Saturday, February 22, 2020

Mt. Umunhum 14K

I ran a fun steep race this morning -- Mt. Umunhum 14K (8.8 miles), with 1,963' of elevation gain, in Almaden Quicksilver County Park. This race is on the calendar for one of the running clubs I'm in, Excelsior, and multiple clubs were competing for points, so it was quite competitive. It was fun meeting up with so many Excelsior runners and other friends and acquaintances, too.

The weather was nice, and I only felt warm briefly in the bright sun on the uphills. I ran every step. The hills are so steep and long, that my ears popped on both the ascent and descent! I don't recall that happening in a race before! I carried a water bottle but could have done without it -- I had expected to take 1 hour 20 minutes and the aid stations are cup-less, but it took me 1 hour 7 minutes 43 seconds. The race results say I averaged 7:46 per mile, which was good enough for 2nd place in my age group. I didn't trip or fall or go off course.

The event was well organized. I want to give a big thanks to 1) my friend Suki for volunteering all day and 2) Excelsior-member Simone for the after-race picnic and 3) the Belmont Runners for the good speedwork sessions. It was also very helpful to have visited the park once before with a Belmont Runners group; it was nice recognizing many of the trails.

Saturday, February 01, 2020

Fort Ord 50K -- 4:50:01

I basically had a solid race and felt pretty good most of the time while still pushing myself hard and doing the best I could. I felt quite warm in the last hour, with a high of 82F according to my watch. Unusually, I ran alone for the second half of the race and didn't even see any other 50K runners in the last third of the race. I finished 7th overall out of 76 starters.

I met my running friends Margaret and Mor at my house in Belmont at 5:15am. We aimed to arrive by 6:45am for the 7:30am start. Gloriously, there were plenty of porta-potties and I was able to go twice without any wait. We had plenty of time to get ready for the race.

The race starts off with 4 miles of downhill and I kept on reminding myself to take it easy. I guessed that there were 15-20 runners in front of me after the first mile. The air was cool and the surrounding grassy hills were pretty in the early morning sun. I noticed one guy not carrying any water bottles and who was wearing headphones and I passed him at one point on a steep downhill. Sometimes I could see far ahead and I caught a glimpse of the first place guy.

My right shoe felt a little tight on my ankle. Oops. I hadn't realized this while walking around. I was using a different shoe-tying technique, the "lace lock" (video), in the hopes of keeping my feet from sliding around. Be wary of trying new things in a race! It was kind of annoying but I didn't think it was going to hurt my ankle. In a longer race, I would have stopped and retied my shoe.

Once we started heading uphill, I heard someone approaching me. I glanced back and it was the headphones guy. "Good morning!", I said, wondering if he wanted to pass me, but he didn't hear me. Soon, he spoke, asking, "How many miles is a 50K?" This was kind of surprising, but I figured he was accustomed to the metric system. "31" I replied. He said this was his first 50K. I asked if he had run a trail marathon before. "No, but I did a 35K once." We talked a bit about our time goals and I said I was aiming for 5 hours and he remarked, accurately, that we were well ahead of that pace. "Yes, but the beginning has a lot of downhill." I replied. He asked if he could pass, and I pulled aside and wished him luck.

Coming to the first aid station, Sandstone, at mile 4.8, I checked my chart taped to my water bottle, to see how far this next little loop is, until we return to this same aid station, 3.6 miles later. I checked my inventory and I had plenty of water and energy gels, so I skipped this aid station. Headphone-guy was right with me and he skipped it, too!

We were now following pink ribbons and I recognized lots of the terrain. I knew we had a tricky left turn about half way through this loop and I was going to warn headphone-guy but he was pulling ahead of me and he was playing music again I think. This left turn is tricky because the markers don't seem to be on a trail -- it's a steep wide cleared area on the side of the hill. I made the turn and looked uphill and didn't see headphone guy, but I did see the guy who had previously been two places in front. Oh oh. Perhaps half a mile later, headphone-guy caught up to me! He had missed the turn but hadn't gone too far off course. I passed him again at Sandstone.

In the next leg, headphone-guy caught up to me again and we chatted briefly again. He said his name was Avi. He was moving well. I thought for sure I would catch up to him later, walking and dehydrated, but I never saw him again!

A little while later, a fast moving runner approached behind me. I thought he might have been the first place runner from way earlier, but I didn't understand why he was there now. I asked if he was in the 100K. "No, I went off course for a while. This is a training run, so it's no big deal." I joked that he got some bonus miles for his race fee. He pulled ahead and I never saw him again.

I think I skipped the next aid station at mile 12.2. Somewhere in the next five miles, I passed a 50K runner near the top of a hill, and someone else caught up to me, but then on the downhill, I pulled ahead of both them. I ran alone for the rest of the race!

I occasionally had twinges of discomfort in both my IT bands around the outside of my knees. But otherwise, I was moving pretty well and felt pretty good.

While hiking up a steep single-track trail, I heard a bang and a commotion in front of me. I glanced up and jumped off the trail, as a mountain biker was going too fast on the downhill. I don't think he could have stopped in time if I hadn't jumped. I was glad I wasn't wearing headphones. "Whoa! Careful!", I exclaimed. Then I yelled after him, "There are lots of other runners out there!".

I was getting warm in the late morning and in the exposed sun. I ran out of water for about 25 minutes prior to the last aid station at mile 24.6, and I was feeling sluggish. I think I was going about 9 minutes a mile on the gentle uphill coming into the last aid station. I filled up, drank a bunch of sports drink from my bottle, and filled up again. Onward to the toughest climb!

This last big climb is quite a slog -- 2 miles of steep exposed uphill, gaining about 570 feet in elevation on this fire road. I slowly jogged almost every step. I caught sight of a bicyclist and gave myself a goal of trying to reach him. I slowly got closer and almost passed him by the time I made the left turn on to a single track and was heading downhill.

I came across a large enclosure with hundreds of goats. Cute! I said "hi" to them.

I passed a handful of 25K and 100K back-of-the-pack runners.

I was moving well, but was getting desperate to finish. I started hearing the sounds of the race cars at Laguna Seca race track, but still had a couple miles left.

Finally, finally, I sprinted up the last short hill and turned left into the finish chute. Whew!

I had a few cramps after crossing the finish line and I enjoyed laying down in the sun as I cooled off. (The start / finish is on the top of a hill and there was a slight breeze.)

I checked the results, and to my astonishment, Avi was the first place finisher! Way to go, Avi!

Then I happened to glance over towards the finish line -- Mor! I hobbled over to him to greet him. He had a good race, too, with even energy levels. Mor and I chatted and ate and drank a bit. While sitting down on the ground, a bad calf cramp hit him suddenly, and I grabbed his foot and stretched his calf muscle, releasing it.

A little while later, Margaret finished! She had a fine race, too.

What went well

  • Basically everything -- I didn't trip or fall, didn't go off course, and had pretty consistent energy levels.
  • My new Hoke One One Speedgoat 4 Wide shoes did well. I like the wide version much better than the standard width.
  • Wearing gaiters and carrying one 20oz water bottle worked fine. 

Things to improve

  • I was getting the beginnings of two blisters on the tips of two toes. There was also one small spot where a nail of one toe had bumped into an adjacent toe. I still want to improve my foot protection for my upcoming Quicksilver 100K and Tahoe 200.
  • My socks left an imprint in the skin on the top of my feet! Their stupid logo, "Feetures!", was so thick that it was pressing into my skin too much. That will be the last time I wear those for a long run!
  • I had tried a new way of tying my shoes, using all the eyelets, and it turned out that my right shoe was just a bit too tight. In a longer race, I would have stopped and retied my shoe. During the race, it was just a bit uncomfortable occasionally.

Random data

  • Took 2 S-Cap salt pills and one ibuprofen during the race.
  • Weighed about 170.4 lbs.
  • GPS watch data
  • Results

Sunday, December 08, 2019

California International Marathon -- 3:09:43

The weather was cool with some light rain from miles 3 to 5 and then again during mile 20. This being my 7th time running the California International Marathon, I did the best compared to expectations, although it was still the slowest that I've run this race. My goal was around 3:15:00 and I finished in 3:09:43 with my fastest miles at the end. This should qualify me for the Boston Marathon in 2021.

I had wanted to run the Boston Marathon again and so I needed to get my "BQ" or Boston Qualifier. After coming back from an injury in 2018, I never quite regained my speed. Some of the problem was motivation -- running 70 miles a week takes a lot of time and my family and I had moved to Belmont, and I didn't have a strong local running community any more. The other problem was probably my training for Sinister 7, a tough hundred miler in the Canadian Rockies; I just wasn't doing enough speedwork. So, my attempt to qualify at the Santa Rosa Marathon in August failed. (Race report.)

So, for CIM, I did some key things differently:
1. I learned about the Belmont Runners, a local running club, and I started attending the track workouts every Thursday night.
2. I got in maybe 8 long runs of 20 miles, and those were getting better and faster.
3. I paid the most I have ever paid for running shoes -- $275, including tax and delivery -- for the Nike Vaporfly Next%.

On the day before the race, I traveled with my friends Rachael and Bob and their big old dog to Sacramento. Rachael was also running the race and she also wanted to qualify for the Boston Marathon, but without having done any speedwork or long runs for a couple of months, her chances of qualifying were quite low.

The expo was in a new location, a stadium, and it worked well. We enjoyed listening to a panel of interesting speakers talk about their various accomplishments and challenges. I met up with an Excelsior running club member (my newest running club), to pick up a shirt that I would wear during the race.

Rachael and I at the Expo
I stayed with my and my wife's friend Elise. Thank you again, Elise!

Race Day
4:10am -- woke up. Ate 1.5 bagels with peanut butter and drank a Starbucks Mocha. I felt full and didn't want to eat any more.
~5am -- was picked up by Bob and Rachael.
~5:10am -- dropped off at nearest bus pick-up spot. The bus departure time was listed as 5am, but that would just be the first bus. With so many runners and such a long line of buses, we had plenty of time and there were a lot of people behind us.

Catching the one-way bus
I felt thirsty and drank 20 ounces of water on the bus, about an hour before the race would begin.

The weather at the start area was fine -- cool (but not freezing) and without rain. After standing in line for the porta-potties, it was time to drop off our drop-bags and then get positioned for the start! We didn't have time to do a proper jog or any strides to warm up.
Excitement is in the air!
I found my way to the 3 hour 15 minute pace group, which was identified by a large sign. The sign also listed the pace in minutes per mile and I was momentarily worried that I hadn't remembered what the pace would be. I double-checked with the pace group leader and he said the sign had a mistake. My rough plan was to stay with this group and then see how I felt.

Soon, the race began! I hadn't experienced this two-lane start before, but it worked really well. Each large group of runners was instructed to walk up to the start line, and volunteers with ropes controlled our pace. This led to a very smooth start where we could run as soon as we crossed the start line.

The first two miles felt easy and I stayed just in front of the 3:15 pace group. I recognized a bright neon-yellow shirt of another Excelsior club member and I said "hi" to her. She had started near the front, in order to have a "gun time" even though her goal pace was substantially slower than my goal pace. We wished each other luck and I pulled ahead.

I started pulling ahead of the 3:15 pace group and I wouldn't see them again for the remainder of the race. I felt good and at ease, running about 7 minutes 20 seconds a mile.

A light rain occurred for around miles 3 to 5. It was pleasant.

The miles ticked by pleasantly. I ate an energy gel at the 40 minute mark and then the 80 minute mark.

Around mile 11, I felt a twinge of a cramp in my right foot, which felt like a tug on my foot, bending it inwards. Oh oh. I hoped that eating a caffeinated energy gel would help relax my muscles somehow, so I ate that early, at around the 13 mile mark. Otherwise, my breathing was easy and I felt good.

The volunteers were great and the aid stations were well organized, and the volunteers shouted clear instructions about who had water and who had sports drink. I always went for the sports drink, figuring I could use the salt and calories.

The race has multiple categories of wheelchair divisions, but I came across a kind that I had never seen before. It was a three-wheel racing-type wheel-chair, but he had working legs and feet and was pedaling, with gears, and steering with his hands! I was very confused. He was older and heavy-set and all of the runners were passing him on an uphill. Then on the downhill he flew by us, going at least 20 miles per hour, and I never saw him again. How can a running race have pedaled racing tricycles? Maybe the guy was unable to walk but could still use his legs?

My cramps seemed on the edge but under control. Another problem was developing, though. I started feeling both the need to pee and poop! Doh! I kept telling myself to go just one more mile. Argh, stupid body.

I seemed to be passing people more often, and I wasn't being passed by others. Somewhere around mile 17, I noticed another runner keeping pace with me and we were slowly passing people together. At mile 20, I commented out loud, to myself as much to her, "Just a slow 10K left. We do this all the time." I was starting to feel desperate. We reached this awesome cheering section on a bridge, that had a bunch of stationary bicycles with hard-pedaling people and a cheer section and pumping music. It was the best cheer section of the race. We chatted a bit over the next few miles. I was pushing harder and harder. My breathing and heart rate felt under control, but I was "red lining" my legs and energy levels. Around mile 22, she said she needed to slow down to a 7:15 per mile pace and I think we had been running at 7:05 pace. I wished her luck. Onward.
Staying focused while making a left turn in mile 25
Finally, finally, I got to the familiar downtown and I rounded the last two left turns and put in a nice sprint to the finish line in front of the capitol building. Woo hoo!

I wandered over to the women's finish area and waited for a while for my "friend", but we somehow missed each other. I started feeling cold, so it was time to get my drop bag.

In the exit area, the food and drinks were really nice. It was the first time that I've seen them hand out reusable water bottles with optional Nuun tablets.

The drop bag pickup area had moved from previous years (it used to be on part of the lawn on the capitol grounds) but was now on a street. It was worrisome that there was quite a crowd around each sign that listed the bib number range for that area. I was four rows back. I'll try not to exaggerate -- it seems like a drop bag was delivered over the fence about every 45 seconds to one minute, and it took from 15 to 20 minutes for me to get mine. We runners were all holding our bibs above our heads, so that the volunteers could see our numbers. As one arm got tired, I switched arms, back and forth. The volunteers were earnestly scanning the crowd of runners, and occasionally searching the bags on the tables in front of them. Other volunteers had bags in their hands and were occasionally calling out the numbers of runners who weren't there. Some bags seemed to be passed up from far back and were piling in a heap near us. We runners cheered every time a bag was delivered to us. The race organizers later acknowledged that this new process had problems. I've never seen anything like this in prior years or in any other race!

I found Bob and then Rachael finished and on the drive home we stopped at Ikeda's in Davis for some fresh-from-the-oven pies. Mmmm. What a wonderful day!

The day after, Monday, I didn't really feel any muscle soreness. I sensed a deeper kind of soreness, like in my joints and bones, but otherwise, I felt quite good. I commuted to San Francisco as usual. To catch a train, I was even able to run down a flight of stairs. I went right back to running with the Belmont Runners on Tuesday and Thursday.

What went well
  • I was 10 minutes 12 seconds faster than my recent Santa Rosa Marathon and I will almost certainly get in to the Boston Marathon for 2021.
  • The Nike Vaporfly Next%, according to a careful analysis by NY Time's Upshot, probably gave me between 4% (7 minutes 37 seconds) and 5% (9 minutes 25 seconds) of the improvement.
  • My training was better, too, and gave me, statistically speaking, the additional minute or two of improvement. It was helpful running with the Belmont Runners, as I was more consistently doing speedwork.
  • Moleskin (from a new roll) on my nipples stayed on well and prevented chafing that had crept in from recent training runs.
Things to improve
  • Before the race, maybe I should have drank more water closer to when I woke up rather one hour before the start.
Random data

Sunday, October 20, 2019

HMB Pumpkin Run Half Marathon -- 1:26:47

I ran the inaugural Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Run half marathon this morning. I finished in 1:26:47, according to my watch, which was about as fast as I was a year ago, so I'm happy for that. The race was well organized and it was good seeing so many friends either in the race or volunteering.

GPS watch data.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Waterdog 10K -- 40:51, 3rd place

I had fun at the Belmont Water Dog 10K. It was a well-organized small race (200 runners?). It was good seeing some friends from Pacifica Runners (Kendra and Ami, above) and from my newest running club, Belmont Runners. The local Rotary Club made pancakes for everyone afterwards. Yum! About a third of the course is on a dirt out-and-back trail, up and down a fairly steep hill.

I live so close to the race start, that I just jogged the mile or so there as a warm up. They told me that they required ID to pick up my bib, but I managed to convince them to let me run. (The website did not mention this requirement.) I said "hi" to a couple other runners from Belmont Runners and lined up near the front.

They announced that a bicyclist would lead the 5K, but not the 10K. I thought that was unusual. The national anthem was sung beautifully.

Soon, we were off! I tried to take it easy early on and I found myself in 4th place. Around mile 1.5, as we're heading uphill on Ralston, I knew we had to make a left turn into Waterdog Park, and I was surprised that the two guys a ways in front of me (100 feet?) made a left turn, but the first place guy far ahead had continued straight. Oh oh. Looks like someone went off course. As I approached the turn, the left turn was clearly marked with chalk on the ground and lots of cones. A guy was walking to that spot with a child in tow and he said something like "I got here a bit late." He was a course monitor, to help people stay on course. Oops. It would have been much better if he had arrived there about a minute sooner. So, now I was in third.

The climb up the steep dirt trail felt difficult, and I was looking forward to turning around. The guy behind me was slowly catching up, but I couldn't do anything about it. He passed me shortly after the turn-around and now I was in 4th. We both passed the former 2nd place runner, so now I was in 3rd.

Heading back downhill on Ralston Ave., I tried to keep a good fast pace. I merged with the 5K runners and I had to go into the car lane once, after a quick glance over my shoulder, to get around the joggers.

I was getting desperate to finish and I put in a surge towards the end, just staying in front of the former 2nd place runner who was on my heels.

Shockingly, I was awarded 2nd place overall and I received a $45 gift certificate to a local gym. Cool! A day or two later, they corrected the results. Apparently, the first place guy who crossed had been ignored somehow. So, the official results have me being in 3rd, which is correct. The original 1st place guy, I learned later, ran a long way up Ralston Ave., going far off course, and never rejoined the race. I think he had been following the cones that were keeping cars out of the lane and that he had not studied the course and had not looked for the chalk course markings.


Sunday, August 25, 2019

Santa Rosa Marathon -- 3:19:55

I had not regained my speed since recovering from plantar fasciitis in early 2018, so my goal was a hopefully achievable 3:17:00. I was on pace until about mile 20 and then I started feeling borderline cramps, so I backed off the pace a bit. And then I was gradually losing energy ("bonking") and the miles were getting slower and slower. Strong twinges of cramps in my lower legs were hitting me. I dug really deep for the last 1.2 miles to sneak in just under my Boston qualifying time of 3:20:00, but I think my chances of actually getting into the Boston Marathon are really low, since each age group bracket fills up with the fastest runners first. (Update: I didn't get in.) But anyways, I enjoyed the experience and the challenge, and I thought the race was well-supported and well-organized.

Other random info:
* I didn't have to use a porta-potty.
* Three times I wanted sports drink, but the kids handing out drinks didn't make it clear who had water or not, and some aid stations apparently didn't have sports drink. I wonder if I would have cramped less or had more energy if I had drank a little more sports drink instead of water. One runner near me, shortly after running through the winery, carried his own sports drink in a hand-held water bottle and I wonder if doing that would have been better for me. Earlier, a woman running in front of me remarked aloud, complaining about the lack of sports drink. As always, I'm grateful for the volunteers.


Saturday, August 10, 2019

Pacifica Tiki Trot 5K -- 19:30

Claire and I had fun running the Tiki Trot 5K in Pacifica this morning, put on by Pacifica Runners. I started off too fast and finished in 19:30, which was good for 2nd place and a $25 gift certificate at Runners Mind. Yay!