Saturday, July 29, 2017

Devil's Slide Half Marathon -- 1st place

First place finishers in the half-marathon. Photo credit: Ria.

What a fun family run day at the Devil's Slide Races! Astonishingly, Claire came in first place female in the very hilly 4K and I squeezed out a come-from-behind first place male finish in the "half marathon" (really 12.9 miles but with 3050' of elevation gain) with a time of 1 hour 53 minutes. Claire won a $20 gift certificate and I won a new pair of shoes worth up to $120. Nice! It was fun seeing friends and racing on familiar trails. Jennifer had a good race in the 4K, too.

The "Hella' Hard Half" Marathon
Because my right heel was bothering me, I didn't decide until the morning of the race whether or not I would do the 11K or the 12.9 mile race. The longer race had a lot of elevation gain, going up half-way Montara Mountain before descending to near sea level and then climbing up the incredibly steep Alta Vista Trail to nearly the peak, before finally descending again back to San Pedro Valley Park.

In the morning, I was feeling good, and I wanted to race on the trails that I train on so frequently. There's no other race throughout the year that goes to McNee Ranch and the Alta Vista Trail. Today was exactly two weeks since my hundred miler and I was a bit worried that I hadn't recovered enough.

There were around 100 runners in my race. I lined up near the start, carrying 20 oz of water with a Nuun tablet (to provide salt and a great taste). At about 9:05am, we were off! The race hits a single-track trail in just about 50', so there's an incentive to get ourselves sorted by pace quickly. I arrived in 2nd place but the guy in front was clearly slower and I passed him almost immediately. Within a couple of switchbacks, three guys passed me. A mile later, as we're still climbing up the steep Montara Mountain Trail, one more guy passed me -- Stanley from my running club. I didn't realize he was so fast! Stanley had done the Tahoe Rim Trail 50 mile race two weeks ago.

My legs felt kind of sluggish, like they had a deep soreness or tired feeling to them. I don't think I was completely recovered from the race two weeks ago.

I monitored my breathing and tried to pace myself to stay strong for the later parts of the race, where we go up the incredibly steep Alta Vista Trail. I could see the guys in front of me occasionally.

Finally, we reach the top of the trail where it intersects with North Peak Access Road, where there's an aid station. I thanked the volunteers but didn't stop and made the right turn to head downhill. Finally, I felt pretty good. My legs unwound like springs and I really took off. It wasn't long before I passed Stanley. Then I passed the third place guy. Then I could see the other two running together a couple hundred meters in front of me.

I ran fast but felt good all the way down the mountain. On the steepest parts, I had to brake a lot and I disturbed my right big toe again, which I had banged up two weeks ago. Oh well.

As I arrived at the aid station and turn-around spot at Hwy 1, I had nearly pulled even with the 2nd place guy. If I had skipped the aid station, I would have been right with him, but my water wasn't going to last the whole race, and I thought it was worth taking the time to drink a cup (8 oz?) of chocolate coconut milk. Mmm... that was tasty! Onward...

I felt bad about losing time and distance to the 2nd place guy, but I tried to be patient. The hardest part of the race was coming up. I rounded a corner and heard my name being called. It was my friend Bob! Cool! He was with a small group of spectators.

As I neared the steep Alta Vista Trail, the 2nd place guy walked a bit, and I thought I would pass him, but by the time I slowly got to him, he started running again. I was out of breath. I just couldn't run this as fast as I do when I have fresh legs. (No surprise there!)

The 1st and 2nd place guys were sometimes both in sight and I once got closer to the 2nd place guy, but then I fell back. I mostly power-hiked the whole trail.

Finally, finally, I neared the top and I started running hard. There was a moment of confusion about the course, but someone was there (not a volunteer) who told me to run to the left and it made sense given the markings, but the race could have used just one more sign. (This was the only confusing spot to me in the race.) I could finally run again with some steep rocky technical downhill but then I had to head up towards the peak.

The course doesn't quite go to the very peak. There was an aid station there and I declined to get anything and now, it was all downhill to the finish. I turned around, poured on the speed and it felt good. But others were not far behind me. I came across the first place woman in my race. Some guy asked me if I was bib #239 and I couldn't take my eyes off the trail as I was flying down, so I hollered, "I don't know!". (That was my bib #. It turns out that he had predicted to his friend that I would win the race when he saw me at the start line.)

I skipped the next and final aid station, as I turned right to go down Montara Mountain Trail. I was passing 11K runners regularly. (They had started 15 minutes after my race, and ran straight to the top of the mountain.)

Shockingly, perhaps a mile later, shortly after turning right on to the Brooks Creek Trail, I came across the first place runner! At the time, I thought he was the 2nd place guy. I don't know how I passed anyone, but maybe the 2nd place guy got a little lost at the top of the Alta Vista Trail?

He was running much faster than the 11K runners, but was still slower than me. I congratulated him but quickly passed. I tried to keep up a slightly extra-strong effort for the next few minutes, so as to not encourage him to stick with me. (Sorry, I get competitive!)

I was on the edge performance-wise and started feeling really thirsty and depleted. I couldn't keep this up much longer. I passed more 11K runners and danced on the rocks around them. I stayed intently focused on the ground with occasional glances up to make sure I didn't run into a tree branch. The trail was rough with lots of rocks and roots.

Finally, the trail led to a wide smooth path and I knew the finish was near -- maybe just 400 meters away. I poured on the speed for a nice strong finish. Woo hoo!
Photo credit: Ria

I still hadn't quite realized that I had won the race. But yeah, it was real! Whew! That was fun!

I soon found out that my 15 year old daughter had come in first place in the very hilly 4K! Way to go, Claire!
Jennifer and Claire, photo credit: Ria.

Me and volunteer Ria, shortly after I finished
Results. If I had been just one minute slower, I would have finished in 6th! We were really bunched up at the end!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Tahoe Rim Trail 100 -- 26:53:20

Snow Valley aid station at mile 93
This was the most difficult race that I have ever done and I still have a lot to learn about this distance. I battled dehydration, diarrhea, and some dizziness. With the support of family and friends, and especially my awesome "safety runner", Amanda, I'm very happy and proud to have completed this difficult and beautiful race. It took me 26 hours 53 minutes to cover 100 miles, with 18,000' of elevation gain, at an average elevation of 8,000'.

I don't want to sugar-coat this experience. Yes, the scenery was frequently gorgeous, with expansive views of Lake Tahoe and surrounding snow-capped mountains. Yes, crossing the finish line after almost 27 hours of running and hiking, accompanied by my pacer and friend Amanda, was a precious tear-jerking emotional moment -- a combination of intense joy and relief and sense of accomplishment. Yes, the belt buckle is beautiful and is a wonderful memento of this challenge. Yes, seeing friends and being part of this wonderfully supportive ultrarunning community is very uplifting and enriching. But still, I want to remember that this race was incredibly difficult and that I spent many hours suffering and cursing to myself. So, would I do it again? Writing this the day after the race, I would have to say, "Maybe... probably... but 50 miles is still plenty challenging!"

Why Tahoe Rim Trail 100?
I had a lot more to learn about this distance versus the shorter distances and I felt ready to be challenged again. 100 miles is much different and much more difficult (to me) than 50 miles or even 100 km (62 miles). Even the 69 mile race across England last year would be easy by comparison. I had run nine 50 milers, two 100Ks, and two 100 milers (out of four attempts) up to this point.

This is a seriously beautiful course that consists of two identical 50 mile loops. I've done the 50 mile race (one loop) twice before, most recently two years ago, so I was familiar with the course.

The race organization and course markings and aid station support are all top-notch. I have volunteered twice for this race, both times overnight at the Diamond Peak aid station.

  1. Don't get permanently injured; my health and safety come first.
  2. Finish! I didn't want another DNF ("Did Not Finish") like at Javelina Jundred last year.
  3. Don't run the first half faster than a 22 hour finish pace. I thought that 22 hours was the fastest possible time I could do this race. I calculated this two different ways -- 1) estimating my speeds on various terrain and adding in time for all the breaks and 2) taking some top runners' times, and calculating the factor to go from 50 miles to 100 miles (it came to about 2.2). Both estimates gave a best-case finish time of 22 hours.
My peak training week was 100 miles, which is great, but once again, I didn't have a lot of other long weeks or long runs. My longest two training runs were 35 miles and 31 miles. Still, this was about as good as I could do, given my obligations and even interest in running. (You can have too much of a good thing!)
Mor and I, at the Big Basin 50K on 6/4. This was a key training run for me.
I tried to do more leg strengthening exercises, like lunges, one-legged sit-to-stands, and one-legged hopping up and down stairs. I wanted to avoid the progressive soreness that I experienced at Mountain Lakes 100 last September.

My key races in the previous 12 months:

My weekly mileage:
  • 4/30 66.1
  • 5/7 58.7
  • 5/14 76.2
  • 5/21 65.2 My right heel started hurting in the mornings. Plantar fasciitis?
  • 5/28 82.2
  • 6/4 51.3 ran Big Basin 50K -- half as a training run, half as a race
  • 6/11 46.1 had some recovery days
  • 6/18 100.2
  • 6/25 37.6 volunteered at Western States and had a lot of discomfort in my heel.
  • 7/2 68.4
  • 7/9 46.5 ran Rocket Run on 7/4 -- 5.0 miles in 30:10, with no pain in my heel.
  • 7/16 106 I only ran 6 miles in the 5 days leading up to the race! But my right heel was hurting more than ever.
So, I was basically in top physical condition with the worrisome exception of possible plantar fasciitis. I did one-legged heel dips and raises every morning, at the edge of a step, 20 on each heel. This would nearly immediately clear up the pain. And when running, my heel almost always loosened up and felt fine.

Week Before
I rented a house in South Lake Tahoe, in order to acclimate to the altitude, and arrived 7 days before the race start. I invited friends and family, but it was just me and my sister Jessica until Thursday when everyone else arrived.

Jessica and I did a bit of decorating...

Day Before
It was my daughter's 15th birthday and I wanted it to be special, even though this conflicted with my race preparations and goals. I enjoyed going to the nearby beautiful Angora Lake with her and my family and my friend Paula, too. The weather was quite warm and I did one long swim across the lake. Jennifer said that I looked dehydrated because my eyes looked sunken. Oh oh.
Claire and Jennifer

Paula and me
I ate mostly carbs and protein (nuts) and very little fiber, in the hopes of not having to defecate during the race. (Foreshadowing: that did *not* work out!).

Paula and I went to Carson City to pick up our bibs and for me to attend the mandatory 100 mile check-in. The information was actually useful for all runners for all three races. The race director reported that the trails were 97% dirt because so much snow had melted in the past week. That was good news! The downside was that our feet were going to get wet in the river crossings of the Red House Loop.

I met up with Pete Briggs and Gary Lindberg. I tried to drink extra water, but it was difficult in the 95 (?) degree weather to drink enough, plus there were no public drinking fountains there.
Pete and me. My eyes show my dehydration.
For the mandatory weigh-in, I was expecting to weigh about 170 lbs because I was wearing my shoes and clothes. At first the reported 164.6 lbs sounded good -- "I've lost weight!". But then the reality sunk in that I was very likely dehydrated already. Oh oh. The medical professional rounded my weight down and wrote "164" on my wristband that I was required to wear for the whole race.

That night, I had a difficult time sleeping, due to nervous energy plus the warm nights in the house plus my sister and the kids were busy talking in the hot tub near my open sliding glass door. (I had an upstairs room, which got really warm.) I wanted my daughter's birthday to be special and to not interrupt them, so I closed the sliding glass door, but then the heat made for a hard time sleeping. I had taken two anti-histamine pills (diphenhydramine) but that didn't really knock me out. On top of all of that, my right heel was hurting and I took an ibuprofen, too. I tried not to get too worried and to relax.

Race Day!!!
My alarm went off at 2:30am, to give me time to eat (two bagels, toasted with peanut butter) and drink a bit of water. Jennifer was kind enough to drive me to the start. I think I confided in her that I was very uncertain about how the day would go. Privately, I wasn't sure I could go even one mile. I mean, if my heel hurt from the beginning, I might need to turn-around right away.

I saw my friends Pete, Gary, Paula, and Veronica. I dropped off my finish-line bag and did my final preparations. There was excitement in the air!

Veronica was a pacer for this race and is an accomplished ultrarunner. I run with her occasionally along the Embarcadero in San Francisco.

Paula! Getting ready for the 50 miler.
At 5am, after some brief announcements by the race director plus a stirring playing of the national anthem, we were off! Woo hoo!

On the way to Hobart, my heel felt perfect. Yay! I tried to take it nice and easy, and to not exceed the pace (taking into account hills) for an 11 hour 17 minute first loop (50 miles). I got into Hobart 5 or 6 minute ahead of schedule, but I was OK with that. Soon, my headlamp wasn't needed. The temperature was comfortable and short sleeves were fine.

Somewhere along the way, I heard someone behind me say, "I shouldn't be passing Ron Little". I laughed. "Pete!" I pulled aside and let him pass.

Tunnel Creek, mile 12 -- This is the only place I had a drop-bag and I would visit here 6 times. I quickly stashed my headlamp and grabbed my bandanna and hat. I was pretty much on track for my optimistic finish time. I filled up with ice, even though it was only about 7:40am. The day was warming up quickly!

Red House, mile 15 -- a couple of very fast runners (55K? 50 mile?) passed me. These races started one hour later than the hundred miler. I think one of them was Rory Bosio who crushed the 50 mile race, winning overall and setting the women's record, too. I had met Rory while running Firetrails 50 Mile in 2009 where she had asked me if I knew any jokes and then she pulled away and beat me by 15 minutes in that race. Way to go, Rory!

I was getting warm but the ice around my neck felt good. "Slow and easy, slow and easy," I kept telling myself. I kept on imagining being here again 50 miles later, and still having a long ways to go. My feet got thoroughly soaked in three stream crossings, coming up to my knees in one spot, but I wasn't worried; my feet would soon dry out in the heat. I felt my right heel a bit, but I was still comfortable.

Somewhere along here my urine was a solid dark yellow. Damn. I was probably dehydrated from the beginning.

Tunnel Creek, mile 18.5 -- still on track for my optimistic time. I grabbed an extra 20 oz water bottle for my vest because I had the longest leg coming up in the heat of the day. I re-applied sunscreen, but then made a possible critical error. I forgot to refill on ice. It was a long slow climb to Bull Wheel.

Bull Wheel, mile 21.5 -- This aid station is very difficult to access (supplies have to be delivered by a ski lift) and as expected, they didn't have ice. I couldn't refill my bandanna. I filled up all three water bottles, for a total of 60 oz. Onward to the longest leg, of 8.5 miles!

Somewhere on the long descent to Diamond Peak, I kicked a rock hard with my right foot and all the force seemed to be delivered to my big toenail. Ouch! I stumbled but didn't fall. I would feel my big toenail pretty much for the remainder of the race. But the good news was that my heel had stabilized and wasn't a problem at all.

I stopped to soak my bandanna in a stream -- nice!

Diamond Peak, mile 30 -- Coming into the aid station, I had the slight hope of seeing Jennifer or Claire, but they weren't there; it was too difficult with Claire's friends for Claire to spend a lot of time waiting around at an aid station. I think I was still on track for my optimistic time. I still had a bit of water and sports drink left and I was glad I had carried three bottles.

Pete! Gary! I got through the aid station quickly and was on to the most difficult climb of the race -- 2 miles straight up the mountain, underneath a ski lift. About halfway up, I looked back at the gorgeous scenery and there was Gary! Wow, what a machine. He power-hiked right by me. I don't think I could go any faster if I wanted. Gary reported that Pete was having "digestive issues". Bummer. I estimate that Gary did the climb 10 minutes faster than me.

I kept telling myself to take it easy and to not worry about being too slow. I kept thinking back to Mountain Lakes 100 and to Headlands 100, where my leg muscles became significantly sore and I was forced to slow down.

Tunnel Creek (35), Hobart (40), Snow Valley (43) -- these go by, slow and steady, but I was slowing down. There were some snow fields that needed to be crossed, which slowed us all down also. I grabbed a chunk of snow and smashed it on my head and put my hat on it, to help keep me cool. I was getting tired and was still probably dehydrated (dark yellow urine). All of the climbing to Snow Valley decisively set me back time-wise. Oh, well. Keep moving.

Coming into mile 50, I felt the urge to defecate. This would become a reoccurring theme. On top of dehydration, I had developed mild diarrhea. I had to make an emergency pitstop in the woods. Bummer.

Spooner Lake, mile 50 -- I was about 30 minutes behind my optimistic schedule, but I didn't care. I wanted to "hold it together" and not degrade. In hindsight, I wish I had made more of an effort to re-hydrate, but I just couldn't quite catch up.

I was feeling quite tired and sleepy in the late afternoon now, so I tried closing my eyes for five strides at a time, on parts of the fire road that were smooth and straight. I only did this a few times, but I think it helped a bit. I was wondering to myself why I was here and why I was doing this. I wasn't happy.

One area had thousands of white moths fluttering about the aspen (?) trees. The whole scene was beautiful. I was grateful to not have the clouds of gnats that come out in the late afternoon at lower elevations near Lake Tahoe.

I chatted for a long while with a guy from Bishop (must have been Todd Vogel, based on the results). I asked about pacing and our estimated finish times and he pointed out that all the top finishers run slower in the second half, because of being sore and tired and the darkness. "You're going to slow down, so you might as well plan on it." I think he's right, and I need to learn better about how to estimate my finish time in a hundred miler.

Hobart, mile 56.9 -- the shadows were getting long. I needed to get to Tunnel Creek where my headlamps were before nightfall. I had about a two hour cushion, so I wasn't too worried, but if I degraded significantly, I could be caught in the dark.

Paula!!! She was coming into Hobart (mile 40 for her), finishing up her 50 miler. She was running well! Good job, Paula!

Tunnel Creek, mile 62 -- I was tired and mentally in a bit of a fog. A volunteer offered to get my drop-bag and said "hi, Ron Little, I'm Annie and we met in the 50 mile race a while back". "Annie Rutledge!" I exclaimed. I remembered meeting her (plus re-reading my blog a couple of times over the years refreshed my memory). Cool! "I remember you were a really fast marathon runner doing your first 50K." Looking through my blog, I had last met her in 2012. Wow, time flies. She got me food and drink and was very patient with me even though I accidentally dropped my grilled cheese sandwich in the dirt. After a porta-pottie visit I was on my way again. Thank you, Annie! Just as I was leaving, there was Gary!!! He said he had been throwing up earlier which is how I passed him without seeing him. I wanted to wait for him, but I was really eager to get going and get to Amanda at mile 80 and get this race done with.

Red House, mile 66 -- the steep descent and stream crossings were slower now, in the night. I realized I was going to be super late to Amanda. I had predicted an arrival time as early as 10:45pm, but it was going to be hours later. I hoped that my race progress at various aid stations was going out to the website.

I kicked a branch hard, again with my right foot, and again with my big toe. My poor toenail. On the positive side, I hadn't fallen. I tried to stay positive -- my stomach was sort of unsettled, but I was still eating frequently and was consuming about 350 calories an hour.

Tunnel Creek, mile 68.5 -- the steep climb up again was slow. I was getting passed by some faster runners now. I got refueled and was on my way. I saw the lead hundred milers coming back the other way. Wow, they were 16 to 17 miles ahead of me. Depressing.

Bull Wheel, mile 71.5 -- slow, slow, slow. I fuelled up with three 20 oz bottles again, just in case.

Descending into Diamond Peak, I couldn't last until the aid station, and I had more psuedo-diarhea. I also stopped to shake small rocks out of one shoe. Athough I wore gaiters over my shoes, all of the water from the stream crossings delivered grit and dirt into my shoes.

Diamond Peak, mile 80 -- Jessica! Amanda! I was so grateful that they had waited so long. I think it was around 1:30am now. I was suddenly in much better spirits. We took some photos, I got some food, I used the restroom yet again, and I handed my extra water bottle to Jess because I wouldn't need it again, and we were off!

Unfortunately, it didn't take long before I got into my worst slump. I just couldn't catch my breath. I was still dehydrated (dark yellow urine) and having four rounds of near-diarhea hadn't helped either. My pace slowed to literally a crawl, meaning I couldn't walk any faster than I could crawl. I stared at the ground underneath my headlamp and focused on where I would place my foot next. I finally walked over to the side of the road and sat down. Amanda was patient and encouraging. "Think of the belt buckle" she said at one point, which was helpful. I got up and started trudging forward again. And when I had to stop, I felt dizzy. I moved forward. Stopped. Dizzy. I was miserable and getting worried about my condition. I thought of dropping. "I'm getting dizzy when I stop," I told her. She asked, "Are you dizzy when you're moving?" "No." "Well, then don't stop." Makes sense. I imagined that I would humor her and then drop at the top of the slope, at Bull Wheel, which would mean I would have to hike back down this incredibly steep slope. I started hiking in a diagonal pattern, so that it would be less steep. I continued drinking lots of sports drink. I probably ate an energy gel. Finally, finally, after one hour and 11 minutes, I had covered the two miles and we were nearly at the next aid station.

Bull Wheel, mile 82 -- I resuplied and warned Amanda that we had mostly uphill to go until nearly the end of the race and that this was going to be a slog. Well, I had forgotten that most of the way from Tunnel Creek to Bull Wheel was uphill, so we actually had a pretty sweet downhill. I was in a better mood and was running pretty well.

I finally put on my arm sleeves at some point, since it was getting colder.

Tunnel Creek, mile 85 -- Another porta-potty visit. This would be my last one of the race, thankfully. I ran into Veronica and her runner Jessi. I foolishly talked out loud about how grateful I was to be done with Diamond Peak. Poor Jessi was having a hard day and she was on her way north, about 17 miles behind me, just like I had earlier been 17 miles behind the leaders. Sorry, Jessi! (She did end up finishing still.)

But good news, my urine was getting clear! The cool night air, plus my incredibly slow pace, plus having drinking a lot was paying off. I finally had overcome dehydration!

The sky was no longer pitch black. It promised to be a beautiful morning in beautiful countryside, but I was tired.

I ran my fastest section of the race so far, on the descent to Hobart. But that was offset by the snow sections.

Hobart, mile 90 -- I tried to be quick about it, and got walking out of the aid station, telling Amanda she'll catch me soon.

Snow Valley, mile 93 -- this was the final climb!!! The scenery was stunning.

On the long descent, I was starting to feel desperate for the finish. Less than 7 miles to go! I was running sort-of well much of the time. I was not experiencing the painful muscle soreness of the other two hundred milers that I've done. Still, there were lots of rocks and tripping hazards, and I wasn't exactly fast.

Amanda kicked a rock and went down hard in front of me. I held my breath, hoping she was OK. She had done a super-woman dive but had managed to turn her head to avoid a face plant. It looked like she had mostly landed in dirt and she announced she was OK. Breathe. She shook herself off, examined her new scrapes, and we were soon off again. "I like to take a fall for all my runners," she joked.

As the morning dragged on, I noticed I was having minor hallucinations. Out of the corner of my eye, my first impressions of various objects were kind of crazy, but when I looked directly at them, the reality became clear. So, I don't know if I would call this an actual hallucinations, but more of a "crazy first impression". For example, I would think that I saw a person squatting inside a wood-stick hut with their arms sticking out in a weird way, but it was really just a big jagged tree stump.

A fast runner and his pacer passed us. I didn't care.

I was getting impatient and frustrated at how long it was taking to get to the next and last aid station, which was just a self-help table. I knew I wasn't lost, but I just didn't recognize now how much farther we had. Finally, finally, I heard the sounds of cars that meant we were near the road next to Spooner Lake. So close. There it is!

Spooner Summit, mile 98.3 -- with so short a distance left, I didn't stop and I didn't care if I ran out of water. I picked up the pace and led the way in front of Amanda. I passed a runner who was walking, whom I recognized from earlier in the day. I congratulated him and picked up the pace some more, since I imagined I heard him start running fast behind me. This final section was mostly fast and I was running faster than I had run the whole race. It felt like about 7.5 minutes per mile.

So close....   the path widened and Amanda was by my side. She started to tear-up with emotion. I wasn't quite there with her yet; I was depleted and running hard to finish this thing. I made a right turn towards the finish line. The final turn. I may have mumbled something about being careful not to trip in the last couple hundred meters. I was running fast. I was home. Tears of relief and joy started flowing. There were scattered cheers. (Thank you, Annie, for being at the finish line, I found out later). I thanked Amanda for saving the race for me. A week later, I think there was about a 50% chance I would have walked back down that hill and dropped at mile 80 without her.
I felt unsettled and deeply tired. I wasn't hungry at all. I thanked the volunteers profusely and chatted with a photographer who had run the 55K and was waiting for his girlfriend to finish the hundred miler.

Wow, what an adventure and what a challenge.

I couldn't wait until the 4pm ceremony before getting my belt buckle, but the race director mailed it to me. It's beautiful.

What worked well
  • I finished my third 100 mile race and am uninjured.
  • My leg muscles held up and never became incredibly sore, unlike at Mountain Lakes 100 or Headlands 100.
  • I never fell or got lost. (The course was marked incredibly well, but still, going off course is always a danger.)
  • Mostly, my stomach held up and I had gotten on top of my hydration.
  • Having three 20 oz water bottles for the 8.5 mile leg worked well. I have a hydration pack with a bladder that indicates 64 oz, but I measured it before the race and it actually was carrying only 52 oz. This allowed me to feel safe in going with handheld water bottles and a running vest.
  • Carrying a small sample-size Squirrel Nut Butter in an easy-to-access pocket helped save my nipples.
  • Putting on big strips of moleskin where my running vest rubs my neck worked great. The strips stayed on the whole time.
  • My shoes, Hoka One One ATR 3s, worked well.
  • My Garmin watch lasted about 18 hours, which was expected and which was fine.
Things to improve
  • Be well-hydrated before the race!!! I should have drank a lot more water in the couple of days leading up to the race. Maybe I should have stayed in an air-conditioned house or hotel.
  • When planning my pace chart, take into account the inevitable slowing down at night, due to the darkness and just being tired and sore.
  • My main headlight, Petzl Tikka R+, ran out of power, as expected, after about 6 hours. This time, I was sure that it was in "max autonomy" mode which is supposed to last 13 hours, but that's not true. My 2nd headlamp was much weaker, but it at least provided sufficient light all night. I wish I had one bright and reliable headlamp that can go all night.
Random data
  • I consumed 6 S-cap salt pills and 2 regular strength Tylenol.
  • Weight (approximately) a week before: 166.2 lbs
  • Weight on the afternoon of the day before, fully clothed: 164.6 lbs (might have been equivalent to 162.6 for a morning naked weight)
  • Weight the morning after: 160.2 lbs
  • Results. I was 38 out of 150 finishers. 61 runners did not finish.
  • Pete and Gary also finished the 100 miler. Yay! Paula, Mike, and Stanley all finished the 50 miler. I was proud that our little Coastside Running Club has so many accomplished runners.
  • Pete's race report
  • Paula's race report

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Rocket Run 5 Mile -- 1st!

What an excellent Independence Day! The day began with a 5.0 mile Rocket Run in Pacifica, and hanging out with a bunch of friends from the Coastside Running Club. Shockingly, I started off in the lead, and stayed in front the whole time, with a police car leading the way. There was one steep hill in the middle, on Alicante Drive, but thanks to a recent speed workout there, I felt familiar with it. I kept expecting to hear footsteps behind me, and the last couple of miles felt difficult, but I finished in 30 minutes 11 seconds. I may be old, but apparently, I can still move! :-)

The race is extremely generous with the rewards! More than half of the 63 finishers received awards. 
 The fireworks in the evening were a lot of fun, too. Pacifica goes nuts with the illegal fireworks, and it's a little scary (especially for pets) but was admittedly fun for us.

Miscellaneous Data

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Boston Marathon -- 3:10:16

Boston loves their marathon and I love Boston! The communities from Hopkinton to Boston really poured out their love and support for this race. It was an amazing weekend. During the run, the weather was quite warm (low 70s and mostly very sunny) and even with a tailwind, the heat hurt.

This was Boston Marathon #6 for me, and was my second slowest, at 3:10:16. I started feeling cramps in my calves around mile 19 and I was forced to slow down. With about 0.75 miles to go, my right hamstring completely froze up, so I had to stretch and walk for a bit. But all-in-all, I'm very happy with my race and I remain qualified for 2018. I want to run it again in 2018, too!

I arrived early Saturday morning after a crowded and somewhat uncomfortable overnight flight on United Airlines. This saved money, but I'm not sure this was worth it. With my hotel check-in not until 4pm, this made for a long tiring day of hauling around luggage.

Still, there was excitement in the air! I met a woman on the T who had just flown in from Florida to volunteer as a medic at the race -- unpaid! She said this was her 8th Boston Marathon as a volunteer and 28th marathon overall as a volunteer. Amazing!

The expo at Hynes Convention Center had a small army of happy volunteers. I'm so impressed with the race organization and support. I was wearing my Boston Marathon hand-made scarf from 2014, that commemorated the bombings from the year before.

The invitational mile races were fun to watch. They are so fast!

I did some planning in the Boston Public Library...

And ended up walking two miles to my hotel room, because of interrupted bus service, and saw the very well protected gardens...

The next day, I met up with my friend Amanda (this was her 11th consecutive Boston Marathon!) from the Coastside Running Club, her boyfriend, and an acquaintance of theirs. Amanda had invited me to Old South Church, near the finish line, for a runners blessing. It was crowded, so I'm glad I got there almost an hour early. Standing in the warm bright sunlight, I was starting to get concerned for the race the next day.

The service was very sweet, inclusive, loving, and entertaining. You can watch the whole service below. I was sitting in the left side towards the front, wearing my new yellow and blue 2017 Boston Marathon shirt.
The most special moment to me, starting at 55:30 in the video, was when all the marathon runners were asked to stand, and Carlos Arrendondo, the "cowboy rescuer" from the 2013 bombings (photos), gave a beautiful blessing, and a bagpiper played an inspiring and tear-jerking song. It was a truly sweet moment that brought tears to a lot of eyes, mine included.

I met up with Amanda, Mark, and Jeannie. I tried to meet a couple of other friends, but that didn't work out. I ended up hanging out with Jeannie-from-Chicago, who was a runner but who was in town solely to support and to be inspired by the race! Amazing! We went to the JFK Museum together. I liked the museum a lot and had never been before. It was laid out as a timeline of JFK's life, with hardly a mention of the assassination. The tour ended in this amazing atrium with a huge American flag.

We met up with Amanda and Mark again for a delicious dinner at Lucca's in the North End.
When the manager found out that Amanda had come here every year for eight consecutive years, he sent us free desserts! mmm...! I was 105% carb loaded!

There was a neat walkway nearby, lit up in the marathon's blue and gold colors.

Race Day
The race wouldn't start for me until shortly after 10am, but I needed the meet the buses in Boston Common at about 6:30am, which meant I needed to leave my hotel at about 5:45am, which meant waking up at 5:15am! Logistics!

At Boston Common, before dropping off my gear bag.
The travel to Boston Common went smoothly and as I was sitting on the bus, waiting to be taken to the starting area in Hopkinton, I wondered what time it was. I checked my right wrist. No watch. I checked my left wrist. No watch. Ohhhhhhhhh..... shiiiiiiiiiiiiiit....  I mentally retraced my steps all the way back to my hotel room and realized I had never laid out my Garmin GPS watch the night before. I wouldn't know my elapsed time, or current mile pace, or each mile time. I briefly considered going back to my hotel room, but there would be too much stress and travel involved.

As it turned out, if there's ever a race to forget your watch for, this one was a good one. There was a timer at each mile marker! It would take some mental math to figure out each elapsed mile time, but that worked out fine. I usually eat an energy gel every 35 minutes, so instead, I ate one every 5 miles.

On the bus, I sat net to a guy who was maybe in his 50s who said he had run the Boston Marathon 29 times, 28 times consecutively! He was so familiar with the race, that he shouted out to the bus driver to keep going straight because we were about to take the wrong freeway exit! He said that one year, the bus driver missed the exit which added a huge amount of time to the journey but that everyone on the bus was still able to start on time. It's good to be familiar with the bus driver's route!

There was a young man in crutches on the bus. He said he had broken his leg four weeks ago and was going to try to walk on crutches for as much of the marathon as he could. Wow.

The day was warming up and I was comfortable in short sleeves and shorts. As I walked around, I recognized a friend from the Coastside Running Club -- Cesare!

Finally, the race start drew near. Walking to the starting corrals, I was impressed by the security. There were armed officers every two or three houses along the streets where we were walking. I heard the sounds of vomiting. There was a runner, a young man with a mohawk, leaning over the railing and throwing up into the grass. Amazingly, he apparently was running pretty well because I saw him again at mile 16 as I slowly passed him.

After a beautiful singing of the national anthem, and a flyover by two Air Force jets, we were off!

I felt at ease, but warm. I think the first mile took me 7:15 which I was fine about. I was hoping for a 3:03 or so, in order to run my fastest Boston.

The first aid station was at mile 2, and then there was an aid station at every mile thereafter! The amount of support is just incredible. I was getting warm and it wasn't long before I started pouring water on my head from aid station cups.

Around mile 10, a spectator was offering a bottle of water. I grabbed it and thanked her as I ran by. It was ice cold! Joy of joys! That helped me feel much better for a few miles.

Wellesley College was amazing as usual. (You can see a sample of posters here.) My favorite was "Kiss me if you voted for Hillary." I laughed to myself but I stayed in the middle of the road and gave some thumbs up.
Courtesy of Scott Dunlap
The Newton hills at mile 16 and 17.5 went by quickly. My pace had to slow down, but I felt good! I was warm though. Around mile 19, I felt my first twinges of cramps, in my calves. Oh  no! I was on edge. I still don't know what the proper solution is, but my toolkit includes: 1) slowing down. 2) getting more salt. 3) drinking more water. Well, I wasn't carrying water, so I ate another energy gel and slowed down. In hindsight, I think I was most likely getting dehydrated.

I ran up the final Newton hill, Heartbreak Hill, at mile 20.5. I felt pretty good and had plenty of energy, but cramps were close. I didn't even realize that was the last big hill at the time.

I saw the famous Citgo sign. I was close to the finish, and ready to stop! But with about 0.75 miles to go, my right hamstring suddenly locked up. !@##$!  I hobbled over to the side of the road and a steady stream of runners started passing me. I stretched a bit and started walking. A minute or two later I was able to slowly run again (8 minutes a mile, maybe), but I couldn't sprint to the finish.

Right at the end of the race on Boylston Street, with the finish line in sight, a man in front of me pulled off suddenly to the side of the road, got down one knee, and opened up a small jewelry box which he had carried for 26 miles. He proposed to his girlfriend who was a spectator and she was in shocked happiness as she screamed, "Yes!" I was in an emotional state already, bursting with happiness and relief, but that proposal pushed me over the edge. I crossed the finish line with my arms in the air and tears in my eyes.

I recovered for a while in Boston Common and soaked in the feeling of relief and love and the beautiful day. I was definitely on a huge natural high.

When I went to ride back to my hotel on the T, the transit employees were at the gate and were letting all runners ride for free. Very thoughtful! I received dozens of "congratulations" on the way back to my hotel.

After recovering for a while, I went out again to meet up with my "interesting and unusual" friend (as he happily reminded me that I had described him in the past), Ron McCracken, whom I met by randomly sitting next to him on the bus to Hopkinton in my first Boston Marathon in 2007. It's been 10 years and we've kept in touch ever since! Ron, always the gregarious guy, made friends with a somewhat inebriated local who was a staunch marathon supporter. Hey ladies, he's single! Catch him if you can!
 Ron has now completed his 17th consecutive Boston Marathon. Nice!

I already wanted to come back in 2018!

What Went Well
  • I'm super grateful to the 9,500 volunteers and race organizers for making this race possible and so special. The organization and support are just amazing.
  • The crowd support and community support were outstanding -- so much love!
  • No injuries, no chafing, no blisters, no bathroom problems.
  • I think I generally paced myself well.
  • I had plenty of energy.
Things To Improve
  • Considering the heat, I probably should have carried a water bottle from the start, filled with sports drink, and refilled it as necessary. The aid stations were crowded for most of the race for me, and I would have preferred to drink more which may have helped prevent cramps.
  • I left my GPS watch in my hotel room! I've done this once before, before the New York City Marathon, but that time I had realized the mistake right away and I could go back and retrieve it. Before a race, I need to pause and stop worrying about the logistics and make sure I have everything I needed for the race. Or use a checklist, which feels lame (shoes! hat! watch!), but that would reduce the chances of mistakes.
  • I could have used another long tempo run or two.
  • I could do without the red-eye flight on a Friday night.
  • My hotel was about 2 miles away from the race events (expo, bus pick-up area, and finish line), and was a mile away from the nearest T station. I need to make reservations sooner next time.
Random Data
  • This was my 2nd slowest Boston Marathon, but overall, I'm happy with how I raced.
    • 2007 -- 3:05:31
    • 2008 -- 3:09:44
    • 2009 -- 3:03:33
    • 2012 -- horrible
    • 2014 -- 3:07:00
    • 2017 -- 3:10:16
  • I weighed 166.0 lbs three days before the race.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Fun Local Hilly 7K -- Father-Daughter 1st Place Finishes

What a fun morning! We had a family race day in nearby Pacifica. The race was super-casual, with just 15 people in the 7K and 50 people in the 5K. I ran the very hilly 7K and my daughter Claire ran the 5K.

Amazingly, Claire came in first overall, due to some of the leaders turning around way too early and having to go back out again to run the full course. Claire ran smart, stayed on course, and beat her personal record for the 5K by about 30 seconds, finishing in 29:30.

I raced the 7K which ran up the switchbacks of the Hazlenut Trail in San Pedro Valley Park, and I started off fast and stayed in front the whole way. I enjoyed flying down the downhill; I felt like I was on a roller coaster. I did the loop in 33 minutes 9 seconds at an average pace of about 7 minutes 12 seconds a mile.