Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cebu Summit 60k Challenge

So that hurt a lot! A month later I think about the race with a lot of fondness and some cringing because of the suffering I went through. I'm talking about the race I referenced two posts back - the Cebu, Philippines Summit 60k Challenge. Oi! I survived the race only because of my experience in the longer stuff. I knew it would come down to that and frankly finishing as well as I did was a small miracle. The second half of that race felt like the end of a 100-miler. No joke. Well it served me right going into the race with very little training and trying to be competitive. I'm an idiot. I chased like I had something to catch and paid for it.

I entered the event after over a month of having only run a handful of times while packing on some weight. I had no heat training either, ouch. You see two weeks before I left the United States on September 11, I ran the Headlands 50k. I had an amazing time and ran well but finished with an injury. I had a strain on the right hamstring due to my "bombing" of all of the downhills. Thankfully I felt the pain half a kilometer from the finish line but I was out of running for two weeks after the event. Only thing that kept me sane was TRX which I had taken up five weeks before and was addicted to. After those two weeks I was off to London where I enjoyed the days and worked through half the night on my freelance work.

I had my reservations of participating but ultimately it was my mom who gave me the push, "if you get tired you can always walk". That I did ma, that I did. So I went for it.

Took a flight out on a Saturday night for Cebu. An island so close to my hometown it only took thirty minutes and a prop plane at that. We went up then came right back down, well it felt that way anyway. At 2:30AM the next day Jonel Mendoza and Gary Garcia picked me up from my hole in the wall hotel and we were off. I was pretty excited, apprehensive but excited. We were off shortly after 4AM and I was surprised to see that despite my usual slow start I was close to the front pack. I was feeling like I was on top of the world that first 10k. Oh I kept watch on the pace, careful not to go out too fast. Even at that time in the morning I was already sweating buckets, horrible, but kept the pace solid. The first 15k was all flat road but after that we started to ascend a mountain road where we alternated between road and fire road. It got hilly quick and we were passing through small villages. These were remote rural areas where people were going about their normal lives. I saw three guys skinning a goat by the side of the road, a husband and wife duo who were each carrying a huge bamboo tree with bolos (machetes) on their hips, farmers minding their land, vendors selling this and that, playing kids, lounging unleashed dogs and lots of road kill that included snakes. It was pretty trippy and despite being so close to my hometown they spoke a different dialect that I couldn't understand. My fellow runners, the volunteers and the locals who I saw along the way were very supportive and offered encouragement, I just couldn't understand them. I never felt like a tourist in my own home country until this race.

Thirty kilometers into this, at 3 hours, I was already ready for the race to be over. Made sense I guess, the only runs I could manage for the previous month were a handful of 1-hour runs. Dying at 3 hours was normal except I had another 30 kilometers to go and the hills were non-stop! As it turned out the hills would continue for pretty much most of the race until the last several miles, the final downhill was painful in it's steepness. These damned cruel race directors - I'm a fan. Not only did I feel tired but I felt it physically, legs ached like crazy. Short of the 45k mark a volunteer ran up to me and asked if I wanted Omega Pro. Except for the Filipino runners, raise your hand if you know what Omega Pro is. Yeah I had the same problem, I was like "what?" said it several times. Finally he just pulled out the bottle. I was feeling so bad I agreed to have him rub the stuff on my legs, besides stopping felt like heaven. Well let me tell you, that salve felt amazing 5 minutes later. The menthol felt great on my legs and long after that wore off my legs continued to feel better. No help for being out of shape and racing heavy however, I still had to complete the remaining miles. At the 45th kilometer I was in 4th place, a position I had held since the 30th kilometer but the downhill slide took a steeper dive from this point forward. I got passed four times before I reached the finish line. It was disheartening even when I thought I was past the point of caring.

With about 6 miles to go we started coming down from the ridge and I was so happy only to find out in a couple of miles that we would start climbing again #$@*$!!! Up and up we went and I started thinking, "this downhill is going to be a bitch". Well it was. The best part was that at the end of the downhill a volunteer pointed me towards a six lane road and told me to cross it. There were no lights, crosswalks or rules about the pedestrian's right of way like you do here in the US, you just play frogger with the traffic. Thankfully the volunteer came with me, two is more visible than one. The last kilometer felt like forever, like having to take a dump but stuck in a long bathroom line. Holding your load would have been less painful I think. A motorcyle volunteer came alongside and kept me company. He radioed in my name and paced me to the final turn. I tell you that final turn took freaking forever. You actually pass the finish line before coming around to it. Did I mention I'm a big fan of the race directors? As I passed the finish line on my way to the final turn the blood blister on my right pinky toe burst. I laughed because it was that kind of day but wow… that pain. There is always that initial pain when raw flesh meets separated skin and it can go on for a minute. The pain was gone by the time I crossed the finish line but I had them take care of the toe at the finish.

The spirit of ultra is alive and well in the Philippines and this race, the support and organization is on par with what I'm used to in the US, even better than some races I've experienced. The course marking was excellent and the intersections were manned by volunteers who waved red flags. The red flags were great in the street sections where the volunteers looked like everyone else - I just aimed for the flags. Really, really great event. I have no complaints. If I need to have one then that finish line beer shouldn't be Lonestar from Texas. It should be the local beer which tastes a whole lot better!

It was a really, really great time and with my finish I got to check off two bucket list items; participate in an international race and finish an ultra race in the Philippines. Great, great time. UItra is going strong in the Philippines and it's growing!

With Gary Garcia and Jonel Mendoza.

Bridge crossing, it's so lush over there.

So green.

Intersection with race volunteers.

Chewing on a boiled yam while trying to pose for a picture. I'd prefer the yams over boiled potato but you need a lot of water with it.

Bananas and yams for aid station fare. Oh that candy is called Cloud 9. A type of chocolate snack that doesn't melt with the heat. It worked, all that mattered.

Finish line with medals that included place.

Making new friends.

Out like a light
Passed out post race. Photo courtesy of Jonel Mendoza.

For the complete photoset click here.

Friday, October 07, 2011


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PCTR Chabot Trail Run
February 20, 2011
Ran the 30k event, got real muddy and had a great time. It felt good to race again. Getting back into shape for the longer races!

Race Report

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PCTR Pirates Cove
March 19, 2011
I was supposed to run the 30k for this event as well but changed my mind on race morning and stepped up to the 50k. Had a great race and it was unexpected. I felt good for pretty much the entire time. It was sloppy with the mud and rain but I kicked butt, my own especially. Cracked that whip for the entire race.

4:48:35 for 5th Place.
Race Report

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American River 50-Mile
April 7, 2011
Disappointed that I just missed going under 8 hours but had a great. Fun race, great support!

8:05:22 for 64th out of 612 finishers.
Race Report

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Quicksilver 50-Mile
May 7, 2011
After AR50 I just kept on training hard and ran Quicksilver on tired legs. I definitely felt the wear and tear but had an unexpectedly good race. I was up and down the entire race but finished strong. Glad I did it.

8:24: something for 11th
Race Report

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Western States 100
June 25-26, 2011
Came away with another finish over 24 hours. Yaaaargggghhh! One day, one day! Besides that it was a great tie with friends, those running as well as crewing, volunteering and spectating. A great event.

24:50 something...
Race Report
More Photos

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San Francisco Marathon
July 29, 2011
First marathon in 7 years. Woohoo I forgot how fun they can be, painful too - all that asphalt. Fun time and as hilly as San Francisco is, it's nothing to the hills we run ever weekend in the Marin Headlands.Paced Jennifer Pattee, did a poor job at it but she did get her sub-4 goal.

3:56 something...
Race Report

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Cebu Summit 60k Challenge
October 3, 2011
My first Ultra in the Philippines! It was hot and tough and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I wasn't properly prepared for this race what with all the sight seeing and eating I had been doing the four weeks prior but it was a chance I couldn't pass up. I'd love to come back in better shape and give it another go.

Race Report

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Quad Dipsea
November 26, 2011
Love, love this race

5:47:11 Slower than in years past but considering the fun I've had in the UK and the Philippines, not running much, I'm happy with it. Love this race! 8 finishes down, 2 more to go for the 10 year jacket.

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Pacing at Miwok 100k
May 5, 2011
Paced buddy Bradley Fenner and was a witness to his amazing strength, determination and stamina. He had been injured earlier in the Spring and couldn't run for 8 weeks. Despite being under trained he finished and finished strong. Amazing performance.


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Crewing and Spectating at San Diego 100
June 11-12, 2011
Love San Diego 100, ran it the last 2 years, out this year because of Western States. Nevertheless I joined a group of friends to crew and pace. I was supposed to pace my buddy Randy Katz but he came down with food poisoning two days before the race. After he dropped he and I returned to the course to keep track of friends. We got to see Larissa Polischuk finally finish a 100 miler. A great time


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Crewing and Pacing yet again at Javelina Jundred
October 15-16, 2011
My fourth time at this race and still a crew and pacer. One day, one day I am going to run this race, at least once! Another great time made even better by my buddy John Branderhorst, joining us for his first 100. A group of friends came to support and we had a grand ol' time in the Arizona dessert or is that desert... I always forget. That's okay, running this race is always a treat, some of the 100 milers may beg to differ though :)


And I'm back! So I've been gone, yes I know that much has been obvious. What I mean is that I've been "gone, gone". I'm not in the country. I left for London early September and now I'm in the Philippines. Before anything else I'd like to send a big shout out to my man Scott Berge who is taking care of my place while I'm gone. Dude you are the best!

I was in London to visit my girlfriend, she's in a master's program there and I'm here in the Philippines to visit family. It was my grandmother's 94 birthday the other day, quite a reunion for the family. She raised me until I was 12 and like the rest of the family we are especially treasuring the time we have left with her.

Got to do some running in London, flat but enjoyed it nevertheless and I got to do some running here too in the Philippines, also flat but humid and warm. Here in the Philippines, it's been loop courses, not a lot of places to run in the places I've stayed at, the streets are not safe because of vehicle traffic and stray dogs. To be honest the running has been at a bare minimum. I only manage to run every 2 or 3 days or so. I'm so off my rhythm, have to consider other people's schedules and I've been working on my freelance work at night. I've also been um… indulging in the local foods I miss so much. Ah well, nevertheless this hasn't stopped me from signing up for a 60k this coming Sunday:) What the hell, as long as I don't pass out from the heat, finish in a decent time and still make my plane back to my hometown I'll consider it a huge success. I just hope I don't embarrass myself. Some runners here consider me the most experienced Filipino ultra-runner. I don't know if that's really true and if it is it won't be for long. More ultra races are being organized in the country and those who have the means travel internationally for races.

The running scene here is booming including Ultra's! It has been for the last 4 to 5 years. Runners have become celebrities and more celebrities have taken up running. A gal whose blog I use to follow is now on billboards and posters endorsing products. Good to see. She also helps a lot of runners get started with her programs. Through the years I've made friends with her and other Filipino runners, ultra and non, through blogs and Facebook. It's been 3 years since I've been back to the Philippines and I've been wanting to meet some of them. Some I've lost touch with over time which is a shame. If I was here longer I could take the time to track them all down. Anyway I did manage to connect with four runners last week and one of them, Jonel Mendoza, invited me to run a 60k at a neighboring island. Lots of islands here. It's only a 30 minute turbo prop ride away but far enough that they speak a different dialect (77 dialects in the country), thank God for English because frankly my proficiency in the national language is suspect and spoken with an American accent.

I was in good company that evening, accomplished gents with a lot of passion for the sport. Jonel Mendoza runs races all over the country is the editor in chief of FrontRUNNER magazine - a great running mag with lots of ultra content. Jonnifer Lacanlale and Simon Sandoval finished UTMB with Simon going on to run the Berlin Marathon three weeks later. I've always wanted to run Berlin since I visited the city so many years ago. Doc Peter, I forgot his last name:), is a doctor from the University of the Philippines who has also participated in UTMB twice. He has had the opportunity to travel for work and has run the Grand Canyon. I promised to take him to the Marin Headlands when he visits. Only thing that could have made it better is if Jovenal Narcise aka the Bald Runner had been able to join us. He is a retired two star army general who has been tirelessly working to grow the sport of ultra in the Philippines. He travels to the U.S. frequently and applies the things he's learned to the ultra scene here. He is the RD for the Bataan Death March which started as a 102km (63 miles) race that was extended to a full 160km (100 miles) this year the winner of which broke 18 hours. It's a road ultra but the Filipinos are getting faster every year! He has since organized another 100-miler, it will be the second for the country, that is primarily trail with hills and a stream crossing. It will be a loop course, in an Army base, but safer. It's a wilder environment here and I'm not just talking about the kind of animals that walk on four legs. The Bald Runner is busy in California, he is set to run the Dick Collins Firetrails 50-mile - my favorite 50 mile under it's new but accomplished RD, Julie Fingar, who also organizes two other incredibly popular ultras, Way Too Cool 50k and the American River 50-mile.

So my current shape; not a lot of running - vacation schedule, plumpier - is that even a word?, slower and not acclimated to heat and humidity. Awesome right? This has the makings of an epic run or epic failure. Well I just couldn't pass up on the opportunity, it will be my first international race after all and an ultra at that and furthermore at a place I've never been. The run starts off in the midst of a town complete with dusty roads and crazy traffic but we will make our way to tree covered fire roads and HILLS! I miss hills and I miss trail. I think this is the first year of the event. Not sure though. If it is it just adds more incentive for me to finish well and by well I mean just finishing looking decent. I'm sure.

Wish me luck or say a prayer if you are so inclined. I will need all my so-called experience to make it through this one gracefully. I've never been the kind of runner who just winged it at events. Like in college, I spent a lot of time studying and working to make up for lack of God given talent and skill.

From left: Jonel Mendoza, myself, Jonnifer Lacanlale, Simon Sandoval and Doc Peter.

With Jon. I started trading emails with this gentleman 2-3 years ago. Back then 100 miles was just a dream for him, he has since three, all in different countries, with another scheduled at the end of the year. He is just getting started.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Hometown 26.2

Scott, my neighbor and weekday running partner.

Jen and I crossing the Golden Gate Bridge back to San Francisco. We crossed over and crossed back. Here's something I've never done before, run the bridge on the road.

Jen and I shortly after finishing the race.

Devon at the finish. She took third, paced by her Nathan.

I made out last weekend. Jen, a friend from my Thursday morning trail run group, hooked me up with a free race entry to the San Francisco marathon. It was such a last minute thing, I got confirmation of entry the afternoon before the event. Well it ended up being a really fun time. I enjoyed most of it and it's been too long since I ran my last marathon. The last time I entered a marathon was back in 2004, quite some time. The idea was to run with Jen and pace for the entire race. I'm not in racing shape but I knew I could complete the distance without killing myself. Her goal was to come in under 4 hours which was within my capabilities.

The weather was perfect. I mean it was shorts and t-shirt weather at 4:30 in the morning. I picked up my friend Scott and we walked down to the waterfront. I expected it to get breezier and colder by the water but it was pleasant and we would enjoy great weather for the rest of the day. The first 10 miles just flew. Jen and I ran at a great pace, talked a lot and enjoyed ourselves. Shortly after the bridge however I would lose her on a long downhill when she took off and I had to stop twice to tie my shoelaces. Eventually I caught up with her at Golden Gate Park. I ran ahead of her after catching up but eventually I lost her again. Thinking that she was still behind I ended up waiting for 12 minutes in the park. Finally when I started running again I caught a glimpse of her as the course looped back on itself - she was more than a mile ahead! This was around mile 17 or so and I would use most of it to catch back to her. I wasn't happy to be running so hard but I was also pleased that I was running well with no major issues. It felt good! Eventually I caught her, a mile from the finish. In the end she didn't need me as she paced her race superbly. She did it! She got it done! About 50 yards from the finish line Jen starts hauling and we run past Scott who was struggling. I yelled at him to follow us into the finish, "c'mon Scott! Follow us!! It was Scott's first marathon and he has been wearing his medal to work all week. We all crossed the line at 3:56. What a day.

Afterwards we hung out for a bit on the sidewalk and then eventually headed to Perry's. Thanks again to Jen, she secured us entry to where the elites and upper level volunteers were given the VIP treatment. Free food, free beer and a free rubdown = awesome. It took a lot of self-discipline not to go crazy on the breakfast menu however. It was delicious and there was plenty of it but I kept it under control. I did avail myself of the free rubdown and got to catch up with other friends.

So despite my horrible pacing skills and having to run hard just to catch up I had a great time, a really great time. I've never run the San Francisco marathon and it was good to finally check that item off my list. Run my own city's marathon - check! I felt great afterwards. I even went to TRX class that afternoon (I had a free pass for a week and wanted to make the best of it.)No lingering fatigue or issues now. I was so psyched that I signed up for another ultra this month! I feel good. I am officially recovered and back in the mix.

Hope everyone is having a great weekend.

The new medal looks great in my lamp of medals and trinkets.

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Month Later

Oh yeah, Brett Rivers, showing off his new Western States buckle. The dude ran a 17:38! This was at a wedding a couple weeks after WS.

Okay maybe a little more than a month. Long time no see kids! There wasn't much to write, do you really want to hear me whine and bitch about the aches and pains and why the recovery is taking so long. Naw, you don't want that and there was a lot of bitching and complaining. I'm quite the potty mouth after these big races:)

The initial recovery was longer than usual but faster than I expected. Let me explain. Usually I'm back out at the end of the week after these 100s shuffling about and working my legs back to normal. The year I ran Kettle Moraine 100 and Tahoe Rim Trail 100 (6 weeks apart) I was back out doing long runs the following weekend. This time no such foolishness. The posterior tibial tendon strain kept me from running even 7 days after the race. The way I could feel it "bite" when I jogged for reached for things in the cupboard really had me worried that I tore it. Fortunately I did not do anything major and by the following week I was able to do a workout on the spin bike and do some light jogging. Five weeks later I am feeling very, very good although I don't have all of my speed back yet. I have been taking it easy so that's probably why. I ran real trails for the first time yesterday morning with my Thursday morning group and felt great - two hours in the Marin Headlands. So yeah I'm back, mostly here than there.

Enjoy more pictures from the event. If you are a Facebook friend you've seen these already. I have no concrete racing plans for the rest of the year except that I want to do well at the Quad Dipsea again but that isn't until November. I'm already booked for three pacing duties, one next weekend at Headlands Hundred, the second at Javelina and the last one at the Northface 50-mile. I have more pacing events than running events right now! Depending on how the early part of August goes I may run the Headlands 50k. It is hosted by my running club (Tamalpa) and is back on the scene after being cancelled the last three years. I will be there running or volunteering but I really want to run it. It was my first ultra so many years ago and I know the course like the back of my hand. I'd like to run it again even though I may not necessarily race it. I also may be running the San Francisco Marathon this weekend, all depends if a friend can get me a free pass to run it with her. We shall see.

Hope you all have a great weekend!

For the photoset click here. Special thanks to Steven Bin who took pictures with my camera while I was running. Here's a few images from the set.

Stan Jensen, faster on the draw with his camera. Friday at race check in.

Larissa Polischuk, Brett River's main squeeze and one of my training partners. She's sporting her new San Diego 100 buckle and a shirt I designed for Brett's race. Brett did tear up the course like a monster, his first time too.

The gang, waiting for runners to come through. Photo by Steven Bin.

Leaving Michigan Bluff at mile 55. The next 25 miles would be my best miles of the race. Photo by Steven Bin.

Unhappy at this point at mile 93, wasn't going to break 24 hours and feeling like poop. Crewchief Jessica looking a bit worried. Photo by Steven Bin.

The track finally! Sad to come in after 24 hours, extremely happy and relieved just to finish. Photo by Steven Bin.

Done! Photo by Steven Bin.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Western States The Short Version

Hanging with Kathleen by Glenn Tachiyama
Kathleen Egan and I are on our way to Mosquito Ridge. Kathleen paced me at my last hundred - Pine to Palm. It was great running with her again. A Glenn Tachiyama original.

Wow I got beat up on that run! Usually I'm able to go for an easy run by now, 4-5 days after a big race, but not this time. This is the best I've felt since Sunday, a good thing too because work was piling up. I have so much to do because I was so useless on Monday and partly useless on Tuesday. Deadlines don't care about 100 milers.

The event was another success and I got that finish. I missed the 24-hour mark and admittedly I'm still a bit disappointed by it but I'm more thankful to have finished as I did, losing a wheel the last 10 miles of the race. I couldn't have done it without my crew and pacers though; Jessica Fewless, Sarah Crosby-Helms, Steven Bin and Peter Duyan. I had a great crew.

I started the race nice and easy and for the first 55 miles I kept it conservative. There were many times when I just wanted to let loose but I kept that heart rate at the range it needed to be. My heart rate monitor was my speedometer. The climb out was tough and I felt breathless but once we summitted I felt good. The 4-mile climb was followed by 11 miles of snow however. Snow on flat ground is not a big deal, snow on the side of a mountain, up and down small hills...ummm yeah, not so good. I and the people I found myself with were slipping, sliding and falling all over the place. I worried that the early snow acrobatics we were doing would bite us in the butt later and in my case it did. After Michigan Bluff (mile 55) I had the energy to burn and from that point all the way to mile 90 I made up time, passed a lot of people and was within the 24-hour mark. However it was also at Michigan Bluff that I felt the twinges on my left posterior tibial tendon (runs along and on the inside of the achilles tendon). I could feel the twinges of pain going up my shin. By mile 90 the pain, even with acetaminophen and my lucky orange bandana wrapped around the ankle for compression, got a lot worse and I pretty much ended up walking the last 6 miles. The pain and pure exhaustion kept me out of the 24 mark. Like I mentioned I'm still a bit disappointed about that but I'm not too broken up about it.

Everything is okay except that damned tendon. There is a specific point that is swollen and tender to the touch, it also still hurts to walk. It's injured I'm sure and it will just need time to heal. Lucky for me I haven't planned anything for the summer. I can take my time healing and coming back. I'm also lucky that the injury is in an area that I can easily get to with my fingers. I can ice it and also massaged it when it's much better.

Steven Bin used my camera and took pictures all day, videos too. I have a lot of images to process but in the meantime I have pictures that friends took of me, from registration to finish. Enjoy the pictures.

By Jorge Velasco
At registration with fellow Pinoy runner, Jose San Gabriel. Photo by George Velasco.

With Carmela and Ben by Ben Gaetos
With more fellow Pinoy runners, Ben Gaetos and Carmela Layson, during the pre-race brief. Photo courtesy of Ben Gaetos.

With Sarah at the start
With Sarah Crosby-Helms at the start line the morning of the race. Photo by Steven Bin.

The climb out of Squaw Valley by Drymax Socks
Almost at the top of the climb out of Squaw Valley. Photo by Drymax Socks.

Tip Toeing on Icy Snow by Gary Wang
Cath Todd in front of our merry group. This was an icy section, notice how the snow is not giving way under my feet. Yes it does suck falling on top of it. Well first it sucks tripping or sliding on it then it's the gift that keeps on giving when you slam on top of it with your knee or whatever. Photo by Gary Wang who volunteered all day. He was on the course as a safety runner and again at the river helping people cross.

Mosquito Road by Glenn Tachiyama
Mosquito Road with Kathleen Egan. Another photo by Glenn Tachiyama.

On the Course by George Velasco
This may be Dusty Corners. Photo by George Velasco.

By Glenn Tachiyama
This may be Dusty Corners. Photo by Glenn Tachiyama.

Coming into Michigan Bluff by Amy Freund McCrea
Happy to be out of the Canyons. Heading into the Michigan Bluff aid station, mile 55. Photo by Amy Freund McCrea.

Mocha at Michigan Bluff by Jessica Fewless
Checking calories at Michigan Bluff. I like the cold coffee drinks later in the day. Photo by my crew chief Jessica Fewless.

At Michigan Bluff by Ben Gaetos
Leaving Michigan Bluff with my crew, Steven Bin (in the back), Jessica Fewless (lugging supplies) and Sarah Crosby-Helms (also carrying gear and supplies). Photo by Ben Gaetos.

With pacers at Michigan Bluff by Chris Perillo
Leaving Bath road aid station, mile 60, flanked by my two pacers, Peter Duyan (60- 80) and Sarah Crosby-Helms (80 - 100). Photo courtesy of Chris Perillo.

Coming into Foresthill by Amy Freund McCrea
Coming into Foresthill, mile 62, followed by Peter Duyan. Felt really, really good here.

Last mile by Jessica Fewless
The last friggin' mile to the school! Photo by Jessica Fewless.

At the Finish by Stan Jensen
Look at that sprinting form, a thing of beauty! Errr okay, maybe not. I like this photo because it shows Larissa Polischuk and Sarah Crosby-Helms running alongside. Photo by Stan Jensen.

Well that's it. I'll spend part of the weekend processing my own photos and videos, thank you Steven Bin. I should have those up by next week.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Crewing and Not Pacing San Diego 100

Luis Velasquez and Janet Thompson, training and racing buds.

Heather Van Ness and Marissa Walker. Heather is crewing for Marissa.

Heather Van Ness and Marissa Walker. Heather is crewing for Marissa.

Almost time to go. Rod Bien and Topher Gaylord pose for one more photo.

Scott Mills is a great race director who along with his staff and volunteers work very hard to make sure they put on a successful race. Right in line with pretty much all the ultras I've experienced. The course is challenging and beautiful. You get heat and cold and the trail is technical in some parts. For crew, pacers and volunteers the aid stations are very close together and easy to get to. As a runner it feels like you are going places, as support staff you are merely driving a few miles down the road to the next aid station and to the next and to the next. Most of the aid stations are crew accessible. There are medical personnel at the some of the aid stations. The finish at the lodge is wonderful in that there is a place to shower and shelter until it's time to go home. Most of all the volunteers are the best I've experienced and that's saying a lot considering ultra marathon volunteers are some of the best to begin with. I have two very memorable experiences at an aid station, both were at this race.

Krissy Moehl leaving the first aid station.

Our girl Larissa Polishuk, leaving the same aid station.

Brett and I with our "hammerchuk" shirst on. Hammer + the last part of Larissa's name. If you are familiar with the way she runs or trains you'll understand the "hammer" part.

I've run the race the last two years and being in Western States this year, just two weekends after San Diego, I couldn't run the race for a third time. I have friends who can run 100 milers a couple of weeks apart but that's not me. I came in the Wednesday before the race to celebrate my mom's birthday with her. She's in the city of Corona and I drove down early Saturday morning. It's about a 2.5 hour drive.

Penny Pines aid station, mile 23+ into the race.

Walter Edwards getting some help at the Penny Pines aid station.

I got there 20 minutes before the start. Lots of friends running, lots of friends spectating, crewing and pacing, it was another trail party scene. I was to crew and pace my buddy Randy Katz and he was one of three runners from our Thursday morning run group. He got food poisoning two days before, ouch, and he looked like what you might expect from someone who is about to start his first 100-mile race with a compromised gut. These things are hard enough when you're healthy, when you're not..... Everyone else looked good though. Our pal Larissa looked lean, mean and hungry. Last year she started three 100 milers and dropped on every single one. She had the ability and the strength but she was showing up injured at these races. Well this year is a totally different story, she has been running but she has also been doing Crossfit, TRX and Boot Camps. I noticed the difference in the Spring when she would bounce back from events very quickly. She was hungry for that first finish after those three dnf's and she was going to be paced by her boyfriend Brett Rivers who I would consider an elite runner and a total monster on hilly courses. We got shirts made, she had her superstar pacer and she was in the best running shape of her life.

From the start I headed right to the first aid station. We had lots of time to talk, hangout, take pictures. It was a good time early in the morning. It was quite chilly at first but it got warm not too long after. Randy struggled from the get go, he came through the first aid station feeling terrible. Our hope and his too was that his stomach would recover somewhat during the course of the run and he could salvage a finish no matter the time. He didn't get much better as the day went on however. By mile 23 it got pretty warm and they had to run the next 20 or so miles without crew access. They drop down to the valley, endure the heat then climb for 11 miles until they reach mile 44 and the next crew accessible point. This is probably the hardest section on the course. When Brett and I saw Randy he looked like he already ran three quarters of the race; haggard, tired and ready to be done. We saw him off and crossed our fingers. From there Brett and I went back to their cabin which was just right off the highway. The race was so easy to crew, so easy to get around to all the crew accessible points. We caught a few zzz's and by the time I woke up Brett was already gone and I headed out to the mile 44 aid alone. When I got to mile 44 the crew had already moved on, they've since gone on to the other aid station and would continue to progress forward on the course as I waited for Randy. I got there at about 5PM, 10 hours into the race and it would be about 8PM when I finally saw Randy. He had almost nothing to eat for the last 20 miles and was determined to drop. He came in to the aid station 20 minutes before cut-off and needed some time to change clothes, eat and drink. Despite his desire to drop I was able to coax him to leave the aid station. He left the station with 6 minutes to spare and I walked with him for a quarter mile before I let him go. I left him just as he entered my most favorite part of the course and I hoped the scenery and the cooling weather would buoy him to at least one more aid station. I told him he could at least make it 50 miles. Alas it wasn't to be, as I was enjoying a cup of chicken soup at the aid station he came walking back. His race was done at 44+ miles in 13+ hours. Well I gotta hand it to him, he did what he could with his stomach. He gave it one last legitimate shot to get back out after mile 44 and even though he couldn't make it happen he tried. Tough, tough day for him. I forgot to mention that he also got lost for three miles or so and was knocked down hitting a tree branch. He was following a runner too closely, the runner ducked the branch and he ran right into it. After getting back on his feet he threw up. Yah, terrible, awful day.

Waiting for the runners to come in to the Sunrise aid station and mile 80 of the race.

Sunrise aid station in the evening. Runners came through here earlier in the day at mile 51.

My first thought was to head back out and pace someone else. I called Brett to keep a lookout for someone who may need a pacer but the more I thought about it the more I realized that would be a mistake. Randy needed the company and I wanted to see Larissa finish. We drove back to the cabin so Randy could get cleaned up then we drove the 45 minutes to El Cajon for some food - no facilities inside the Mt. Laguna Recreation Area that is open past 7PM. After some fast food, only type of place we found open close to midnight, we drove back to look for Larissa.

Boy did it get cold at night. The wind was strong on the ridge at Sunrise aid station, miles 51 and 80 of the race. They had four RV's parked there helping block the wind as well as heat lamps, a fire and a couple of tents - it was still cold. I parked the car in a location where we could see runners coming off the trail and into the AS then fell asleep and so did Randy. We got up and walked to the AS just before Larissa and Brett came through. She looked great. We repeated this process until she finished - driving to an aid station, falling asleep, getting up in time to see her come through. We did manage to visit the finish area about 20 hours into the race and catch up with ome of the elites. I got to talk briefly with Krissy Moehl who was resting/sitting next to Topher Gaylord. She had good things to say about the new course, something about "tough" and "beautiful". Just before we left I was also fortunate enough to see Jenny Capel finish for second female finisher. She's another great runner and I got the pleasure of making her acquaintance at American River 50-mile earlier this year.

The sun was bright and shining by the time Larissa and Brett came through and many of the gang were assembled at the lodge enjoying the post race conversations. There were several other friends who dropped from the race like Randy but they were back out to see others finish. It was quite a celebration when Larissa finally came through and again when Walter finished as well. There may have been some watery eyes in the crowd, Devon I'm looking at you.

Oh yeah, the buckle and a happy finisher.

Walter, done, done, done.

Sunday ended with one more group session back at the cabin. Just a bunch of us sitting around the living room talking more about the race, lots of laughter and shaking of heads. The good times are always over so fast so quickly though and soon it was time for hugs and to hit the road. I was headed back to Corona and dreading the 2.5 hour commute, most was headed out to brunch. My last enduring image of San Diego was Larissa waddling up the stairs like a penguin in her new San Diego 100 gray sweatshirt and baggy blue sweat pants, cussing. It reminded me of something that Andy Black once said and actually he was also a finisher at this years race so maybe he would say the same thing about SD.

"The thing I don't like about Western States is that you show up at the starting line in the best shape of your life and a day later you are in Auburn in the worst shape of your life" - -Andy Black

Larissa started the race looking like she could be in the cover of a fitness magazine. All that running and hard work cross training really paid off. She finished looking like the Pillsbury Dough Boy (her words:) A lot of water retention. I'm not sure why actually, too much salt, not enough salt, some other factors?

Well another great San Diego 100. My third year in a row and there will probably be a fourth. As a runner or crew and pacer I really enjoy the course and the hospitality of the event and the area. I'll be back.

For the photoset click here

Tomorrow I start my 100-miler race. The Western States 100-mile!
You can track me here