Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Rio Del Lago 100 Mile -- 23:01:20

I had a good run! I successfully completed this 100.5 mile race in 23 hours 1 minute 20 seconds. I enjoyed seeing lots of friends from my running club and I especially enjoyed running and hiking 13 miles with my 16 year old daughter and 17 miles with my friend Mor. This was my 6th attempted and 4th completed 100 miler. I didn't fall apart and I stayed reasonably strong throughout. I set a personal record for this distance, by about 17 minutes. I didn't fall, get lost, or get injured, and I had fairly consistent energy levels, and I didn't get too dehydrated in the heat of the day.

I wanted to run this race in order to stay qualified for Western States Endurance Run, and to try to get better at this distance, and because I liked what I saw as a pacer from the previous two years. I had run the last 55 miles two years ago and about 25 miles last year. This race had great support and some pretty scenery and a good "vibe" from the other runners and aid station volunteers. Plus, this race was only about a 2.5 hour drive from my home, which makes the logistics easier and cheaper.

Of my three previous completed 100 milers (Headlands 100, Mountain Lakes 100, TRT 100), I significantly slowed down in the last 25 miles due to soreness. I hoped to get in longer training runs this time and to be sure to stay well-hydrated and to take it easy early on.

Leading up to the race, I was still regaining my fitness from injuries from the previous year, but I was basically healthy and running well. I completed the following key long runs leading up to Rio Del Lago:

  • 10/16 -- 20 miles
  • 10/7 -- 31 miles
  • 9/30 -- 35 miles
  • 9/23 -- 35 miles
  • 9/20 -- 20 miles
  • 9/13 -- 29 miles
  • 9/6 -- 29 miles

However, my total mileage was quite a bit lower than in previous years, with my top week being just 66 miles, 6 weeks before the race. I had trouble being motivated to run any more. On three days a week, I commute to San Francisco, which makes for long days, and I want to spend the remainder of those days with family or sleeping!

The Plan
I wanted to be quick and efficient at aid stations and to rely as little as possible on drop bags or crew. So, I had just one drop bag that I would visit at Overlook #1 (mile 44.5), where I would pick up my good headlamp and a 3rd 20oz water bottle for the longest leg (10.5 miles between No Hands Bridge #1 and Auburn Lake Trails). I would meet my daughter at No Hands Bridge #2 (mile 70.5) and she would run 13 miles with me. I would then meet my friend Mor who would drag me the final 17 miles to the finish. My wonderful wife would be a driver and supporter.

After some research and some predictive spreadsheet work, I thought I could finish somewhere between 23 and 24 hours. I made a plan for 22.5 hours, just in case, so that my pacers could be sure to be waiting for me.

Day Before
As to not have two cars in the Folsom area, I carpooled with my friend Suki from my running club. Speaking of which, shockingly, in our little running club of about 70 active members, we had six members in this race! A bunch of other club members were either pacers or crew or volunteering at aid stations. The runners were: Paula, Alan, Rebekah, Suki, Norm, and myself. For Paula and Suki, this was their first hundred miler. Suki was super-prepared while I took more of a minimalist approach:

Suki's stuff (left) vs my stuff

Suki and I got our bibs and had a late lunch at around 2pm. (I had snacked on the drive, finishing off a can of Pringles. Mmm.)

We checked into our rooms at Natoma Lake Inn, which is a great location, with lots of runners coming and going. We saw Alan, Rebekah, and Paula! Our eating schedules didn't quite match up, so Suki and I ate a bit later (pasta with marinara sauce).

I often have a hard time sleeping the night before a race, but for a hundred miler, it's really useful to get a good night's sleep because for almost everyone, we'll be running for around 24 hours, and being sleepy on the trails is miserable and leads to making more mistakes. I took half a melatonin and then Rebekah gave me two Benadryl (diphenhydramine) capsules.

I realized that I had somehow lost my daughter's pacer bib. (I had to pick it up and sign the waiver for her, since she's a minor.) I left a message for my wife about this, and tried not to worry about it.

Fortunately, I had a great night's sleep except at 1am, my stupid phone woke me up with a stupid Google Calendar alert, unhelpfully letting me know that one of my nephews' birthdays (hi, Owen!) was 10 days from now. I had forgotten to silence everything except for alarms. I used the restroom and promptly fell asleep again, waking up with my alarm at 3am.

The Race!
I felt pretty full after eating a bagel with peanut butter, so I didn't try to stuff myself, even though this is a couple hundred calories fewer than I would typically eat. I think I might have been full from dinner and the late lunch the day before. That's OK. I did my usual skin care protection and got to the lobby. They had two carafes of coffee and one of them was decaf! Sweet! (I'm sensitive to caffeine.)

By 3:45am, I was in the lobby, waiting a bit for Suki. I saw my friend George from the Coastside Running Club! He was crewing for Norm. What a guy! I saw Norm and some other friends and acquaintances. A guy I was talking with (from Seattle) thought I must be a local since I knew so many people there. No, it's just my crazy running club from Half Moon Bay!

We did the short drive to Beals Point. Excitement was in the air with lots of strong-looking runners walking around.
There was supposed to be a briefing that started at 4:30am, but by the time the real meat of the briefing was beginning, I wanted to use the restroom one last time, so I missed the briefing, got through a 10 minute line at the restroom, took off my warm clothes, dropped off my finish-line drop-bag and lined up towards the back of the starting chute just a few minutes before 5am.

Soon, we were off! Woo hoo!

Early in the morning, on the gentle paved bicycle path, I just tried to take it easy. I even walked some of the gentle uphills, taking a cue from others. I was chatting with one woman who walked the gentlest of uphills and after she said she was "pushing 60" and was "hoping for a 26 and a half hour finish", I thought maybe I should be running a little bit faster. So, on the next gentle incline when she began to walk, I wished her luck and continued running.

The Willow Creek (mile 6.5) aid station came and went. At some point, maybe after 10 or 12 miles, I felt a bit of chafing in my shorts. I also had to pee, so I took the opportunity to apply some Nut Butter anti-chafing cream. I'm so glad I carried this small stick of critical skin protection cream, in a small pocket in my running vest. No chafing down there!

At the Negro Bar (mile 14) aid station, I caught up briefly with club member Alan. I would have loved to chat, but I was quick through the aid station and on my way. I was averaging around 10 minutes a mile which feels really slow, but I was feeling good and at ease. Patience is the key at this point in the race, for me. Sometimes I felt transitory pains in one ankle. Weird. But I figured I'm just warming up.
photo credit: Suki

The sun was rising. It was a beautiful morning, but I didn't want the cool temperatures to end! I stowed away my very lightweight headlamp in my pack, and I wouldn't retrieve it again until nighttime.
photo credit: Suki
I chatted with Jeff from San Ramon. He wanted to finish in 22:30 which sounded great to me! We ran a bunch of miles together. As much as I enjoyed his company, I didn't want to wait for him at aid stations (or anywhere else, basically). I was on a mission! Arriving back to Beals Point (mile 18.5), I felt the growing urge for a longer bathroom stop. Oh well, no big deal. The first set of public restrooms was locked, but the second set (where I had gone right before the race) was open. Business quickly taken care of, I ran into Alan again! Hey Alan! Goodbye, Alan! I didn't wait and was quickly through the aid station. I was in 147th place, out of 252 at this point.

The trails to Granite Beach (mile 23) and Horseshoe Bar (mile 32.5) are a lot more hilly and rocky, and the day was getting warmer. I was keeping up an easy effort, but moving more slowly. All's well.  I was in 116th place.

Somewhere around here, there was a three-way trail junction that was clearly marked for the direction we were going, but had just some chalk on the ground to indicate the left turn for the return. I knew we had to go back on this trail, many hours later, at night. I made a mental note to not miss this intersection on the way back. I commented about this to the runner behind me, but she had ear buds in and didn't hear me.

Rattlesnake Bar #1 (mile 35.5) comes. The temperatures are climbing towards the projected high of about 80F. I was quick, in-and-out of the aid station. Maybe a little too quick, because I forgot to ask for ice for my bandanna.

Shortly after exiting, I saw a big tall older shirtless man with leathered skin and a huge white beard running towards me. "Is that Gordy Ainsleigh?!" I called out. "Not the same Gordy that I used to be" I think he said. We high-fived as we ran by each other. Gordy basically started Western States 100 as a foot race in 1974 by being the only runner when everyone else was on horse. He's a living legend!
photo credit: Suki
Coming to Cardiac #1 (mile 41), I was getting a lot warmer. I got my bandanna out and tied it around my neck, to help me be sure to remember to get ice. I was comfortable, though. I think all the running in the San Mateo, Foster City, Belmont area had helped me adapt to the heat. I was occasionally feeling some hot spots on my feet. I ran out of water for about 10 minutes. I recognized this course from American River 50 Mile and I knew I was getting close to the aid station. "Ron!" some guy shouts. "Loren!" I called back. Cool! He was in my running club but was also in the Quicksilver running club, and was volunteering here. Another volunteer behind a table and wearing aviator glasses, calls me by name and offers to help. This was probably Jill Cole, but I wasn't sure. I handed her my bandanna that was sewn together to form a triangle with two openings on either side, and she quickly stuffed lots of ice in. Thank you, Jill! Fueled up and cooled down, I was on my way up this very steep hill.

Coming into Overlook #1 (mile 44.5), I ran some of the steep road and passed a couple more runners. I felt some hot spots on my toes, and I was looking forward to patching up my feet. Overlook is a major aid station where pacers are first allowed to join their runners. It's quite a circus with tons of people and support. Dan Rhodes! My friend from the Coastside Running Club who had moved to Bend, OR, was there! He said he was pacing someone. I said that I wished I could run with him, and he said I should join them. That'd be fun, but I was on a mission, on my own schedule. I needed my drop bag.

I walked over to where they were laid out, and they were in rows, sorted by our bib #. I'm looking for #187. I get to the area where it should be. Hmm. It's not there. I looked over at a dozen bags before and after. I search the whole row. I'm starting to mildly panic, because I have two critical items in there -- another 20oz water bottle for the longest leg of the race that was coming up, and my good headlamp, to help me run the rougher trails at night. "Can anyone please help me find my bag?", I called out randomly to some crew people and spectators sitting around. Two people quickly started to help me. (Thank you!) She found my bag in a different row. Whew! I plopped down on the grass, with my legs spread out before me, and I felt twinges of cramps. Oh oh. I made a mental note to get more salt and water in me. Sunscreen. Lip balm. Anti-chafing cream on my toes. There were the beginnings of blisters. Oh oh. Got my headlamp and water bottle and arm sleeves. Just as I was leaving, there was Alan! Cool! We greeted each other briefly, but I was on my way out. I wouldn't see him again for the remainder of the race. Onward! I'm in 103rd place.

I was almost half-way done! In just 5.5 miles I would be at the halfway point. Then it would be just 20 miles to Claire! After 13 miles with her, I'd have a final 17 miles with Mor. I have a long ways to go, but I'm feeling pretty good and am getting this done. Jeff caught up to me at some point and it was good to run with him again.

No Hands Bridge #1 (mile 48.5). It was time to fuel up for the longest leg of 10.5 miles. With all three 20oz bottles filled, and plenty of food, I was on my way. I remembered that this next section is a big clockwise loop. I walked straight past a trailhead and past some porta-potties and then a guy carrying a bunch of ice said "You're going the wrong way!" Oops. I had't gone far, thankfully, but yeah, sure enough, I was supposed to take that trailhead. It was the exit and 22 miles later, I would re-enter this aid station from that same trailhead.

We had a big uphill hike, then a descent, then we crossed Hwy 49, with the protection of the police and volunteers. Thank you! I was running well and feeling good. I caught up to Jeff and we started chatting again. He then said he needed to charge his cellphone (?! or did I mis-hear?). He pulled aside and I continued on. I wouldn't see him again for the rest of the race.

I occasionally passed struggling runners. With the heat, it's common to have stomach problems and cramps. Also, injuries are fairly common. The miles trickled by, and I was drinking a lot. Worryingly, I was getting through my water quite a bit faster than I was getting through the miles. I had been eating an energy gel every 30 minutes plus taking a salt pill (S-Cap) every 2 hours, in addition to about 100 calories of solid food at each aid station and lots of Tailwind sports drink. At some point, all three bottles were dry. I might have 2.5 miles to the next aid station. I slowly caught up to another runner. I asked her if she had any idea how far it was to the next aid station. (Although my GPS watch tracks distance, it gets farther and farther off the official distance over time, and I hadn't carefully kept track of the drift.) She wasn't really sure, either, although she had run these trails many times she said. She had run out of water, too. We chatted about training techniques and she had a fascinating theory involving lots of cross-fit types of exercise plus track workouts. If that worked, that would save so much time! She claimed that this kept her healthy and led to faster times, too. (Jennifer Hemmen was the runner; maybe I can get more info about this from her some day.)

We passed a little sign on the side of the trail that said "Barb's Place". Jennifer said that this was a memorial to Barbara who had been running on this trail alone early in the morning, and had stopped to change a tampon, and was killed by a mountain lion. Wow. Intense. I looked this up. The attack happened in 1994; Barbara Schoener was 40 years old and that was the first direct killing of a person in California by a mountain lion in the 20th century.

Finally, finally, we rolled into the Auburn Lake Trails aid station (mile 59). This was familiar ground, where I had volunteered many times with my running club, for the Western States Endurance Run. Someone asked me if I had a drop bag. "Nope!" I quickly went through my routine -- I had my trash in my hand before I even arrived, and got rid of that. I got one bottle filled with water and one with sports drink. I grabbed some boiled potatoes, dipped them in salt, thanked the volunteers and I was on my way. I said goodbye to Jennifer and she shouted out something like "I'll catch you soon!"

In this next section, I felt really good. At some point, all the annoying pains with blisters disappeared, I had no soreness, and I just cruised along. I was passing a lot of runners. I felt so good, that I had to keep reminding myself that I had a long ways to go, and to not get carried away. And then shockingly, I heard some runners catching up to me. They weren't on my heels yet, but I sped up a bit. And then more. The sunlight was fading, but I was rock hopping. "Wait, this is crazy," I thought to myself. They were still catching up. "Would you like to pass?" I called out? "Yes, please", she answered. I pulled aside and the two of them raced past. "No way is that sustainable," I thought to myself. I felt a bit dejected at being passed for the first time in many hours, but I tried to stay focused.

I caught up to another pair of runners and I recognized Dan! "Is that Dan Rhodes?!" I called out. I would have liked to run with them for a while, but I was still moving quite a bit faster and I passed them on an uphill.

Twilight was upon us. I had been running for about 13 hours. I tried to pull my headlamp out of my pack while running, but it was in too deep. I quickly stopped and then was on my way again.

Finally, the smooth running ended abruptly. The course made a hard right turn straight up the side of the mountain. Wow. It was a tough hike. Almost immediately, I saw the guy who had raced past me earlier, doubled-over, as if he had puked. I felt bad for him; he had pushed too hard for some reason, like maybe to impress his pacer. "What is up with this trail?" I commented. "Yeah, it's a bitch" the pacer said. I continued hiking up the steep hill.

The trail got much rockier and much harder to run on. I started counting the seconds that I could run consecutively. "1, 2, 3, 4, 5". Step over some rocks. "1, 2, 3 ... 10, 11". Stop and walk up a big step. And on and on. Sometimes I could count up to 120 and then I stopped counting. This was really draining. I once solidly kicked a rock with my left foot, and all the force seemed to go into my big toe. I didn't fall, but my big toe throbbed and the toe nail hurt. That did some damage. I had to walk a bit to regain my breath and cadence. Onward.

I got to the Hwy 49 aid station (mile 67.5). Every aid station has been awesome. Thank you so much, volunteers! Just 3 miles to Claire! I was about on track for a 22:30 finish, although I knew that 23 hours was more realistic, because of the nighttime running plus likely worsening condition of my legs and feet. I was happy and feeling pretty good overall. Sometimes my little toe on my right foot hurt with a blister and I had other hot spots on my toes, but I decided I could make it to the finish without addressing these problems.

Finally, I descended on the same trail that I had hiked up hours ago and I entered No Hands Bridge #2 (mile 70.5). Mor!!! They had made it! Jennifer! Claire!!! Claire was bundled up in a jacket and gloves, while I was still in short sleeves and shorts. I quickly got refueled, grabbed a bite to eat, and we were on our way! (This was a no-crew aid station, so they couldn't give me anything, but pacers were allowed to meet their runners here.) I was in 60th place.

Claire and I started to catch up on the day as we crossed No Hands Bridge for the last time. The running was pretty easy and we cruised along. The stars were out on this clear night and we just enjoyed the scene and some nighttime running. We ran side-by-side on the fire roads and I ran in front on the single-track trail. By her standards, we were running slow, like 11 minutes a mile on the easy parts and hiking the steeper uphills. She had never run more than 9 miles at once, but we figured that with my slow pace, that she would be fine with 13 miles. Her mom would meet us at the next aid station to check in on us. Claire quickly warmed up and tied her jacket around her waist and took off her gloves.

My watch died.

As an aside, here's a mini-review of the Garmin Fenix 3 HR. It works well except for three major problems or shortcomings:
  • On a full charge, with the default settings, the battery lasted just over 16 hours. I need more! To be fair, this is exactly what is advertised for the normal setting. There's apparently a setting for trading off GPS sampling rate for battery life, but I don't really want to sacrifice accuracy. In forests, the GPS is already off by too much.
  • The wrist-based heart-rate detector is 100% useless for me. I've tried both wrists, on the inside and outside. When I can get any reading at all, it's impossibly low or impossibly high.
  • Getting gpx files into the watch, so that you can follow a course, is difficult or impossible. I guess Garmin wants a closed data ecosystem, and they don't want you to use data that came from other sources, like Google Maps or Strava. It's not easy, but I once got a 30 mile course copied over to the watch. I could not get a 100 mile Strava course copied over. (It would always fail, with the first 6MB copying over and then my computer reporting "0 bytes remaining", and just freeze there.)
Back to the race... 4 miles go by quickly and we arrived at Overlook #2 (mile 74.5). Jennifer handed me a delicious cold Starbucks mocha drink. Mmm.... I gave her my now useless watch and stuffed my mouth with something while Jennifer took a picture.

We're soon on our way. I was in 52nd place.

We cruised along well. I was running this faster than I had with my friends in previous years. At some point, I kicked a rock and stumbled and Claire instinctively put out an arm to help me. I wasn't going to fall, but that was sweet of her. We passed some more runners, some of who were really struggling. I've been there before. We wished them well. (The ones who were struggling had pacers and they were safe.)

Claire said that I seemed very coherent and that I was running well. That was nice to hear. I had been worried that I might be in really bad shape and that it would be kind of frightening for a 16 year old to see her dad like that.

At some point, I urinated again. It had been many hours and the urine was a somewhat dark yellow, but at least the volume was OK. I took another ibuprofen at some point, to try to stave off the soreness. In the cooler air, I prolonged the time between salt pills to be more like 3 hours.

This stretch seemed really long, until I consulted my laminated pace chart and realized that this leg was 5.5 miles, and not 4 miles like I had mis-remembered. A runner and his pacer roared past us. "Good job!" We finally cruised into Rattlesnake Bar #2 (mile 83.5). I gulped down some more delicious cold Starbucks cold drink (vanilla latte), gave Claire a hug goodbye, thanked my wife, refueled, and Mor and I began the steep hike up out of the aid station. I was in 46th place.

We immediately passed the runner who had passed me minutes ago, laying on the ground. Mor asked if he was OK and he said he was stretching his IT band out. His pacer was standing over him. I wouldn't see them again.

The trails got much tougher and rockier. This section is known as The Meatgrinder. I didn't think so much of it so many hours previously, but now, it was hard (and maybe more uphill?). It always felt like we were going uphill! I didn't feel like talking much. Mor stayed in front and I just mentally hunkered down and tried to keep moving and eating and drinking.

We got to Horseshoe Bar (mile 86.5). The next leg is the last long leg, of 9.5 miles. I filled all 3 water bottles and got out of there quickly.

This part was hard. I was breathing lots of dust being kicked up by Mor ahead of me. But he was scouting out the trail and alternating between shouting encouragement and compliments. I was very grateful you were there, Mor! Thank you! So, I breathed in through my nose, which I imagined filtered out some of the dust. I never coughed or developed breathing problems.

We occasionally passed other runners. When I was trudging up a hill, I would catch a glimpse of a headlamp behind me and I thought someone was going to pass, and I said so to Mor, but they never quite caught me.

At every intersection, I was on the lookout for that unmarked left turn. We crossed an intersection and Mor continued straight, but I caught a glimpse of a flag to the left. I turned left and called out to Mor. That was a close call. This was probably the same intersection that I had recognized as a problem spot so many hours earlier in the day.

The terrain flattened out and I saw signs of civilization. We were getting close to the last aid station. We greatly sped up, which was a bit premature, since we still had at least 5 miles remaining. We cruised into Granite Bay #2 (mile 96). Their decorations were awesome and they were super-cheerful and helpful at this early hour of around 2:40am. With only 4.5 miles remaining, Mor offered to fill my bottles and I asked that each be half-way filled, one with water and one with sports drink. I grabbed a bite to eat and then was on my way. I think we passed a runner at the aid station. Mor handed me the bottles. They were both completely full. I poured off a bunch of water into some bushes as we started running again.

We occasionally heard cheering and the announcer at the finish line!

We ran too quickly on the easy terrain. I misremembered what this part of the course was like. We soon hit some big hills and I was back to hiking. I was really really ready to finish this thing. A runner up ahead was slowly walking along. I asked Mor that we pass him together, so as to not ask him to step aside twice. We ran past him and wished him luck. "We're almost there. Good job."

We got to the top of this huge long retaining wall! It was flat and the finish line was in sight, probably less than a half mile away! We poured on the speed. Faster and faster. Sprinted across the field to the finish line! Wow!!! 23 hours 1 minutes 20 seconds! I got my beautiful silver belt buckle and a finisher's medal. Thank you, race organizers and volunteers! I was in 41st place.

I felt unsettled and quickly got the chills and started shivering. Mor handed me a cheese quesadilla, but I didn't feel like eating it. I would normally have preferred to wait and see friends finish, but I really wanted to get out of there and lay down. We needed a ride. I didn't want to wake Jennifer and Claire up at the hotel, so we scheduled an Uber but then a crew member for someone offered us a ride. Thank you!

Jennifer took a quick photo of my feet before I took a shower and went to sleep:

What went well
  • I didn't get injured, or fall, or go significantly off course. (I started going the wrong way at No Hands Bridge the first time, but a volunteer turned me around.)
  • I had a good night's sleep the night before, with some help from half a melatonin and two Benadryl (diphenhydramine).
  • I paced myself well and I never fell into a deep slump. I think it helped that I took the first 18 miles so easy.
  • Although I got tired after about 20 hours, I never became deeply sleepy.
  • I ran 13 miles with my daughter! That was so cool. I was reasonably coherent and we had a good time from miles 70.5 to 83.5.
  • My good friend Mor led the way for the final 17 miles, and I finished with a sprint to the finish!
  • My equipment and clothes did well enough on the whole. Carrying a small stick of anti-chafing cream was great.
  • My hydration went pretty well and I did OK with the heat.
Things to improve
  • My toes didn't quite agree with my shoes, and I got a few nasty blisters. I want to try the Injini toe socks again and maybe a different brand of shoes for the longest runs.
  • I wish I had a good headlamp that could last for about 10 hours. My Petzl lasted about 7 hours.
  • I wish my Garmin Fenix 3 HR watch had lasted longer. It only lasted to about 16 hours, to mile 71. I was in a good rhythm, but it still would have been comforting to know more accurately how far I was from the next aid station, for example.
  • I forgot to bring gaiters (to cover the top of my shoes around my ankles) but I didn't seem to need them. I got two small pebbles in my shoes, but then I didn't feel them any more. Not having gaiters made getting my shoes off and on easier and faster that one time. Hmm. Still, it's probably overall better to wear them.
Other data
  • Official results. It appears there were 354 starters, 251 official finishers, 1 unofficial finisher (my friend Paula!) who missed the final cut-off, and 102 runners who dropped somewhere along the course. I finished in 41st place (39th male).
  • My Garmin results, which go until mile 71 when my watch died.
  • Took 4 ibuprofens, spread evenly over the 2nd half.
  • I lost track of how many S-Cap salt pills I took, but it was probably around 10.
  • I lost my notes, but I weighed about 168 lbs before the race, and 167 when I got back home.
I liked the swag. There was a short-sleeve tech t-shirt, too.

Thank you
I want to thank my wife for being so supportive. I'm super grateful to my daughter for actually wanting to run with me. I'm grateful to Mor for helping me again, in one of these crazy ultramarathons. I'm grateful to all of the volunteers and to race management for putting on such a superb event. Thank you, all!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Run 10K -- 38:26

We had a good family race day, where the three of us ran the 10K. I was happy to break 40 minutes, considering that my speed isn't where it was a year ago (and may never be). Claire had a cross-country meet the day before, so she took today easy. Jennifer had not been running much.

We all enjoyed going to the Pumpkin Festival afterwards.

Our times:

  • Ron -- 38:26
  • Claire -- 55:19
  • Jennifer -- 1:13:25

Here are the results.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Half in Half Moon Bay Half-Marathon -- 1:26:14

I was actually credited with 4th place, although at the time, I thought I had finished 5th!
I enjoyed running the Half in Half Moon Bay half-marathon this morning. It was a good challenge and was fun seeing lots of friends, especially from the Coastside Running Club. The race organization was superb -- good job, Jen Dill and all the volunteers! I haven't raced a flat paved half-marathon in 9 years, so I wasn't sure how it would go. My goal was to run at a faster pace than I used to be able to run marathons, and thankfully I achieved that! I also managed an age group win and 4th place overall.

Update: I was featured as "Athlete of the Week" in the HMB Review! Fun!
Finishing strong.
Random notes:

  • #85 and another runner joined at Mirada Rd. Maybe they had accidentally gone off course briefly?
  • At both turn-arounds, I thought I was in 5th place. People told me I was in 5th place. I don't know what happened that caused me to finish in 4th!


Saturday, July 28, 2018

Pacifica Trail Run 9K -- First Place!

What a fun family race day! Jennifer, Claire, and I all ran the Pacifica Trail Run 9K (put on by Pacific Coast Trail Runs). I think this is the first time that all three of us ran the same race on the same day. We all had a good race in the cool overcast skies, doing the steep hilly Valley View and Hazelnut trails for 5.62 miles and 1356 ft of elevation gain. It was a small race of 60 or 70 people, but still I was surprised that we all came in first place in our age groups and I even managed an overall win! Claire was the first finisher of anyone, boy or girl, under 19 years of age. My time was 43 minutes 13 seconds, Claire's was about 1 hour 3 minutes, and Jennifer finished in 1 hour 13 minutes. I received a $75 credit towards future races.

I had one funny encounter during the race. Coming down the Hazlenut Trail, with maybe a mile to go, I thought I was comfortably in the lead but I imagined that I heard someone behind me. On a switchback, I got a glance at someone almost on my heels! I didn't get a good look, but I didn't recognize the guy. I dug deeper and pushed hard on the straightaway, hoping to pull ahead a bit. On the next sharp switchback, I saw that it was a woman and she was about 30' behind me. I kept pushing hard. Finally, finally, I crossed the familiar footbridge and turned right into the picnic area. I had it! I aimed for some cones I saw. As I approached the "finish line", people were yelling and waving at me. In my haste, I missed the huge inflatable arch. I briefly thought to myself -- so this is how I will get passed at the very end! I made a mad dash back and around the ribbon and then sprinted through the arch. Whew! A few seconds later, the woman who was chasing me continued along the trail without turning towards the finish. She wasn't in the race! She came up to me a short while later saying "Ron?" and I sort-of recognized her as one of our running club scholarship recipients, Sammy Hamilton. She introduced herself and I had a good laugh. She's basically an elite runner just doing her own workout which happened to coincide with the race.

I quickly got in the lead, and managed to stay there!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Getting Over Plantar Fasciitis

I ran 283 miles in May 2017, which is when my PF first started appearing.

I first did whatever treatments I could find on my own, like one-legged heel dips on the edge of a stair, and massage, and stretching. This got me through the training leading up to Tahoe Rim Trail 100 (race report), and I had no problems at all with my heel in that race. But two weeks later, I raced the Devil's Slide Half Marathon (race report), and I think that worsened the injury.

This was July, 2017. Runs for the month: about 215 miles.

Again, I tried first to cure myself, and I was taking more and more time off from running, but I wasn't getting better. Overall, I was getting worse. Previously, the PF hurt in the morning and I would stretch it out, but now, it was hurting throughout the day, like after sitting for a while. Also, I developed another probably related problem with a hip/butt/groin muscle tightness on the same leg that had PF. I was getting sad at losing so much hard-earned physical fitness, too, and my weight was climbing up.

Nov. 7 -- I met with a podiatrist, Dr. Krisdakumtorn, aka, Dr. Kris. We agreed to try the least invasive treatments first. Here are the instructions I received.
You have been diagnosed with Plantar Fascitis. The following recommendations for treatment have been given:

1. Ice massage the area 1-2 times per day for 15 minutes at a time. This works best by rolling your arch and heel over a frozen water bottle with firm pressure.

2. Stretch your Achilles tendon and plantar fascia 1-2 times per day especially with the first steps in the morning or after rest (i.e. sleep, sitting, etc.) You may elect to do 3 sets of 15-20 seconds each or one longer set of 60 seconds. Each stretch is meant to be done slowly without any quick, sudden movements.
 a. While lying down with a straight knee, use a towel around the forefoot to pull and stretch the calf
 b. Runner's stretch #1: Lean forward with one foot in front of the other, an extended or straight back knee, heel on the ground and toes pointed straight ahead or intoed. You should feel a stretch in the upper calf area if done correctly.
 c. Runner's stretch #2: Similar to above but with a flexed or bent back knee. You should feel the lower calf stretch if done correctly.
 d. Place the bent toes on a wall or vertical surface with the heel on the ground and then bring the knee/leg forward until the leg is parallel with the wall.

3. Shoes should be supportive and replaced regularly especially if doing a lot of mileage. The shoes should have a firm heel counter, bend only at the level of the big toe joint area and not be overly flexible.  Running and/or walking shoes should be replaced every 350-400 miles of running/walking. While treating your plantar fascitis, you should avoid any barefoot walking and using any overly flexible shoes like slippers, flip flop type sandals, old shoes, etc. For running shoes, you may want to consider such brands as New Balance, Asics, Brooks, Mizuno, etc. For dress shoes, you may want to consider Rockport, Ecco, Munro Sport, Clarks, SAS, etc. It should be noted that there isn't one specific brand that is perfect for everyone. You should select a store with a good selection and try on several different brands/styles at the end of the day when your feet are most swollen and/or tender.

4. Supportive devices are often helpful in treating plantar fascitis. You may elect to try a generic OTC device such as Superfeet or Birkobalance. In most cases, this is sufficient to help alleviate the pain and prevent its recurrence when used regularly.  In some cases, a prescriptive custom foot orthosis will be necessary.

5. Night splints can be a helpful treatment modality for the morning pain if used appropriately. These can be found at Footwear Etc. or online at Amazon.com. There are various types which range from a rigid type to a sock type. The biggest issue with these consistent use as patients sometimes find it difficult to sleep with the splints on overnight.

6. Plantar fascitis can often be treated successfully with the above mentioned program. Should symptoms recur or fail to improve satisfactorily, you may need other treatment modalities such as a steroid injection, night splint, physical therapy, custom orthotics, extracorpeal shockwave treatment or surgery.

7. Schedule a follow-up if your symptoms do not improve by 50% in 4-6 weeks.

I bought the inserts the same day. (Superfeet Carbon.) I borrowed the night-splint from a friend. I wore shoes all the time. I did the stretches. It didn't seem to get any better.

November runs: 79 miles.

12/13, 12/20, and 12/27 -- Shockwave Therapy
I went back to Dr. Kris and began three treatments of shockwave therapy, once a week for three weeks. This involved him identifying the most tender and painful spot on the bottom of my heel, and then using an electric jack-hammer-like device to administer 3000 pulses. This device rapidly hammered my heel with a small steel cylinder. This hurt like nothing I had ever experienced before; it was excruciating, but kept telling myself that I was making myself better. The first treatment was the worst but the 2nd and 3rd weren't as bad. There was no bruising and very little swelling from the treatment, and I was able to walk out of the office just fine.

The theory behind the shockwave treatment was that it would break up scar tissue, and that after three or four weeks, I could expect to see results as the fascia healed.

December runs: 16 miles. :-(  (There's a chance that I missed a short run or two from being recorded by Garmin.)

January, 2018 -- I could barely run 5 slow (10-11 minutes per mile) flat miles. I'm at my all-time worst since I began running regularly in 2004. My heel is bothering me still, but the main limitation is now this groin/hip/butt tightness, where it starts to hurt and then eventually spasms and cramps. The PF would hurt in the mornings and would interfere with driving (because it's my right heel). I tried to avoid any driving over a half hour. But throughout this month, the PF was getting better and my hip/groin/butt problem was becoming the limiting factor.

January 30 -- first day of physical therapy.
I met with Meghan Taff (I highly recommend her) and she taped my foot and gave me some exercises.
The taping seemed to provide immediate PF relief. She used Rocktape H2O which can stay on for 3 or 4 days, even with a long run and showers. The technique she used was to apply two strips from the forefoot to the heel, to be applied while you bend the foot upwards (toes towards the shin). The theory she gave me was that when the foot was relaxed, the tape would pull away from the heel and increase blood flow to heal the damage.

I met her once or twice a week up through the end of March and she gave me various exercises.for PF:
* One-legged heel dips on the edge of a stair, 20 times slowly on each side, twice a day.
* Stretching and massage, especially first thing in the morning.
* Using a roller on the heel.
* A kind of foot scrunch.

I stopped using the night splint because I couldn't detect any improvement from it and it was annoying.

January runs: 99 miles.

February (137 miles) and March (183 miles) -- I finally am seeing huge improvements. I build up my mileage in preparation for the Boston Marathon. My goal is just to finish the race reasonably comfortably. My fitness and speed are significantly worse than a year ago. The PF is "pretty much" gone. I still feel it lightly sometimes, but it is far better.

April 16 -- Boston Marathon. (Race report.) It's the slowest I've ever raced a road marathon, but my heel doesn't bother me at all.

June, 2018 -- I think my PF is 98% cured. I get lazy with the exercises and I mostly stopped taping my heel, and I still feel it slightly in the mornings.

So, what were the keys to getting cured? Probably the shockwave therapy was #1 followed by the physical therapy. That's my best guess of what worked for me.

Hope this helps!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Boston Marathon -- Injury Comeback

Well, that was quite an experience! I did manage to finish the Boston Marathon, taking 3 hours 35 minutes 32 seconds to cover the 26.2 miles. And even though this was the slowest that I've raced a road marathon, I'm grateful that I was healthy enough to be able to do this at all.

Due to plantar fasciitis and a related hip / thigh muscle tightness problem that had been bothering me since the previous May, I could barely run 5 slow flat miles at a time in January. With a combination of physical therapy and the help of a podiatrist, I got over my problems enough to start training in earnest in February. But that's not enough time to get back into top-shape by April 16. So, my expectations were low and were lowered further by the ominous weather prediction.

The night before the race, I had a nice Itallian dinner at Lucca's North End, with my friend Amanda and her boyfriend Mark. Reservations were at 6pm, which worked out fine. Had a delicious cannoli at Bova's Bakery afterwards.

I took a private bus, thanks to Amanda, which paid off big-time. We could stay warm and dry and have access to a toilet for the long wait for the race. Finally, Cesare (another friend from my running club) and I worked our way over to line up at the end of Wave 1.

During the race, the weather was truly awful, with rain the entire time, sometimes coming down in absurd sheets with strong cold winds in our faces. My hands never did warm up and my fingers were mostly numb from the cold, to the point that I had difficulty eating my energy gels. On top of the ridiculous weather, I apparently grossly miscalculated how much water I should drink for breakfast, and I had to stop five times at porta-potties, which added precious minutes. I started slowing down around mile 18 due to soreness and low-energy. My training just wasn't sufficient for my goal pace.

Still, I was mostly happy during the race and I'm grateful to the thousands of volunteers and tens of thousands of spectators, who braved the terrible weather while standing around handing out drink cups or cheering us on. Thank you, race supporters!

I was again impressed with the love and support that Bostonians have for the marathon.
Boston Commons three days before the race -- weather was gorgeous

My room at the College Club of Boston

Along he Charles River, three days before the race

Random thoughts and encounters:

  • The volunteer who gave me my bib had her nails painted blue and gold (the marathon's colors) and said that this was her 26th year volunteering! Wow!
  • Woke up around midnight because I couldn't stop thinking about whether my garbage-bag poncho should hav arm holes are not. Argh. I was worried that a police officer would think that I looked too suspicious. So, I got up and cut arm holes.
  • Race morning breakfast: decaf mocha (8 oz?), small water bottle (16.9 oz), plain water (8 oz?), for a total of about 33 oz, between 6am and 10am. I ate two bagels with peanut butter.
  • Left the bus around 9:30am, went down the wrong road and was asked to turn back. Found our way. By the time we passed the last chance for porta-potties, I thought maybe it was getting late and plus I didn't feel the need, but in hindsight I should have stopped the last time.
  • Running at the end of the Wave 1 (corral 8) seemed to be less crowded than around mid-way (like corral 4). Given the very cold temperatures, I really didn't need to carry a water bottle. I ended up drinking the whole thing. Oddly, I still felt thirsty towards the end even though I had peed so much and my urine was clear.
  • In my hotel I met Dan, a 63 year old retiree from San Francisco. He said he worked 10 or 12 hours a week at REI, but had worked 20 years at HP before that. He ran the race and stayed in the same hotel (College Club of Boston). Lives in San Francisco, on Russian Hill. Recommended the Jungfrau Marathon and the Jack and Jill Marathon.
  • Met Muhammed on the bus on the way to Logan for my flight back. He said he works at Dunkin' Donuts (as a recently promoted manager), and is from Morocco. He was incredibly friendly. He asked me about the race and we talked about healthy living.
  • I met Linda in the Logan airport. She said she was from Bethel Church, in Redding, CA. Does "lay on hands" healing and was here leading a group of young people to a large ministry gathering.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Post-injury 5K -- 20:07

Claire and I had a good muddy 5K race this morning. Thank you, Pacifica Runners!

This is my first race since last July, because I've been dealing with a couple of injuries (plantar fasciitis and a hip problem). So, even though I'm a lot slower than I was a year ago, I'm just happy to have a fast pain-free run!

Claire came in 1st-place girl (17 and under) and I came in 1st-place adult male (way way older than 17). It was a small race, but still, it's fun to win! We each won a $40 gift certificate to A Runner's Mind (a running store). Nice!