Wednesday, December 09, 2015

California International Marathon -- 2:58:55

Finishing strong in front of the capitol building in Sacramento. (Photo credit: my friend Boone)
Wow, what a race! This was my fifth time running the California International Marathon which runs 26.2 miles from Folsom to Sacramento, finishing in front of the capitol building. This was my 25th road marathon and ended up being my third fastest. I was expecting to finish in a little over three hours, but I took a risk and gradually increased my speed, coming in at 2:58:55.

I had been training for and running longer races this year -- three 50 milers, a 50K, and 76 miles of a hundred mile race. So, I wasn't at all sure of how I could do in this race. I also had not wanted to sign up for CIM too early, until I could be sure that I didn't hurt myself in Javelina Jundred at the end of October. I had a bunch of friends entering CIM, plus other friends there as support, plus I wanted to stay qualified for the Boston Marathon.

This race is convenient since it's only about a two hour drive from home. I carpooled with several good friends and we met up with others from my running club. I ran into my friend Jen Pfeiffer (accomplished local runner who was once in the Olympic marathon trials) who was going to lead the 3:30 pace group. She introduced me to her friend Julie Fingar, the race director of the American River 50 Mile and Dick Collins 50 mile races. Cool!

Club member Rachael and I got our obligatory bib photo. She's holding her coffee mug which was a gift from the race for running this race 5 times. If I had bothered to count beforehand, I would have realized that I had earned a 5 year coffee cup, too! Bummer!

That night, nine of us had an excellent dinner at Rio City Cafe in the Sacramento Old Town, although I wish they had offered some kind of pasta with marinara sauce. I ended up going with a bread bowl of New England (white sauce) clam chowder which was delicious and did the job.

Afterwards we went to the Theater of Lights in Old Sacramento. It was fun and cute, with good sound and lighting effects.

It was fun walking around. Boone and Amanda shared a cookie. :-)

I tossed and turned a fair amount that night and was pretty sleepy when the alarm went off at 3:50am. Ouch. We met the buses before 5am and we arrived at the starting area in Folsom around 6am as I recall.
Eric, Mor, Ron, and Boone (left to right)
Boone was aiming for a 2 hour 35 minute finish time (wow!) and so he parted ways to do his own warm-up exercises about 40 minutes before the start. Mor, Eric, and I walked around a bit and then Mor led us on some warm-up exercises. I don't normally run at all immediately before a race, figuring that I'll start off slower and spend those calories warming up during the race itself! But we took it easy and I even did a few seconds of "butt kickers" and "knee raises" which get the heart rate up pretty quickly. I felt good and loose. 15 minutes before the race start, I ate an energy gel.

Thankfully the predicted rain left us alone most of the time with one brief downpour shortly before the race began. I got myself situated right around the 3:10 pace group. 7am rolled around finally and we were off! Woo hoo!

The weather was basically perfect for running. The temperature was around 50F and even the brief bits of rain were fine. The first half mile or so was rather crowded and I had to weave around a lot of people who were nowhere near as fast as they were supposed to be. (We're supposed to line up near the signs that indicate how fast we think we can finish the race.)

Soon there was more room to run and the first mile ticked by. 7:25. I would have preferred hitting a 7:05 or so, but considering the congestion, it was fine.

The miles flowed by easily. At the three mile mark, we had our first aid station but it was rather crowded and I didn't want to slow down. I thought it was safe to skip and get water at around mile 5.

Having recently attempted a hundred miler, where 11 minutes per mile is blazingly fast, the road marathon felt like a sprint! The 5 mile mark came up and I thought, "Wow, I'm almost 20% done with the race already! Just 21 miles to go!" I normally don't count down the miles in a race, especially a marathon or longer, because it can feel daunting. But in this case, having 20 miles or 18 miles or 16 miles to go felt like a short distance! Weird!

I enjoyed the scenery of the residential areas and the towns. I thanked the volunteers. I responded to some of the cheering spectators. I allowed myself to put in an extra effort on the uphills and I relaxed on the downhills. I played games with increasing my speed slightly to catch up to the next group. I steadily passed people.

Maybe because I was tired, but for some reason I forgot to eat my first energy gel until the 40 minute mark. I normally eat one every 35 minutes for a road marathon.

Around mile 8 I was unpleasantly surprised to feel my right calf tighten up, as if it were going to cramp. I thought it was unlikely to actually cramp so I kept right on moving.

A while later my other calf felt similarly tight. I didn't slow down.

I was hoping to finish right around 3 hours so I knew to target a 6:51 per mile pace, but it can be difficult to know if I'm pushing too hard early on. If I had worn my heart rate monitor, I would have targeted a 150 beats per minute for the early part of the race, but the heart monitor strap is so annoying that I've given up using it. My friend Boone sees the latest running gear and he reports that the Garmin watch with a heart rate monitor in the wrist strap is very accurate.

I hit the half-marathon point in 1:30:39. I did a self-assessment and I felt like I had had a good workout but had a lot of gas left in the tank. I increased my effort slightly.

Around mile 15, I heard my name being shouted. Sweet! It was Bob, Becky, and Amanda! Go, CRC! (That's the Coastside Running Club.)

At a couple of points I felt low on energy and I ate my next energy gel ahead of schedule. I tried to drink plenty of sports drink at the aid stations but sometimes I ended up with water by mistake.

I continued to count down the miles. Just 10 miles to go! That's easy! 9 miles to go! That's like a normal Saturday run! I was feeling the effort though and was gradually getting more desperate to finish. In my imagination, I translated the remaining distance onto trails near my home that I know so well.

I was passed briefly by a poor guy who had defecated in his running shorts, and who had what appeared to be diarrhea running down both legs. It was a terrible smell. I tried not to run directly behind him. Eventually I passed him again. I don't think I could be as dedicated to a goal finish time as he is.

I started looking out for the 3 hour pace group. I wanted to catch up to them and pass them! Finally around mile 25 I saw a guy with a 3:00 pinned to the back of his shirt. Woo hoo! I recognized him as the same pacer who helped me break three hours for the first time, back in 2007. Only one mile to go! I imagined just four loops around a track. No problem! I increased my effort again. I needed to finish this thing soon. Mile 26 passed by in 6:19, my fastest mile yet in this race. Where is that left turn to the capitol building? It seemed to take forever. Finally, there it was! The finish line is almost here!

I turned the corner, raced down the short block. "Ron!" I heard. It was Boone! Cool! He took the photo that I put at the top of this post.

I crossed the finish line, hands raised. Whew! I stopped my watch and was very pleased to have beaten 3 hours. A guy finished after me and said he had used me to pull him along because I was running fast and was wearing a bright orange shirt. Cool! I thanked the 3 hour pacer guy for being so helpful.

I hobbled over to get my drop bag. I was sore! I enjoyed seeing other friends finish.

Congratulations, Mor, on your new marathon PR!

Bob, Rachael, Ron, Mor, and Amanda, with four-legged Gossamar up front
What went well
I ran my third fastest marathon ever! Here are my top 15 now:
  1. New York City Marathon 2010 -- 2:55:52
  2. California International Marathon 2011 -- 2:56:40
  3. California International Marathon 2015 -- 2:58:55
  4. Oakland Marathon 2010 -- 2:59:03
  5. Las Vegas Marathon 2010 -- 2:59:04
  6. California International Marathon 2007 -- 2:59:36
  7. Napa Valley Marathon 2011 -- 3:00:06
  8. Chicago Marathon 2014 -- 3:00:52
  9. California International Marathon 2012 -- 3:01:32
  10. Oakland Marathon 2013 -- 3:02:07
  11. Boston Marathon 2009 -- 3:03:33
  12. Santa Rosa Marathon 2014 -- 3:04:16
  13. California International Marathon 2006 -- 3:04:56
  14. Avenue of the Giants Marathon 2012 -- 3:05:05
  15. Boston Marathon 2007 -- 3:05:31
  • I think I paced myself well.
  • My clothes and gear worked well.
  • No blisters.
  • No chafing.
  • No cramps.

Things to improve
  • Looks like I'm going to lose another toenail. I'm down to just six reasonably good toenails. I'm not sure how to prevent this. I used plenty of Body Glide on the tops of my toes.

Random data
  • I weighed 165 lbs the day before the race.
  • My Garmin data

Friday, November 06, 2015

Javelina Jundred -- a 76 Mile Journey

Javelina Jundred sadly did not go as planned. I was aiming for a 19 hour finish to this 100.9 mile race in a desert in Arizona, but I became dehydrated during the heat of the day and I paid the price from miles 61 to 76. After spending two hours in the medical tent, I was getting better and the dizziness faded but I decided to call it quits at around midnight, which was 18 hours after the race started. I did receive a 100K belt buckle which is a nice consolation prize.

I'm extremely grateful that my friend Amanda was there for me as crew and pacer and that my friend Boone came out to visit, too. I'm also very grateful to have so many friends and family who thought about me during the race. Life goes on. There will be other races, although perhaps not hundred milers.

In the two months leading up to the race, I did a number of long runs:

  • 30.2 miles on 8/15
  • 36.9 miles on 8/30
  • 51.3 miles of mostly speed hiking in the Tahoe 200 race, on 9/13
  • 26.2 miles in the Portland Marathon, as a training run, on 10/4
  • 40.0 miles on 10/9
  • 30.6 miles in two separate runs on 10/19

So, I was happy with my long runs and I did weekly speed workouts, too. However, I ended up being light on my total mileage. These are my weekly total miles leading up to the race:

  • 56
  • 67
  • 62
  • 77
  • 55
  • 73
  • 37
  • 31 (went camping)
  • 66
  • 76
  • 55
  • 80 for the week ending on 10/25, six days before Javelina Jundred

I think I should have gotten in a couple of hundred mile weeks and a couple of 80 mile weeks.

The Plan
Perhaps I should have done more research, but based on my past races and Ultra Sign-up's prediction of a sub-18 hour finish time, I decided to aim for an aggressive but hopefully reasonable goal of just under 19 hours. I did not want to have to run and hike all night, like I did four years previously at Headlands 100 (race report). I would take it easy early on with 11 minutes / mile on the gradual uphills and 10:15 per mile on the downhills. During the heat of the day, I would give myself 30 seconds more per mile. (Hahaha, I'm shaking my head now as I write this!) Then at night, I would speed up again. (Hahaha!) I allowed myself 45 seconds per aid station except for headquarters, where my drop bag and crew were, in which case I gave myself 4.5 minutes.

Race Weekend
I flew to Phoenix with my friend and pacer, Amanda, on the afternoon before the race. It was a beautiful evening.
Fountain Hills, Arizona, on a beautiful evening before the race
The expo was an easy short drive away and then it was time for an early dinner in nearby Fountain Hills, at Euro Pizza Cafe. Mmm...
$10 marinara spaghetti -- perfect!

California-style Greek pizza? Yummy!

We took a nice shuttle from the parking lot to the tent city at the race headquarters. People were excited and in a good mood!

The headquarters was a large and well-organized operation. There was a documentary playing on a large screen and dozens and dozens of tents had been set up for us already. I had paid for a large tent with two cots, and we picked out an available tent that was close to the restrooms and showers. My thought was to experience the full vibe of the race plus to make getting to the race easier and save money on a hotel. The downside was that with so many people crammed in so closely, it was relatively noisy throughout the night, plus it was surprisingly cold. It felt much colder than the predicted high 50s.

Fortunately, I had gotten a good night's sleep on Thursday night and I had brought earplugs, and I still managed to get some solid hours of sleep on Friday night. I woke before my 3:30am alarm and used the restroom and ate my breakfast (two bagels and a Clif bar) and lay down for another hour.

Finally, it was time to get up and get ready!

A rocking DJ to get us pumped up!

Javelina Jeadquarters in the morning

Loop #1, Miles 0 to 15.3
6am rolled around, and we're off!
I was about two-thirds of the way back and it was a bit of a log jam. I think it took 30 seconds to reach the start line. I had to hike behind others for a while but then I started getting in little bits of running. I passed people when I could, while still trying to be patient. We reached the first aid station, Coyote Camp, 2.1 miles later. To my surprise, there were no people there and no food, but water and sports drink were in large coolers, and I quickly filled up. My stupidly detailed plan called for picking up 100 calories, but I told myself I'll pick it up next time.

Not too far later, a runner a little ways in front of me side-swiped a jumping cholla cactus. He had a large clump stuck in his calf and what looked like 30 or 40 needles elsewhere. I told him not to use his hands to scrape the large clump off and I used my GPS watch instead. I got a needle in a finger in the process which stung for a couple of hours. Poor guy.

Dramatic re-enactment of what I saw. Source.
The desert was cool and the sunrise was beautiful. A minor muscle pull or tightness in my inner thigh made itself known, but I've had it for a couple of months, and I wasn't worried. Otherwise, I felt pretty good.

Loop #2 -- Miles 15.3 to 30.6
I planned on arriving at the headquarters (HQ) aid station at 2:45:00 and I rolled in at 2:44:34 -- essentially exactly on schedule!

Feeling good at mile 15.3

Coming in at mile 15.3
I quickly got some food and headed out again, this time counter-clockwise on the loop course. It was fun seeing everyone and I got to chat with a couple people. The time and miles went by easily. I did start warming up in the strong sunlight and higher air temperature. I was feeling a little bit sore as I hit the marathon mark (in 4 hours 48 minutes approximately), but I felt good!

Loop #3 -- Miles 30.6 to 45.9
I arrived at mile 30.6 at about the 5 hour 30 minute mark, whereas the plan had me arriving at 5:38. I wasn't too worried since I was being quicker than planned at the aid stations so far and I felt good. Boone was there! Awesome! Amanda took a look at my feet and suggested putting moleskin on some developing hot spots on the top of my foot near my ankles, where perhaps my shoe laces were a bit too tight. I reapplied sunscreen and Body Glide. I declined to take the bandanna to fill with ice because I didn't think the heat was that bad. And I was off!

Mile 30.6
The temperature was much warmer now, and I consciously slowed down. I was getting somewhat more sore but I wasn't too bad. I ran out of water for maybe 20 minutes on the 6.5 mile mostly uphill stretch between Coyote Camp and Jackass Junction.

The sun felt very strong and bright. The desert environment felt very hostile. I occasionally removed my sunglasses and it seemed like I was running in a furnace. It was only 80 degrees predicted, but with no shade and rare breezes, I think I was losing a lot of water.

Somewhere around mile 42, I went to take another salt pill and I pulled out my little ziplock bag and it was open and empty! All my salt pills and a few pain relief pills had fallen on the trail somehow! I realized later that the bag had developed a hole. At Rattlesnake Ranch (mile 44.4) I was able to restock my salt pills and then at HQ I happened to have a few more pain relief pills in my drop bag. I told Amanda and Boone that I needed to slow down due to the heat and would add about 15 minutes to my expected time. I wish I had actually followed my own advice.

Loop #4 -- Miles 45.9 to 61.2
I arrived at mile 45.9 at about 8:39 which was basically on target with my planned 8:36 arrival. I was feeling the miles and the heat.
Mile 45.9
I hit the 50 mile mark around 9 hours 33 minutes or so, and I did an assessment. I felt rather spent and beat-up and was probably getting dehydrated since I had only urinated a small amount since loop #2. I wasn't sure what to do differently, and I wanted to make my time goals.

Along this loop, the sun was finally going down far enough to make the nearby hills cast some blessed shadows. I enjoyed the occasional cool breeze. I wasn't slowing down much though, all-in-all. I was definitely not trying to take 15 minutes longer on this loop.

Somewhere around mile 58, in a long rocky section, I had entered a shadow again and was still wearing my sunglasses when I solidly kicked a rock and I was running too fast (or my reaction was too slow) to stop myself from falling. I did a Super Man style landing and cursed loudly. A runner ahead of me asked if I was OK. "Yeah, I just need to shake it off." Ouch. I had minor cuts on my right knee and left hand, and maybe some damage on my chest, but nothing serious. I started running again.

I felt "on edge", like I was too close to the performance cliff that I know so well, where by pushing too hard, my body can dramatically take a turn for the worse.

Loop #5, mile 61.2 to 76.5:
Fixing my feet at mile 61.2
I arrived at mile 61.2 at around 11 hours 40 minutes. I could finally have a pacer! Amanda!

This was a longer stop, to examine my feet since I felt a problem on my right middle toe (where I had kicked the rock). I had a huge blister going, so we put some moleskin around that. Boone was there, too, to help out. I got my headlamps and cold weather gear (just arm sleeves and gloves). And then we were off!

Amanda and I, at mile 61.2

Amanda and I begin loop #5
I was running much slower now and had to walk more. I was having difficulty eating as much, too. I attributed this to being dehydrated. I spent a good chunk of time at Jackass Junction, at mile 69.8, where I sat down for a while. Amanda got me some delicious noodles and broth. Maybe I should have stayed longer, to drink and eat more.

As we neared HQ, I told Amanda that we should be quick and just keep on moving even if we were walking. I suddenly felt light-headed.

The Ending, mile 76.5
It was around 9:45pm and I had been mostly running since 6am that morning, so that was about 15 hours 45 minutes of effort. I didn't feel well,  I didn't want to continue, and I was light-headed. I went to the medical tent and asked Jen-the-EMT her opinion on whether or not I should continue. She had me lie down and took my blood pressure. It was low, but in the normal range. Then she had me sit up and she took it again; it was 20 points lower. So, there was some evidence of a problem. I was shivering, too, and she brought a blanket.

During all of this, Gordy Ainsleigh was brought in, and lay down in the cot next to me. Gordy was the first runner (in a horse race) that eventually started the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run. He's a legend. Sadly, he had suffered a bad fall, and had a huge welt and cut on his forehead above his left eyebrow, and his left cheekbone was bruised and cut, too.
It turned out that Gordy had probably fainted, while running or walking, and had crashed to the ground unconscious, which explained the seriousness of his injuries. He was lucid in my presence, but the medics convinced him to take an ambulance to a hospital in case his brain was bleeding. He turned out OK and was at the HQ late the next morning.

Gordy's experience was another influence on my decision to drop. After about two hours of lying down, and after having drank 60 oz of water, I was feeling better and I asked to have my blood pressure measured again, this time while standing. It was normal. I didn't feel dizzy. The medic said I would get worse again over time, if I were to go back out. I was tired and sore. I did not want to stay up all night because I had a new job to start on Monday and I had to head to the airport at 1pm. I estimated that it would take me 8 hours to finish hiking the remaining 25 miles, which would let me finish around 8am. I felt like there was a risk of having to stop somewhere on the trail in the middle of the night, and getting too cold. There was a possibly slight risk of fainting, like Gordy. Ultimately, I was not mentally prepared to pay the price to finish; it was far from being worthwhile.

Six days later, as I'm writing this, I wish I had finished. I would have been miserable for many hours, but it's also possible that I could have started running again, slowly. If I didn't recover enough Sunday night, I could have delayed my first day of work and they would have understood. I'll never know for sure how the night would have turned out if I had continued. In the moment, I was definitely happy to be done.

Decision made, I talked with a race official and she handed me a 100K belt buckle. Nice! I had forgotten that would be a consolation prize. Shortly after dropping, I had a huge urge to urinate and my urine was nearly normal, which I hadn't seen since the end of the second loop. I showered and was greatly relieved to lay down in my sleeping bag. I slept like a log except for having to wake up to urinate three more times throughout the night. So, my body was apparently processing that 60 oz of water just fine.

Life, Challenges, and Running
We, as humans, need to be challenged. We need to overcome challenges, and occasionally fail, in order to get stronger and wiser, which in turn leads to us having happier and more fulfilling lives. A life of complete comfort and convenience is not a good life. But there must be some point at which the challenge is too great to be worthwhile. In the realm of running, for some a 10K race is too much. Or a half-marathon. Or a marathon. For my friend Dan, 200 miles is probably at his limit. For me, I'm starting to think that 100 mile races are just too much of a good thing. Even though I wasn't working for the two months leading up to this race, and I have a supportive family, and I have a great network of running friends, I don't necessarily want to spend 8 hours doing 40 mile training runs (by myself, at any rate). I don't think I feel enough of a sense of accomplishment to justify suffering all night, trudging along. I guess that's why I was so focused on finishing on the fast side -- it was the only way to make the whole effort feel worthwhile.

What Went Right

  • I finished 5 loops and got to mile 76.5, which is no joke.
  • I earned a 100K belt buckle for finishing 4 loops.
  • I'm uninjured!
  • I didn't get lost.
  • I think I paced myself well for the first 46 miles or so, although I may have pushed too hard from 46 to 61.
  • I had great support and pacing from my friend Amanda.
  • I think I got in enough long training runs.

Things to Improve

  • I wasn't mentally or logistically prepared to finish at all costs. I was very focused on having a 19 hour finish, which caused me to take risks that jeopardized finishing at all. On the other hand, I really did not want a repeat of Headlands 100, where I struggled through the night and finished around dawn.
  • I fell around mile 58. I should have been more careful in the transition to shadows in the late afternoon, and taken off my sunglasses.
  • I didn't properly appreciate the heat. Even towards the end of lap 2, the heat was noticeable and maybe I should have slowed down more. Certainly in laps 3 and 4, I should have focused more on staying well-hydrated. I probably should have taken my bandanna and filled it with ice, too.

Random Details
  • I saw three snakes during the race. The largest one was a shiny reddish-orangish color. Neat!
  • I heard coyotes the night before the race, while in my tent. They woke me up.
  • Weight the morning before: 165.3 lbs
  • Two days later: 164.4 lbs
  • Garmin data

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Portland Marathon -- A Fun Race to Pace

I had a great time pacing my friend Dana in the Portland Marathon, in her attempt to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Her qualifying time requirement is 3 hours 45 minutes, but because the Boston Marathon is so popular and because the fastest runners have priority (within each age group), she really needed around a 3 hour 42 minute finishing time in order to get into Boston in 2017. (The 2016 race already sold out.)

I'm grateful to be in good enough shape that I could confidently run with her as a long training run, since I'm training for Javelina Jundred, a 100 mile race in a desert in Arizona, just four weeks later. And pacing a friend is a great way to experience a race without beating yourself up too much and risking injury.

The weather was nice and cool and all systems were "go" for having a good race. There were 5,710 finishers in the full marathon and 2,145 finishers in the half-marathon, so there were plenty of people around, but it wasn't a massive crowd like the biggest marathons. The starting area was very well organized and there were plenty of porta-potties. There were no drop-bags allowed, but Dana's mom took our warm clothes as we got ready to run. (Note for next time: spectators are allowed in the corals and so Dana's mom could have gotten our clothes from us at the last moment.)

The National Anthem was sweet in that we were started off with a professional, but then the whole crowd sang the majority of the song to ourselves without help.

Promptly at 7am, we were off! The crowds were well spaced out and we could run right from the start line. (We started in the second coral.) We quickly ran through China Town. When I bought lunch later that day, the woman who served me said she was one of the drummers at this arch! Cool! The city was very supportive of the race.

I loved the fall colors of all the trees. Portland is a beautiful city.

Dana was running well and we were just a bit slower than the conservative pacing plan we had. I carried my compact camera and a laminated strip of paper that had the mile splits for two plans -- the "Dana" plan, to finish in 3:37:33, and a more conservative plan, to have slower miles in the beginning and to finish in 3:41:08.

I felt good, although I felt the urge to pee early on; I didn't say anything to Dana about it and eventually the urge faded.

There was plenty of music along the way. Nice!

The only part of the course that was merely ordinary was this industrial section where we went out-and-back. Still, the hills in the background were very pretty. Somewhere along the way, Dana reported that her legs felt heavy and sluggish. Still, we were keeping on track, and we were gradually increasing our speed.

This turn-around near mile 9 was fun -- bubbles and cheerleaders!

After the turn-around, we started slipping in our schedule, and the 8:30 miles were creeping up to 9 minute miles. Dana requested walking or stopping briefly at the aid stations to try to recover. I gave her updates about our progress and asked her to be mentally ready to push harder in the second half. As the miles ticked by and as we were falling further behind schedule, my sense of urgency and alarm went up. I tried to use some tricks that have helped me in races, like focusing on someone ahead and just catching up to them and then pausing to catch your breath. I tried running in front of her, to both motivate her and to try to block the headwind. I encouraged her to run the shortest possible route between curves in the road. Somewhere around mile 11, her Garmin GPS watch battery died. When we got to the big hill at mile 17 that ascends to the St. Johns Bridge, I told her to run every step of the steep uphill. She did and we passed plenty of runners.

St Johns Bridge
She was holding steady but just could not speed up to the required goal pace. I encouraged her to eat an extra energy gel, 20 minutes earlier than planned. I refrained from eating my own remaining energy gels, just in case she needed them. (The race offered gummi bears and pretzels as food sources.)

She ran hard all the way to the finish. I'm proud of you, Dana! We finished in 3:55:05.

My Garmin data:

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Tahoe Rim Trail 50 Mile -- 9:53:58

A beautiful morning at the race start
I had a good week in Lake Tahoe, topped off by a successful finish to the Tahoe Rim Trail 50 mile race on Saturday, July 18. It took me 9 hours 54 minutes to run and hike the 50.2 miles in the mountains along Lake Tahoe, and that was good for 12th place overall (out of 140 finishers, but I don't know how many starters). It got tough and I felt weak for many hours, from about miles 22-25 and 32-40, as I struggled to get in enough calories and water and to get my heart rate and breathing under control. Also, my right big toenail did not get along with my shoe. All-in-all the race was a good tough challenge and I'm glad I did it. I was about 10 minutes slower than three years ago.

The weather was great for running -- nice and cool in the morning and never really too hot. The scenery was gorgeous, when I took a moment to appreciate it. The race was superbly well-organized, as usual, and had fantastic volunteers and course markings.

It was wonderful seeing so many friends from my Coastside Running Club. We only have 50-60 active members and yet we sent eight runners to this race, with six in the 100 miler! It's truly amazing that we have so many accomplished runners in such a small club!

I'm very grateful to my wife for supporting this endeavor, and to my friend, Mor, for renting a house with me and keeping me motivated and focused for 10 of the toughest miles.

I ran this 50 mile race three years ago (race report), and I really loved the whole scene, so much so that I did the long drive for the last two years in order to volunteer. I felt like giving the 50 miler another shot this year.

My friend Mor and I rented a great vacation house and opened it up to other running friends, in order to acclimate to the altitude. The elevation of the race ranges mostly between 7,000' and 9,000'. We checked in on the Sunday evening, six days before the race.
8.2 mile training run near Genoa, NV
Larry and Mor, at the vacation home
A beautiful day at Emerald Bay with my brother and two nephews

Emerald Bay
Bill and my nephews, enjoying some high altitude mountain biking!

Finally, race day arrived! I got to the starting area at Spooner Lake just in time for the 5am start of the 100 miler. I wasn't able to find any of my six friends from the running club who were in the 100 miler, but I walked around and took some pictures.
Start of the 100 miler

I used a porta-potty twice, without having to wait in line. I put on suncreen. I'm feeling good, all systems are go!  
Ready to run!

The race started at 6am, in the cool air and now partially overcast skies, with the 55K and 50 mile runners together. I felt at ease and just kept reminding myself to take it easy. I chatted with a guy named Jeff who casually pointed out the spot, around mile 6, where he broke his toe in the 100 mile the previous year, but he finished the race. Ouch!

By my pace chart, I was expecting the first aid station, Hobart, to be at mile 6, but it was very close to mile 7. (I had trouble finding good info about the aid station locations on the race website.) This is a steady climb and I walked little sections of the steepest uphills. At the aid station, I wasn't very efficient with filling my hydration pack; it's kind of a pain and I hadn't practiced on being quick about it. I vowed to improve at the remaining aid stations. I left with about 40 ounces of sports drink.

There's more of a climb after Hobart but then there's some fast smooth single-track trail down to Tunnel Creek aid station at mile 12. I got in a line with a couple of other guys and we were cruising pretty fast. I tried to keep reminding myself that we had a long ways to go! We passed a few of the slowest 100 milers.

At Tunnel Creek, around mile 12, I filled up again, probably to around 40 ounces. Then begins a very steep descent into the Red House loop. I decided to press my lap timer, so that for the future I could have more accurate distances between the aid stations, but in the process I dropped my very tasty Nutella and banana sandwich square that I got at the aid station. I picked it up off the ground and tried to eat it, but it was too sandy and I ended up spitting it out.

Dan Rhodes! I came across the first friend from my running club. I figured he was at least an hour ahead of me (6.5 miles, approximately), which meant he was running his 100 mile race at the same pace that I was running the 50 miler. We have similar speeds in the long races, and I had been acclimating to the altitude for nearly a week, so I was concerned that he was running too fast. He looked great though and was in good spirits. Onward!

Along this loop, I came across a morbidly funny scene. Someone had placed a fake skeleton on the side of the trail, dressed in a Miwok 100K shirt with a racing bib, running shorts, and running shoes. Funny!

Norm Armstrong! Way to go, Norm!

I got a fill-up at Red House Aid Station, and then it was time to trek back up to Tunnel Creek. While putting on my hydration pack, I awkwardly stretched my shoulder back and felt a twinge of cramping in my shoulder. Oh oh! I've only gone about 15 miles! I better be careful and slow down and eat and drink plenty.

Omar Droubi! Way to go, Omar!

Chris Hawthorne! Way to go, Chris! We did a two-handed high-five ("high ten?") and congratulated each other. He was doing his first 50 miler and we were going in opposite directions. He was descending into the Red House loop as I was climbing out of it.

I got back to Tunnel Creek, at mile 18.5, and was feeling good. It's only 3 miles to the next aid station and I didn't get any more sports drink, so that saved time. I grabbed a bit of food. The wonderful volunteers double-checked that I already did the Red House loop, and it's time to head north and split with the 55K runners.

Cesare Rotundo! (I think I caught up to him before Bull Wheel, but I'm not sure.) He was in great spirits on his 100 mile journey and he filmed a little bit with his GoPro camera on a stick.

I arrive at Bull Wheel at mile 21.5 and get a full fill-up of sports drink -- 64 ounces. Now begins the longest leg between aid stations, somewhere between 8.1 and 8.5 miles. (Again, it's hard to find accurate info about the distances.)

Not too long afterwards, I begin to deteriorate. I feel much weaker and my breathing is more labored. Oh, no, it's much too early to feel like this! I stayed calm and told myself to be patient and to just take it easy and walk the uphills. I knew it's possible to recover if I give myself some time. Finally, I finished the climb and then begins a long descent into Diamond Peak Lodge, at mile 30. I was able to run well on this downhill and I was steadily passing hundred milers. Someone asked if I was the lead 50 miler. "No, definitely not, but thank you for asking!"

Then I suddenly felt sharp pains in my right big toe nail on every step. "Ouch ouch ouch !@$%". Something was really wrong. I curled my toe downward and that seemed to help. I almost stopped to check out the problem or maybe tighten my shoelaces since it seemed like my foot was sliding forward too much in my shoe, smashing my toenail. I thought of my friend George Miller who is an expert on foot care who would be at Diamond Peak Lodge. Then the pain subsided. I decided to not work on the problem until I finished the race, so there was no need to tell anyone about it at the aid station.

I recalled being on this same trail the previous year, as a "sweeper". This is a volunteer in a race who follows the very last runner (who is usually not doing any running at all by this point). I was grateful that I was able to cruise along well rather than slowly walking behind someone.

Diamond Peak Lodge!!! Amanda! Larry! Kristin! Mor! It was great seeing a bunch of familiar friendly faces.
Feeling OK at mile 30

Getting a quick refueling at Diamond Peak Lodge, at mile 30.

A quick fill-up later, and we're off! It was good to have Mor's company. We power-hiked up the entire 2 miles underneath a ski lift. There were some very steep sections. Almost none of it was runnable in a long race like this.

Photo by Amanda:

Photo by Amanda from later in the day, when she paced Chris:

After the long long steep uphill climb, we got to Bull Wheel again. (Photo by Amanda.)

Then we had soon had some nice downhill, which was good, because I started feeling weak again. My breathing was quick and heavy. I couldn't seen to catch my breath, so I needed to walk nearly every bit of uphill. I could run OK on the downhills, though.

Mor and I, around mile 33. (Photo courtesy of Sam.)
We got to Tunnel Creek again, at mile 35. I was struggling.

Jill Cole! Way to go, Jill! We clasped hands briefly and wished each other luck. She was rocking the 100 miler.

Finally, we got to Hobart at about mile 40. Still struggling. They had a great sense of humor. It amazes me that these aid stations can have so much equipment and supplies in the middle of nowhere.
Hobart aid station had a good sense of humor! (Photo courtesy of Amanda.)
Having Mor there was great. He led the way. "On your left!" "Passing on your right!" "BIKE!!!" I was like a VIP with a bodyguard. One of the 100 milers we passed and possibly some of the bicyclists were a bit put-off by Mor's forcefulness, but I didn't mind, and I thought it was funny. If you're reading this, thank you again, Mor, I really appreciated having you there. This was a long low period for me.

Shortly after Hobart, I was feeling better and was able to run more of the uphills. I urged Mor to go faster. But then he said he's having a problem. I asked him if he was safe. He said "yes" and that I should go ahead. I told him he would catch me soon. And then I was off, alone again, but moving pretty well, doing the last hard climb, up to Snow Valley Peak.

Dan Rhodes! I caught up to him. He was walking and had seriously bonked and had an upset stomach that kept him from eating or drinking much. He was cognitively and emotionally in good shape and realized that he just needed to take time to regroup. There was going to be a lot of walking in the hours ahead, but he was in no danger of missing cut-offs and he planned on recovering at mile 50 (the start/finish) for a while. He was going to have our most experienced ultrarunner, Franz, for the second half. We wished each other luck and I was on my way.

The scenery is absolutely stunning up here. (Photo by Amanda.)

Snow Valley Peak aid station, at mile 42 or 43. (Photo by Amanda.)

I became unfocused at the Snow Valley Peak aid station. I felt thirsty for water and so I got a fill-up to about 40 ounces, but I saw a large paper cup of water just sitting there that looked so delicious, that I drank it on the spot. Then I refilled it and drank it again. Then I looked over the food offerings before going for another two energy gels. All I really needed was the water and then I should have got out of there!

Then begins the blessed descent home. I was moving pretty well until I felt another sudden urge to defecate, but this feeling was too strong to ignore. I found a fallen tree off the trail to lean against and to offer some privacy. This added probably about 4 minutes to my time. I got back on the trail and a hundred miler said I looked like I had enough energy to do another loop. "Looks can be deceiving! I'm running on fumes and need to finish soon!"

Spooner Summit aid station! I had plenty of water so I waved to them and blew on by.

The last 1.7 miles is surprisingly tortuous, because the finish area looks like it's a half mile away, but the trail meanders around the shoreline, teasing you! At one point, a 50 miler runner in front of me kept going straight on the trail, instead of turning left to go over a small foot bridge. The route was well marked, but there was no chalk or signs in front of us, and it's easy to let your guard down and be on auto-pilot. "Left turn!", I yelled. He was very thankful as I made the turn and pulled away. I increased my effort, to have a strong finish, but then I felt light-headed and over-heated and "out of sorts". I didn't want to faint within a half mile of the finish! So, I walked up one short but steep hill. Some spectators cheered. I was guided to the finish line trail. I slowed down to get around a 55K runner. Then I picked up speed and crossed the finish line, hands in the air! Woo hoo!

I felt unsteady and light-headed and sat down for a bit in the finisher's tent. The very nice volunteer gave me the finisher's plaque and asked me my age, to see if I was an age group winner. (I wasn't.) I leaned over with my head between my legs to try to regain my composure (and maybe oxygen to my brain). I was happy to be done!

Larry! He had volunteered all day at Diamond Peak Lodge but he had come to the finish area. It was good to have his company.

A while later, after I got myself my drop bag, called home, and texted family, I heard from Mor and Dan. They had arrived and Dan was recovering up the hill a ways. I just didn't feel like standing, so I stayed where I was.

Mor arrived and we caught up on the events of the last couple hours. He had caught up to Dan and walked/ran him in.

Mor, enjoying the post-race massage!
After recovering for a bit, I did the long drive home (5 hours, I think). That was a long day! It was great to get home and see Claire and Jennifer again. Whew!

Coastside Running Club results
100 miler
Gary Lindberg 25:47:21
Jill Cole 25:58:25
Dan Rhodes 27:31:59
Cesare Rotundo 30:58:46
Omar Droubi -- apparently dropped at mile 67.5 at 3:31am on Sunday
Norm Armstrong -- apparently dropped at mile 50.2 at 8:56pm on Saturday

50 miler
Ron Little 9:53:58
Chris Hawthorne 15:22:45

I'm really proud of all of us, especially the hundred milers. This is a hard course.

What went well
  • I basically had a solid 50 mile race. I was only 10 minutes slower than 3 years ago and I placed the same as 3 years ago (12th).
  • Didn't get lost. No falls. No injuries.
  • No cramps! I had just a couple of twinges that warned of imminent cramps, but I managed to avoid falling off that performance cliff.
  • I only ran out of water once, for about 20 minutes.
  • No chafing. No blisters to speak of except for the bad problem with my right big toe.
Things to improve on
  • I probably ran the first 12 miles too fast.
  • Had to defecate during the race, adding probably four minutes to my time. I tried to not each much fiber the day before, but apparently I don't really know how to avoid this problem.
  • I should have gotten ice in my hat and maybe a spray-down at Diamond Peak Lodge. It's a hot brutal climb from there.
  • I apparently didn't take enough precautions with my right big toe nail. It started the race in a rough funky state. In some previous long run, it had gotten a blister underneath, but never fell off. I think the toe nail was raised and started catching part of my shoe on the downhills. I'm writing this the day after the race and I'm wondering if I need to seek medical attention for it.
Random data
  • I didn't wear a heart rate monitor again. I appreciated not having the hassle. I don't know if the info would have helped me run better.
  • I only urinated once during the race, around mile 20-25.
  • My weight six days before the race: 168.0 lbs. The night after: about 165 lbs. The morning after: 163.2 lbs.
  • My Garmin data.