, John Branderhorst, Son Hong, Jay Ligda, Allison Harvey and Julia Prescott. My apologies if I missed your name. Enjoy the pictures.

Before Picture
All smiles at the start, the smiles would come back at the finish too.

Carrie at registration with Dan.

Hanging with the Greats
I had ducked back in to talk to Carrie and she told me to stand with these two guys for a picture. I looked over and when I found out who it was exclaimed, "Why? I haven't won any races?" Haha with two-time Western States champ Hal Koerner and fellow elite ultra-marathoner Andy Jones-Wilkins.

The 50-mile start. Photo courtesy of The Endurables.

Heather Cut-Off
Heather Cut-Off Trail, just another hill warm up for the bigger badder stuff later in the race. It was pretty cool to see everyone crossing back and forth on the switchbacks. As I was going up I was yelling at friends down below. Photo courtesy of The Endurables.

At the Top of Heather Cut-Off
At the top of Heather Cut-off. I really need to find shirts that fit better! Photo courtesy of The Endurables.

Sweet Mt. Tam Trails
The lush, tree covered trails of Mt. Tam, on the Steep Ravine trail. Photo courtesy of The Endurables.

The Endurables 2
More Mt.Tam trails. Photo courtesy of The Endurables.

Karen Yeter and Allison Harvey for the 10K
Tri-club mates Karen Yeter and Allison Harvey with Dean Karnazes and the MC, being recognized for their fast times at the 10k race. Karen Yeter's dad was an ultra-marathoner, she told me one time at a party. I googled him once and found that he had won a 24-hour event in New York, racking up 160 miles for the win. Wow. Photo courtesy of Allison Harvey.

50K Friends at the Finish
Friends at the finish of their 50k race. Photo courtesy of Troy Wendt.

With Caitlin Smith - First Female 50-Mile
Hanging out with more elite level speed at the finish. With Caitlin Smith who is the female 50-mile winner. What a phenomenal year she is having and it's her first in the sport. Thankfully this time I didn't cause her to fall in her race. Photo courtesy of Julia Prescott.

For the photo set click here.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Hayatz's Northface 50-Mile Race Video

Introducing my good friend John Hayato Branderhorst. This past summer we were at track together and he told me that he was going to train for the Chicago Marathon and the Northface 50K. I told him he should do the 50-mile instead. I said, "Look John, you are an Ironman athlete, a Boston marathoner and you are doing the Chicago Marathon beforehand. Why not aim for a goal that you can grow into, reach for something you are not sure you can finish." He clocked a PR in Chicago with a 2:59 and he finished his first ultra at the Northface 50-mile this past Saturday. He is also our new Social Director in the triathlon club. Way to go Johnny! More miles in 2010. What's really cool is now you can drop him off on any trail South of Mt. Tam and he can make his way back to San Francisco on foot.

A great video that captures some of the fun in ultra. I'm in it here and there.

Sunday, December 06, 2009


Towards the end of an ultra you are not the same person that started. You are slower and fatigued but you keep on putting one foot in front of the other and shoulder on. You take stock of what you have left and use that to push forward at the best possible speed towards the finish. The last three events of my season feels a bit like the end of a long race. The person finishing the year is not the same person that started. Had a great Spring, even better Summer and a solid Fall. Three great races to close it out. Three solid runs in beautiful courses with amazing people. My cup overflows.

With my finish at the Northface 50-mile event yesterday I am officially done for 2009. I don't want to be, our Triathlon Club is taking part in the Christmas Relays in Lake Merced next weekend and Pacific Coast Trail Runs has the Rodeo 50k the weekend after that. I want more but it's probably just the post-race high talking. Time to shut it down and take December off as I have done the last 9 years. Better to end healthy and wanting more.

I'm a praying man and sometimes I pray when I run, not all the time but sometimes. These last two months I've been giving thanks for the ability to run. I hope I never take for granted the privilege and opportunity to run trails or the blessing of being involved in an incredible sport where the camaraderie and support is phenomenal. This past September a local elite triathlete was finishing a long bike ride in preparation for the Ford Ironman World Championship in Hawaii when she was struck by a car and severely injured. She may never compete again. Not too long ago I remember running a 10K dedicated to a local runner who was killed by a hit and run driver in the Presidio while she was training for the LA marathon. I occasionally run by the spot, sometimes marked by flowers. We all have stories like this. Anyway I would like to thank all therace directors, volunteers, spectators/supporters and fellow runners/triathletes. Your sacrifice and hard work keeps me running and involved.

Next up, report and photos from the 2009 running of the Northface 10k/Half-Marathon/50K and 50-Mile.


Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Redlining it at Quad Dipsea...Again!

Quad pretty much rocked again this year, what a freakin good time that was. Going hard, blowing gaskets and having a super time.

Race morning I was dawdling around, talking to folks and taking my sweet time getting ready. I thought I wanted to use the bathroom, lined up (there is only one toilet for the men at the start), then decided after 10 minutes that I really didn't need to go at all. Dawdled around again, lined up for the start , then 20 seconds before the bullhorn goes off Brian Krogmann turns to me and says, "who's that guy in the sunglasses" and I snap out of it. Like magic the fog in my head disappears, the engines fire up and I'm in the moment, running up the road full of fire and fight.

On my last post I talked about how great and excited I felt going into this years race but how I also knew my body wasn't up to the task of trying to beat last years time - my fastest on the course so far. I also mentioned how I hoped for some race day magic to sweep me up to a better performance than I hoped. Well the day turned out pretty much that way.

We start off and I'm firing on all cylinders. I had to pull back a bit as not to burn myself out on only the first crossing. It was one of those mornings, feeling so alive and thankful to be out racing. However like the Firetrails 50-miler back in October, despite moving well, I found myself falling behind my splits again. Feeling good but a bit short on speed. I had told myself that if the race played itself out in the same way as Firetrails did I would relieve myself of the time goal early, enjoy the ride and not put so much pressure on myself. At the first aid station, 4.4 miles into the race I was down 6 minutes from my time last year - exact same thing happened at Firetrails, down 6 minutes at the first aid station. Instead of following the plan however I opted for a more fun alternative, I gunned it to the turnaround. I was feeling too good to back off. At Stinson Beach I cut the deficit by 3 minutes, coming in at 115 instead of last years 112. Hauled it back to Mill Valley at my best possible speed for another 115 for a total of 2.5 hours on the course, 5 minutes down from my 2:25 last year. I dug even deeper and ran the third leg hard like there was no fourth. Legs started to feel like jelly halfway through but I kept on pushing hard for a 117. It was there that I knew that 5 hours wasn't going to happen but psyched that I was going to come close, much faster than the 5:30 I predicted. I left Stinson Beach for the last time at 18th place. I pushed even harder on the way back knowing I had already started to slow down. I wanted 5:05-5:10 and to stay in the top 20. Before the aid station on Cardiac Hill, I get passed by Mike Topper. I was haggard, he looked damned good. He seemed to have come out of nowhere, fast and strong on the stairs and uphill sections. We exchanged greetings, he took off and I felt a bit deflated. On the ensuing technical downhill however I noticed he was more tentative and moving slower so I took that opportunity to chase after, pass and build up as much distance on him knowing there was one long uphill section left before the final downhill to Mill Valley. Well I tried anyway. He caught me on the ensuing uphill but this time we stayed together through the last hill. We chatted about our day as he led the way up. On the final set of stairs back to Mill Valley, my speed being faster on the downhill, I crossed the finish line just ahead of him.

I crossed at 5:09, ten minutes behind my time last year but extremely satisfied and happy about the day. I dug in, dug deep and had a performance I can be proud of. Despite finishing slower than last year I ended up higher on the standings at 17th place. Last years time landed me 27th place. I'll take it! Another runner once said that you race the runners that showed up not the runners who could have had - I agree whole heartedly. Mike came in just under a minute behind me and was first in his age group - 50 and above. Yeah a runner 12 years my senior was schooling me on the uphills of my favorite training grounds, happens all the time and not just the men, women too.

Lots of ice baths this week, good rest, healthy food, no more celebratory ice creams and I should be decent for the last race of my season this Saturday, the Northface 50-mile. Many friends are running, some doing their first 50k/50-mile. My only goal is to finish in decent shape - no death walking or slobbering all over myself.

Mahalo to the RD's of the Quad Dipsea; John "Tropical John" Medinger, Lisa Henson and Errol "Rocket" Jones. More thanks to the volunteers and spectators. There were many, many friends out there working and cheering. Seven down and three more to go for that ten year Quad Dipsea jacket.

Finishing! Photo courtesy of Kara Teklinski.

Hanging out with Ted Knudsen and Brian Wyatt at the finish. I was chasing after Ted but never caught him. Good times! Photo courtesy of Kara Teklinski.

Hanging out with The Endurables and their friends at the finish; Amy, Marla, Tabitha, Larissa and Brett.

Ultra Signup's Mark Gilligan and Ted Knudsen at the finsih. Ted is sporting this years shirt. Not sure how I feel about the pink logo, made even brighter by a black background, but I think I'm secure enough in my manhood to wear a pink logo around town:)