Thursday, May 20, 2010

Late, Here and Long

01 Great photos of the race from Craig Heinselman
02 Another excellent race video from Katelyn Benton
03 From the front pack: Antons Krupicka's report
04 From the front pack: Rod Bien's report
05 From the front pack: Devon Crosby-Helm's report

This is long like the race but it could have been even longer had I written it right away. Late and long, here is my race report from the Miwok 100k or you can just scroll down to the summary at the bottom. Pictures down there too! Call me crazy but I don't like breaking up an intimidating wall of copy with photographs. What am I the newspaper:)

2006, that's the year I can point to when I started running ultras to race rather than to just survive and finish. I was in for Western States and wanted to train better and harder for the opportunity. I started doing track workouts for the first time ever with my triathlon club - 400's, 800's, 1200's and 1600's was all Greek to me up until that point. I got a heart rate monitor and got tested by a coach to get all my zones. I started attending spin workouts. Oh it was great, intervals on the track on Tuesdays and intervals on the stationery bike on Thursdays. I was getting two speed sessions a week, one without the pounding of the other. Lastly a friend at the time took pity on me and gave me her training program that was prepared for her by a big time coach. Opened my eyes to how I should really be training. I was a novice marathoner training himself for 100-mile ultras with a marathon training book. Her program changed forever the way I trained. By the time Miwok came around I was only two months into my new training regimen but posted my fastest time on the course with a 10:47. I had the help of my good friend Stephen Goldmann who paced me. That was the first time I used a pacer and he whooped me good. I always told him that on my own I would have gotten 11 but he took me the next 13 minutes under the hour. This t-shirt is dedicated to him (rolling over the shirt magnifies the design).

It was really important to me to break that time this year. It should have been last year except we had the storm during the race. After being away from the event for a couple of years I wanted to come back and drop that PR time considerably as I had done with the 50k, 50-mile and 100-mile distance. I had been training hard and running with runners a whole lot better than I am. Their company and support has made me better. My hill climbing skills is the best it's ever been. I came into the race with big expectations, the confidence that I could get it done and the swagger to go along with it.

Race morning was not like any other race morning. Friends were scattered over six sporting events all happening on the same weekend. At 3:30AM while having my morning coffee I checked my twitter feed for any last minute trash talking and found out that my friends, the Ewarts, were going to have their baby. The weekend was starting off with a bang! I got a ride with my good friend Preston who was tackling the 100k distance for the first time. He looked way too relaxed which I took as a good sign, better than being way too nervous. We were there early, while it was still dark. It was a lot lighter by the time we started walking to the beach for the start and soon we were off, running on the sand to the single track at the end. The first 6 miles were changed due to construction work and was replaced by two down-and-back sections. I thought they were excellent because I got to see the front pack in action early in the race. From Pantoll Ranger Station (mile 21.7) to the turnaround point at Randall Trail (mile 35.6) and back to Pantoll Ranger Station (mile 49.5) is one big down-and-back section but by the time you see the elites they are already spread out. It was great seeing them and charging hard early were Zach Gingerich and Michael Wardian. What was even better was that I got to see a lot of friends on those short down-and-back sections, lots of cheering and greeting. Hard not to get all pumped up after those first 6 miles. I felt great, I was moving really well and the heart rate was low.

There's a saying in ultra, "if you are feeling good don't worry it will soon pass", or something like that. After the second hour I started feeling sluggish and my heart rate was high for the pace I was running. I went through my mental checklist and the only thing I could think of was dehydration. Before the start I urinated three times so I made a mental note to keep the liquids down because I didn't to spend the first quarter of the race peeing in the bushes. I had two water bottles and but only filled one. It was a cool morning and I drained only a single bottle between aid stations. Didn't feel thirsty or anything but once I started upping my intake of liquids my heart rate dropped but the sluggish feeling stayed with me. It might have been dehydration because despite increasing my intake of liquids, about two bottles worth every 1-1:20 an hour, I didn't feel the urge to urinate until after the 7th hour and when I did it was dark. Nevertheless I pushed as hard as I could. After the first stop at the Pantoll ranger station at mile 21.7, I stopped getting passed and I started chasing after runners. Whatever I had to work with I worked with and I never got passed again for the rest of the race. All who were running faster were in front of and it was up to me to gain some ground on some of them. My most brilliant moment came between mile the Bolinas aid station at 42.8 and the return to Pantoll ranger station at mile 49.5. I felt great, I flew and I caught a few runners. Curiously it's a section of trail I don't really enjoy but I do well on it. On my return to the ranger station for the last time, I had caught up to a woman who wore a pair of red shorts. Red is a color easy to spot amidst all the different hues of green and brown especially when it stayed in front of me for almost the entire trip back to Rodeo Beach.

I chased and chased but I couldn't close on red shorts. She was faster on the long downhill on Deer Park fire road and even faster on the climb back up to Diaz Ridge. She just powered through, running up the entire hill. I fell behind because I had to walk sections of it. On top of all the fatigue and soreness I also started feeling the heat. It wasn't that hot temperature wise but I had no heat training and it felt a lot hotter. I was not prepared and I wilted in the heat. Thank God there wind, sometimes it was a head wind but I didn't mind. Anyway I thought she had dropped me for good on that hill but at the next aid station there she was. As soon as I pulled up she took off, dammit! Off we went up Miwok fire road. I had to mix walking with my running again because I was quite exhausted and hot. She on the other hand charged through like she did on the last hill. In the distance I could see her red shorts pulling away slowly. Surprisingly after 10 minutes of running and walking I was able to lay down a good running pace again, must have been the gel from the last aid station kicking in or the break. Nothing crazy but the pistons were moving.

The last 6 miles or so of the Miwok 100k is a thing of beauty from a pain and suffering standpoint. You don't want to be at this point with trashed legs, especially your quads. Once you finally get to the end of the seemingly endless Miwok fire road you join up with Coyote Ridge. After a short up hill it's downhill on Coyote towards the ocean, then you make a left to Fox trail and continue going, down, down, down. It's a long downhill that gets worse before it gets better. If your quads are trashed you will hate life. My quads were not trashed but by the time I hit the bottom of Tennessee Valley I was thankful. I caught up to Jady Palko and his pacer who had been trash talking and yelling at me on the course, all in good fun of course. I caught him walking so I took my turn yelling at him. It looked like the heat got to him too or maybe it was just the freakin 58 miles we just ran. I kept going. I had beaten Jady to the finish line once, only once and he hasn't let me forget it. I wanted to do it again, besides where was red shorts. Guess where I found her? Yup aid station and again she takes off just as I get there. I was through there quick though and I caught up to her on the next uphill. I said hello and told her I'd been chasing her since Pantoll Ranger station. She said something that came across as gibberish because I could barely hear her and gave up on the conversation. At this point we were both alternating walking and running. I still couldn't pass her and decided to let it go. I was tapped and only wanted to get to the finish line asap. Every time I got close she pushed to stay in front. Up we went on the Old Springs trail before we connected back to the Miwok fire road at the top, right before we had to turn off the fire road to the singletrack of Wolf Ridge. Wolf Ridge continues to climb, you can see the hill before you enter the trail. If you're tired and all you want to do is finish, it's the last thing you want to see. The best part is the visible section of the hill when you first enter the trail is not the steepest part. Right around the bend is a rolling section and then you start climbing again, steep and long before you finally crest the top of Wolf Ridge. If your legs are tapped, if you are tapped, you will be hating life. Red shorts was looking pretty tired at this point too but so was I. No point passing if all I did was take my place shuffling right in front of her. I was about five steps behind when we crested Wolf Ridge, told her we were finally done with the last climb and wished her luck on the last section of downhill to the finish. I fully expected her to open up a final can of whoop ass on me like she did on the earlier downhills at Deer Park fire road and Fox trail. As I was getting ready to head downhill I hear Jady yelling at me from Wolf Ridge. He had just turned the final and was making the last section of ascent to where I was. I thought he was just "encouraging" me again so I smiled, waved and took off.

Once I got going down the hill my turnover increased and soon I had pulled up alongside red shorts despite the momentary distraction from Jady. I heard her say "jealous" before I pulled away, that I heard and understood. I encountered Garret who had walked out on the course and he took it upon himself to run me in. We hauled down that hill. I've become better on the uphills and I'm even more comfortable on the flats but my heart lights up the most on a nice downhill. It helped that it was my all time favorite finish, other races use this finish and I've run them as well. Sometimes I day dream about sprinting from the top of that hill to a finish line down below. Feeling no pain I gave what was left and crossed the line at 10:38, a mere 9 minutes faster from the time I set in 2006. Red shorts came in not too long after and she had a name - Tracy Dimino. We shared a laugh at the finish. I owe Tracy a debt, I owe part of my PR to her. In a way she paced me those last 13 miles. Having her to chase those final miles gave me something to hold on to mentally and her strength and speed inspired me to keep moving. Just when I thought she had dropped me for good I'd gain on her and it kept me motivated.

Post race was all fun and smiles. Hung out for a very long time and traded stories with people. So good to finish amongst friends. Our Thursday morning run group did great; Devon took 2nd female (9:36), Nathan was 4th (8:32), Brett at 11th (9:14) and Joel at 14th (9:25). Then there was Marla who skipped and hopped the last 20 miles or so because her IT band flared up and she couldn't fully bend her knee. Aaaargh been there, the last 25 miles of the Headlands Hundred in 07 - it's was an experience in pain management and relentless forward movement. Met up with Jady who was only a few minutes behind and I found out what he was really yelling about - wanted me to wait for him at the top so we could drag race it to the bottom. Hahaha he was totally serious. I like how he's so serious and not serious at the same time. I told him I couldn't hear and was chasing a PR anyway.

I had hoped for a stronger, faster day but in the end I counted myself fortunate to have been able to still PR the run. Bobby pinned to one of my handheld water bottles was splits for a 10:07 finish from a runner from 2005, prior to our race this year, that was the last year they took detailed splits on the course. I fell behind from the get go and never recovered. I knew halfway through I wasn't going to get my goal of a low 10-hour finish and shifted my focus on simply breaking 10:47. I think dehydration played a part. After urinating that one time during the race I didn't use the bathroom again until after the race. Scared the crap out of me, I thought I read somewhere that not being able to urinate was a sign of Rhabdomyolysis (renal failure). May be true, may be not but I was scared nonetheless. The heat was also a factor since I had no heat training and was used to running in temperatures under 70 degrees. Harder than I thought but rewarding in the end. That was my fifth Miwok and I think I'll put my name in the lottery again.

Karl Hoagland and Michael Wardian helping out with registration Friday afternoon at the Larkspur Hotel.

Preston looking way too relaxed for his first 100k. Well he's no stranger to races having done triathlons including the Ironman. He also completed Transrockies with his girlfriend Lara. That's actually them on the current masthead of the website.

I am the slowest guy in this picture, by a lot and I am totally okay with that. With Brett Rivers, Nathan Yanko and Gary Robbins at the finish.

With Devon Crosby-Helms who took 2nd female behind Kami Semick. Yeah Speedy! By the way if you look closely that's Scott Jurek in the back, in the black and green track jacket. I'm pointing that out because I'm a big fan. Great runner and likes to hangout and help out. He was giving directions on the course and filling water bottles.

Marla who skipped the last 20 or so miles because she could barely bend one her knees due to IT band issues. Here she is hanging with another friend, Chris Perillo.

Preston shortly after his finish with his coach Bryon Powell.

Domingo and Jose with the food. The Pinoys near the food, where else?

Speaking of which, post race Sunday brunch at Devon's home. Good food and great company.

Gelato after brunch on North Beach. Before we got to the Gelato place, we had to walk down a very big hill. You should have seen that, a group of very stiff and limping runners on a steep San Francisco hill.

Click here for the photoset.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Volunteering at PCTR's Redwood Creek 50k

I've been oblivious to the weather since Miwok. I figured it's May, no more rain and it will be warm from here on out until June when San Francisco's summer begins. Those of you who have experienced it know what I mean. Hint: It's not warm.

So imagine my surprise last Sunday when the heavens opened up with a full on downpour during PCTR's Redwood Creek 10, 20, 30 and 50k. Yeah, not fun. Fun for the runners not so much fun for the race staff and volunteers. At least it was nice at first, gave people time to get ready and line up before they changed their mind. Light drizzle at first then a downpour right before the gun. It rained for about an hour. Reports from runners is that it got tricky on some of the hills, lots of slipping and sliding going around and people kicking mud everywhere. Must have been challenging for the folks in road shoes if it was tough for the runners with trail shoes to get traction. I didn't hear a lot of complaints at the finish though. People for the most part took it in stride and just went with it.

The good thing was that it did stop raining just as the first 10k runners finished and we were able to put out some food on the tables. After that initial downpour we were not bothered by rain for the rest of the day. The sun even came out and it was a most welcome blessing because it got cold.

A great event and some of the folks from Quicksilver the day before came to volunteer. In fact the male winners of Quicksilver were working the race. Gary Gellin who set the course record for the 25k(1:44:00) was working the finish line food table with your truly. Leor Pantilat who set the course record for the 50k (3:30:10) was at the timing tent and Zach Landman who won the 50-mile (6:50:37) was at the aid station on Moongate. Oh man I bet Zach and his girlfriend Geri were drenched at their aid station. I wonder if they were able to put out any food or if they even had umbrellas. Well, fun, fun fun, never a boring moment at the PCTR races.

I enjoy volunteering but especially for PCTR events. I enjoy the people and while new runners are always coming and going it has always retained it's laid back vibe. There is a lot of hard racing going on in these events but there's also good community. When the running is over there's good people to take care of you and good people to share run stories with. Why I keep coming back.

Proud Dad Brian Wyatt with his daughter Chaia, she's running her first 10k.

Rain right before the start.

And it kept going and going and going.

Holly, Joel and Kyle at the aid station by the start/finish. Their station is for the 30k and 50k runners who loop through.

Gary, Leor and Mark staying dry at the timing tent.

10k runners on the final stretch to the finish line. Look at that kid go!

Finally after about an hour, shortly after the 10k runners started finishing, it stopped raining and were able to put out some food at the finish area.

Mud is a beautiful thing.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Crewing and Pacing at Quicksilver 50-Mile

So Saturday I was on crewing and pacing duty again. I'm a sucker for this sport, I love all aspects of it. It was an early start though. When the alarm woke me up at 3AM I thought I had traveled back in time to the weekend of Miwok, that too was a 3AM rise. A little after 5AM, Zack, his girlfriend Geri, Larissa and I were already at Quicksilver park in San Jose and the race started shortly after 6AM.

For the first part of the day Geri and I had hiked up to two different aid stations to check on our runners. The second AS also served as the 3rd and 4th so we saw quite a bit of them. Zack and Larissa looked great, Zack was hanging back at 3rd overall for the 50-miler and Larissa was second female. The morning went by quick and soon it was time to head back to the start/finish area. The 50 milers accompany the 50k folk all the way to the finish before continuing through for the final 19-mile loop.

At the 50k mark Zach came through 1st! Yeah it was great, the only question was if he could hold it. I was told later by Brett, Larissa's guy, that his 50k split was also a PR - kickass! By then Zach's parents were there and they took off with Geri to crew for him. The parents are learning the ropes for Western States this summer. Not long after Larissa's projected arrival she came through and we were off. She looked great and told me she had saved some energy for a strong finish.

We see Zach on the course for the last time going the other way, he was at mile 47 and still leading. He didn't look so good however, looked like he was running on fumes. Nevertheless we were both excited until we saw Rob Evans 3 minutes later. I don't know about Larissa but Rob wiped the smile off my face. If Zach looked spent, Rob looked strong. His eyes were alert and focused, he looked like a predator chasing down game, chasing Zach. Not long after him was Troy Howard and Josh Brimhall and both guys also looked better than Zach. I feared for Zach but Larissa was optimistic, she said "if the last 2.5 miles is mostly downhill as you say then Zach has a chance because he is a really fast downhill runner, I mean really fast". We dwelled on it for a few more minutes but were soon back to our business. Larissa wanted to break 9 hours. Her PR for the 50-mile distance stood at 9:11 set at the Dick Collins Firetrails 50-Miler. Despite Quicksilver having more elevation gain she felt she had it in her to break the PR. I agreed, QS50 may have more climb but less twisty single track and mostly smooth fire road.

Around 40 miles she was starting to get tired, thankfully most of the big climbs were already done, just a matter of motivating her through what was left. The last 9 miles or so were pretty strong, she was cranking whatever gears she had left and was pushing through the fatigue and pain. In the end we missed the 9 hour mark but managed to sneak under 9:11, setting a new PR at 9:10. In retrospect I feel like I could have pushed her harder but such thoughts are easy to think about now, after the fact. I wish she got that sub-9 but very happy that she still set a PR.

At the finish Zach and Geri were there along with Brett and more of our friends. Zach gave us the big news that he indeed was able to hold on and finished first. Excitement and congratulations all around. 19-miles with Larissa was a perfect post Miwok long run. Such a good day for the both of them and I'm glad I was a part of it.

Larissa at the start.

Zach, 19-miles into the race.

Zach, Larissa, myself and Geri, shortly after Larissa's finish.

Me still very excited about Zach's win.

Larissa with Meredith Terranova from Austin, Texas, the female champion.

Trading race stories. As they say in Hawaii, "talking story".

Sunday, May 09, 2010

A Full Weekend on the Trails

I spent most of the weekend out on the trails at two races. I find, at least for myself, that training and racing makes me focus on myself too much, way too much time spent thinking about what I need and what I need to be doing - like I don't do enough of that already. Hanging out at the races; volunteering, crewing, pacing or just plain spectating is a great antidote. I'll expound more about the events later in the week. For now I hope you enjoy these videos.

Quicksilver 50k/50-mile start.

I inadvertently stood in poison oak to get this video, looking up and not looking down. No worries, this is why Tecnu is always by the shampoo.

Start of PCTR's Redwood Creek trail run that featured a 10, 20, 30 and 50k race.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Happy and Humbled

I haven't even started to write the race report. It was... it was such an emotionally filled, event filled weekend that I've needed the time to just live with it and process it all. It was great, wonderful in fact but dense and packed. One moment I want to talk about every single thing and then nothing. I may need the whole week to let it all simmer down.

That race rocked me. I went in there without a doubt in my mind the 10:47 PR was going to fall. It was set in 2006 before I had dropped my 50k, 50-mile and 100-mile times significantly. In 2007 and 08 I took a break from the race so I could participate in the Wildlflower Triathlons which is always in the same weekend. In 2009 I came back right in time to participate in the wet, windy and wild version and missed the PR by 10 minutes. I came back this year with an attitude and with solid hill training. I even used splits from a runner in 2005 (the last time they took detailed splits) who had a 10:06 finish. I can see it in the morning pre-race pictures, smugness bordering on irreverence, and on the post race pictures, pained smiles with a trace of shock.

Oh that PR did fall but by a mere 9 minutes and it took all of me to make it happen. It took a lot of mental power to hold it together. As my buddy Jonathan Gunderson said after the race "When I saw you right before you hit the turn-around, you didn't look so good, not totally in control". He was right, the funny thing is that I thought the same about him but I'm sure I looked worse. It was a hard, hard day but, and I meant this sincerely, a great time.

It was my 5th Miwok race but this one came swinging at me and it almost laid me out. Race report once I fully recover mentally.

This helped with the recovery. Part of the schwag is a 22 ounce bottle of Miwok 100k Ale, it's really the Lagunitas IPA - locally brewed and one of the best.

Sunday recovery brunch courtesy of Devon, Sarah and Nathan also hit the spot.

So did the Gelato on North Beach after brunch. Well okay I didn't actually eat a bite but I was good just watching every one else eat.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Today is a 100k Day

My good friend Dana sent me this yesterday and I thought it the neatest thing. She was just in China, running the Great Wall.

Did you see, they changed the Miwok website copy:

The Miwok 100K is very hilly (approximately 10,000 feet of cumulative elevation gain which will prove to be no problem for Ironcalves, Rick Gaston) with spectacular views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge, Mt. Tamalpais and the Point Reyes National Seashore. Pitty all the fools who don't live here. The course is a modified out-and-back, consisting of mostly Rick friendly fire roads and Rick friendlier single-track trails with approximately five miles on roads. The race is extremely competitive at the front, most notibly by Rock Star Rick Gaston, multiple Miwok finisher and great guy, a rewarding challenge for the mid-pack and a glorious long day in the forests and fields for those not in a hurry. Come out to the finish to see Rick, you won't regret it. Oh, yeah, other people are running too but who cares. Good luck!

I spent a lot of time on Facebook Friday leaving messages for friends running the race, thanking those who sent well wishes. There is a lot of messages and support out there for the runners; runner to runner, friends of runners. Lots of really great people running and many more crewing and pacing and by great I don't mean just speed wise, good people great. It's quite amazing. What are we without the support of our friends?

Godspeed to everyone running the Miwok 100k and while I'm here, shout outs to friends and triathlon club mates participating in; the Wildflower Triathlons in Lake San Antonio (Half-Ironman, Olympic distance and Mountain Bike), Napa Valley Vintage Triathlon (Half-Ironman distance), the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon in San Francisco (usually in June), the Ironman in St. George, to buddy Jessica Fewless who will be racing an 8-hour mountain bike race at Cool, same area of the "Way Too Cool 50k" and last but not the least the 199-mile relay from Calistoga to Santa Cruz. I've done this 12-person relay 4 times and vans will be coming through the Golden Gate Saturday night into early Sunday morning. The Golden Gate bridge on the San Francisco side is a van exchange point. Two ultra-runners will be attempting to solo the whole 199-mile distance. Good luck to Daniel Fabun and Tony Dunnigan and their stellar support crew.

What an event filled weekend. Hope you all have a good one.

Princess Dana shortly after her finish at the American River 50-mile, her first 50.

Daniel Fabun and Tony Dunnigan at Skyline to the Sea 50k.