Monday, March 31, 2014

Rain, Snow, Funnel Clouds, Lucy... AR 50M must be coming, so are Miwok and Comrades!

First of all, I'm excited to report that I've reached (and surpassed) my Comrades (ultra) Marathon fundraising goal!!!  I'm overwhelmed by the donations and amount of support I've received from my friends and family.  As I write this, we've raised $536.08 (my goal was $500) for the Wildlands Conservation Trust!  Additionally, I've found that the amount of money raised places me 23rd out of the 387 Comrades charity runners and 3rd out of the 60 runners who are raising money for Wildlands!

I will continue to GREATLY APPRECIATE any donations that can be made.
Please, feel free to donate: Click Here

The latest fundraising totals for Comrades charity runners can be found here:

Secondly, the American River 50 Mile Endurance run is almost here, oh my!  With my recent race schedule and life events (just bought a new home and will be moving shortly!), it really snuck up on me!  On Saturday, April 5, I will be running my third consecutive AR 50 Mile and am looking forward to receiving another jacket and in some sense, what it takes to get that jacket.

Aside from that, my Dad and I enjoyed a fantastic day on the slopes of Sierra at Tahoe last week and I've taken advantage of a couple of opportunities to enjoy the weather and our local Sierra Nevada mountains.

Friday ski day!
Dad and I hitting the slopes.
On the drive to and from Sierra at Tahoe, I observed that it might be a good idea to get some trail time on the slopes of Ralston Peak.  On Saturday, I ran 14 miles with the Folsom Trail Runners, and on Sunday I scooped up Lucy for a spontaneous trip up the hill.  We scampered around on the mostly snow-covered trails on the slopes of Ralston.
Let's do this.

Lucy, Pyramid Peak.

~7,500 ft.


Managed to not get stuck up here.
Back in Folsom, a long stretch of beautiful weather was interrupted by... some beautiful weather, which brought funnel clouds, lightning, and periods of heavy rain to the area.  I nearly skipped out on my run to take a nap, and very well may have, had I not caught a glimpse of an impressive looking radar map!  I flipped on the news and saw that funnel clouds were being reported in the area.  I sprung up off the couch and got on my running gear.  The pictures that follow will explain why.
One of my favorite local oak trees, during the first batch of beautiful weather.
Lucy and a funnel cloud, getting their rotation on.

Above average looking sunset.

Saturday AM brought more sustained rain.  I had the good fortune to enjoy a 10 mile run with friends in it.  Shortly thereafter, it seemed a good idea to drive up highway 50 to grab some Might Tacos at the Cozmic Cafe in Placerville and then play in the snow with Lucy.
Ramon, as usual, chose to stay home.
Looks like a good place to stop.

Not even chasing anything, just loves running.

Lucy met Emily near Echo Lakes

Dreaming of getting back to the mountains.

Flashback to the 2012 American River 50, my first 50 mile run.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Way Too Los Angeles Cool 50k Marathon

For many, the weekend of March 8 and 9 may have simply represented an opportunity to get out and relax in the beautiful California sunshine, to take it all in;  lush green grass blanketing the rolling foothills,  the sounds of young birds chirping with excitement, colorful butterflies dancing across the scene.  Or for those on the East Coast, maybe just another bland stretch of time to survive by huddling together for protection from the iced wind and wickedly driven snow.
92.2k worth of running gear

This weekend has weighed on my mind for months now.  I had gone and signed up for the 2014 Way Too Cool 50k and LA Marathon.  Their start lines and times were 400 miles and 23 hours apart, respectively.  I was booked to fly from Sacramento to LA on a 6 pm flight and knew that I would need to finish in the top half of the Way Too Cool 50k field in order to give myself three hours to get from the finish line to the airport (a ~40 minute drive from Cool).

By the time Friday, March 07 rolled around, I was tingling with excitement and trepidation.  The time to question my plan and my fitness had passed.  I focused on addressing each item on my weekend's itinerary individually, only as its need to be addressed became pressing.  I stayed "in the now".  I verified my flight and hotel reservations, I printed boarding passes, I laid out my running gear for both races, I packed, I ate, I re-checked my gear 40 times and threw it and my luggage in my truck, at ~8:00 pm, I put on my running shorts, socks, and tank, and went to sleep.  I put in a solid 9+ hours of nighty-night.

Saturday, March 08, 2014:
I woke up at 5:15 AM, ate a "grilled yeast" (my invention... two pieces of toast, earth balance "buttery spread", and nutritional yeast.  Tastes kinda like grilled cheese) and a PB&J sandwich, and drove off to Cool, CA.  I arrived in Cool shortly before 7 AM and proceeded to follow the long line of cars into the designated parking area (no idea why I didn't park at the Holiday Market lot).  I wound up parking ~0.75 miles from the start/finish, which actually made for a nice little warm-up and cool-down walk.

I mingled, I browsed, I chatted, I snapped pictures with friends.  The Way Too Cool 50k is a classic, extremely well-run, locally organized event in its 25th year and as usual the pre-race atmosphere was electric.  Tunes pumping through the sound system and the upbeat chatter of old and new friends filled the air.  At ~7:50 AM, I meandered into the Wave 1 starting corral and waited for the gun.  I planned to be back here in roughly 6 hours.  Before I knew it (literally) the race had begun.  When I realized that the crowd wasn't just scooting up towards the start line, but crossing it, I started my watch and got to it.

I had settled in towards the back of the ~1200 person field as I was in no rush.  I passed some and was passed by others.  After a mile or so, I saw my friend Erica, who I ran and chatted with for most of the first ~8 mile loop.  It was a beautiful day and I was taking it in, cruising the trails and stomping through mud and stream crossings, of which there was no shortage.
Erica doing her best to cool me off with a kick full of water.
I very nearly ate it in mile 7 when I caught my foot on a root during a short, steep downhill at a small stream crossing, but was able to keep my feet in front of my center of gravity and enjoyed a miraculous recovery.  That experience was good for a muddy leg and a lot of laughs.

One muddy leg.
I came into the first aid station at mile 8 feeling terrific.  The group of friends I had been running with thus far became separated amidst the hustle and bustle of the cheering crowds and the opportunity to take in some food and drink.  I enjoyed half of a banana and a quarter of a PB&J sandwich.

Saying hi to Steve and eating a banana, mile 8.
I ran out of the aid station and headed into the Cool meadows before letting my legs loose a bit, enjoying some smooth ~8 minute miles, during the ~3 mile downhill stretch to the first Highway 49 crossing.  I crossed the highway and ran into the Lower Quarry aid station at mile 11, where I stirred up a few scoops of Perpetuem with some water, chugged it, and headed out onto the Quarry road.  I cruised along the American River and continued to feel comfortable.  I hit the halfway (15.5 mile) mark in 2 hours 50 minutes, which was right on pace for a ~6 hour finish considering that the majority of the elevation gain comes in the second half of the course.

Mid-point selfie.
At some point over the course of the next 10 miles I began to fatigue and in the moment, life became more difficult.  My journey through the familiar trails started to feel compulsory and my steps grew laborious.  I certainly wasn't experiencing any difficulties that I had not encountered and overcome during previous adventures and races, but it had become clear that the seemingly effortless 50k experience that I had enjoyed 2 weeks prior at the Fourmidable 50k, was indeed a 2 week old experience.  I was going to have to push through some discomfort for today's finish.  Interestingly, Fourmidable 50k is considerably more difficult course, but every day on the trails brings its own challenges and today's were proving to be more difficult despite the more forgiving course.  Forgive me, I'll suck it up and stop whining now.

Top of Goat Hill
I climbed up out of the river canyon and ran through the Maine Bar aid station, throwing back some soda and potato chips on my way through.  I jostled through the forest along some of my favorite stretches of the Western States trail, doing my best to appreciate the trees, ferns, moss covered rocks, stream crossings, and cushy single track.   Eventually I made it to Goat Hill, a big milestone along the course, marking the steepest climb of the day, the crest of which is roughly the marathon distance.  I made a strong push up the hill, put my smile on, said hello to a handful of friends at the top, grabbed some soda and fresh fruit at the aid station, and moved on.

I kept on trucking.  I wasn't moving very fast at this point, but I was moving.  My body felt good, albeit quite tired.  I had no acute pain, no aches or problematic tightness, and I knew I'd have no problem staying settled into my current pace and sniffing out the finish line.  I crossed Highway 49 for the second time, and began the climb back up to Cool.  One can smell the finish line from here and before you know it I was up at the Cool meadow again, less than a mile from the end.  And suddenly, there I was, back where I started.  The infectious cheer of the finish-line crowds lifted me up as a rolled on in to the finish, stomping straight through one last trough of swampy, muddy goodness.  I finished in 6 hours 3 minutes
Done for the day
Hoover Jones

Karyn got me back to good with a Recovery Pump demo!

I thoroughly snacked, chatted, re-capped, drank, and consumed all of the recovery, drink, re-capping, chatting, and snacking that was to be had at the finish.  Suddenly it was 3:30 PM.  I had a 6:20 PM flight to catch.  I jogged the 3/4 mile to my car and drove off to the shower and the pile of food.  I made it to the airport with time to spare and time to make a new acquaintance, Mitch.  He was wearing a Way Too Cool 50k medal and told me he was en route to LA so he could run the LA Marathon in the morning.  What a guy.

We flew to LAX, caught a pricey cab fair to Santa Monica, checked into our hotel, and roamed out to the 3rd St. Promenade, where I sniffed out a Chipotle.  Nothing like a huge Chipotle burrito at past 10 PM, the night before a marathon.  I got back to the hotel, slithered into bed shortly after 11 PM and fell to sleep.

Sunday, March 09, 2014:
As I slept some genius decided to skip an hour of the lovely night, delivering 4 AM an hour ahead of schedule.  My alarm sounded, my wake-up call called.  I scooped up my 4 hours of sleep, ate a banana, a few large scoops of peanut butter, then threaded myself through my running shorts and singlet, and squished my feet into my still-wet-and-muddy shoes, before stumbling out into the darkness in seek of a race shuttle.
Tired, not really hungry anymore.
Almost marathon time.

After a short 2 block walk, I landed the front-most seat on a 5 AM shuttle and was whisked away onto a ~30 minute voyage, ending at Dodger Stadium.  My fellow runners and I piled out of the bus and headed for the stadium.  I happened upon a bagel, loaded it with some peanut butter I had brought along, made myself comfortable in section 48, and waited for Billy (who picked up my marathon bib from the expo) & Co., who would arrive shortly.  I scrounged up some safety pins, dropped off my drop bag and headed into the sea of 25,000 runners with Billy, Lori, and Kieran, where we enjoyed a fantastic sunrise and stood around for a while.

Billy, Kieran, Lori, and I enjoying the sunrise.

The national anthem, Randy Newman singing "I Love LA, seemed just like last year, except my legs were way more tired.  The mob and I began our shuffle towards the starting line.  Billy, Lori, Kieran, and I started running together and did so for the first ~10k, but what would typically be a casual pace (9:00-9:30 min/miles) for me was feeling difficult and I was putting out more effort than I wanted to, to keep up, specifically on any uphill grades.  After a short, steep climb, we passed the Disney Concert Hall, and my gaze was captured by a group of people queued up in front of a few porta-potties.  I thought to myself "thanks again for grabbing my race pack, nice running, see you all later", abruptly dropped off the pack without saying a word, and joined the fine folks in the porta-potty line (I would do so again in mile 11 and mile 16.  I blame the late night Chipotle burrito.)  The bathroom line was long and sucked up a good 5 minutes (I think I spent ~15-20 mins in the three bathroom lines I visited during the race).

I resumed my expedition at a more "comfortable" (I use that word loosely) and, what I figured to be, more sustainable pace.  For a very brief moment during maybe the 8th mile I allowed the idea of stopping at a cafe for some food and then taking a cab to Santa Monica enter my mind.  I would never do such a thing.  I knew that I would continue on, that I would persevere, I would withstand any discomfort or monotony that this day had in store for me.  I do not quit endeavors such as this.  I would move forth, with a smile on my face.

Mile 13, feeling "fantastic".

For miles and miles, I progressed towards the beaches of Santa Monica.  I let my mind drift at times, away from the thoughts and feelings that demanded I stop running.  I focused on the spectators and on other runners, knowing that each person was out conquering their own challenges.  It's amazing to see the love, happiness, hugs, and cheer that are expressed when a group of family and friends sees "their runner" 15, 20, or 25 miles into their race.

I was able to cruise along at a ~10:30 min/mile pace without too much grief, so that is what I did.  It was warm out, temps in the 80's, and was becoming hot.  I occasionally reminded myself that this would end in x hours/miles and that the familiar reward would be well worth it.  People all around me were struggling and enduring, together we marched on.

Cruising past a "walker" (Walking Dead)

21-22 miles in, as I pleaded with the road ahead to present to me the start of the long descent to Ocean Ave, I caught a glimpse of and high-fived "The Unicorn" (who had just run down from the mountains) as he cheered on runners.  A mile or two later, I shared a quick "hello" with Jimmy Freeman, who piled on 1500 miles (or something like that, OK maybe ~30+) while pacing and cheering on LA Marathon runners.  I counted down the street numbers from 28th Ave down to Ocean (1st) Ave.  I didn't have much of a kick, I just maintained my pace and ran through the heat, en route to my 18th marathon or longer race finish.  It happened, on a day that recorded a record high of 88 degrees at the finish line, 4 hours 42 minutes 41 seconds after I started, I ran through the arch, received my medal, and rejoiced with Candace, my sister, and my fellow runners (I even bumped into Emil in the finisher's area)!

~1/4 mile left
Felt so good to be done!
LA Marathon #2 complete

I had been looking forward to this "beach time" for weeks!
Not pictured: me icing my legs in the water for 1/2 hr.

Just like The Karate Kid, I once believed I could not, but
I could... and I did.

Some race stats



Wednesday, February 26, 2014

FOURmidable 50k and some Hoka One One action!

The Way Too Cool 50k and LA Marathon are quickly approaching.  Naturally, I've been experiencing moments of doubt and fear about whether or not I'm actually prepared to run a 50k in Cool, CA and a marathon in Los Angeles on the next day.  Has my training been appropriate?  Am I strong enough?  Have I been running enough?  Am I crazy?  Will I injure myself and ruin my chances at qualifying for Western States at the Miwok 100k or set myself up for failure at the Comrades Marathon?
I think I do a fairly good job at suppressing such thoughts.  Maybe the best way to get rid of them is to perform some physical act that makes the thoughts seem silly.

I was signed up to run a 22 mile Western States training run on February 15th and decided that if I was able to run it at an easy pace, without feeling too beat up afterwards, that would suggest that I'm in good enough shape to run the FOURmidable 50k on Feb. 22.  So... I ran the ~22 miles at an easy pace and enjoyed ~15 miles or so running/chatting with my trail friend Kara.  I felt great afterwards and had no ill lingering effects.  I took off to spend the rest of the long weekend in San Francisco and on Tuesday, signed up for the Fourmidable 50k.

FOURmidable 50k (have you noticed the "four" in the name) starts at the Cool, CA fire-station lot and heads out on parts of the Way Too Cool 50k, Western States, and other popular trails.  Along the way, it covers the four major climbs in the area.  No Hands Bridge to Auburn Damn Overlook (ADO), Cardiac, K2/Training-Hill, and Knickerbocker.  Each of these climbs covers 600 to 1,000 feet of elevation gain.  The 50k sends runners climbing/descending roughly 6,000 feet in total.

The forecast called for a warm day, approaching 70 degrees, but it was a brisk 39 at the start.  I was chilly in my Mountain Hardware Way2Cool tank and 3" split shorts, but I warmed up nicely by mile 4 or so.  My plan was to treat this as a long training run and take it easy.  If I felt good after K2 (the third big hill), I'd pick up the pace.

Without getting into much detail, things went nearly perfectly.  I ran easy on the flats and downhills.  I ran some, but mostly hiked the uphills.  I was enjoying the day, the scenery, and the feeling of cushion-y bliss, beneath my feet.  Oh, I almost forgot, I was wearing a brand new pair of Hoka Stinson Trails and this was my first time ever running in them!  Going into the race, you wouldn't be surprised to know that I was a little freaked out at the idea of breaking in a pair of crazy marshmallow shoes with a ~32 mile run

Marshmallow shoes
Lo and behold, the marshmallows seemed to be doing wonders for me.  15.5 miles in and I felt like I just crawled out of bed after a good night's sleep.  After a couple of big climbs, I cruised through ADO for the second time, through Robie Pt., and made my way down to cross No Hands Bridge for the second time, before crawling up K2 (the toughest climb of the course, IMO) at mile 17/18.

Mile 15.5 selfie

Bouncing across No Hands Bridge

Helen and I, about to "motor" up K2

One mile and ~1,000 feet of climbing later, as I embarked upon my 20th mile of the day, I was still feeling grand and decided to start pushing the pace a bit.  A half mile later, I rolled my left ankle fairly hard, while making a sharp right turn off of a fire-road onto some single-track.  I let out a yelp, maybe an f-bomb or two, and limped over to a rock, where I sat for a bit, trying to figure out if I was going to lose a leg or not.  It hurt pretty bad, but after a couple of minutes, I started walking (with a limp), then jogging (with a limp), and finally running (with a bit of pain, but no limp).  Seems I dodged a bullet and suffered only a mild sprain (it's back to ~85%-90% as I type this).

My awesome, local Folsom Trail Runners were manning most of the aid stations and I bumped into another pile of them at ~mile 21, where I took down a few handfuls of potato chips and a few cups of Shasta Cola before heading out for the last 10 miles.  I ran my fastest split (an incredible 8:17 mile) on my way back down to the American River, during a 1-2 mile stretch of high 7:00 to low 8:00 min/mile running.  The Hokas were feeling awesome on the downhills.  I pushed a comfortably hard pace up Knickerbocker, passing 4-5 runners during the climb.

When I reached the top of the 4th big climb, I knew I "had it in the bag" and continued pushing an honest effort over the last 5 or 6 miles, which roll gently, trending uphill back to the finish area at the Cool Fire-station.

I had expected to complete this difficult course in roughly 7 hours and to feel like absolute hell after having done so.  As it turned out, I finished in 6:35 and felt absolutely fantastic at the end.  I was literally shocked at how fresh my legs/body felt at the end of the run.  I'm blaming months of consistently running ~35-70 miles per week, 2 days/week of intense strength and core training (thanks Diane! Breakout Fitness), and... my new Hokas.  I joked with Paulo (friend and RD), asking if he could get me a States qualifier if I ran another lap.  Awesome day and a great confidence builder for my back to back Way Too Cool 50k and LA Marathon coming up on March 8/9!

FOURmidable elevation profile

Finisher's medal

Weekly Totals: 39.5 miles; +6,616 ft.

Cruising down the Western States trail on Feb. 15

I didn't see any "don't kiss the giraffes" signs.