Sunday, December 04, 2011

California International Marathon -- 2:56:40

Today I ran the California International Marathon, in Sacramento, for the third time. This was my 15th road marathon and ended up being my 2nd fastest!

Entering this marathon was a good excuse for a family reunion and I made the decision about 5 weeks ago to sign-up for it. I have fond memories of this race from 2006 and 2007 -- it's fast, well-organized, and on a pretty course. The 2011 race didn't disappoint! The weather was perfect, the race was well-organized, and there were plenty of great volunteers.

My plan wasn't very complicated. I wanted to start off slow and gradually speed up and try to "keep it together" until the end. I knew from a recent performance test that my ideal heart rate for a marathon distance was about 165 bpm. I wanted to stay below that for about the first half and then increase my speed. Surprisingly, it worked out!

My plan was helped out by a fortuitous encounter with a friend and marathon goddess, Jen Devine Pfeifer, who recently won the Half Moon Bay International Marathon and has been a past Olympic marathon trials entrant. We ran a few miles together early on (she was running 18 miles of the race as a training run) and she told me that she keeps her heart rate at or below 151 for the first 5 miles. (We happen to have the same max heart rate.) I felt good, was taking it easy, and with renewed confidence, I took it easy and didn't worry about the 3hr 5min pace group pulling away from me in the first mile. I ran the first mile in about 7:02 and that was my slowest mile of the race.

I was feeling good, enjoying the scenery, and the spectators. I gradually caught up to and passed the 3 hour 5 minute pace group. Around mile 10, my calves started feeling tight and sore -- as if they weren't far from cramping. Oh no! There wasn't much I could do, so I continued to try to play it safe and mentally save my biggest effort for after mile 20.

Around the halfway point, I passed the 3 hour pace group. My time was 1:29:16. This was a large group of runners and I really did not want them to pass me again. I tried to mentally keep it together. About 25 minutes later, I felt like cramps were going to come on again, and I decided to eat my next energy gel ahead of schedule, at around 1:55 instead of waiting until 2:15. (My original plan was to eat one every 45 minutes.)

Mentally, I kept on telling myself to just get to mile 20 feeling OK and then I could pick up the pace. "The race begins at mile 20", I read somewhere. I tried to take it easy and feel relaxed. Sometime after mile 22, I started really focusing and tuning out everything around me. I interacted less with the crowds (fewer smiles, fewer thumbs-up, fewer hoots and hollers) and stayed very focused on staying strong and not deteriorating. It got difficult. I was counting down the miles. With 3 miles to go, I thought I had a chance of setting a personal record (2:55:52 last year in New York City), but I was just too close to getting cramps or falling apart, so I couldn't quite do it.

Finally, I saw Claire! And then Jennifer! Claire high-fived me and I heard my dad and I was very happy to see them and to be so close to finishing. I rounded the corner, got in a good sprint, and was happy to be done. Whew! 2:56:40 is my unofficial time. I'm very pleased with how the race went.

A short while later, I saw fellow running club members David and Justin. They also had very good times, but David's race wasn't nearly so smooth and he says he struggled the last 6 miles.

Here's the data for each mile marker, from my Garmin watch. I missed some of the mile markers. The #s are lap #, time, distance, and average pace.


I weighed 167 lbs three days before the race. I had been trying to lose a bit of weight, but ultimately, I failed. :-(

My Garmin data:

As usual, I need to thank Jennifer for taking care of Claire while I ran the race. They did the 2.61 mile fun run and Claire ran it in around 26 minutes 40 seconds, which is a lot faster than I was running when I was 9! Good job, Claire!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Run 10K -- 36:23

I ran my favorite 10K again. The weather was cool and overcast (no rain this year) and the course is flat and fast. They had apparently the largest turn-out ever with over 900 people in all the races.

My goal was to beat my time from last year of 36:07, but alas, I was just not in good enough shape to pull it off. I had specifically been training for this race and also trying to lose some weight (164.6 lbs this morning), but I couldn't maintain a goal pace of 5:49 or faster per mile.

My splits, going by memory, for the first 5 miles were:
5:46 -- had some downhill, and at the time I didn't think I was pushing too hard.
5:47 -- hanging in there, but feeling the strain. Passed a few runners.
5:50 -- hanging in there, but wondering if I could really hold on. Was in 3rd place.
6:00 -- my heart rate felt high and I was struggling to get enough air. I started faltering. Was in 3rd place.
6:00 -- just hanging on. In 3rd place, but with a runner on my heels.
? -- right around the 6 mile mark, with just 0.2 miles left, the guy behind me surged past. I was struggling and couldn't seem to put together a sprint.

So, I was disappointed that I couldn't beat my time from last year, but I'm happy with the overall placement. I came in 4th overall and 1st in my 40-49 age group.

Claire walked / ran the 5K with Jennifer, but had a miserable time. She went out fast, apparently, with Jennifer leading the way, and Claire got side cramps and leg soreness. I didn't push her very hard to train for this and she only did two training runs recently, so she wasn't really ready.

It was fun seeing so many friends. I also brought along some fliers for the Coastside Running Club and at least a few people were interested enough to tear off a little tag that had our club's info.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Kauai Marathon -- 3:14:35

I really enjoyed the Kauai Marathon! Looking back at all the marathon races that I've run, I would rank this as my 3rd favorite, after Boston and New York City, and very close to Napa Valley, San Francisco, and Oakland. I'm glad I enjoyed it, because the entry fee was the most expensive!

What sets the Kauai Marathon apart are the veritable army of volunteers and the beautiful and challenging course. I was surprised at the difficulty of the hills, but they made the race special and more interesting. I would like to run this again. (By the way, the half-marathon is considerably flatter, for those who aren't as happy about hills as I am!)

Random notes:
  • I didn't get to the starting area quite early enough so I didn't have time to visit a porta-potty one last time. This caused a problem in the race where I had to stop and pee for the first time in a road marathon.
  • There was no attempt by the organizers to sort people by pace. Naturally, there were hikers and walkers and very slow joggers near the front. I got myself situated near the front, too, so I wasn't affected much.
  • I did a surge around mile 11, when in my mind I was near the top of the hill and near the turn-around. I was nowhere near the top of the hill! I should have been more patient. I think I burned out because I couldn't maintain my speed later on. As I recall, I ran the first half in about 1 hour 35 minutes. Although the second half was harder, I shouldn't have slowed down quite that much.
  • Finished 22nd of 344 finishers and 2nd place in the 40 to 44 age group. Results here. They handed out a nice plaque. It took several hours of waiting before the awards were handed out.
  • It took me nearly 3 full weeks to recover from Headlands 100, so I had just one long run and then it was time to taper for this marathon!

Monday, August 08, 2011

Headlands 100 miles, 23:18:53

Mor and me, after finishing, with me holding my
silver belt buckle award for finishing in under 24 hours
With great difficulty and with tremendous help from friends and support from my family, I did manage to run, power-walk, or shuffle through all 100.4 miles and 20,020 feet of elevation gain and descent of the Headlands 100. It took me 23 hours 18 minutes and 53 seconds. I almost dropped at mile 75 due to a seemingly sprained ankle, but it didn't get worse. I had a "death march" for about the last 12 miles. Otherwise, things went well -- no nausea, no falls, no chafing, one minor blister, no cramps.

Longer Version
I guess I was looking for a bigger challenge and I had seen other friends and acquaintances repeatedly conquer this type of race, of covering 100 miles non-stop on foot, often in tough wilderness conditions. Having had a good race this year at the Miwok 100K, which is 62 miles, I imagined that if I ran slower, I could last another 38 miles. After having researched many different 100 mile races, I chose Headlands 100, put on by Pacific Coast Trail Runs, because it was nearby, would likely have cool weather, and I had raced on its trails many times already. The timing worked out well, too, giving me 12 weeks after Miwok 100K to recover, build up again, and then taper off. The 20,020 feet of elevation gain and descent were going to be a challenge, though.

Leading up to the race, my training went reasonably well. I ran the Pacifica 50K three weeks beforehand, and chafing aside, it went well. My peak training week was just a bit under 100 miles for a 7 day period. I was able to get in many 20 mile runs, but only one 30+ mile run. I also ran the local Pillar Point Half Marathon and did well, averaging around 6:06 per mile for those 13.1 miles.

In the few weeks prior to race day, besides hitting my peak training week of 99 miles, I was also unusually busy at work and with the Half Moon Bay International Marathon, for which I am an assistant race director and was doing the course certification. Add in family time, and I had just about zero down-time and was cutting in on my sleep. On the Wednesday before the Saturday race, I got less than 5 hours of sleep and was super-busy with work. So, in a way, by the time the race day rolled around, I saw it as a relief and a break from all my other obligations! So, I wasn't stressed about it, but I was also a bit sleep-deprived and felt quite sleepy on the drive from our hotel to the start at Rodeo Beach, in the Marin Headlands, just north of San Francisco.

Arriving around 6:10am, I was struck by how few crowds there were. With only 51 participants, this was one of the smallest races I've entered. I said "hi" to Mike Weston, who is in the Coastside Running Club with me, and Jennifer and Claire and I hung out for a bit, doing the last-minute preparations. I wasn't nervous!
Mike Weston and I, sporting our club running shirts

My plan was to monitor my heart rate and keep it at 140 beats per minute (my max is 186 bpm) and to eat every 20 minutes, around 90 calories each time, and to eat a bit more than that at aid stations, plus take in sports drink. I would take a SaltStick salt capsule every 30 minutes to 60 minutes depending on temperature and how much water I was drinking.

Soon, we were given instructions and at 7am sharp, we were off!
Starting off nice and slow
Lap 1
I felt sleepy, but I perked up once we started and I felt good and healthy and strong. I regularly checked my heart rate and tried to keep it below 140 beats per minute. I tried to imagine being in this same spot 11 or 12 hours later, going in the same direction, on the same terrain. I tried to imagine the last loop where I would be in uncharted territory, running-wise. After going up and down over a tall ridge, I arrived at the Tennessee Valley aid station, mile 4.2, for the first time in 44 minutes. I realized that this was probably too fast, but I was going by how I felt and by heart rate, so I neglected to bring along any kind of printout of my goal times. I cruised along, in the cool fog, and enjoyed the sights and the experience. I saw a large bobcat. I chatted with a few runners. As I descended into the Rodeo Beach aid station at mile 25.1, I finally realized how far ahead of schedule I was. I tried to slow down a bit for those last couple miles. Jennifer and Claire weren't there and I decided to be quick about it and not take off my shoes but just to refuel and put some Body Glide around where my shorts might rub and slather on some more sunscreen. This took just a minute or so. I saw Claire and Jennifer drive up! Claire ran out and greeted me and took a photo. I was soon on my way again, leaving the aid station at 11:44am instead of my most optimistic 22-hour time of 12:30pm.
Food in my mouth and sunscreen on my face at mile 25.1

Lap 2
The runners have reversed directions and are doing this lap counter-clockwise. So, we run into those in front of us and behind us. Around mile 38, it occurred to me that I was just now beginning a 100K. I've run two 100K races (Miwok 100K, both times) and it was an intimidating thought to be starting a race like that with 38 miles on my legs already. Well, slow and steady should get me there. I ran Miwok this year in 10 hrs 49 minutes. So, I was going considerably slower. As I was getting closer to finishing lap #2, I thought this was more difficult going counter-clockwise because parts of the downhill near Rodeo Beach were so steep that I couldn't really run it. I arrived at Rodeo Beach aid station at mile 50.2, quickly refueled, gave Claire and Jennifer a quick hug, met my friend and pacer Amanda, and departed at 5:04pm. I was well ahead of my optimistic 22-hour schedule of 6:00pm.
Amanda and I at mile 50.2.

Lap 3
Amanda and I were cruising along, trying to take it easy and not run too fast. We acknowledged that I had almost certainly run the first lap too quickly.
Amanda and I at mile 58.5

My right ankle suddenly started hurting at around mile 69. I had to walk much of the descent to Rodeo Beach and then I had a lengthy stay there, examining both feet and deciding whether or not to continue. We decided to go for it and left around 11:01pm. My 22 hour optimistic time would be 11:30pm.

Lap 4
My friend Mor, also from the Coastside Running Club, convinced me to try out my ankle and that we could turn-around if we needed to and come back. My ankle was sore, but didn't have any sharp pains. So, we continued on, doing this 4th loop counter-clockwise. I was able to maintain a decent pace and heart rate at first, but then, I started deteriorating. With about 20 miles remaining, I was barely able to run downhill due to soreness in my quads plus my right ankle. The last 12 miles became a slow painful shuffle. I fantasized about sleeping in a comfortable bed. I was mentally and physically fatigued. I was totally hating the experience. I hated running. I didn't want to ever run any kind of race again, including the Kauai Marathon in September that I had already registered for. I wanted to quit. I felt bewildered why we were torturing ourselves like this, with all these lonely tired pained people struggling in the middle of the night. I wanted to quit at the last visit to Tennessee Valley aid station even though it was only 4.2 miles to the finish, but I knew those last 4.2 miles were going to take as long as 90 minutes in my current state because it was such a hard climb and descent. I recalled at Miwok 100K (62 miles) that I ran every step up this hill. I had one short period of renewed energy and I was able to run hard for 4 or 5 minutes uphill, but then my strength fell again.

Finally, we reached a point near the top of this mountain above Rodeo Beach where the closest fastest way of stopping was to get to the finish line. The sky was gradually getting lighter. I no longer needed my headlamp. I could start to hear cheering at the finish line. Another runner or two passed us.

Jennifer, Claire, and me

Claire and me, after the finish. The race director Michael Popov is on the right.

Things that went well
  • I finished my first 100 mile foot race!
  • My training was about as good as I could get
  • No nausea
  • No falls and only one minor stumble that I can recall
  • No chafing that I noticed at the time. Somehow I did get very minor chafing on my butt
  • Only one minor blister that didn't cause me any problems
  • No cramps
  • Equipment and clothes worked well
  • I seemed to be able to drink plenty. Towards the end of the race, I was urinating the most frequently, like every 30 minutes. My theory is that this was because I was drinking about the same but moving so slowly!
  • The course was mostly well-marked with some difficulty on the counter-clockwise direction, nearing Rodeo Beach
  • The aid stations were staffed well-enough and mostly supplied well-enough, with some shortages of hot soup at night. The volunteers were terrific.
Things to improve upon
  • It probably would have been helpful to have run one or two more 30 mile training runs.
  • In addition to monitoring my heart rate, I should have had a better idea of what times to shoot for at each aid station for the first lap. Ideally, I would have had something taped to one of my water bottles. Running the first lap too fast probably made the finish extra-difficult.
  • For the race officials: the website's aid station mileage chart had a couple of mistakes. The longest distance between aid stations was not 8 miles, but was 7.1. On another leg, the distance was really 5.9 miles and not 5 miles. So, the mistakes cancelled each other and the overall mileage worked out fine, but it's still useful to know accurate distances between aid stations.
Random data
  • On Thursday morning (two days before the race), I weighted 163.8 lbs.
  • Results are here.
  • Garmin data for the first 85 miles, until my battery died: here.
I need to give a huge thanks to Jennifer and Claire for driving me to the start, visiting me at miles 25.1, ~38, and 50.2, and cheering me on at the finish, and then taking care of me afterwards. I need to also give a huge thanks to my pacers, Amanda and Mor, without whom I would likely not have finished the race. And finally, thank you to all my friends and family following me online. Thanks, everyone!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Pacifica 50K -- 5:09

Sorry, dear reader, but the only photo I have from the day is the above one and it wasn't a pretty sight.

But, back to the beginning, I ran the Pacifica 50K (31 mile) trail race yesterday, an event put on by Pacific Coast Trail Runs. My motivation was that I needed to do a long training run and the race organizers had offered me a free entry to this race for all the problems in last year's Woodside 50K. So, in theory, this would be a long slow run with the added bonus of lots of other runners around plus an aid station. In practice, I just knew I couldn't hold back. I tapered for a couple days, but otherwise didn't take a break in my training. I pretty much gave it my best effort.

As far as my race performance was concerned, I'm very happy with how I did, and I finished a difficult 31 miles in 5 hours and 9 minutes. I was 5th place overall, but I was the 1st-place masters (40 or older) runner, and so I'll get a medal in the mail for that. I'm not happy turning 40, but I'll take the prize. :-)

The race is all on trails of varying widths, starting and finishing in San Pedro Valley Park in Pacifica. The 50K consists of racing up to the top of Montara Mt., then back down, then doing two loops of the Valley View and Hazelnut trails, then back up to the peak, then back down, then doing a shorter loop, skipping the Valley View trail and doing the flatter easier main pathway to the back of the valley. The organizers say there is 6700' of climbing.

Elevation profile, courtesy of Pacific Coast Trail Runs

I ran most of the beginning of the race with my friend and fellow running club member, Gary. I knew or recognized a few other people, too. I tried to take it easy, and monitored my heart rate. I felt great but when my heart rate got higher than around 160 beats per minute (my max is 186 ), I walked fast on the very steep uphills. My friend Gary passed me but we stayed within sight of each other.

I recognized a very fit and very fast woman -- she had finished the Napa Valley Marathon mere seconds behind me and she's the woman in the background picture as I neared the finish line! Funny coincidence. She said her personal record for the marathon was 2:47 which is fantastic. Verity Breen is her name and she was doing the 21K race. We chatted for a bit on the uphill, but she was wearing road racing shoes and didn't have a good grip on the dirt, so I pulled ahead on the downhill off of Montara Mt.

I felt great as I reached the aid station for the first time, except I was noticing a feeling of chafing. So, let's talk about chafing....

For the last several months, I've noticed an increased tendency for me to develop chafing during longer runs. I don't know why this has started happening. I've always used Body Glide, since training for my first marathon in December of 2005. I've worn these same clothes for more than a few years now. I haven't noticed any changes in my skin. Jennifer thinks the detergent has changed recently. So, I came prepared, knowing that chafing might be an issue, and I packed my stick of Body Glide in my "drop bag". But wow, the chafing hit early and was intense. The day got warm in the late morning and I was sweating profusely. My nipples started to hurt. Even though I reapplied Body Glide around mile 7.5, I soon started seeing blood on my shirt. This may have happened in college, but I can't specifically remember ever getting bloody nipples before. My thighs started hurting, too. I started day-dreaming about running naked. I wanted to take my shirt off, but I was afraid of getting a bad sunburn if I was exposed for several hours without sunscreen in the middle of a bright day.

So, I kept going. I noticed blood mixing with my sweat and running down my legs. My thighs were on fire. But after a while, the pain disappeared. I forgot to reapply Body Glide around mile 17.5, but I did reapply it at mile 25 and got a couple band-aids from the aid station. (When I first asked for band-aids at mile 17.5 they didn't have any, but they got them ready for me when I arrived at the aid station later on.) The band-aids couldn't stick to my sweaty skin and were mostly useless.

Coming down from Montara Mt. the second time, my side began to ache with a cramp. I eventually realized that my heart rate monitor, that is strapped around my chest, was the cause so I removed it and held in my hand along with my water bottles, until I could get to the aid station again and put the heart rate monitor in my drop bag. The side cramp disappeared shortly after I took off the heart rate monitor.

The last 50 minutes or so started getting difficult, going up the seemingly endless switchbacks of the Hazelnut trail. I felt like I was on the edge, with borderline cramps. But I held it together and didn't slow down dramatically. I never felt desperate to finish although I was certainly ready to stop.

I finally crossed the finish line. Yay!

I took my shirt off, washed myself off, and assessed the damage. I had chafed skin in all kinds of places I've never had it before -- my hips, my sides, my abdomen, and even a couple spots on my privates. Yuck. What a mess. Otherwise, I felt pretty good and wasn't terribly sore or in bad shape.

Jennifer and her sister Laurie showed up and then my friend Gary finished. We all chatted for a bit and then I headed home, with my skin now quite sensitive.

So, I've got to get to the bottom of this mystery soon. I suspect that a new detergent has made the clothes rougher.

Weight in the morning: 168.6 lbs. This is an all-time high for a race, I think. I don't know why, but I've been especially hungry recently.

And here is my Garmin watch data.

Pillar Point Half Marathon -- 1:21:46 PR?

David Lara and myself, after the race

I had a solid race on this local half marathon, the Pillar Point Run to Benefit Coastside Child Development Center, starting off on the fast side but managing to hold it together. The first miles ticked by at what is for me an especially fast half marathon pace, about 6:06 per mile. I checked my watch when I passed the early mile markers and I was consistent. I chased my friend and fellow running club member, David Lara, the entire race. I put in a couple of strong surges, but he picked up the pace, too. I had plenty of endurance, and never felt desperate to finish like I have for many other races. Towards the end my legs started developing this "jello" feeling, but I held on.

He finished first place, and I was second.

So, was this a personal record? On the one hand, by my Garmin watch, I ran longer and at a faster pace than ever, averaging 6:06 for 13.38 miles. (A half marathon is 13.1 miles.) On the other hand, the official answer would be "no" and that I was a bit slower than in 2009. (I skipped it in 2010.) So, was the course long or was my watch not very accurate? I'm going to guess that the course was a bit long. The race organizers don't give a USATF certification #, for example, so I don't think it was rigorously measured, but I'm just guessing. For myself, I'm going to count this as a personal record!

My Garmin data is here.

Here are the results, in a spreadsheet file that apparently has the wrong file extension, but newer versions of Excel can open it with a warning.

I weighed 166.2 lbs the morning of the race. Kind of heavy.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Miwok 100K -- 10 hours 49 minutes

Short Version

I successfully ran, or power-hiked uphill, all 62.6 miles of the Miwok 100K. It took me 10 hours 49 minutes which is about 18 minutes faster than last year. I struggled from around mile 30 to 35 but I recovered (was dehydrated probably) and had a real strong finish, running almost all the uphills and flying on the downhills. The trails are tough and so all things considered, I'm really happy with my finishing time. I'm uninjured, I didn't fall (a couple close calls), and my feet came out looking about the same as before the day started. The scenery was beautiful, the weather was cool and partly cloudy (perfect!) and all-in-all, I'm very pleased with how the day went.

Thanks to Jennifer for being a co-captain at the Bolinas Ridge Aid Station all day. Thanks to my running buddies (George, Eric, Franz, and Gary) for driving in with me in the morning. Thanks to my friend Robin for running with me for about the last 21 miles.

Longer Version

The day started early, waking at 3am, to get some calories in my body and digest the food prior to the race start of 5:40am. I met my friends at 4am at my house, to carpool to the race together. George and Gary were volunteering all day. (Nice!) Eric and Franz were running the race. We picked up another runner along the way in Pacifica.

I felt somehow both calm and excited -- the day was going to be an adventure and it was impossible to know exactly how the race would unfold. But I was calm because I felt prepared and well-trained and ready to put myself to the test, the challenge of basically running non-stop for 10 to 11 hours, covering over 62 miles of mostly dirt trails, many of which are steep.

I knew I could look forward to seeing my wife and friends at our running club sponsored aid station, the Bolinas Ridge Aid Station, at mile 27 and 41. I knew I could look forward to running with my friend and fast marathoner, Robin, from mile 41 onward. I thought about how I had fallen apart the previous year and had been forced to walk even the gentle uphills. I did not want to repeat that experience and wanted to have a strong finish this time!

The Plan

I was going to try for a near constant heart-rate for most of the race, around 135 beats per minute. (My max is 186 bpm.) Hopefully this would let me run at about 10 minutes per mile on big hills. From a couple of training runs, this seemed like a very sustainable effort. If I felt great towards the end, then I would pick up the pace. I would carry two 20oz hand-held water bottles. The longest distance between aid stations was 8.9 miles, but this part of the race would be in the morning, so 40oz should be fine. I would take a salt capsule every 30 minutes and an energy gel (100 calories) every 20 minutes, plus eat some aid station food. I would drink the sports drink about half the time and water the other half.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, and we're off!

Tia Bodington, the race director, gave a short speech about us needing to respect the course, each other, the volunteers, and the other users of the trail, and then we were off! 5:40am sharp.

The race starts on the sandy beach of Rodeo Lagoon and we quickly log-jammed at the trail head. I had positioned myself about 20% back from the front, and had to wait for maybe a minute before I could resume running on the single-track trail. Those runners not wearing gaitors (sleeves that go from the ankle down over the shoe to prevent small rocks and sand from getting in) probably got quite a bit of sand. One guy stopped to empty his shoes of sand right at the trail head.

We took a hilly and pretty tour around this Marin Headlands area, seeing the rugged coastal beauty, the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, and the old military buildings here. Right away, I decided that my heart rate goal was impossibly low, and that I would end up walking too much, so I decided to keep it at around 141 instead, with more effort on the uphills and less on the downhills.

After nearly 7 miles, we returned to the starting area, again running across the sand beach. The first aid station was so inconspicuous, being set up on the back of a van mostly, that I went right by it before realizing what it was. I seemed to have plenty of water, so I decided to skip it. The first aid station didn't offer food, but I knew that, so I carried enough energy gels of my own. I was feeling pretty good, having run a bit over an hour, and climbed and descended about 1,280 feet.

Then we headed up a very steep hill with switch-backs. This was last year's finish. The race course was switched around a bit this year. I walked most of this stretch and then got to run again on the descent to Tennessee Valley. Somewhere along the way here, I started feeling a warm spot on my left big toe. Fearing the development of a blister that might cause serious problems later in the day, I opted to try to fix my shoe. It felt a bit loose and my foot was sliding around a bit on the steepest downhills. Unfortunately, after tightening both shoes the feeling persisted.

Climbing up and down a ridge (+900 feet and -700 feet), I arrived at Tennessee Valley aid station, refilled my water bottles, picked up probably 5 or 6 energy gels including a pineapple flavor which was new to me and quite tasty. The blueberry version I recalled as tasting bitter, but I wanted a variety, so I took a couple of those, too. Yes, they still tasted bad to me.

I stopped a second time a few minutes later to try to address my left big toe, by adjusting my sock. Again, to no avail, so I decided I was just going to have to live with whatever was going on there with my toenail and the corner of my left big toe.

Arriving at Pan Toll aid station, at mile 20.0, I had climbed 2,700' and descended 1,400'. The trails somehow seemed tougher than I remembered them and I just couldn't maintain a consistently fast pace, yet I was still working harder than I wanted. My average pace was around 10:50 minutes per mile, but reviewing my watch's data, it shows that my average moving pace was around 10:20. Interesting! On each of these legs, I was losing 2-3 minutes to various stops (fixing shoes, aid stations, urinating).

The scenery was especially beautiful between Pan Toll and Bolinas Ridge, especially the green hills and the views of what I think is Stinson Beach. This trail is still somewhat difficult because it's so narrow, often like 9 inches wide, and I really have to watch my step. As I got closer to the Bolinas Ridge aid station, I saw the inspirational signs that were put up. Awesome!

The volunteers who marked the course also did an especially good job here, even taking the time to flag the metal poles that were part of an old handrail, but were cut to within a few inches of the dirt. I kept on having the mental image of what would happen if I tripped and fell right on a sharp metal pole on the ground. Yikes!

Finally, I arrived at the Bolinas Ridge aid station (+1600' and -1500'), to the welcoming cries of my friends and wife. Yay! 26.7 miles and 4 hours 43 minutes have elapsed. I knew I was late; reviewing the data shows that I arrived at around 10:23am instead of my predicted 10:07am. I said "hi" to everyone and was quickly on my way.

Bolinas Ridge Aid Station, sponsored by the Coastside Running Club, at mile 26.7

Maybe 3 or 4 miles later, I started feeling much more fatigued and sore. A few people I was running with (Suzanna Bon, Tracy Dimino, David Goodin), quickly left me behind. My heart rate fell to the mid-130s. My thinking went something like this:

"I'm falling apart, and I'm not even at the half-way point. This, in spite of running harder than planned, I'm also running slower than planned!" From there, my thoughts just took a downward spiral. "I suck. I'm over-the-hill. All of that hard training didn't make me any better of a runner. Why am I spending all this time running and away from family, just to be a failure at it? I'm going to give up running as a hobby. Entering that 100 mile race in August was an expensive mistake. Argh! What a loser I am."

I trudged down a steep 1.7 mile hill to the Hwy 1 and the Randall Trail aid station where we turn around and head back to the finish line. At mile 33.9, it's a bit more than half way through the race. Garmin says that I climbed 480' and descended 1,638' on this leg.

Heading back up the hill, I tried to assess my condition. I liked the taste of salt and food. Mentally, I seemed to be fine. I wasn't excessively sore. I hadn't urinated in a while, so maybe I was dehydrated? I figured I couldn't be over-hydrated or I'd be peeing a lot. I walked fast nearly every step up the hill, running only a couple short bits, taking this time to drink lots of water and to keep my heart rate in check. I saw my friend Eric Vaughan -- awesome!

At the top of the hill, heading back to Bolinas Ridge aid station, I started feeling better. I wasn't running fast, but I was running steady. I saw my friend, Franz Dill! We cheered each other and bumped our handheld water bottles. I saw my friend Mike Weston. And then our new friend, Janeth Siva. Somewhere along here I was feeling chafing develop along my thighs, from the inner lining of my shorts. I tried adjusting my shorts a bit, but to no avail. Bummer!

Finally, I arrived back at Bolinas Ridge aid station. I was feeling OK -- tired and a bit sore, but I was holding everything together. Friends said afterwards that I looked great. My friend and running club member, Robin, was to be my pacer and would run/walk with me for the last 21 miles. I think without a word, she just handed me a stick of Body Glide. Awesome! I had told her that I might need this but then I said it would be too much trouble for her to carry it. I was so glad she had, though. I tried to discretely apply this dry lubricant to my thighs, I quickly refueled, said "hi" to everyone I recognized, and was off on the last big section of my adventure.

I caught Robin up on my status and my schedule for eating and taking salt. She caught me up on her life and our mutual friends. I tried to keep a good steady pace, remembering that last year, there were periods where I felt great and would run faster only to soon fall apart and have to walk. I tried to consciously drink lots of water. I can't quite remember when I took my first ibuprofen (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine, like aspirin), but I was feeling quite sore at the time, so I decided to take a chance. These medicines can be hard on the kidneys, but when muscles or joints are swelling, reducing the swelling can make a big difference in what I'm able to do running-wise. I started feeling quite good. So, some combination of having more water, ibuprofen, and Robin's company was working pretty well.

Arriving in Pan Toll again, at mile 47.8 (1,450' of climbing and 1,550' of descent), my average pace was around 11:35, average moving pace was 11:09, and best pace was 6:38! I felt really good.

From Pan Toll, to Muir Beach, I picked up the pace some more. There was lots of descent, which certainly helped. My average pace was 9:25 with average moving pace of 9:16. We had 234' of gain and 1,723' of descent. Robin kept me focused on short term goals and was very positive, pointing out that I was going to be much faster than last year.

Somewhere around here, I had weird heart rate incident. My watch suddenly was reporting a huge increase in my heart rate, as if I were sprinting towards the end of a marathon. Yet, I felt exactly the same! I wasn't sure if this was a battery problem or maybe a heart condition. (Yikes!) I started asking Robin "What's our heart rate now?" because I could estimate my effort based on her effort. Eventually, my watch reported what I considered to be the correct heart rate. Hmm....

Leaving Muir Beach, I started pushing even harder. I started passing people. Robin kept me focused on finding our next "victim". I caught up and passed people I had been running with many hours earlier. Even with some big climbs, like the stairs leading up from Muir Beach, I ran almost all the uphills and averaged 10:36 (10:15 moving pace). On one steep downhill, I just let loose and let my legs go as fast as they wanted, which was 5:53 minutes per mile according to my watch. I did that whole mile in about 7:22 according to Robin's watch.

Arriving at the last aid station, Tennessee Valley, I felt great and was in and out quickly. I ran nearly every step up the next big climb. Robin doesn't like to eat while running and our downhill sprints and uphill steady runs were taking their toll. Without any second thoughts on either of our parts, she said she had cramps and I kept on running. (Robin, if you're reading this, I so very much appreciated you taking an entire day to be there with me. You rocked!) The next couple miles went by quickly and I passed many more runners until I hit a short steep climb on a trail and then seemed to lose my momentum. Then I hit a strong headwind as I neared the Point Bonita YMCA. I could hear the cheers in the distance. Wow! I was within earshot of the finish line! Yay! I saw the volunteers waving me in, saying "just one more turn" and I turned on the speed and gave the last quarter mile just about everything I had left, sprinting in. The exhaustion and relief started to overwhelm me and I felt close to tears as I raced in the last half-block. Whew... that was tough! Damn tough!

I got my goodie bag (a nice vest, shirt, and Miwok bottle of beer!), took a hot shower, hung out and saw Eric and Franz finish, was joined by Jennifer and George and Gary. Ate a delicious BBQ. Ahh... that felt good.

Eric, George, and Robin (l. to r.)

Things that went well

  • Am uninjured. I wasn't even very sore afterwards and could walk downstairs with only minor difficulties the next day.
  • I successfully completed what for me was a long difficult race.
  • For the second Miwok in a row, I had an excellent pacer, a friend to run the most difficult miles with.
  • I managed to do a mid-course correction of problems that I was having at the mid-way point and had a strong finish.
  • Only minor chafing. I started developing a blister but it disappeared after a couple days. That hotspot I felt on my left big toe was nothing -- just a sensation of my toenail slightly digging in to the skin.
  • Taking two ibuprofen, maybe 90 minutes apart, seemed to have a large positive effect by reducing swelling and soreness and letting me run faster.
  • My salt and food consumption were probably as good as I can get.
  • No cramps.
  • No falls.
  • Didn't have to poop during the race.

Things to improve upon

  • More training? I only had one 30+ mile run, although it was followed the next day by 19 hilly miles, as I recall. I don't think I necessarily need (or want) to run more miles, but if I could have done some slightly longer long runs, that would probably be ideal.
  • More fluid intake? I only urinated 3 times during the race. After the race, my urine was yellow-ish, but not dark. *shrug* Not sure.
  • Had a few small tinges of poison oak on my shins. Maybe if I had brought or sought out Tecnu, this could have been prevented.
  • Tighten my shoe laces a bit more next time.

Random Data

As usual, I need to thank my wonderful wife for making it possible for me to train. Thank you, Jennifer!