Thursday, April 29, 2010

Wells in Uganda

Posting for my buddy Jonathan Gunderson who is raising money for wells in Uganda. He has been involved in this work for several years now, has even taken the opportunity to visit, meet people and see the work being done. The logo was my contribution to his cause for 2010.

Basic CMYK

2010 Western States Challenge to benefit World Harvest Mission's well-building in Uganda sponsored by Injinji, Brooks, Josh Moberg, P.T., and Diakadi Body

The Challenge:
To raise $5,000 towards my yearly goal of $12,000 to build 4 water wells in Uganda. Each well built will help provide fresh water for over 1,000 people. To put it another way, every $3 you donate will give one person access to fresh water that is free of many water-born parasites and diseases. You can help me reach that goal by making a donation now towards World Harvest Mission's well-building program. All money donated goes towards this goal. Donations are tax-deductible and receipts will be sent to donors at the end of the year in addition to the email receipt sent to you by PayPal.

My Challenge:
Run the Western States 100. My goal is to finish the race in less than 19 hours. All donors can additionally challenge me personally to finish with a particular placing or a particular time for additional donations. If I accept your challenge, I pledge to make a donation in the challenge amount if I don't meet it. Email me personally at:

The Schwag:
Every donation, regardless of amount, will receive a picture of the well-building projects in Uganda. For each donation of $25, you will receive 1 entry into the drawing for the Grand Prize pack which includes the following: 10 pairs of Injinji Performance Toesocks including one pair of their Nuwool socks and one pair of their brand new Compression socks. You will also receive a pair of Brooks shoes of your choice with a retail value up to $100 (per

Second Chance Drawing:
If you don't win the Grand Prize, there is a drawing for the Second Chance Prize which is a 1 hour personal training session or nutrition consultation with Josh Moberg, P.T. Josh is a personal trainer with">Diakadi Body, a Personal Training and Wellness Center in San Francisco, CA. There is no need to apply for this drawing; all individuals entered in the Grand Prize Drawing who do not win are automatically entered in this Second Chance Drawing.

The Charity:
All proceeds benefit the Uganda Well-Building Program for World Harvest Mission.

Be Part of The Challenge:
To be a part of the challenge, click here
1) Make a donation via the ChipIn icon to the right. Donations can be made via PayPal account or Credit Card. Again, every $25 in donations equals one entry.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Skyline to the Sea 50k

00:00 Butterflies.
00:30 Holding it steady.
00:45 Still holding.
01:00 Being Patient.
01:15 Itching to go faster.
01:30 Finally. Bombs away!
01:45 Enjoying downhill on slick rocks.
02:00 Approaching half-way point to start 4+ mile loop.
02:15 Glad to see the halfway point.
02:30 Steady climbing to the top of the ridge.
02:45 Sweet, soft downhill singletrack back.
03:00 Loop almost done.
03:15 Back on the Skyline trail but getting tired.
03:30 Missed seeing the large waterfall, too focused on the ground.
03:45 Out of water and gels but feeling strong.
04:00 Feeling the bonk coming on, still hammering hard.
04:15 Looking for the last aid station.
04:30 Two cups of Coke set me right.
04:36 Happy finisher. Tired but not wasted. 12th Overall.

So that was basically it. Read on if you'd like a little more detail on my race, the course or scroll down for more pictures.

The three amigos. Harry Walther, Beat Jegerlehner and Steve Ansell ran 30+ miles to the start so they could complete a 100k for the day. Not sure about Harry and Beat's races this year but Steve is training for Massanutten 100 and the Big Horn 100, both tough and mighty 100-milers.

Billy at the start. Came all the way from LA to run with us. He redeemed his dnf from last year, a result of getting lost, with a solid finish.

I ran the inaugural event 2 years ago and set a 50k PR of 4:25. Last year I was a volunteer at aid station 1 and at the finish. This year I decided to run with the hope of breaking 4:25 but decided on race week to just train through and run the event as my last long run in preparation for the Miwok 100k. Trained like I normally would and put in 20 miles with friends training on the Miwok course on Saturday, the day before the race.

Sunday morning I felt right as rain. Got a little nervous complete with butterflies at the start but it quickly dissipated once we got going. This year they added the marathon distance, same course for the most part except that the marathoners don't do a short loop halfway through that makes it a 50k. Many runners shot off the front and there was no way to tell from the back who was running what distance. I stopped worrying about it and focused on my own run. I held back for the first hour and a half and then opened up for good until the finish line. I never got passed from that point forward. Despite running it as a long training run I was determined to run my best and see if I could end up with a decent time not too far from 4:25. I also wanted to run all of the hills on the course, in fact it became my main goal as the race progressed. The last 5 miles or so is mostly on flat fire road and in 08 I faltered on those last miles. This year I rocked it! Despite having run out of liquids and energy gels, feeling a bonk coming on, I pushed as hard as I could. I caught several 50k'ers in the process and finished strong. It was a very, very good day for me. My final time of 4:36:06 was good for 12th overall and 10th male. More than what I had expected and only 11 minutes off my 50k PR. Overall a fantastic day and really happy with the performance. With a finish I hit 85 miles for the week and the third time in the last four weeks that I had an 80+ mile week - 88, 66, 84 and 85. That's great for me and a confidence booster heading to Miwok.

Skyline to the Sea 50k looks easy on paper and if you come in with the wrong mindset you will get a surprise. You could be like me, someone who has done some hilly races and thought that the race was easy since it only gained 3000 feet total and the total loss of elevation is 5,580. I thought that in 2008, forgotten, and thought that again for this years event. Ah the surprise was so fresh and new it felt like 2008. I think also because I had made it my goal to run every step of the race I was more conscious of every incline and hill on the trail. The start is downhill and the temperature cool, a siren song for the unprepared, inexperienced, or those who consistently have problems pacing themselves. The downhill soon ends and the terrain starts to roll and after the first aid station there are even more uphills. After the second aid station I was back in business on the downhills but the first part was on rock surfaces that isn't completely level. If you love downhill you should love this section. I kept the sideway slippage to a minimum, planted carefully, kept my center of gravity above my feet and did my best not to fall. The rock as you can imagine was hard but it also looked abrasive, bruises and trail rash for the unlucky ones. The rocky sections don't last long and give way to soft singletrack. The trail then continues to roll as we made our way to the Gazos Creek aid station mile 25.5. Marathoners go straight here while the 50k runners get a slash mark on their bib to indicate they have passed through the station as they head out on a 4+ mile loop. The loop was a climb up to a ridge where we hit a few good rocky rollers before we eventually re-entered soft, blessed, downhill singletrack. The uphills on that ridge really tested my resolve to run every hill on the course. There were sections where it would have been faster to walk. The downhill reconnected us to the Skyline to the Sea trail where we eventually ended up at the Gazos Creek aid station for the second time. All 50k runners with slash marks re-enter the Skyline trail with the marathoners and other 50k runners finished with the loop. The trail continues it's downhill undulating descent but nothing like what we experienced on the first half of the race. There's a waterfall on this section of the course that I sadly missed because I had my head down most of the time. I saw pictures later from runners who ran with cameras and I can't believe I missed such a sight. The last 5 miles or so on the fire road I was able to lay down a good pace which allowed me to catch a few 50k runners and improve my overall standing. The last aid station is only 1.5 miles from the finish and because I had run out of liquids and gels I needed to make the quick stop for a couple of cups of Coke before continuing. This year the finish was in a new location and it's actually closer. I was hoping that on the last mile. I thought that this years course was slightly more challenging. Not a lot of mud but in certain sections especially in the areas where there were downed trees and there were quite a few. There were a couple that were so big that it was a challenge going over or under them.

Leor Pantilat would break his own course record (3:38:05) with a blistering 3:25:17. He would be the only person to break 4 hours that day. Caitlin Smith would also break her own course record (4:17:54) with a 4:00:48. She came in third overall. Seven hours into the race these two were still hanging out at the finish line, standing and chatting it up with friends. I had to sit down and do some of my socializing in the grass or in the benches.

Rode up with Jonathan Gunderson, his wife Wilma, and Billy Yang who came all the way from LA to run the race. Jon ran a 4:13 and Billy avenged his dnf from last year after getting lost. I arranged for another ride home with Joel Lanz who was volunteering and got to hang out until it was time to clean up and pack up. The work kept my legs moving which was great for me.

Next up, the 100k in the Marin Headlands and Mt. Tam.

Theresa, Ivette and Yuka looking great in their Patagonia finishers shirts. Congratulations ladies!

At the finish line with Tony Dunnigan and Daniel Fabun. Just halfway through for these gentlemen, they would pick up some gear and extra water bottles for the trip back up to the start. Both are planning to run The Relay solo. A 199 mile run that is meant as a relay race for a team of 12. I've done it 4 times as part of a team, it would be tough solo.

Jonathan Gunderson rocked it with a 4:13 for 6th place and Hao Liu had a PR run with his sub-5 finish. I had to yell at them to smile - No looking tired in front of the camera!

A few of The Endurables chilin at the finish.

My good friend Samantha of The Endurables. I like this picture because of the background, oh and Sam too.

The finish. This was at the end of the day and most people have already left. Such a great place to run and the weather was spectacular.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Crewing and Pacing at the American River 50-Mile

Dana and Kara at the start.

This past weekend I was part of a crew of five who were at the American River 50-mile crewing and pacing for a couple of friends, Kara Teklinski and Dana Katz, who were running in their first 50-mile ultra. These two training partners has been training their butts off. Last December they ran the "Northface 50k" together and in March the "Way Too Cool 50k. The ladies were well trained, they had their plan and they followed through. Kara wanted to break 10 hours and Dana 11 but they ran the first 26 miles together, conservatively and picked it up on the second half. They came through looking solid and strong at Beals Point Aid Station, 26.53 miles into the race.

Dana and Kara 15 miles into the race. Brian had run ahead and grabbed their gear which we promptly reloaded with liquids and gels before handing it back to them. No stopping for these girls.

Around Mile 40

Me: We are going to go all out the last 10 miles. We are not stopping to
walk unless I see tears!

Kara: The only tears you are going to see would be your own!

Yeah I had a feisty one! I paced Kara from Beals Point all the way to the finish and the girl whooped some butt out there. She started peaking when many runners had started to fade. From miles 30-40 we cranked it up and then again from miles 40-50. She was so strong those last 23 miles which was on trail (the first 27 is mostly on a paved bike path). She barely stopped at any of the aid stations which saved her a lot of time. I picked up what she needed or refilled the bladder on her Nathan pack. It was a lot of work having to work my way back to her each time, I got a long run plus a few sprints but it was worth it. At the halfway point her age group rank was 323 out of 622 starters and at the finish it was 55 out of 581 finishers! 55! We passed so many runners on the way to the finish line. We never got passed either... okay well there was this one guy and his pacer that we passed a half mile from the finish and he passed us back 2 minutes later. He probably started smelling a sub-9 and gunned it or we fired him up. Anyway truth be told, despite the help I gave her, she didn't really need me. Oh we had fun chasing down runners and I really pushed her pace the last 10 miles but without me she would have still finished strong and in the vicinity of her final time which was 9:01:25, 146 out of 581 runners. Believe me I pushed her even harder to see if she could go sub-9 but those last 2.5 miles are all uphill – a great and sadistic way to finish a long race. She ran most of that hill by the way, certainly the last mile and a half. She was pretty psyched with her time considering that her main goal was a sub-10, well she did it and in a big way.

Kara coming through Rattlesnake Aid Station, mile 40.93. She ran by while I grabbed what she needed.

Kara is an Ironman athlete and is used to racing long distances and all that entails. She knows what to eat, when and how to pace for a long event. She couldn't have a better coach too in Chris Hauth, a top ranked triathlete who has been tearing it up on the trails (2009 Quad Dipsea Champion and a top ten at Way Too Cool 50k to name two of his recent events). It was a pleasure pacing her and if she decides to keep running ultra events she could do well.

Dana came in beaming at 9:55:26, ecstatic that she accomplished her goal of sub-11 hours. At the halfway point she was ranked 327 in her age group and went down to 226 at the finish. There was some tears from her crew and pacers when she came in, it felt a little bit like a graduation with the flowers and such.

Pardon the heavy breathing, I was worn out! Kara at the finish.

Dana with her finisher's jacket. They give them as soon as the runners finished.

Dana with Tina (orange visor, one of her crew/pacers) and Kara shortly after her finish. Friends brought her flowers.

The event was a lot of fun. Kara and Dana spared no expense on us. We went up the day before, stayed in a hotel 5 miles from the start, were fed, given gifts and provided coffee and lunch money. Post race I was treated to a Mexican dinner, a beer and ice cream. Yeah I was spoiled for sure!

Only bummer about the whole event, yes there is one, is the chip timing. The timing matt at the start only counted starters, it didn't actually record the starting time for each individual crossing the matt. It may not seem like a big deal when you only have 622 starters (race filled at 750) compared to thousands in a marathon unless you are the one who missed going under an hour mark by a minute or so. Kara and Dana started at the very back of pack knowing that they wanted to take the first half conservatively. Did it take them more than 1 minute and 25 seconds to finally cross the start line? We will never know. If you care about your time - start near the front, settle into your normal pace after you cross the start line. It's a wide bike path, lots of space for people to pass you once you are on your way.

The Coyotes from Southern California hanging out at the finish; Dominic, Katie, Katelyn, Daniel and Craig.

Overall it was another successful crewing and pacing job and I enjoy these events just as much as racing and volunteering. What can I say, I love this sport! This is the last crewing and pacing gig for awhile though, back to running with three events in the next two months.

For the photoset click here.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Crewing and Pacing at Umstead 100

I had never been to North Carolina let alone Umstead state park. I regret that after four days I still didn't know much about the state but at least I now know one part really well. It all went like clockwork for us. I had a runner who was in peak physical condition, had his pacing and nutrition plan nailed down and executed perfectly. The advertised rainy weather didn't arrive until the day after and after a cold start we had cool weather with sunny clear skies and no wind. Great conditions for running.

Hanging out with Tony and some of the other kids from New York after the race briefing.

Cold, cold, cold. My incredible sense of direction got us lost and we ended up in the wrong parking lot. Tony was tense but the overall mood was of excitement and eagerness from our little band of runners and crew folk.

Crew and pacer briefing at the lodge after the runners took off. First time I've been on a race where they specifically addressed the concerns of new crews and pacers.

Warming up at the lodge with fellow bay area runner Steve Holman, the big dude in black.

I am oversimplifying this, with your left hand hold up two fingers. If you are like most people that will be your index finger (the one you use to point) and your middle finger. Those fingers with the rest of your clenched hand is the 12.5-mile course. The fingers represent two down-and-back sections one of which is the start/finish. The tip of your middle finger is the start/finish at the lodge. Runners head out from there, turn right and head into the second down-and-back portion before heading out to complete the rest of the loop ending back at the top of the middle finger. A quarter of the way out there is an unmanned aid station, halfway through a manned aid station and another unmanned station three quarters of the way out before you return to the start/finish. The plan was for Tony to give me his empty hydration bottle on his way in to the start/finish and on his way back out pick up a fresh one filled with Perpeteum energy drink and an energy gel. I also had his bag filled with all his gear and nutrition. The trail is pretty much all fire road, easy to run on. Many runners during the night ran without flashlights despite the dark shadows cast on the road by the tall trees. I didn't think it was very hilly but with enough rolling hills to make it fun.

I have no idea who this is but I like the shot. I was prone on the ground, firing away with my camera. This is on the trail heading back to the start/finish area.

Some people set up camp on the trail leading up to the start/finish area.

LOOPS 1-4 (Miles 0-50)
His goal was to finish under 20 hours and he calculated that he needed to hit around 2:15 for each loop on the first half for a 9:15 50-mile split. My main concern and I kept drilling the point since I landed on Friday morning was for him to watch his pace. I told him to back off if hitting 2:15 loops forced him to go too hard too early. As Steve Holman said, "If you don't feel the urge to go faster in the early miles you are going too fast" and "You don't bank time, you bank energy". Steve summed up in two quick sentences what took me paragraphs to explain to Tony, stuff he already knows anyway I just kept reminding him of it.

Despite what the recorded splits on the website stated, which was not acccurate, Tony running with his buddy Doug Vaughan hit the first 5-loops pretty much in the vicinity of 2:15. Doug ran a 21:05 to Tony's 21:40 at last years event and was also targeting sub-20. They agreed to pace each other on the first half and they were like clockwork for the first three loops. On the fourth loop they slowed down a bit but not by much.

In front of the lodge. To my right and your left is the aid station and timing tent. Notice that despite the sun we still had jackets on. Cool weather but great for running.

This menu was also available for pacers. I snagged a couple of cheeseburgers before I started running. I had planned on leaving the premises for a healthier meal but got too busy. I don't know how some of the runners were able to eat burgers and keep running. Their stomach is stronger than mine's, I made sure I had a couple of hours of digestion time.

Tireless volunteers in the back, flipping burgers and grilling hot dogs.

Pacers were allowed from 50 miles onward. We relocated to the lodge and the second mistake of the day was again by yours truly. I had miscalculated the time he was coming in and was not around when he came through. Karen, a friend in our party, came rushing in the lodge to tell me. Fortunately I had just finished suiting up and was ready to go, didn't take long for me to catch him and Doug. My entry into the race split the two as I took control of Tony's race and changed the routine they had been following the last 50 miles. Tony's excitement for reaching the halfway mark and my presence caused him to up his pace and I helped keep him on track. It doesn't seem right to tell a runner to slow down in a race, seems counterintuitive but sometimes you have to go slower to finish faster. My fear was that he would burn himself out before the finish. At this time Tony was starting to pass runners with more regularity. By the 7th loop Tony started slowing down but not by a lot. We were slower hitting the different aid station points and he had also switched to eating solid food which meant longer stops at the manned aid stations. We still mixed an energy gel into his water but nixed the Perpeteum entirely. I warned him that the last two loops was where we were going to put it all on the line and leave nothing on the course. I pushed him harder to minimize the time loss. He lived on soda and chicken soup for the rest of the run on top of the gel infused water he was drinking. We kept things moving, most of the eating done while walking and not standing around at the aid stations.

Doug Vaughan and Tony Portera, loop 6.

RD Blake Norwood and staff, making their rounds on the course.

On the course with Tony and Tammy Massie.

Tony had stopped looking at his watch from the 7th loop on and I thought it was a good idea. All he wanted to know was if we were still on pace to come under 20 hours. At the start of the 8th loop Tony was in great shape time wise but I didn't tell him. Even at the rate of his slow down he had a small cushion of time. I feared that if he knew how well he was doing he would relax mentally and take his foot of the gas so to speak. I kept the pressure up, wanting to preserve the small cushion of time we had for any possible emergencies or unexpected delays down the line. Those emergencies never materialized thankfully. With about 7.5 miles to go we passed a number of runners and this really revitalized Tony. He was smelling the barn at this point, all pumped up and ready to finish. Eventually he got the itch to know how he was doing and it took a lot of effort not to tell him too soon. I hinted but never gave him the whole truth wanting to save the surprise until he was almost finished. He told me that 19:59:59 would be good enough and a 19:45 would be a dream since our mutual friend Brian Krogmann predicted that finishing time. I told him if he kept running hard he had a chance. I was grinning in the dark but thankfully he couldn't see. With 1.5 miles to go I finally told him, "Tony forget 19:45, you are going to go sub-19:30. He was incredulous and disbelieving at first so I told him to look at his watch. There was hooting and hollering on the trail after that, it was all I could do to refocus him back on the task of actually finishing. We caught up to Doug shortly after that episode and Tony made the decision to finish with him. On gladiator mode I was against it but came around. He would have only finished a minute or two ahead but would have missed sharing the finish line with a good friend who was a tremendous help to his race the first 50 miles. It was the right decision. They crossed together and were awarded the same finishing time and place - 18th overall and third age group for Tony.

Sunset on the trail.

The lodge was packed with people; runners who have finished, runners still in the race, crew, volunteers, family, medical personnel tending to the injured and beat down. The latter was the hardest to see next to the runners who were steeling themselves for yet another loop. There was a guy who said he had a dislocated hip. When we got there he needed to go to the bathroom. He was not a small man, large and muscular, it took two equally large guys to lift him up out of his sleeping bag and carry him to the bathroom, which was a separate building, then back again to his sleeping bag. Then there was a guy who came in mumbling incoherently. I went out to get a burger and when I got back he was on the floor tended by two medical personnel. They bundled him up in a sleeping bag, elevated his legs, kept checking his vitals, picked him up and took him to the kitchen (not sure why), then took him back to the common room where they bundled him up in the sleeping bag once again. Once that guy had recovered and taken out by his crew he was replaced by yet another runner who was also out of it but his problems were less severe because after being wrapped up in a sleeping bag he was left alone. It was kind of crazy watching all this. We were there until 5 pm, another 3.5 hours after we finished, waiting for two other friends to come through.

Umstead 100 never interested me, to be honest it sounded like a real bore; fire roads, not a lot of climbing and 12.5 loops and non-technical trails. I actually enjoyed it, loved it. The course was everything I had heard about and it is easier compared to the races I've done, compared to the other races I've paced Tony in, but it was beautiful and enjoyable nevertheless. 100 miles is still 100 miles as other ultra-marathoners are wont to say. It would be a privilege to run this event, if I could ever get in — the slots filled within 4 minutes last year. It is a great race for beginners just breaking into the distance and veterans wanting to test their speed can fly. An easy race to crew for since it's a loop course.

Zack Gingerich, the champion with a new course record of 13:23:02 - phenomenal!

Jill Perry, the female champion, beating her own course record set last year with a 15:58:16.

For the complete photoset click here.