Sunday, July 31, 2016

Siskiyou Out Back 50 Mile -- 9:05

Rachael and I were happy to finish!
It was a rather long 50 miles. :-)  The scenery was gorgeous and the race organization was superb. The weather was cool in the morning, but I felt quite warm for many miles in the second half, and I had to power-hike many of the uphills. No one passed me in the last 28-30 miles, but some runners were closing in. I finished in 9 hours 5 minutes 12 seconds.

I heard about this 50 mile race from my good friend Rachael from the Coastside Running Club, and I checked my schedule and I thought I could fit it in between the 69 mile Wall race in June and Mountain Lakes 100 in September. Adventure calls!

The course is a (mostly) out-and-back trail race that starts at a ski resort on Mount Ashland and heads southwest, mostly on the Pacific Crest Trail. The elevation varies from 5,500' to 7,000'.
Rachael and her husband Bob and I drove up to Ashland, Oregon, on the Friday before the race. The temperatures were warm in the valley, with a predicted high of 90 on race day, but the prediction for the summit where we start and finish was much cooler, with a high of 70.

We picked up our race shirts and did a bit of shopping at the Rogue Valley Runners store and we even got to meet the famous ultrarunner, Hal Koerner, who owns that store.

We had a delicious pre-race meal of veggie burgers and fries in the super-cute downtown area.

We set our alarms for 3:45am and I struggled to really sleep. I felt tired when the alarm went off, but it was time to get going! I normally like to eat breakfast about 2.5 hours to 3 hours before the race start, but I wanted every minute of sleep I could get. But perhaps I didn't give myself enough time to digest breakfast? I had two servings of instant oatmeal (thanks, Rachael!) and a Clif Bar.

Bob drove us to the start as the sun was rising. It was looking like a beautiful day. The thinner air at 5,500' feet was noticeable, but I felt good. They had plenty of porta-potties and fun music and we got our bibs and did our final preparations.

At 6am sharp, we were off!
Photo courtesy of the race
I tried to take it easy, but with the gentle downhill, cool temperatures, and general excitement, it was hard to go slower than 8 minutes a mile. I felt good! Soon, we made a sharp right turn on to single-track trail and I found myself at the front of a fairly large group. That wasn't where I wanted to be, since I prefer to start slower and speed up. I tried not to feel rushed, but I worried about my now 8:22 average pace for the first mile. I gradually slowed down as the trail headed uphill. I noticed the first place woman was right in front of me and I estimated there were about 20 runners in front of me, in total. At about the two mile mark, she pulled aside and let us pass. Maybe she thought we were going too fast? I worried that I was!
Photo courtesy of the race
 A few runners passed me in the next easy miles. I chatted with a couple of guys who were right behind me. One was from Palo Alto and the other, Elliott, was from a small city on the border of Oregon and Washington. The first place woman, Stephanie, joined us and said that this was her first 50 miler and she was from the Bay Area. Cool!
Photo courtesy of the race
The scenery was gorgeous and the miles slipped by easily. I was so absorbed in the conversations and the scenery that I forgot to eat until 40 minutes had passed. Oops. I normally eat about 100 calories every 20 minutes in an ultramarathon.

So, it was Stephanie and Elliott and myself for many miles. Elliott had run the course before but he thought he might be injured from a hike a few days prior. Stephanie was a fast marathoner and had done some 50Ks, but this was a big step up, and she said she expected to be passed by women behind her as the race progressed.

We descended about 1300' from mile 5 to 7. I kept on thinking that we have run up this again!

Then we had our first big climb, from 5700' to 7000'. I think I ran almost all of this. What was more on my mind was the impending feeling of needing a bowel movement. Damn it! But when I arrived at the Jackson Gap aid station at mile 14.5, there was this most wondrous sight -- a porta-potty! And no one was in it! It took a couple minutes, but then I felt much better. Stephanie spent time with her drop bag, so I was still ahead of her. Elliott was behind as well, so I was alone again for a bit.

I noticed this barrier of trees and branches on the road, as the runners were directed to a trail that started going uphill. Unfortunately, I didn't notice a rock or root or something, and I instantly did a Superman on to the ground. It was a fairly soft fall, since I was heading uphill. No blood spilled. Onward.

In the next bunch of miles, I started feeling this groin/inner-thigh problem, especially on the downhills. I guess it was a minor injury from shortly before The Wall race. It was a mild pain on many strides, but it would be tolerable if it didn't get much worse.

Eventually, Stephanie and Elliott caught up to me again. I chatted with Stephanie who seemed to prefer to run behind me. She was two years away from getting her PhD in climate science at UC Berkeley; she was doing work on measuring CO2 in the atmosphere using satellites. Nice! I told her that I would love for my 14 year old daughter to follow in her footsteps.

Somewhere along here the first-place runners passed me, going in the opposite direction on their way back to the start/finish on Mount Ashland. They looked great! I tried to count how many were in front of me, but I lost track. I figured I was somewhere in the top 20.

We happily cruised along when we started seeing large playing cards along the side of the trail -- 8 of spades, 4 of diamonds, etc., in no particular order as far as we could tell. I thought we must be coming to an aid station. Yes! Wards Fork Gap had an Alice in Wonderland theme -- cute! It was the farthest aid station from the start and the turn-around was a mere three miles ahead. This was also going to be the longest section between aid stations, so I completely filled my two 20oz water bottles (with energy drink in one, and water in the other), and quickly got going.

I got through that aid station quickly and left Stephanie and Elliott behind. I ended up running alone for the rest of the race.

I briefly had fantasies of hitting the turn-around in under four hours, but that notion was quickly dispelled. The uphill was steep! I ran nearly every step, though. Then we were directed off trail, to head strait up the side of the mountain to the "big rock" where we were to retrieve a "token" that proved we reached the turn-around. That was a tough hike. There was a woman dressed as a mad hatter who handed me an old-fashioned key.
Proof of reaching the turn-around
The view was amazing, but I was in too much of a hurry to soak it in. She said, "there's a 360 degree view!". "Do I have to run around anything?" I replied. "No, this is it" she said. "Thanks!" And I headed back down. I was on a mission and that mission didn't include much time for sight-seeing!

25 miles and four hours eleven minutes had passed. I was half-way done in terms of mileage, but I was feeling beat-up. I still had a long ways to go.

At the bottom of the steep off-trail hill, I came across Elliott. "Good job!" I said, "And how's Stephanie doing?" "She's right behind me. Have a good race and I hope I don't see you again until the finish" he said. What a nice guy! Sure enough, Stephanie and I passed each other a few seconds later. "Good job!" She seemed strong.

I think I drank all of my water shortly before reaching the Wards Fork Gap aid station again. I partially filled up and was soon on my way.

I was encountering lots of two-way traffic now and we almost always gave words of encouragement to each other.

Rachael! She was running and was smiling and looking good. We stopped briefly to chat. She said she was having "stomach problems" and that she had had to pull off the trail. I interpreted that as meaning bowel problems. Bummer. She seemed in good spirits, though, and we wished each other luck. I think I was nearing mile 29 and so she was a bit past mile 21.

There was a pretty good climb over the next 7+ miles of about 1700'. I felt OK on the whole, except for this inner-thigh problem. I took my first ibuprofen around mile 31. At Jackson Gap again, at mile 35.5, I was directed down a dirt road. Funny, I could have sworn I had arrived at the aid station by coming up the hill on the side of the road. I didn't realize it until I looked at my Garmin data later,  that the race is not a true out-and-back! Funny! It's got a couple of loops where the return is not on the same path, but rejoins the original path later on. I thought I was having memory problems out there!

We had a nice long downhill to the Siskiyou Gap aid station at mile 40.9. I guess the ibuprofen kicked in because my inner-thigh pain went away. I came across a runner who had previously been in the front of the race, but who was walking this gentle downhill. I stopped after passing him and asked if he needed anything. "No thanks, I've got water and I'll drop at the next aid station." Poor guy.

There was a "slasher" aid station...
Photo courtesy of the race
The next four miles felt brutal and were the hardest of the race. We had to climb from about 5,800' elevation to 7,000'. The temperature was ratcheting up. I started dripping water on my head to cool myself down. There was no wind and when there was no shade, I felt very hot. I couldn't seem to catch my breath, between the heat and the altitude and the exhaustion. I still had a ways to go and so wanted to pace myself so that I didn't deteriorate much more, so I walked a lot of this long uphill. For a while, time seemed to stand still. I checked the distance on my watch. I looked at the mountains to my side -- beautiful. I checked my watch -- damn it, not even a tenth of a mile had passed. I took my second ibuprofen. There were the hugest dandelions next to me and I thought about Claire and how when she three years old she said she wanted to be a dandelion picker when she grew up. I checked my watch -- barely a tenth of a mile had passed. I tried silently singing to myself and I couldn't get into it. Another tenth of a mile. It just went on and on and on. I passed some of the back-of-the-pack 50K runners, some of whom were just hiking but others who were struggling worse than me. Finally, finally, I saw signs of the last aid station and heard a bell ringing.

Williamette Meridian aid station, the last aid station, at mile 45.1, meant I was truly close to finishing. By my imperfect memory and lack of studying, I thought I had more of a huge climb ahead. I practically pleaded with the volunteer -- "Do we still have a lot of uphill?" "No, it's pretty much flat and downhill from here." Woo hoo! "And there's one more aid station." What? I thanked them and got on my way, but by my cheat sheet on my water bottle, there was not one more aid station. There wasn't.

Mileage chart that was taped to one of my water bottles
Not long after I left, I heard the bell ring. Someone was catching up! No one had passed me since around mile 18 and I didn't want to be passed!

Thankfully, the terrain was relatively flat or downhill, and I made good speed. I passed more 50K runners. 3 miles to go. 2 miles to go. I recognized the road we had turned off from that morning! Less than a mile left! I made a concerted effort to run every step up this final hill. I wanted a strong finish and I didn't want to be passed in the race to the finish line! Cheers! Applause! I smiled. Bob! He was waiting in the shade with his dog Gossamer. High-five! I felt like I was running strong and moving fast. I ran hard through the last two long parking lots and up to the ski lodge where the finish line was. Woo hoo!
Photo courtesy of the race
I got an awesome mug and a fun beer cozy.

Shortly after, some guy finished. Then Stephanie! Cool! First place woman! I thought about Elliott but I didn't see him finish. (Turns out he finished an hour behind me, so he apparently had much worse troubles than I did.)
Photo courtesy of the race
I felt dehydrated and a bit light-headed for a bit, as I slowly walked around with Bob and Gossamer to the car. We chatted about the race and about my brief chat with Rachael. After an hour or so, I started feeling better. We had lunch with Stephanie and her boyfriend, who works for Google on the Google Wallet project in San Francisco. (Smart couple!)

Rachael's Story
With a yummy veggie burger in my belly and a cup of cold beer in my hand, we walked back down towards where the runners turn off from the single-track Pacific Crest Trail on to the road, to wait for Rachael. I chatted with other spectators. I let Jennifer know that I had finished and checked in on Facebook. We cheered on the other finishers.

Bob and I made a rough estimate of how long it might take Rachael to finish. I looked up the cut-off time for the race -- 7pm which is 13 hours after the start. We were about 0.75 miles from the finish line, but with one short steep hill. If she was walking everything, it could take 15 or 20 minutes to finish by the time she reached that point. It was about 6:20pm. Time was running out.

There she was! Woo hoo! Bob and I cheered and I took some pictures. She was jogging along slowly. At the road, she continued running up the hill for a bit, but then the exertion got to be too much and we all walked together. After the top of the hill, she started running again and the three of us ran together. There were cheers from the spectators who had been camping in the parking lot. She was going to make it!

She reached the finish line and there were tears of happiness and relief and gratitude. Congratulations, Rachael!
She reported that she started having bowel troubles early in the race, and from mile 15 onward, eating and drinking immediately gave her diarrhea. Some kind of calories and water must have been getting in her, but it is absolutely astounding to me that she persevered through this race. She also fell twice during the race. You're tough, Rachael, much tougher than me.

What Went Well
  • The race was really well-organized and the course was well-marked. It's a beautiful area and I love the city of Ashland. Thank you, race organizers and volunteers!
  • I finished!
  • I appeared to be uninjured.
  • I didn't get lost.
  • I basically had a solid race, although I suspect I could have paced myself better so that I didn't slow down so much in the second half.
  • I enjoyed the trip and especially enjoyed the first half of the race.
Things to Improve On
  • I should have studied the elevation profile more, so that I could anticipate correctly what was coming up.
  • I probably should have not been so aggressive on the hill at the turn-around, and maybe some of the earliest miles were run too fast. It would have been better if I could have run harder for the last 10 miles.
  • I tripped and fell once, but it was a light fall.
  • I did not need my sunglasses; it was waste to carry them.
Random Data
  • Weighed 164.0 lbs two days before the race. Weighed 164.0 lbs two days after the race.
  • Garmin data
  • Results
  • Race photos
  • I ate a salt pill every hour.
  • I tried to consume about 300 calories of food plus plenty of sports drink every hour.
  • I took two ibuprofen in the second half, which apparently helped a lot with some kind of muscle pull.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Rat Race The Wall -- 11:17:01

The scenery was gorgeous. (Source.)
What a day! I had a really solid race, running most of the way across England, for 69 miles. The weather was great and the countryside was lush and gorgeous, with the course running along Hadrian's Wall and through pastures and quaint old towns. I'm guessing 80% of the course was paved. I ran well and had a strong finish, taking 11 hours 17 minutes. Shockingly, I came in 7th place overall out of 605 starters. I didn't trip or fall or get injured. I was led off course once and lost 5 minutes, and another time I had to wait for a herd of sheep to cross a road, but otherwise, I had a smooth race.

Well over a year ago, my wife had found Rat Race -- The Wall online. She had wanted to have a family trip to the United Kingdom and thoughtfully looked for a race for me. (Thank you, Jennifer!)

The race course runs west to east across most of northern England, from Carlisle to Newcastle upon Tyne. Much of the course runs along Hadrian's Wall, built by the Romans between 122 AD and 128 AD. We also ran through miles of beautiful pastures and through many small quaint towns. I learned during the race that the course also requires climbing short ladders, perhaps a dozen times, to get over short walls, plus going through a dozen gates that have a variety of latches to figure out. Fun!

I shared this race idea with some friends in the Coastside Running Club, and Mor and Jez expressed an interest. Awesome! Jez was going to move back to Cambridge, UK, and Mor's wife has family in England, so that made the logistics easier for them. Additionally, Mor's brother, Alon would join, too.

A year goes by and all of our training is relatively solid and the trip begins!

In the week leading up to the race,  my family and I were in Dublin and I wanted to shake out my legs after the long flight. I ran relatively hard for 7 miles and felt good, and enjoyed exploring around Dublin.

Then when walking around town that afternoon, I felt what might be a groin muscle pull. I ended up walking about 7 miles, and every time I stopped and then started again, I had trouble walking! Oh no! I tried not to panic, but how could I run 69 miles if I can't even walk comfortably for short distances? The next day was about the same, and the following day was similar but getting better. I tried to do lots of stretching and massaging. I ran a slow mile with my daughter on that Friday morning, the day before the race, and I felt good, but not always perfect.

For my meals the day before, I went all-carb, starting with a delicious "French breakfast" of croissant, baguette, and jam. I had three slices of bread and peanut butter for lunch. And for dinner, I had a tasty pasta along with a delicious chocolate fudge and cream dessert.

On that Friday afternoon, the day before the race, we runners had to check-in at the Carlisle Castle. I had put together all kinds of mandatory equipment that was not required for the many other more remote and difficult races that I've done in the U.S. -- pants, jacket, 10cm x 10cm bandage, roller bandage, gauze, and a headlamp plus extra batteries (even though I was almost certainly going to finish in daylight). The check-in worker asked to see my water-resistant "bottoms" (which I was wearing) and my water bottles. They randomly checked for other items from other runners.

I tossed and turned that night, worrying about ridiculous things like whether or not to carry my bulky water resistant pants in my running vest. I decided to obey the rules to the letter, and I squished them in my running vest, in the morning.

Race day! I woke up at about 4am, well before my 4:30am alarm. There was plenty of morning light already, so I felt ridiculous at having set aside a headlamp. I heated some water and had two cups of instant oatmeal and I felt good! I walked the half-mile to Carlisle Castle where the race starts. Mor! Alon! Jez! I soon met up with my friends. I dropped off my drop bags and we took some photos.
Mor, Jez, and me, in front of Carlisle Castle and ready to run!
I would have liked to go to the bathroom one last time, but there were only about 10 porta-potties for the 605 runners who started the race. The line was way too long and I didn't worry about it; it was going to be a long day with plenty of stops.

Jennifer, Claire, Jess, Lisa, Matt! My various family members took the time to get up extra early and see the start of the race. Awesome!

I ate an energy gel 15 minutes before the start, and topped off my water again from Jennifer. (I didn't see any race-provided water.) There were some last minute instructions from the race director, and at about 7:08am (8 minutes late), we were off!

I wasn't sure what pace I should aim for. I thought 10 minutes / mile on average would be great, and would give me a very respectable overall placement and would take 11 and a half hours. But the initial road and trails were easy to run on and I had a hard time holding back, and I was averaging about 9:15 per mile, as I recall.

We had quite a ways to go until the first aid station -- 10 miles. Furthermore, we were instructed *not* to fill our water bottles or hydration packs at this aid station, which seemed strange and dangerous to me. So, I was a bit concerned about hydration.

A handful of people passed me in the initial miles, and I wondered if I was taking it too easy or if they were going too fast. Since our pace would have us finish in under 11 hours, which very few people did the previous year, I thought everyone else was likely running too fast! I tried hard not to run faster than 9 minutes per mile. Three guys slowly came up behind me and I said hello. One of them said that I looked like I knew what I was doing and they didn't want to pass me. I smiled to myself, but I said I wasn't sure how fast I should be running, but that I was pretty sure that many hours from now, our current speed was going to feel quite fast. None of them had run as much as I had and their marathon times weren't as fast either, so even though they appeared much younger than me, I felt a little more confidence that I was on track. Around the 5 mile park, I finally pulled aside to urinate and they passed me.

The first aid station was called a "Checkpoint" and was at mile 10. The race had two kinds of aid stations -- "Checkpoints" and "Pit Stops". The Checkpoints had only water (no sports drink) and candy and the seemingly bizarre rule that we were not allowed to fill water bottles or hydration packs. Pit Stops were full-service and crew were allowed to help there, too. Also, somewhat bizarrely, the exact location of the Checkpoints was kept a secret and distances between aid stations was not published! I thought this was sort of dangerous because the distances between aid stations was on the long side. I made educated guesses and carefully traced the whole route in a mapping program to figure out the distances between aid stations. I'll update this table with more accurate numbers once I retrieve my GPS data from my watch.
Aid StationDistance (miles)Next (miles)
Carlisle Castle0.010.0
Irthington Village School10.05.2
Lanercost Priory Pit Stop15.24.2
Walltown Quarry24.03.4
Cawfields Quarry Pit Stop27.410.0
Hexham Tyne Green Pit Stop44.48.8
Styford Toll (High Barns)53.33.0
Newburn Tyne Riverside Pit Stop61.97.2
HMS Calliope69.1

I arrived at the first aid station and it was tiny and was staffed by a single volunteer. Thank you! She had a large table filled with moderate-sized cups (8 oz of water each, maybe?) and I gulped down two cups and grabbed some "sweets". Lots of runners didn't stop there, which surprised me, since that meant they were going to run over 15 miles carrying 40 oz of water. (The race mandated one liter minimum which is about two 20 oz water bottles.) Onward!

I arrived at the first Pit Stop. Those two cups of water from the previous Checkpoint made my water last. They had all kinds of meat-filled sandwiches which I'm sure would be filling but they sounded way too heavy. I stuck with the sweets and sports drink and the energy gels I was carrying.

There were some climbs along the way that were moderately steep but not very long. I generally ran every step of these because it felt good and reminded me of running up Montara Mountain. I could feel my heart rate rise and my breathing increase, but I thought that it was OK for a few minutes at a time. So, I tended to pass people on the uphills.

Somewhere at the mile 19 mark, I made the mental note that I was now beginning a 50 mile race. Unfortunately, I did not feel remotely fresh for starting a 50 miler!

The scenery was gorgeous. There was no rain predicted for the day and the temperatures were cool. It was really good running weather. The miles were adding up, though, and I was already feeling the initial familiar soreness in my feet. I came upon Walltown Quary Checkpoint at mile 24.0, and there was everyone! Matt, Lisa, Jennifer, Jessica, and Claire! I gave Claire a hug. Matt said I was in 31st place. No way! That sounded too fast. That was super-sweet to see everyone. I didn't linger and I grabbed two cups of water, downed them, and continued on.

Somewhere in the next leg I crossed the marathon mark, at around 4 hours 20 minutes as I recall. I felt good! There was some kind of race sign at this point too.

At Cawfields Quarry Pit Stop we had access to our small disposable drop bag, which contained all the energy gels that I thought I would need until our next drop bag at 44. Unfortunately, I hadn't marked my aid station chart (taped to my water bottle) with which aid station had my drop bag and I couldn't remember for sure. I asked a volunteer if this was the "half way aid station with our drop bag". I don't know why I thought it might be the half way point since I knew it wasn't, and the volunteer corrected me but didn't tell me where the drop bags were. So I went on, and only realized the mistake later that my nice supply of energy gels and Shot Bloks were going to be thrown away. The race doesn't provide any of these maltodextrin type energy gels, just "sweets" that are regular kinds of candy sold in England. Oh, well, the sweets seemed to be working just fine!

At about the half way point, I got stuck on a single-track trail behind a runner who was walking. "Sorry, I can't walk any faster" he reported. There was heavy brush and trees on either side of us, so passing him was impossible. He said he was from Finland and he asked what the name of a plant was that causes a rash. I said poison oak or poison ivy cause a bad rash, but that I didn't see any here on the trail. We came to a small clearing, but then he pointed at a plant and as I examined it, he kept on walking back to a single-track trail, so it took another minute before I could pass him.

Somewhere around mile 30, I encountered something in a field and my family helped me compose a poem:

Ode to the Cowpie

Cowpie, oh, cowpie, how squishy are thee.
I mistook ye for mud, but that ain't what ye be.
Thou wert white as chalk and seemingly sturdy,
Yet my shoe plunged through you on my great Wall journey.
Onward I ran, through pastures of green,
Hopping o'er walls, feeling fast and lean,
But my thoughts return to you, my smelly friend;
You stayed with me 'til the very end.

There was a sign for the half-way point, at mile 34.5. I did an assessment and I definitely felt more than half way used up! I was getting sore, but my energy levels seemed to be pretty good and I was happy that the second half of the race had easier running and more gentle downhills than the first half. I also took my first of three ibuprofen which helped keep the soreness in check.

Running through some cute small quaint old town, the course headed up a steep hill. I hadn't seen any runners in front of me for a while. I came across two arrow signs. One pointed straight to the left and the other pointed up and to the left. It was a three-way intersection of sorts, where you could either continue straight on the road or veer left on to a pedestrian path or make a hard left on to a residential street. I wasn't clear on where I should go! I peered down the pedestrian path and couldn't see any other signs. So, I turned left and ran down the street. It soon made another hard left, heading back down the steep hill I had just run. This seemed very unlikely, but the course had a lot of turns! I ran down the hill and came to a three-way unmarked intersection, so I knew I was off course. Bummer! I trudged back up the hill and got on to the pedestrian path. I fixed the one sign so that it pointed up instead of a hard left. I continued on and a few minutes later there was another arrow sign, so I knew I was on the right path. I had checked my watch and figured I had wasted 5 minutes. Bummer.

At Hexham, at mile 44, I ate my only real food of the race -- a dinner roll. As with the previous Pit Stops, there was a wide variety of meat dishes and "heavy" food, like chicken legs. I was handed my drop bag, and I reapplied sunscreen and got out of there as soon as I could. I passed several runners in the aid station.

For the next two hours or so, I ran alone. I was getting tired and for 5 or 10 minutes I think I slowed down a bit to around 10 minutes a mile. I was surprised when another runner caught up to me. We chatted for a while and introduced ourselves. He was Matt Simpson from London and this was his first ultramarathon. I told him he was doing great! He said that we were in 11th and 12th position! Wow! I was not expecting that. Cool! I couldn't help but to pick up my pace a bit and run with him and we were cruising along at a little under 9 minutes per mile. I thanked him for encouraging me to run a bit faster and he thanked me for pulling him along.

Last aid station! Only 7.2 miles to go! I quickly filled up both water bottles (mistake?) and ran out. I didn't need any food, so I didn't even look. I wanted to put some distance between me and Matt and another runner that we had caught up to while approaching the aid station. I think there was another runner or two in the aid station already, changing shoes or patching feet or something.

I felt pretty good all-in-all. I was sore and tired but still moving well and had no signs of cramps. I increased my effort but I didn't feel like I could go any faster than about 8:30 / mile. The pedestrian paths were very runnable. I'm in the home stretch! I turned a corner and it felt like a Christmas present -- there were two runners walking side-by-side. Then I felt guilty at having felt good at passing them. I wanted everyone to be able to do their best. They clapped for me as I passed and I congratulated them and patted one of them on the shoulder.

I started to smell the ocean air. Getting closer! Finally, I could see the river that I knew we would finish along. I dumped out a full water bottle because I wouldn't need it. A sign said 4 miles to go. Ouch! That felt far. I got down to the river and passed another runner. I spotted another runner about a quarter mile ahead but he was moving well and I just couldn't seem to speed up. I was getting desperate to see the modern artistic pedestrian bridge that we had to cross over to the finish line. 2 miles to go?! Ouch!

Finally, finally, I could see it. I was closing in on the runner in front of me but I wasn't going to catch him. Approaching the bridge, I saw Claire! Awesome!!! I felt tears of happiness and relief swell up. Claire wanted me to finish fast and I started pushing hard on the uphill over the bridge. On the downhill, I picked up more speed and Claire said to run ahead and that she couldn't keep up. Jennifer! Matt and Lisa! Jessica! Woo hoo! 7th place out of 605 starters! 11 hours 17 minutes and 1 second.

Soon after the race, I went back to my hotel to shower and rest and eat a little bit. I was probably a bit dehydrated and I felt "unsettled". I received updates on Jez and Mor's and Alon's progress. They all finished!

Jez took videos during the race and put together a cool movie. Thanks, Jez!

What Went Well
  • Had pretty good energy for the entire race. My "low points" were short periods of a somewhat slower pace, like 10 minutes / mile on level ground.
  • The soreness in my feet and legs seemed to taper off and not get much worse between 35 miles and 69 miles.
  • No injuries.
  • No trips or falls.
  • No cramps.
  • All-in-all, my Hoka One One Challenger ATR 2 shoes did well, although I did get a couple of blisters.
  • My Ultimate Direction AK running vest worked pretty well, although I still got some chafing near my neck.
  • No other chafing.
  • I still feel shocked that I placed so high out of 605 runners; I suspect that many more casual runners attempt this ultramarathon than in the ultramarathons in California or maybe in the U.S. in general.
  • I had no poop problems! (This is a big improvement over my previous race!)
  • I used Nuun tablets for the beginning of the race, which made the water taste great, plus the salts helped me drink more.

Things to Improve On
  • I don't blame myself, but I did waste 5 minutes being misled by the course markings in one spot. I guess if I were to run this course again, I would understand the slightly unusual style of placing arrows. Or if I could have somehow memorized the course, I wouldn't have been misled.
  • I got a couple of blisters. They weren't too bad, but if this has been a 100 mile race, I suspect that I would have had to stop and address the problem. I still don't have the exact right shoes or lace tying techniques or something.
  • I had placed strips of moleskin adhesives to protect my neck from chafing from my vest, but I didn't quite get the spot correct and the two patches eventually fell off anyways.
  • At the last aid station, with just 7.2 easy miles to go, I didn't actually need to fill up on water. This was a slow process because we had to use slow spigots from big containers; there were no pitchers and no volunteers to fill the bottles for us. If I had just cruised through without stopping at all, I would have run out of water in maybe 3 or 4 miles, but I might have caught the next runner who finished just 45 seconds in front of me.
  • Know your aid stations and drop bags! In the heat of the moment, at the Cawfields Quarry Pit Stop at mile 27.4, I forgot which aid station had my disposable drop bag. I asked a volunteer if my "half-way drop bag was here" and he said "no, you're not half-way yet", but really what I should have asked was, "do we have our first drop bags here?" So, I continued on, and my nice little bag of energy gels and Shot Bloks got thrown away.

Random Data
  • Results
  • Garmin data
  • I picked up three pieces of trash off the ground that had come from runners in front of me. There weren't many runners in front of me, so I wonder if one of them thought it was OK to litter everywhere.
Race Review
The organizers put on a really good event. There were some aspects that were very unusual to me, like limiting the amount of water taken at most of the aid stations, but all-in-all, it worked out fine. The course markings were really good and thorough in all the places except the one intersection I mentioned. The course itself was exceptional; the race was truly gorgeous. I liked the easier 2nd half, too.

On the downside, there were no where near enough porta-potties at the start. I understand (having worked on organizing a race myself) that this greatly cuts down costs. They probably should have just said that the bathrooms at the start would be severely limited. I do think they should have had some water at the start, though. Or maybe they did, but I just didn't see it.

The other aspect of the race that didn't work out was the Race Drone software that was offered (for something like $5). It sounded really useful -- it's an app for smart phones that will send updates of my position at regular intervals. In a pinch, I would be able to see my location relative to the course, in case I got lost. Friends could follow me online, seeing my progress in Google Maps with the course also showing in the map. I bought the app, but their servers got overwhelmed during the race and the service was mostly useless. They proactively offered a refund, though, which I took them up on. I chatted with the makers of that software, and they put up the map for my next race, Siskyou Outback 50 Mile, and so I'll try the software again for that race.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Lake Sonoma 50 Mile -- 8:41:12

photo credit: Chihping
The scenery was lush and beautiful, the weather was cool with occasional light rains, the trails were very runnable, the course was thoroughly well-marked, and the race organization was wonderful. This was my first time running Lake Sonoma 50 (and my 8th 50 miler) and I'm really pleased with how it went.

I covered the 50.3 miles and 10,500' of elevation gain in 8 hours 41 minutes. I felt strong and ran well the entire time, and had an especially good finish. My training was solid, and I think I found the right balance between being patient early on and putting in a hard effort, so that I didn't "bonk" or fall off that performance cliff, where so many of us runners get too depleted and have to dramatically slow down.

The Lead Up
I had heard good things about Lake Sonoma 50 from friends -- that it's scenic, well-organized, and that it draws some of the best national trail runners, thanks to it being a Western States Golden Ticket race. There were 304 finishers this year. The demand is high and so there is a lottery and I was lucky enough to get in, along with three other friends from my running club (Franz, Gary, and Loren).

The race course consists of single-track trails, dirt fire roads, and a couple of miles of pavement at the beginning. The course is basically an out-and-back, except on the outward route, we start on a road, but when we return, we run on a single-track trail that parallels the road. (The road helps us to get spread out and avoids a log jam at the trail head.)

My training leading up to this race was relatively solid:
  • 3/6 -- 73.8 miles for the week, 30.5 for the longest run
  • 3/13 -- 93.7 miles for the week, 30.5 for the longest run
  • 3/20 -- 84 miles for the week, 29 & 16 for weekend runs
  • 3/27 -- 80 miles for the week, 20 for the longest run
  • 4/3 -- 54 miles for the week, 10.5 and 10 for the weekend runs
My long runs had gone well and I was doing a tempo run (racing up Montara Mountain but then coming back down more slowly) every Tuesday, and a track workout every Thursday. My peak week of training ended up being four weeks before the race. I had hoped that three weeks out would be the peak week (topping out at 100 miles), but I wasn't able to make it happen. I was slightly concerned that in my long runs, that I was running them too slowly. For the future, I'm thinking I should incorporate more race-pace miles.

Race Day
My alarm went off at 3:10am and I was out the door in about 20 minutes, having prepared breakfast (2 bagels with peanut butter) and packed my bags the night before. It's about a 2 hour drive from my house to the marina at Lake Sonoma. The light rain was nearly non-stop during the drive. I had a difficult time finding the exact starting area online in advance, but as I got close I was able to follow some cars to the correct parking location.

I'm glad I got there at about 5:30am because the parking lot was filling up fast. There was no line to pick up my bib. "What's your last name?" the guy asks. "Little". He responds, "Ron Little from the Coastside Running Club!" "Is that Stan Jenson?" I asked the man in the shadows. Yes it was! He volunteers everywhere it seems. Thanks for being there, Stan!

There was no line to the porta-potties. Score! 10 or 15 minutes later, the line had about 15 people in it. So again, I was glad to have arrived early.

I didn't see any public sources of water, but I had brought my own extra water, so I had enough to start the race with.

I took a selfie:

I saw Franz and his wife, Jen. Time for another selfie:

At 6:15am I ate an energy gel, drank a bunch of water, and put away my warm clothes in my car. I positioned myself in the starting area, about a third of the way back. Jen Pfeiffer! We chatted for a bit and I knew I should not start the race in front of her; she's fast! Gary! It was good to see him again. I saw Franz again and he soon positioned himself closer to the start line. 6:30am rolled around, and we're off!

The initial couple of miles are on a paved road that mostly goes uphill and I tried to be patient and not run too fast. I walked the steepest section. Even still, I hit the single-track trail with an average pace of less than 9 minutes per mile, which I knew was not sustainable. I kept reminding myself to slow down. Occasionally I caught glimpses of the front runners who were already far ahead, running around 7 minutes per mile.

I enjoyed the scenery and easy miles.
photo credit: Chihping
I had a pace chart taped to my water bottle that listed the aid station distances and time goals for a 8:15 (hours and minutes), 8:30, and 8:45 finish time.
When I reached the first aid station, my friend Veronica cheered me on and filled up one of my bottles. I was about three minutes ahead of an 8:15 finish time. We did just have a lot of downhill, plus the road was very smooth and runnable, so I didn't worry about it too much.

For the next couple of aid stations, I was right at the 8:15 finish time pace. A few of us ran together for a while and the woman in front of me introduced herself as Erika and said she was a contributing editor to Ultrarunning Magazine. Cool! She said she was hoping to break 9 hours, which would be a personal record for her. We compared some race times and I started thinking that maybe I was running too slowly. I was feeling good, so I gradually increased my effort and pulled away from them.

Unfortunately, a faint feeling of having gas started to feel more and more pronounced...

Poop. It's a fact of life for all of us, but it's not something you want to deal with during a race. I apparently still don't understand human digestion because in spite of my best efforts and precautions, I was gradually feeling the urge to defecate. I was hoping that there would be a porta-potty at the Madrone Aid Station at mile 18.8 but I didn't see anything. (Where do the volunteers go?) So, at around the three hour mark, I pulled off the trail and took a dump, trying hard not to make a mess. I wasn't carrying toilet paper, but some leaves on the ground served the purpose. 

Back to running! A bunch of people had passed me, but I tried not to worry about it. A little while later, I had to cross a mud pit. As with the streams I had run through, I just plowed straight ahead. On one particular step, my right foot sank into the mud up to my ankle, and as I plucked my foot out, my shoe remained behind! Wow! I didn't know it was possible to yank my foot cleanly out from my shoe like that with the laces still tied. I stopped and hopped back on one foot to dig my shoe out of the mud, and got it back on while trying not to have a bunch of mud on the inside.

I was sitting in the middle of the trail getting passed by people when Erika came by and asked if everything was alright. "Yes, it is now!" I noticed that she was wisely running on the side, around the mud pit.

From a distance I saw the front runners returning. The lead guy was so fast! Eventually we crossed paths and it's just amazing to me how good the best runners are and what a wide range of human ability there is. I glanced at my watch -- 3:22 (hours:minutes) elapsed time. I wouldn't return to that exact same spot until shortly after the 5 hour mark. And when I did return to that spot, heading back to the start, there were still people behind me on their outbound journey!

As I neared the half-way point, one of the volunteers at an intersection called out my name. Kelly! Cool! I thanked her for being there.

I finally arrived at the half-way point, re-supplied myself quickly, and got going. It was fun running into everyone behind me, who were on their outward-bound journey. Gary! Loren! Janeth! Chihping!
photo credit: Chihping
My quads started feeling sore around the 26 mile mark, on one of the steep descents. I took an ibuprofen, with the hopes that swelling around my joints and muscles would be reduced. As an aside, based on some knowledgeable friends, ibuprofen is cleaned out of the blood by your kidneys, which are also busy cleaning out muscle debris in an endurance event, so it's not as safe as tylenol, which is processed primarily by the liver. But ibuprofen reduces swelling in addition to providing some pain relief, and I seem to be able to handle a small dose easily, so I'll probably stick with ibuprofen for the 50 mile and 100K distances.

I could feel my big toenail on my right foot getting banged up. My toenails were already a mess, so it's no big deal to lose another toenail. No time to stop.

Mile 30 passed. I felt good! I gradually increased my effort.

In most (all?) of my previous seven 50 milers, I've had "low points" during the 30-40 mile range. I was consciously monitoring myself and trying to find the right balance of running as fast as I could without blowing up. I was passing people steadily. And I felt pretty good!

There was a light rain on and off from around mile 20 to 40 as I recall. It felt good.

As time went on, I started running the gradual downhills faster. I felt really good, almost like I was running a road marathon. On the steep descents that required a lot of braking, I didn't feel particularly strong or nimble. On the steep uphills, I could sense my heart rate rising too high and I often power-hiked the steepest sections. Still, I was passing people.

I came across this hilarious and accurate sign:
photo credit: Chihping
The longest section between aid stations was between mile 38 and 45.5. Erika had warned me earlier to carry a lot of water and be prepared for a lot of climbing. My 40 ounces (two water bottles) lasted just long enough for this section. I was so happy to be coming into the last aid station. Franz! This was a short (quarter mile) out and back to the aid station and he was hiking the uphill. His training had been limited and inconsistent, so I was super impressed that he was doing so well. He did a fist bump but I awkwardly did a high-five, so, what would you call that, the "high bump"? :-) And then right behind Franz was Jen Pfeiffer! Cool! We had talked about running some miles of the race together but our paces didn't work out this time.

I made a quick stop at the aid station, just filling one water bottle with sports drink, and I was right back to the race.

I eventually caught up with Franz who said his legs were giving out on him and he had to slow down. We wished each other luck and I pushed on.

A couple of times I felt a brief twinge of cramps in my left quads. I knew I was on the edge. Even with just four miles left, there was ample time to fall apart. I thought of the Western States 100 finish where the first place guy (Brian Morrison in 2006 -- video) collapsed in the final 300 meters. Still, I did not feel desperate and I was still running really well.

I caught up to Jen. She was wearing earbuds and didn't hear me until I called out to her from right behind her. She congratulated me and encouraged me to finish. I pushed onward.

I loved the sign that said "one mile to go". Nice! I increased my effort and felt like I was flying over the rocky ground. But then there were yet more hills. Even with the cars in sight, the course went up another short steep hill. Finally, I saw the ribbons of the finish line and I "sprinted" (compared to the rest of the race, at least). Woo hoo!

I caught my breath and cheered for Jen's arrival. Then I went to use a poison oak cleansing wipe that I had in my car, because I had brushed against poison oak twice during the race, including one branch that caught my face. I grabbed a jacket and my camera and phone and went back to catch Franz finishing.

Gary finished not long after and it was great hanging out a bit with them. We put on our newly acquired race jackets!

The race provided some great free food to the runners and I was impressed with the jacket and shirt and other goodies that they gave to us runners. Thank you, race organizers!

What Went Well
  • I didn't "hit the wall" or bonk. I ran relatively consistently and strong the entire time.
  • I actually enjoyed the run the entire time; I never felt like I was suffering.
  • The race organization and volunteers were wonderful. Thank you, volunteers!
  • No cramps.
  • No blisters, unless you count the big toenail on my right foot, which I expect to lose.
  • No chafing.
  • Didn't trip or fall.
  • Didn't get lost.
Things to Improve On
  • I had to poop during the race. Although I initially estimated that this wasted 4 minutes, looking back over my Garmin data, this may have only cost me 2 minutes. I've done research before, and I tried to emulate the planning of the early astronauts by consuming very little fiber the day before, but I'm apparently doing something wrong. To my running friends, I apologize in advance, but I'll be asking you about your gastrointestinal planning for races. :-)
  • Don't step in deep mud! One of my shoes was sucked off my foot by unexpectedly thick sticky mud. I should have run more to the side of the mud pit.
Random Data
  • I consumed about 300 calories an hour plus whatever was in the sports drink. I had double-checked the recommended maximum amount for long-endurance events -- 1 gram of carbs per kilogram of bodyweight per hour. This would translate into three energy gels per hour, but I also consumed some aid station food (peanut butter and jelly squares) and sports drink.
  • I took one SaltStick capsule every hour except at the end where I went about 90 minutes between capsules (because I had dropped one along the way and didn't have extras).
  • I weighed 164.8 lbs the morning of the race. I let myself go and splurged the day before, eating plenty of carbs. For the previous week, my weight was under 163 lbs. I weighed 163.2 after the race, after eating and drinking plenty. I weighed 162.8 the morning after the race.
  • Garmin GPS data
  • The official results are in. There were 304 finishes and I'm listed as 49th. Considering all of the fast runners this race attracts, I'm totally pleased with my placement!
  • The parking lot entrance (and start line) is here. I couldn't figure this out exactly from the website, but fortunately I happened to follow some cars who went to the right spot.
  • I carried three packets of Shot Bloks in my vest, which provided food for about 2 hours of running. I'm glad I did, because that gave me the option to skip getting food at some aid stations.
  • I picked up two bits of trash that had been accidentally dropped by other runners. We don't want these races to generate any trash on the trails, because then the race may be forbidden to give energy gels (like what happened at Miwok 100K).
  • I saw some ultrarunning luminaries including Gordy Ainsleigh and Ann Trason.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Fort Ord 50K -- 4:43:46

Happy to finish! (Photo credit: my friend Margaret)
What a great first race for 2016! I had the challenging pleasure of running Fort Ord 50K (30.8 miles officially), put on by Inside Trail Racing, in this beautiful area just east of Monterey. The weather was gorgeous, being nice and cool in the morning and never really getting too hot (mid 70s perhaps). The official elevation gain was 3,500' but my Garmin's altimeter reported 4,560'. I had a solid run, finishing in 4 hours 43 minutes, which was good for 4th place out of 79 finishers and 2nd place in the 40 to 49 age group. I'm happy and uninjured!

I woke to my alarm at 4:30am and I rushed to meet Paula nearby in Half Moon Bay for the two hour drive to the race start. I was sleepy, but the good conversation and breakfast on the road (home made biscuits) made the time go by quickly.

We arrived at the park entrance shortly after 7am. There was some confusion about how to pay for parking and it turns out that we just needed to ignore the state park's self-pay station and go to the race's parking lot where attendants (from the Laguna Seca Speedway, I think) took our $8. Lesson learned.

Parked at about 7:15am, we had plenty of time to get our bibs, use the restrooms, meet up with friends, and do final preparations for our races. There ended up being seven of us from the Coastside Running Club. Pictured below (left to right) are Norm, myself, Margaret, Paula, Mor, and Chris. Gary surprised us on the course by running the 100K which started two hours before the rest of us.
The restroom situation was truly glorious -- there were maybe 10 porta-potties in the parking lot with plenty to choose from. The men's restroom at the top of the nearby hill, where the race started, was empty when I entered. Unheard of!

8am came around, and we listened to the instructions for how to follow the course, and then we were off! I had positioned myself just a couple rows back from the start. The 25K runners bolted out of there and I quickly got passed by many 25K runners and plenty of 50K runners. (Oops, perhaps I started a bit too close to the start, although I don't think I was in anyone's way.)

I kept on reminding myself to take it easy early on, and that 10 minute miles would be just fine, although I was getting closer to 8 minute miles. I settled into a good rhythm and kept an eye out for the first big turn, where the 50K splits from the 25K. The first few miles went by easily on the wide dirt road and then I made the sharp left on to single track trail.

The trails tended to be rutted and steep. Although listed as having 3,500' of elevation gain, which would make the course quite mild as far as a 50K trail race is concerned, it felt more difficult than Lake Chabot 50K (4,200' of elevation gain) for example. Interesting.

Around mile 4 I encountered the front runners of the 100K. Cool! They were flying towards me on the downhill. Amazing. The first place woman was wearing a green tutu. Awesome!

Soon, the first aid station came up. They had non-caffeinated energy gels! Nice! (Caffeine causes heart palpitations for me and I've given it up.) This spot was a three-way intersection, with 100K runners returning from ahead, I think, but we in the 50K had to make a sharp right to get on to the red-checkered loop.

I started to slowly pass people for the first time. I was enjoying the morning and the experience. I passed a guy who was not carrying any water bottles, which surprised me and seemed very ill-advised.

I was looking out for where the 50K and the 100K diverge. When I saw the sign that indicates a left turn for the 50K, I looked to my left and all I saw was the side of the mountain. I slowed down and carefully examined the 100K sign which points straight ahead. Hmm... I guess I'll continue straight for a bit. As I ran down the steep hill, doubts started creeping in. I subconsciously realized there must be a problem since I haven't seen an intersection. I stopped and looked back up the hill, seeing a runner pause and looking at the signs. "50K?" I yell. "Yeah! This way!" he yells back and disappears from view. Oops. I had only gone off course by about 100 meters, but I was mad at myself for making a stupid mistake. When I got back up to the signs, there was a single red-checkered flag which I had missed and the chalk arrow was nearly rubbed out. The trail was so steep that I had mistaken it for the side of the mountain! (Well, I guess it was both!)

Looking back at my Garmin data later, I only lost about 90 seconds due to going off course, but it felt about twice as long. It took me 15 or 20 minutes of passing people before I regained my spot.

As I was slowly passing No-Water-Guy for the second time, I said "Hello, again. I missed a turn back there." "I thought I saw you before," he replied, and then added, "Have you seen the course profile? There's a huge climb at the end of the race, and I'm saving my legs for that." I said, "Yeah, the whole race is nothing but hills. Good luck!" I slowly pulled away.

Time passed easily and I gradually increased my effort a bit. I occasionally passed other 50K and 100K runners. The last two gaps between aid stations are the longest -- 6.6 miles and 6.4 miles. At the 2nd-to-last aid station, I had my empty water bottle filled with sports drink and I immediately drank about half of it, knowing that I was likely to run out before the next aid station. I filled up again and got going.

Somewhere along the way I noted the passing of the marathon milestone -- 26.2 miles. I'm feeling spent and I think that this would be a fine time to stop! I did run out of water, as expected, as I neared the final aid station. I was gradually getting more sore. My feet were getting tender and I was getting some hotspots where blisters were forming.

I arrived at the last aid station along with Yellow Shirt Guy who I had been gradually gaining ground on. I grabbed a couple of energy gels and then looked at them closely -- caffeinated. Doh! I really wanted to avoid caffeine. I looked through other piles of energy gels and energy blocks, but they were all caffeinated. I grabbed some chips and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich square instead. I knew I would likely run out of water, so I drank about 10 ounces (half my bottle) on the spot and refilled and got going. I walked for a bit to get my food down. Yellow Shirt Guy was a good ways in front of me already and I saw the long long uphill climb that lay ahead of me.

I attempted to run every step uphill. I was going slowly but I could still run pretty well uphill. On the occasional flatter parts, I felt sluggish and sore and low on energy. My stomach was a bit upset at the large amount of food that I had shoved down my throat.

Yellow Shirt Guy was having a strong finish and was pulling ahead of me. We both passed other 50K runners who had slowed down even more than I had. "Good job", "Good work", we would say to each other as I passed people.

I came to a washed out section of trail that had exposed a large black drainage pipe. It was covered with thick mud. I briefly contemplated leaping across the five or six foot chasm, but I didn't trust my legs to not cramp up at such a sudden violent action. I gingerly stepped down on to the pipe and my right foot submerged in the mud. I was glad I had worn gaiters that covered the tops of my shoes -- no mud or rocks got in.

Time seemed to be passing much more slowly now. I was getting desperate to finish. I was getting very low on water and I still had about 3 miles to go. "OK, when you get to mile 29, you get a reward of having a sip of water" I told myself. I couldn't quite wait that long. I ran out of water. I was thirsty. The sun was bright and overhead and I felt warm. I really needed to finish this thing.

I was approaching a slower runner who I guessed was in the 100K. He pulled off to pee in the woods and as I was passing he called out "Ron! I thought that was you!" I turned and looked. "Gary! I can't believe you're here! Are you running the 100K?" Indeed he was. Gary was in the running club and hadn't told anyone he was running the race. It was mile 38 for him and he said he was having a rough time but he picked up the pace and joined me for a bit. Awesome! I figured I had less than a mile left and I pushed harder and started pulling away. "Sorry, but I'm getting desperate and I've got to finish this thing soon. Good luck!"

I approached another aid station, much to my surprise. Apparently it was just for the 100K runners. I asked how far it was to the finish. "200 meters!" someone said. "Wow, awesome!" I recognized this part of the course as the starting area, and I poured on the speed. One last short steep climb and I heard some cheers, Mandy (Mor's wife) snapped the photo up on top. Yay!

I was glad to be done! I cleaned myself up a bit, put on some dry clothes, battled a couple of leg cramps, put on sunscreen, and relaxed and enjoyed the beautiful day while waiting for my friends to finish.

Mor was the next to come in, at 5:41:08. He battled blood-sugar levels, nausea, and light-headedness and had a difficult time towards the end. He gave his all. Good job, Mor!

Margaret finished (6:41:49) strong and happy. Good job, Margaret!

The 100K winners came in and they were super-human. Apparently the top man and woman were sponsored runners. The 2nd place guy probably was, too. The first two men, Ryan Neely and Daniel Metzger, had battled each other all day and came in at 7:45 and 7:47 which meant that they averaged each 50K in about 3 hours 53 minutes! Unbelievable! I took a photo of the first place woman (and third overall), Kimberly O'Donnell, who came in at 9 hour 26 minutes.

Norm finished! 8:08:19. He looked good and was smiling but he reported that he had had a rough time with the race and had gone off course twice, getting in a couple of extra miles, and that he almost dropped at mile 18.

Paula finished! 8:14:48. She looked great and was happy. She also had gone off course, being misdirected by an aid station volunteer, and tacked on at least two extra miles.
We got some text messages from Chris H. who had run the 25K. After everyone cleaned up and recovered enough, we headed out in our carpools. Well done, everyone!

What went well
  • I basically ran strong and well most of the race.
  • No injuries.
  • No trips or falls.
  • No cramps.
  • I think carrying one water bottle was the best option, but I'm not completely sure.
Things to improve
  • The last long climb was difficult and I was getting low on energy and sore for about the last six miles. Maybe I could have paced myself just a bit better.
  • I think I spent too long at the last two aid stations looking for energy gels that didn't have caffeine. Maybe I can tolerate some caffeine in that case or I just need to grab some other kind of food if I can't immediately find caffeine-free energy gels.
  • I've struggled to find Hoka One One shoes that fit perfectly. I like how lightweight they are while providing plenty of cushioning for hard downhills, but they're too narrow for my feet or if I go for a much larger size, they cause too much chafing in weird places. I wore their Challenger ATR model and got some painful blisters and chafing in unusual spots (like my arch) and on the top of my foot near my ankle.
  • I forgot to pack ibuprofen or some kind of pain relief and anti-inflammatory. That might have helped me run faster towards the end when I was getting quite sore.
Random data
  • Going off course cost me about 90 seconds, which isn't bad as far as this kind of mistake is concerned.
  • By my Garmin's barimetric altimeter, there was 4,560' of elevation gain. Wow.
  • Garmin data
  • Weight: about 169 lbs. Ouch. :-(