Friday, March 25, 2011

First 50k for 2011

One of my first images of trail running was an LL Bean ad that showed a runner in a zipped up hoodie running through a forest in a light drizzle. When I saw that I thought to myself "yeah I want to do that one day". Well I feel like I've been living that ad over and over again this year. Except for those three weeks in January where we had summer like temperatures we have had a lot of rain, rain and more rain. We may finally catch a break this coming Sunday.

Last weekend I was signed up to run the 30k race at PCTR's Pirates Cove. The plan then was to run those 18+ miles at race pace then running another 20+ miles on Sunday at a slower pace. However I decided a couple of days before the event that because the weather was going to be bad I would just do the bulk of my mileage on Saturday so I had less to run on Sunday. This was the main reason why I moved up to the 50k distance on race day.

The weather was as predicted and the trail conditions quite sloppy but I felt great. I mean from the first mile I felt really good and this lasted all the way to the finish. Pirates Cove is an uphill start and those that know me know I suck at those but I was just fine. I was running so well I pulled back on the throttle fearing that I was going out too fast. About an hour into the race, as it usually happens, I switched into my "endurance gear", that state of being where I feel I can run strong for a very long time. This was where it got really fun, we were on a very muddy and slippery fire road going downhill and I just bombed the heck out of it I was feeling so good. There were a couple of times where I slid around the corners with arms pinwheeling in the air but thankfully I never went down. At about 16 miles into the race I stopped getting passed and I just tried to hold on and chase after as many runners as I could on the way to the finish line. At the top of the last climb, about mile 25, I looked back and saw a runner charging hard. He had made great time up the hill, I know because I had looked back halfway up and didn't see him, now all of a sudden there he was. He was tall, wore all black except for a white cap which made him easy to spot. Seeing him close on me put extra energy on my legs. I already knew he was faster on the uphills so I ran hard hoping to keep him away on the rolling terrain of the ridge. Well I did manage to keep him from closing the gap but he was still there, white cap just visible on some of the turns. On the last downhill I poured it on confident that I was faster on the downhill, nope no dice there either. At the bottom I spotted him on the switchback just above me. The last flat 2 miles to the finish was just an all out haul, whatever was left. I really thought I was going to get caught. I didn't relax until I was 400 yards from the finish. I crossed the finish line at 4:48:35 for 5th place. The guy right behind came in only a couple of minutes after I did. I thanked him for my great finish time and we spent a few minutes talking about the race.

I was 11 minutes off my PR for the course but considering the conditions I was happy. I was also more than satisfied with the way I managed the last 6 miles. Not this weekend but the next I am running the Lake Sonoma 50-Mile and I am less apprehensive about my chances of having a good race there now. The track workouts, the return to spin, the gym workouts and all the base building miles has gotten me in great shape. The other thing that really worked out for me was my nutrition plan which allowed me to run as well as I did. I ran pretty much on gels and water and I brought enough knowing there wouldn't be any at the aid stations.

Really good race, took an hour to warm up afterwards but all worth it! Sorry but no pictures this time, it was too wet!

Friday, March 04, 2011

Down and Up

Picture 1
North of Mt. Tam at a spot called "Maker Maker". Photo courtesy of Carrie Sisk.

Back down week this week and I needed it! Easy, shorter miles this week, nothing crazy, well except the usual too early Thursday morning run. I always run that workout on the hard side, it's difficult not to when I'm trying to keep up with the faster runners which is mostly everyone else in the group. It hasn't made a morning person out of me but I'm still loving the camaraderie and workout and views of San Francisco on the return trip never get old.

That shot of me at Maker Maker was taken on Sunday when I ran with my friend Carrie. For three years we've talked about doing a training run together and it finally came about this past Sunday; kind of crazy considering I see her often enough, have paced her at a major race and have run several races together. Turned out to be a great day for it and she showed me trails I've never run on. We started East of Mt. Tam and ran around the base of it, visiting three lakes before returning to the car. There was a point on the run where I had no idea where I was. I couldn't see the ocean or Mt. Tam and couldn't have told you where North or South was. Frankly it was a great feeling - to be somewhere new in an old place. It was like discovering new rooms in your own home, a whole new section in your backyard. The South side of the mountain, facing San Francisco, I know well enough but I'm somewhat clueless on the Northern part. I really need to make more trips out there, maybe get Carrie to play tour guide a few more times well many more times. I learned new trails last weekend but mentally I'm still having a hard time connecting them mentally to the routes and sections of the mountain I already know. We took so many turns I couldn't retrace the route if I needed to. The snow that was supposed to come never materialized but there were a lot of blown down trees, we had to so some crawling and dodging. One tree, the top of it was right on the trail we needed to take. The rangers have been and will continue to be busy clearing those trails.

Sunday was a blessing after a somewhat rough Saturday. Early Saturday morning I was crossing the Oakland Bay Bridge with Brett and Larissa for PCTR's Redwood Park race. Brett and I were volunteering and Larissa was scheduled to run the 50k race. A friend, Tracy, was there was as well and she had signed up to run her first 50k race. While helping out at the finish line food table, serving chili and chicken soup, a runner came through asking for me by name and informed me that Tracy was injured and was in rough shape. She gave me detailed info on where she should be on the course. I didn't talk to her long enough to find out the extent of the injury since I went into action mode after hearing the part about "I gave her a stick to help her walk". Sounded bad right? I grabbed Alli who was also a good friend of Tracy's and we went out looking for her. Thankfully she wasn't that far, it only took us 15 minutes to find her and the trail was close to the road. While looking for her we ran into a guy who was also looking for another injured runner - his girlfriend. What were the chances of two female runners injured on the same part of the course? I know Tracy's boyfriend and that wasn't him. As it turned out the guy was the boyfriend of the nurse who was helping Tracy. With her was another runner who happened to be a doctor, Dr. Gary Bean, who was helping steady Tracy as she walked. Her knee had given out 10 miles into the race and even just walking caused a lot of pain. She was in bad shape; in pain, frustrated, embarrassed and worried about the injury. Alli drove up on the road that paralleled the trail and the runners picked her up and carried her off trail and into the car. She insisted on going back to the finish line to pick up her things and then Alli took her to the emergency room. She insisted on trying to take care of herself, embarrassed with all the attention, but no one was having it. Michael and Spencer of the PCTR Racing Staff was especially helpful in convincing her that she needed to take the help. Since I rode up with Brett and Larissa I volunteered to drive her car to the hospital, hang with her at the emergency room then drive her back to San Francisco. It was just like crewing and pacing but not as happy a time and emergency rooms are unpleasant places. I would like to say though that the nurses at the emergency room of Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley were very friendly and helpful.

While she was out on the trail, Tracy mentioned that countless runners had checked in on her when the injury first happened. Another nurse had given her a non-narcotic pain killer for the pain before those three runners had come to her rescue when it was clear she could barely walk. By the time Alli and I got there she was already in good hands. I'm like Tracy in that I try to do everything myself and easily embarrassed when I need a lot of help. Heck, I was embarrassed back in 2006 when I had to walk the last 30 miles of the Western States 100 and my pacers had to walk with me - "Save yourselves, run like the deer!" Well hopefully I never find myself in a similar situation but you never know and I'm comforted by the reminder that people will go out of their way to help. I haven't seen Tracy since Saturday but I hope she will continue to do well. She is now in better spirits judging from her latest Facebook posts. Physical examination and x-rays did not turn up anything so I guess more needs to be done to find the root of the problem.

Anyway in closing I'd like to share pictures from the event. I hope you all have a great weekend.

No snow as forecasted but a lot of frost race morning.

Alli at registration.

Mark Tanaka and Jon Gunderson enjoying a laugh before the start.

Starting lineup for the 50k/30k race. The 10k/20k folks had their own start.

Hanging out with the runners and Peter Duyan.

Dr. Mark in action with Colin Gardiner not too far behind.

A family outing for the Wyatts. Chaia in the middle ran the 10k while dad and Cassidy volunteered. Cassidy volunteered to eat a lot of food off the aid station and finish line tables. He'll probably be faster than dad in another 10 years.

Yours truly in my favorite volunteer spot - the chicken and chili pots.