Sunday, August 07, 2022

Tiki Trot 5K -- 17:50


This distance is such a lung-buster! It was fun seeing so many friends and I even managed to convince my daughter and her boyfriend to join. I tried to not start too fast and I held it together reasonably well. Surprisingly, I was the fastest guy this time, gradually pulling away from a fast high-schooler who was probably a third my age, lol. I managed to barely beat my all-time personal record for this distance, set on this course a year ago, by about 6 seconds.

This race unfolded in an unusual way. The kid who raced to the front slowed down suddenly at about the 0.5 mile point, in order to adjust his ear pods and his phone! I passed him at that point and took the lead. Another very fast-looking kid was on my heels. I checked my watch every minute or so, to glance at the average pace for the whole race so far. There is a bit of downhill at the beginning, but I didn't want to go under 5:32 or so, and that's about where I hit the first mile.

At the turn-around, 2nd place was maybe 10-15 seconds behind me. It's fun to see all of the other runners in the race, since the entire course is an out-and-back. We encouraged each other. Surprisingly, the kid who led us all at the beginning was walking! I shouted some words of encouragement like "You can do this, man!".

I was breathing really hard. At one bend in the course, I glanced behind me a bit, just to be sure no one was sneaking up on me. There was no one in sight. I had this. Finally, I could see the finish line and I pushed extra hard. Hands in the air! Woo hoo! 2nd-place was about a minute behind me.

I got to cheer on all of the finishers. My friend Lauren won the women's race. Congratulations, Lauren!

Random data:

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Pacifica Foothills Half-Marathon -- 3rd place

It took me 1 hour 48 minutes of hard running to complete this very hilly and rocky 13.3 mile course with 3,100' of elevation gain. That was good for 3rd place male and 1st in my age group. My running buddy Lauren Matheou kicked butt as usual and earned 2nd place female and 2nd place in her age group. Aaron and Ross are in my little group of regular running partners, too, and Aaron won the 30K and Ross came in 2nd place in the 30K.

It was fun seeing so many friends from the Coastside Running Club and Tuesday Night Run Club:

I saw friends from Pacifica Runners and Belmont Runners, too.

I felt like I ran well and that I gave it my all. I probably started a little fast, as I led the race for about 2/3rds of the way up the first ascent to the top of Montara Mountain. I felt very fast on the decent. On the Valley View loop, I felt like I was struggling a bit on the ascent and I could tell that 3rd place was catching up; he passed me by the time I finished this loop. I ran every step up the seemingly endless switchbacks of Hazelnut Trail, and then crushed the descent to the finish, staying in 3rd place. It was fun passing the 30K runners who had started 15 minutes before us. I carried 20 oz of sports drink which was just enough -- I didn't need to stop at the aid station.

I didn't trip or fall or have any problems navigating the course. I could have easily run the course without ribbons because I'm so familiar with these trails.

My official time was 1:49:53 but they seemed to have added a minute to everyone. My watch showed 1:48:40, from start to finish. Lauren reported a similar anomaly.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Western States 100 -- 23:19:17


This was the experience of a lifetime. I'm so grateful to have been able to participate in this race, and for the incredible volunteers, and for the support and encouragement of friends and family, and for my training partners, and for a wonderful coach, and to my two pacers, Rachael and Lauren. I'm grateful that my wonderful wife supported my training and was my one-woman crew. I'm grateful to have been physically able to take on and overcome this epic challenge. And I earned that silver belt buckle, by finishing in under 24 hours! It took me 23 hours 19 minutes 17 seconds to cover the 100.2 miles, with 18,000' of gain, 23,000' of descent, rocky terrain, and near hundred degree heat. I didn't get injured or go off course or trip and fall. Mostly, the race went really well.

This was my 8th hundred miler, and 42nd ultramarathon. (I have also run 33 road marathons and many other shorter races.)


Western States Endurance Run -- it's not just the oldest 100 mile foot race in the world. It's a prestigious, competitive, and incredibly well-supported event that covers beautiful and difficult trails, with steep ascents and steeper descents, and often very warm weather in the canyons, from Olympic Valley to Auburn, California. It has an incredibly loving running community that supports it, with 1,500 volunteers who do everything from clearing the trail in the months beforehand, to organizing aid stations, to ensuring our safety.

Getting into this race is difficult, as there are many more accomplished runners who wish to enter than are allowed. Only 369 runners, on average, are allowed and in the most recent lottery, there were 6,208 applicants. I managed to get into the race in 2013, but was injured when I started. It took years of qualifying and applying before I got in again. This was possibly the opportunity of a lifetime! So, I did everything I could think of to make this race a success.

Training is more fun with friends and a coach!

Considering the importance of this race to me, I hired a coach for the first time. I wanted to be as well-prepared as I could while still staying healthy. I happened to have four friends who have all used Maxx Antush as their coach. My friend Alan credited Maxx with preparing him for an amazing improvement in the hundred mile distance, and that pushed me to reach out to Maxx. Maxx is selective about taking on new clients and he asked mutual friends about me. I'm glad I passed the test! I felt highly-motivated, healthy, and with a good "base" of miles, having run my fastest hundred milers the year before, as well as my fastest 5 km races. Also, I had the time and family support to train hard. My daughter was off to college and I only work 30 hours a week from home, so I felt like I could give the training the priority that I wanted to.

Just as importantly, I had some friends who I convinced to join me for many of these runs. We started a WhatsApp group to coordinate the five of us -- me, Lauren, Ross, Justin, and Aaron. We were all of similar ability and could push each other. Between them and the coach, this was the most fun I've had training for a race, and I have run a lot of races! Thank you, all! And thank you for listening to weeks and weeks of talking about Western States -- if I was relieved to no longer need to talk about it, I can only imagine your relief!

Ross, Lauren, and me

Lauren and me

Justin, Lauren, and me

Tuesday Night Run Club, shirtless division

Race Week

I stayed in South Lake Tahoe for 8 days prior to the race, to help acclimate to the altitude, but mostly because I had a credit at an Airbnb and I love Lake Tahoe in the summer.

The view near Tahoe City

Jennifer (my wife) joined me two days before the race, taking a bus from Sacramento, so that we would only have one car in the area.

The day before the race is exciting, with so many accomplished runners checking-in and getting their bibs. I felt like a VIP! I met with the organizers of two medical studies that I was participating in, and had a detailed heart analysis done. Everything is fine and I show heart adaptations of a typical endurance athlete. My resting heart rate was 46 beats per minute, which I think is good.

We grabbed some food for dinner at a grocery store. Bran muffins looked appealing, so I had 3 of those plus a handful of Pringles for dinner. I had been trying to avoid fiber for the two days prior to the race, in order to reduce the likelihood of needing to poop during the race. I've been informed that bran muffins have lots of fiber, but somehow it all worked out!

3 water bottles or a hydration pack? This was the last big decision, the night before the race. I asked Jennifer to please help me go over the pros and cons. I ended up choosing to take a lighter-weight running vest (Ultimate Direction AK) because it covered less of my back and I thought it might breathe better, and the 3 bottles would be enough for the longest two sections between aid stations -- 10.3 miles from the start to Lyon Ridge, and 8.6 miles between Red Star Ridge and Duncan Canyon. This proved to be a life-saver of a choice, but not for the reasons I thought!

2:45am, the alarm went off. I was sleepy. I had tossed and turned it seemed, most of the night. I wasn't anxious, but my legs were restless and had been for 4 or 5 days. I suspect that the taper was responsible and that my legs were complaining that they were not getting beat-up enough!

I quickly ate breakfast -- 8 oz instant coffee (sweetened), small bowl of oatmeal, large chunk of bread, and maybe 5-6 Pringles chips.

Soon, I was at the start area in Olympic Valley! It was hard to believe that the race was finally really happening! After one last bathroom break, and a last couple of photos, an announcer started the countdown.

I positioned myself about in the middle of the pack. I didn't want to start too fast! But then I saw that my watch had timed-out, waiting for me to start recording the run. So, in the final seconds before starting the race, I had to quickly get my watch to sync with the GPS satellites and select the Western States course (so that I would automatically be alerted if I went off course), and start recording my position with GPS. Crisis averted. I jogged across the start line and the race was on!

The Race

The first four miles are a steep climb underneath ski lifts, mostly on a gravel road. Artificial lights lit our path until the pre-dawn light appeared. Headlamps were not necessary. Towards the top we got onto a single-track trail that had the steepest climb of the whole race, with the possible exception of the knotted rope at mile 78. This trail was as steep as the steepest trail I normally run or hike on at home, the Alta Vista Trail. This was quite the warm-up!

Wow, it was so beautiful in the dawn light. I glanced back at Lake Tahoe and took in the vistas. But the bright sunlight foretold of a very warm day ahead.

My pacing strategy was to feel at ease and to focus on getting towards the end in reasonably good shape. I wanted to address problems like blisters or chafing early on, and to do my best to stay hydrated and fueled. I had an aggressive 22 hour finish time break-down taped to two water bottles, that I could check when I entered aid stations. I used the site Ultra Pacer to do the predictions because their modeling seems very accurate and it worked well for me at Rio Del Lago the previous November.

Lyon Ridge aid station, mile 10.3 -- I was feeling good! I quickly got refueled. I was about 15 minutes ahead of schedule. The bright sunlight occasionally made my head feel warm. I thought about a race report I had read recently where a friend (Janeth Siva) had used a bottle of ice cold water to drip onto her head. Well, I had three 20oz bottles, maybe I should use one of them just for keeping my head cool? Sounds good!

Red Star Ridge aid station, mile 15.8 -- all systems "go"! I got one bottle just for cold water. I grabbed some food, too, like a handful of potato chips.

To help me remember to eat regularly, I pressed the lap timer on my watch each time I left the aid station. Since I always grab some food at the aid stations, I could easily check when 30 minutes had passed and then it was time for another 100 calories or so. I would drink sports drink almost exclusively.

Duncan Canyon aid station, mile 24.4 -- I was 36 minutes ahead of schedule, but I felt good. I think I got a sponge bath here and ice packed around my neck. They were so helpful and efficient! This is where I dropped out of the race in 2013, unable to run and unable even to walk without bad pain. Every step beyond this aid station was an accomplishment! I was so grateful to be healthy!

Robinson Flat, mile 30.3 -- I was getting warm. I was soaked from sweat and from the ice melting in my bandana around my neck and from dripping water on my head. Somewhere around here, I was starting to feel the beginning of blisters and I re-applied RunGoo on my toes. I would end up taking my shoes off a total of four times. I was 30 minutes ahead of schedule.

I think my watch alerted me to going off course at the Robinson Flat aid station. When this happens, the watch (Coros Apex Pro) shows the course with my position along the course. Apparently, the aid station position deviated just a bit from the race course GPX file that I had downloaded onto the watch. This was reassuring, that my watch was not going to let me silently run off course! There would be maybe 10 other alerts throughout the race, but in each case I was obviously on course.

Miller's Defeat, mile 34.4 -- I was 38 minutes ahead of schedule.

Dusty Corners, mile 38 -- 35 minutes ahead of schedule. I heard my name being called. Alex!!! He lives near me and was here to pace a friend.

Photo by Alex Conrad

I was feeling pretty good, but the miles were taking their toll. "Keep it together for Rachael. Finish strong with Lauren." This was my mantra, to remind myself to try to stay strong for the fastest easiest terrain of the race, for the last 38 miles, which I would run with my two pacers.

Last Chance, mile 43.3 -- 32 minutes ahead of schedule. The heat was severe, but thanks to being wet, my shirt was cool to the touch. I wasn't suffering.

The next climb up to Devil's Thumb was going to be the toughest in the race. It's super-steep, long, exposed, and hot. Right at the base of the climb, another runner and I recognized each other. Greg Miller!!! "Oh oh," I thought to myself, "if I'm seeing him here, he is not having a good day." Greg is a much faster runner than I am, but he had developed an ankle problem. I hiked past him on the uphill but I could sense that this climb was taking a lot out of me. My heart rate was getting high and I was probably getting dehydrated and depleted. Greg and I walked into this next aid station together.

Devil's Thumb, mile 47.8 -- I was 27 minutes ahead of schedule (when entering, I think). But I was not doing well. I decided to sit down just to try to recover somewhat and get some fluids in me and some food. I got moving again and left Greg behind in the aid station; I wouldn't see him for the remainder of the race.

Somewhere along the way I tried to fix up my feet again, by re-applying RunGoo anti-chafing cream.

El Dorado Creek, mile 52.9 -- I was about 14 minutes ahead of schedule. But I had another huge climb ahead.

Michigan Bluff, mile 55.7 -- I was about 12 minutes ahead of schedule. Coming into the aid station, I heard my name being called. Jo! Brady! Two friends from the Tuesday Night Run Club were there! Awesome!

Photo by Jo Ohm

I met up and ran with Allen, the very last person off the waitlist. He booked flights and flew from Santa Fe, NM, to Oakland to Reno, without knowing if he would get into the race! He found out when he landed in Oakland that he was accepted! My friend Brady was apparently the 2nd-to-last runner off of the waitlist but he declined the entry since his training had not been sufficient. So, Allen was here running next to me because Brady had declined. When the race director told this story in the pre-race meeting, the whole crowd cheered for Allen.

I had a decent climb and a nice descent with good views and one more big climb. I was getting close to having my first pacer! Exciting! I thought I recognized a voice. Is that Rachael? Yes!!! At the top of this big climb that empties on to Bath Road, there she was! I think I was 4 minutes ahead of schedule.

Rachael is all official and ready to go, as pacer #1!

I caught her up on how I was doing -- feeling OK, but getting dehydrated. We reiterated the goal for our time together -- to stay strong for Lauren who would bring me into the finish. I needed my drop bag at the Foresthill aid station which would have my headlamp and waist lamp.

Foresthill, mile 62 -- I was 7 minutes ahead of that aggressive 22 hour schedule. Not bad! As we approached the aid station, I recognized Kevin! Kelsey! Jon! Erika! The Belmont Runners were here! That was so awesome to see friends here. I think I got a little exuberant with my pace as we ran together into the aid station.

Only my pacer was allowed with me in the aid station and I tried to quickly get refueled. Then we all jogged to Jennifer at the car. I patched up my feet, drank a coffee drink (Starbucks mocha in a glass jar), said "hi" to my dad on the phone, re-applied sunscreen (wasn't necessary), and got going. My friends ran with me for as long as they were allowed, which is when the road ended in a trail.

I felt good, but was probably pushing the pace too hard. Rachael quickly did her job of getting in front of me and slowed me down. Soon, I would be the one slowing us down.

Cal-1, mile 65.7 -- I didn't need anything, so I kept moving.

Somewhere in the next section, I started falling apart. My heart rate was high and my breathing labored. I just couldn't keep up the same level of effort. I started walking gentle uphills. I kept eating and drinking, but at some point I had to pee, and my urine was a rather solid yellow.

Cal-2, mile 70.7 -- I was 18 minutes behind schedule. I grabbed some potatoes dipped in salt. Wow, I was falling apart. The shadows were long and it was getting harder to see in the forests. We turned on our headlights. Rachael played some music which was fun. She says:


So...we also listened to Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga, Maroon Five, and Britney Spears. Uptown Funk and Runaway Baby by Bruno Mars. Stay Stay Stay, Love Story, and Shake It Off by Taylor Swift. Born this Way by Lady Gaga. Moves Like Jagger by Maroon Five. Work B*tch by Britney Spears. Rise by Katy Perry. 


Cal-3, mile 73 -- struggling. But we were getting it done! I grabbed some tater tots -- mmm! Rachael was very encouraging. Next stop was Lauren!

Rucky Chucky (near), mile 78 -- I was 33 minutes behind schedule. Jennifer! Lauren! Angelo! (Angelo is Lauren's husband and is also a runner.) I got refueled (quarter of a grilled cheese sandwich) and then it was time for the exciting challenging river crossing!

Lauren and Jennifer

Jennifer and me

A volunteer put a glow light around my neck, in case I got washed down the river, I think.

A volunteer warned me to put away any electronics around my waist. At first, I thought my waist light would be fine, but the connection to the battery pack isn't waterproof, so I'm glad I put that in my pack.

I was instructed to hold on the rope with two hands. Here we go, across the Middle Fork of the American River, at night!

Wow, the water was cold. Ouch, as I discovered some chafing on my thighs. The water was frequently waist-high and the boulders were slippery. There were glow sticks next to the rocks and holes.

Then we used a knotted rope to climb out of the river about 20'. Then I took care of chafing and changed out my headlamp batteries.

Lauren asked if I had dry socks in my drop bag. No, I did not. "I'm a minimalist!" I cheerfully replied.

A brave volunteer helps me with my feet

I looked over, as I was sitting down, and there was elite ultrarunner Kaci Lickteig! She had won the race before. She got going before I did and I never saw her again. Maybe I should have ran with her early on and then I would be in better shape?

Green Gate, mile 79.8 -- I was a whopping 56 minutes behind schedule.

I was struggling with a high heart rate which I attributed to dehydration. My urine was a dark yellow. I was struggling with eating. I held a quarter of a grilled cheese sandwich for like 10 minutes and I just couldn't finish it.

Lauren started running quite a bit ahead of me, to encourage me to move faster. That helped! As we were getting closer to the finish, I could push harder, but 20 miles still felt like a very long ways to go.

Auburn Lake Trails, mile 85.2 -- Coastside Running Club's aid station! I was so happy to finally be here. I have so many friends who were volunteering. Jennifer was here, too! 

Suki handed me some chicken broth soup with rice which tasted great and which I easily ate, and which settled my stomach. She also gave me a shoulder massage! Talk about service!

Onwards! Maybe it was my imagination, but I think I was running a little more frequently. I checked in with Lauren occasionally about our projected finish time; she assured me that we were on target for finishing in under 24 hours. I wanted that silver belt buckle! (A bronze belt buckle is awarded for finishers after 24 hours but within the 30 hour limit.)

Quarry Road, mile 90.7 -- 1 hour 15 minutes behind schedule. Scott Jurek was working this aid station! He's a 7 time winner of Western States and a popular author. He's great and very kind. I thanked him for his books. 

Somewhere along the way, my Kogalla waist lamp died; the battery was unexpectedly dead. It was supposed to have lasted 6 hours. I realized later that I had put the light on "high" instead of "low" during the race because I had forgotten which setting to use for 6 hours. Oops. I still had my excellent headlamp, but I missed the wide bright light around the trail in front of me, to help see the rocks.

Pointed Rocks, mile 94.3 -- It's 3:01am. I was 1 hour 23 minutes behind schedule. I was tired and sleepy. This was getting really hard. Just keep up with Lauren.

My urine was a dark brown, like Coca Cola. I've never seen this before. Not good. I told Lauren this, and that I should stop by the medical tent after finishing. She agreed.

I picked up the pace a bit and passed a couple of runners. I was digging deep.

Robie Point, mile 98.9 -- 4:04am. It took over an hour for me to run and walk just 4.6 miles. Angelo! Lauren's husband had taken the time to get here super-early in the morning in order to run the last 1+ mile with me. It was very very likely that I would finish, but I was starting to feel the twinges of cramps.

I got some water and then we jogged / hiked up the last gentle uphill on the roads of Auburn and then we had a nice downhill descent. It was really happening! I was going to finish, and in under 24 hours! There was the high school! And there was the entrance to the track! Angelo pointed out the little step we had to cross, in case I tripped. That was very thoughtful, but I thought to myself, "I've probably encountered ten thousand tripping hazards in this race; I'm very accustomed to looking at the ground ahead of me!" Then we were on the track!

Jennifer! She was on the infield, taking photos and video.

I tried to run faster. In my mind, I was practically sprinting, but it was probably around 8 minutes a mile. The announcer called out my name and said that Jennifer was my crew and that I was a video game programmer and that Lauren was my pacer. The finish line is in sight!

Woo hoo! Hands in the air! I was so happy and relieved. I could hardly believe we had done it. I got my medal. The photographer motioned us to take a photo and I waived Lauren and Angelo over to me. Incredible!!!

I felt quite unsettled and then dizzy and so I lay down in the medical tent for like 30 minutes. Drinking a couple cups of chicken broth was very tasty and helpful and then Jennifer drove us to our hotel for a nap.

We came back a short while later, like at 11:30am, for the awards ceremony and so that I could get my Rucky Chucky Far drop bag and most importantly, so I could pick up my silver belt buckle!

Each belt buckle is hand-made (see here for how they're made). The bronze buckles are for finishing by 30 hours, and they say "100 miles". The silver belt buckles are for finishing in under 24 hours, and they say "100 miles" and "one day".  Between us finishing and the awards ceremony, our names are engraved on the back, along with the year.

I happened to sit next to Crispin, who I had met the week before. We had both volunteered at the same Tahoe 200 aid station.

Post Race

In the hours and days after the race, I felt immense happiness and gratitude and a sense of accomplishment. I think I basically executed the race as best as I know how. My training was excellent. This felt like an accomplishment of a lifetime.

It's a little scary how dehydrated I was. I've never seen my urine so brown/dark. After recovering and rehydrating for 48 hours, I was down 5.2 lbs from the week prior, and down 13.4 lbs since when I started training in earnest! The Tuesday morning after the race, at 154.0 lbs, was my lowest weight in my adult life!

What went well

  • I successfully finished this race, in very hot weather, and ran about as well as I know how to.
  • I didn't fall or go off course.
  • I didn't get injured.
  • I handled the heat surprisingly well. In training, I never ran in 90+ F weather, and my heat training consisted of warm baths, one hot car ride, and one hot nap in a tent in the afternoon sun. Yet I managed to keep myself cool enough in the race by staying wet and having ice in a bandana.
  • Rachael, my first pacer, got me to slow down, which probably helped me from getting too depleted too quickly. She entertained me with conversation and music.
  • Lauren, my second pacer, got me to speed up, which was probably a good strategy as I was nearing the finish, since taking risks then was safer. She ran a ways ahead of me which naturally pulled me along faster.
  • My crew (my wife) did great with the driving and helping me get around and meeting me at Foresthill and Rucky Chucky Near, and the finish.
  • Friends surprised me at several places along the course, which was a great morale booster.
  • I never had to poop during the race! For one of the two medical studies I participated in for this race, one was a microbiome study and I asked the researcher how to avoid pooping in a race and he suggested avoiding fiber for the two days prior to the race. That seemed to have worked!

Things to improve

  • I became dehydrated in the afternoon. I still felt the need to urinate every couple of hours, but my urine became a solid yellow and then a dark yellow and then brown. I felt forced to slow down, by labored breathing and a high heart rate. I started walking a lot of gentle uphills. I don't know how I could have handled this better. I took 3 salt pills throughout the day, to try to trigger a thirst response, but I was also getting a lot of salt by drinking sports drink almost exclusively plus eating salty foods. I was never thirsty.
  • I lost my appetite for about 5 miles, between mile 80 and 85. I'm not sure why. After eating a cup of rice and broth at mile 85, I was able to eat regularly again.
  • I accidentally set my Kogalla waist light to "high" mode at mile 78 (Rucky Chucky Far) and used up that battery much faster than expected, like in 3 hours instead of 6. So, running over rocks later on became more difficult. I still had a good headlamp.
  • I should have changed socks at Foresthill (mile 62) and at Rucky Chuck Far (mile 78). I hadn't anticipated that my feet would be wet for almost the whole race, not because of river crossings, but because of all the water and sweat pouring down my body. My feet made it to the end, but they had big white patches of skin on the bottom from the skin being soaked for too long. I would have been more comfortable if I had changed socks. Also, perhaps I should have applied some kind of anti-chafing water repellant product to the bottoms of my feet; I've never done that before, I know that this is a technique that other runners have used successfully. A guy I volunteered with at Tahoe 200, Crispin, also ran Western States, and his feet were in much better shape than mine -- he told me he applied some kind of Squirrel Nut Butter to the entirety of his feet, plus he changed shoes and socks 2 (or 3?) times.
  • I felt somewhat sleepy for a lot of the race. It's difficult to get a good night's sleep the night before, but I struggled somewhat the whole previous week because my legs were frequently restless.

Sleep notes

For the week leading up to the race:

  • Monday night: slept well. I was exhausted from the Tahoe 200 aid station and slept for about 10 hours.
  • Tuesday night: Slept well
  • Wednesday night: terrible night's sleep. Tossed and turned it seemed for a couple of hours. Took a shower at 2:30am.
  • Thursday night: Took 2 Benadryl and 1 Melatonin? Or was it 2 Melatonin and 1 Benadryl? My legs were restless and I had a hard time falling asleep. Woke up with the alarm at 7am, ate breakfast, got dressed for a run, but instead went back to sleep for an hour. I postponed my 10am morning science study appointment until 1pm.
  • Friday night: Took 2 GABA, 1 Benadryl. Tossed and turned and slept poorly.


  • Shoes: Hoka Tecton X. I wore these the entire time. It might have been wiser to swap out shoes once or twice, but I hadn't anticipated that my feet would be wet for almost the entire race. The shoes felt good and performed well. I wish they had a better grip, like the Speedgoat 5, but I liked how lightweight and springy they were. I imagined that the carbon fiber plates helped me with the uphills.
  • Watch: Coros Apex Pro. I love this watch! For the first time, I had a GPS watch that could last for the whole hundred miles. My Garmin Fenix 3 can last only about 16 hours. I still had a lot of battery life left (50%?) after the race. It's also very lightweight and it charges very quickly and it has a faster processor than my Garmin. It latches on to the GPS satellites much faster. I love the course navigation feature which alerts me when I'm off-course. My main gripe with the Coros is how easy it is to accidentally press the main control knob, so I have to use the lock-screen feature, which then makes starting/stopping workouts more cumbersome.
  • Socks: Injinji toe socks. They don't prevent blisters for me, but I think they reduce the chances of blisters, especially between toes.
  • A small tube of RunGoo anti-chafing cream. I carried this with me the entire time and was a big win. I didn't have any nipple chafing, for example. I took care of other chafing problems early on, so that they never became a problem.
  • A bandana, folded into a triangle, sewed with a terry-cloth inside and openings at two corners. This allowed ice to be easily added and then I tied it around my neck with a square not. The ice would last for over an hour and this kept me cool in 90+F heat, as the water slowly dripped down on to my shirt and evaporated. My shirt on my torso was cool to the touch, even in the warmest part of the day. I wish I had an easier way of fastening the two ends around my neck, like a velcro strip; it was sometimes a pain to untie and re-tie this knot.
  • Headlamp: Zebralight H600w Mk IV. This has the best power-to-weight ratio I could find in a headlamp. It's easy to use, rugged, comfortable, light weight, and water-proof. It can output 264 lumens for over 6.3 hours, with a peak brightness of an incredible 1400 lumens for 2.8 hours in cool weather. (At the highest output, the lamp can overheat which causes the brightness to automatically dim.) Its magic ingredient is that it uses high-energy-density rechargeable 18650 Lithium-ion batteries. I bought these Sanyo batteries. I bought this headlamp and battery combo for Lauren and Rachael, too, and they used this while pacing me. This is the charger we all have.
  • Kogalla RA light strip. I wore this on a very lightweight fanny pack. It's wonderful for seeing the rocky terrain in front of you and catching sight of flags on the sides of the trail or road. The battery connection is not waterproof, so be careful when crossing waist-deep rivers in the night! My main complaint with this light is that it's difficult to precisely set the light level so that the battery lasts a predetermined amount of time.

Random data

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Canyons 100K -- 13:00:39


I successfully completed the Canyons Endurance Runs 100K, taking 13 hours to run and hike 59.3 miles from Auburn to Foresthill. This is an exceptionally difficult course, with lots of steep rocky trails and 14,900 feet of elevation gain. The weather was pretty good for running -- clear and cool, with a predicted high of 70F in Auburn, but I still felt quite warm in some sections. The race organization and course markings were excellent. I enjoyed chatting with a few fellow runners. The scenery was frequently gorgeous. The last 10 miles were the most difficult of the course, with the steepest descents and steepest climbs and the longest time between aid stations, and the last two miles consisted of practically nonstop snow, puddles, and mud.

I did well in my age group of 50-59 males. Out of 72 starters, I came in 3rd. There were 528 runners in total who started the 100K, which is a lot for a trail race!


My main goal for the year is to do well at Western States Endurance Run 100 Mile, or "Western States", on June 25-26. Canyons 100K runs on most of the same trails as Western States, except in the opposite direction. And the timing of Canyons 100K works well too, being 9 weeks before Western States. Because Western States is so much more important, I considered Canyons 100K to be something in between a training run and a race; I didn't want to take any big risks!

Looking at results from past years, I thought that 12 hours at Canyons was an optimistic but achievable goal. So, I planned on pacing myself according to that.

Some friends from one of my running clubs, Tuesday Night Run Club, were volunteering at Canyons and one couple owned a house in Foresthill, right along the course! They kindly allowed me to stay there. Nice!

The view from the back deck

I set my alarm for 2:30am (ouch!) and was in bed around 9pm.

2:30am rolled around (yawn) and I tried to get breakfast and get ready as quickly and quietly (lots of people were in the house) as I could. I had 1.5 toasted bagels with peanut butter and a cup of coffee. Getting ready took a bit longer than expected and I was out the door at 3:30am. Somehow I thought to double-check that I had everything, and I was missing both water bottles! I had left them on the kitchen counter. Bottles recovered, I was soon on the road.

We had to park in a large parking lot about a mile away from the start line. There were shuttles buses going back and forth, to take us. I appeared to be the only one to wear a mask on the bus; I don't want to get Covid!

Soon, I was walking around the starting area. It was busy! I used a bathroom one last time and took off my warm clothes and put them into my finish line drop bag. I dropped off a 2nd drop bag for the Deadwood aid station, since some warm clothes were mandatory. (I wouldn't need anything from this drop bag.)

Soon, 5am was drawing near, I took some photos, got my Strava app recording along with a text message to Jennifer, and we were off!

The race starts in the streets of Auburn, which is good, because there were so many of us! There were huge inflatable course markers, stickers on the ground, volunteers, and police to guide us along. It was quite a production, like a big-city marathon! There were even a handful of spectators at this early hour!

After a little more than a mile we were on a dirt road, and then soon we got onto our first single-track trail. I felt cool and at ease. The trail was very runnable and was downhill. My first 4 miles: 9:25, 9:03, 8:29, and 8:01. It would be a long time before I had such easy running again!

It was shaping up to be a beautiful morning as the sun rose.

At the first significant bridge, which goes over the North Fork of the American River at mile 3.24, the entire center, from edge to edge, was a giant muddy puddle. 6 or 7 runners in front of me got onto a narrow curb and were shuffling sideways to avoid getting wet. I just leaped in and ran down the middle. It was fine!

I arrived at our first aid station, Mammoth Bar, at mile 7.3. There were plenty of volunteers and I had a quick refueling and was on my way.

Somewhere along here, I think, was when I first felt a sharp jab of pain on my big toe. I was wearing relatively new shoes, Hoka One One Speedgoat 5, that only had 9 miles on them. My feet were sliding around a bit too much and my big toe nail was catching or hitting on something inside the shoe. Hmm. Should I stop?

The scenery was pretty. We ran through this golden field.

At Driver's Flat, mile 15.3, I saw some of my friends! Jo! Brady! I quickly refueled and got going. Except a gradual feeling of pressure was building up. Crap. Oh well, it happens. So, at the next porta-potty I stopped and that was Unplanned Stop #1 for a #2.

After feeling more sharp jabs of pain on a big toenail, I stopped to tie my shoe tighter -- Unplanned Stop #2.

Soon, I had the sweetest fastest downhill miles of the race. Miles 16, 17, and 18 flew by in 8:30, 8:13, and 7:19.

At some point I was starting to feel warm, and I got out my bandana and soaked it in a river crossing. I soaked my hat, too. That felt good.

I joined up with a woman who had done this race before, and had completed Western States, and had done an Ironman triathlon (but she didn't like swimming!). We crossed a few rivers together, but I wasn't afraid to get my feet wet, whereas she was much more cautious. I started referring to her as "my river crossing buddy".

Eventually, I arrived at the next aid station, Cal 2, at mile 24.6. I was feeling pretty good all-in-all. I was starting to get warm, though.

I started getting big-toenail pain in my other foot. I stopped to re-tie my other shoe. Unplanned Stop #3.

In the next stretch, a fast moving runner caught up to me and passed me. He was the 1st place 50K runner! He had started an hour after me, but was moving so well.

A while later, the 2nd place 50K guy passed me. And then the 3rd.

I came across a runner walking back towards me, saying that she was confused about which way to go. There were maybe 4 of us in a group now, and I was the only one who had the course map on my phone. There was a sort-of fork in the trail, where a narrower trail branched off uphill to the left, but the more prominent trail continued straight. We were supposed to go straight. After a few minutes, I confirmed with everyone that we were on course. This was the only spot of confusion in the whole race, and if I had been by myself, I think I would have naturally gone the correct way without even checking my map. I didn't realize it at the time, but I apparently had accidentally paused my Strava workout on my phone, which led to confusion to my friends and family who were following my progress. I didn't catch the problem until a few miles later.

On a long uphill to Foresthill Aid Station, I was starting to feel hot and tired. I just kept on trying to eat and drink plenty. I came up to the 3rd place 50K runner who was walking. He turned around and asked me if I had any water! Oh oh! He had run too hard for too long without water. I took off the lid to my bottle and handed it to him. I had only 10 oz left. (I was carrying two 20oz bottles and I had finished off the other one already.) He was grateful and he was struggling. I told him he didn't have too long of a hike up this hill until the aid station. Maybe it was 2 miles? He drank half my water and I was on my way, leaving him behind. I soon finished off the bottle. It may have been more like 3 miles to the next aid station.

Foresthill! Mile 32.8! I was more than halfway done. It was exciting to be here, as this was the 50K finish line and there were lots of spectators. I quickly moved through the aid station, but then made Unplanned Stop #4 at a porta-potty; thankfully, this was my last bathroom break.

Entering the Foresthill Aid Station

I met up again with my river crossing buddy. We chatted as we continued through the streets of Foresthill and then we had a sweet dirt road downhill for a mile, crossed a river (I leapt into it, while she gingerly tried to keep her feet dry).  Then I hit a big 1000' climb.

Around mile 34, we had our toughest river crossing. The rapidly moving water reached to about my knees.

As I neared Michigan Bluff aid station, mile 38.7, I passed my friends' house that I had stayed at! What a great location! I don't recall now, but I think this aid station had only caffeinated sports drink.

The next leg from Michigan Bluff to Deadwood was frequently rough, rocky, and overgrown. I was dodging lots of poison oak, too. This was getting hard. I ran out of water again. After a 2090' 2.9 mile climb, there was a pretty scene.

I arrived at Deadwood. This is a loop and I saw a few very fit-looking women runners; I wondered if they were the leaders.

At the aid station, I asked for non-caffeinated sports drink, but they didn't have any. I refueled with what they had. Onward.

This was getting to be a slog. More climbing. But then I saw my first snow!

Back to Deadwood #2. I'm definitely getting tired. The air was getting cool. I refueled with more caffeine that I didn't want, but I thought it was best to have the calories with water. I grabbed a quesadilla quarter which tasted great.

On to the last leg! Unfortunately, it was 10 miles to the finish and this was the most difficult terrain. The downhill was so steep and rocky that it was hard to run. My big toenails hurt. There was this crazy damaged bridge we had to cross.

Then there was a big climb -- 1348' in 2.1 miles. Then more climbing. But I realized that I was going to finish this thing, eventually. Just keep moving.

I was wishing I had hiking poles. A guy passed me using two sticks as hiking poles! I picked up a stick that I thought would work, but it was too flexible and didn't work well. I soon tossed it. I ran out of water.

We turned off this dirt road into a single track trail. Stick-pole guy was going to miss this turn, but I pointed out the markers. He thanked me.

The final two miles were much flatter, but there was so much mud and snow, that it was tough going. Another runner was with me and we chatted for a while, which was helpful, because I was running on fumes and was getting desperate -- thanks, Joey, for the company! I was trying to figure out how far away we were from the finish, but that was tricky with my Strava workout messed up. I finally figured that we were about 15 minutes from the finish at our current pace. I told Joey this and that I wanted to pick up the pace; I wished him luck and left him behind.

There was a sharp left turn in the trail. I started hearing cheering. I was getting close! In a more open field, I heard my name called! Yay! I was focused on not slipping or tripping. Our bibs have our names in addition to our bib #s, so I didn't think that I necessarily knew who was cheering. But one of them sounded like Johanna. Hmm. Right as I was passing them, the guy reached out for a fist bump. Brady!!! Jo!!! I couldn't believe they were there; they had volunteered all day already!

The finish chute! Woo hoo! Hands in the air! Dana! (The owner of the house I stayed at also showed up; so nice!) Aaron was there, too! Nice!

I was so glad to finish, but I was quite depleted. I wanted to find Tecnu and wash my legs and arms and face as soon as I could, since I'm so sensitive to poison oak. Brady was able to find some for me. Thanks! I also needed something to drink; I got some soup from the finish line aid station.

Brady and Jo offered to give me a ride back to the house. This saved so much time. My original plan was to wait 45 minutes for the next shuttle, then take the ~45 minute shuttle ride to my car, then drive back to the house (another 40+ minutes). Instead, like 20 minutes later, we were at the house.

I didn't end up going to bed until about 2am. I was on such a natural high plus the nearly gallon of caffeinated sports drink probably had something to with this. What an epic day!

They gave a nice belt!

What went well

  • Mostly, things went well. My leg muscles held up pretty well. I didn't get any chafing. No blisters. I didn't trip or fall or go off course. I'm not injured.

Things to improve

  • I shouldn't have let my trail racing shoes get so worn down before replacing them. By the time I got the replacement, I didn't have much time to try them out, and I don't think I had the laces tied quite right.
  • Carrying hiking poles probably would have been a big help towards the end of the race. On the one hand, they're kind of pain to put away and get out, and I would have had to use a different hydration pack to hold them. On the other hand, they would have helped on some of the big climbs. I got passed by multiple runners using poles.
  • I somehow lost my little plastic bag with salt pills and ibuprofen. I keep this bag in a small pocket on my running vest. The pocket had a velcro seal, so I don't think it accidentally fell out on its own. I didn't find it in my luggage, so I probably lost it during the race, like if I had accidentally thrown it away. I probably would have taken an ibuprofen, but I don't think I would have taken a salt pill, since I had plenty of salt with my food and sports drink.

Race organization feedback

  • The course markings, organization, and volunteers were excellent.
  • Some of the aid stations, like Deadwood, only offered caffeinated sports drink. I ended up drinking at least 110 oz of caffeinated sports drink, which was way more caffeine than I wanted. This might have upset my stomach a bit and for sure made me feel jittery afterwards. I wish all the aid stations had primarily non-caffeinated beverages and foods.

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