Friday, July 27, 2007


It's taken me a while to get around to this report as I have been in Las Vegas for most of the week after the race. Since my I had a very long bad spell during this race and my memory of the bad stuff fades quickest, this report of the TRT50 will be shorter than most :-).

I drove up to the area relatively early on Friday, but apparently not early enough to avoid all the traffic. It took about 5 hours to get to Carson City where the race check-in and packet pick-up was. I did manage to see some friends there including Chihping, Rajeev and Anil. They were all preparing for the 100-mile option. Chihping, who is from Fremont like myself, was not content to simply spend a full day and night on the course and informed me that he intended to sleep in the woods before the 5:00am race start. I guess it means he got to sleep in a little longer than everyone else. Personally, I stayed in a nice plush hotel room with a comfy bed.

Us 50-milers didn't start until 6am. I drove to the parking area by 5am and caught the shuttle bus (a mini-van actually) into the park before the start. For some reason, they don't give out race bibs at check-in for this race and you have to stand in line to pick them up. While waiting, an announcement was made that someone was in desperate need of a pair of size 10-1/2 mens running shoes as they had forgotten theirs. Before I could even wonder about the sort of person who would do such a thing (actually, I've done similar), I looked up and noticed that it was none other than Harry Walther! Harry and I have shared numerous races over the past couple of years and actually are intending to share a room near the start of the Headland Hundred where we will both be doing our first 100-miler. So, it was only fitting that I should pull out my spare shoes and save the day (or at least his race). Of course, it might have been my only chance to finish ahead of him had he been forced to run in the two right shoes that he actually brought with him.

Since this was my first race at any real sort of altitude and was also to be my last "big" run before my 100-mile attempt, I intended to take it fairly easy. In fact, I wanted to put some good time on my feet for this "training" run. Of course, that isn't to say, I didn't still have a time goal in mind. Just before the start I bumped into Catra Corbett who decided to just pop over to do the 50-miler after already passing through Tahoe on her PCT through-hike attempt. SHe is also from Fremont. I'm not sure about the sanity of these Fremont ultra-runners and what that says for my future in this sport. At any rate, the race started with the usual ultra-lack-of-fanfare and we were off. I took the start very, very easy. I hung back and chatted with Harry who was also going easy. I passed a few people on the first couple of downhills, but generally just tried to stay in line walking the uphills and taking the more level stuff slowly.

I was definitely feeling the altitude especially by the time we reached the first aid station which was around 8500ft, a height above which my body would eventually launch its revolt. However, shortly after the initial peaks there was a nice downhill that allowed me to open it up and pass a number of runners before coming into the Tunnel Creek aid station. I grabbed a few bites, but not too much as I wasn't that hungry. From there we headed into the infamous Red House Loop. The start was all mine as it was steep downhill on soft dirt allowing me to just let it go and fly. I had a blast. In fact, so much that I didn't pay much attention to how to get around the big mud puddle sitting in the middle of the trail at the bottom. Oh well, it's not a trail run without making a mess. The trail leveled out and went into a slow climb for a while. Many people caught back up to me, but I felt pretty good keeping an easy pace. The big climb back out was a bear, though. It was here that I really started to feel the altitude as I crawled up at a much slower walking pace than I like to keep in a race. Back at Tunnel Creek I probably should have lingered a bit, but with the steepest climb behind me decided it was more important to keep things moving.

The next section was a more gradual climb up to the Diamond Peak aid station, again around 8500ft. It was here that things started to fall apart. I was really starting to feel the altitude at this point. This aid station, half-way between Tunnel Creek and the turnaround, was water-only so I filled both bottles full and just wanted to keep moving. The turnaround station was only about 4.5 miles away. However, at this point, I was really not feeling well. I didn't have any stomach problems, but I felt a bit light-headed and any sort of extra effort would send my heart rate up to the point where I would have to actually stop and rest. I took to simply walking pretty much everything that wasn't downhill and even those I took at a pace that seemed to exert a bare minimal effort. I really felt like I just wanted to crawl to the side of the trail and go to sleep. Nothing felt right and I was moving slow. I lambasted my feeble ability to deal with altitude and cursed myself for even having a nickname such as "mountain man" when I couldn't handle anything but the shortest of mountains.

The course leveled out as it approached the turnaround at Tahoe Meadows, but I simply walked the whole thing. I had sucked down both my water bottles and was completely dry. I told myself that I would just try to focus on time on my feet and nothing else. I reached the aid station at well over 6 hours and was looking at the prospect of walking the entire way back. I decided I might as well spend some time here and get hydrated and eat as much as I could hold since it was going to be a very long return trip. My goal had gone from 11hrs, to 12hrs to something looking more like 13+. I ate and drank and ate some more. I changed my socks from my drop bag and strapped on my waist pack to carry a third water bottle. I grabbed a popsicle and headed out walking. I met a woman named Janet who was also planning to do the Headlands Hundred and hung out walking with her for a while. However, as we reached a little uphill I couldn't even keep her pace. I really felt dejected. At one point I sat on a rock and hung my head below my knees. It had been more than 3 hours and I didn't see any end in sight to feeling bad.

I found a couple of other people to walk and talk with and just resigned myself to the slow pace. A bit of downhill came up and I ran it. I took the uphill after it slow again, but something seemed to have clicked when I ran down hill. Another longer downhill was coming up and so I let myself go a bit. It felt good, but I wasn't yet convinced it was over. The next little uphill I stopped and took a hydration check and decided to drink more. I knew there was more downhill before Diamond Peak so I drained both bottles again. Again, the downhill felt good and I filled at the aid station excited that there was even more downhill coming up to Tunnel Creek. I was really starting to feel better as I knew we had dipped below 8500ft again. As I came into the flat section before Tunnel Creek I continued to run and knew that I had finally pushed through a very long, very tough spell. I ate and filled up at Tunnel Creek with my spirits higher than they had been all day. Janet was there and noted how remarkably I had recovered.

I took off from there at a good pace. There was lots of climbing coming up including the high point of the entire race so I knew I wasn't out of the woods yet. However, I felt good and I was mentally ready to discover whether or not 8500ft was just a limiting factor for me or whether I had really pushed through and arrived on the other side ready to tackle this new challenge. The climb back up to Herlan Peak would give plenty of opportunity. I found that I was able to walk the hills at a really solid pace and even managed to take many at a slow shuffle pace. I could still feel the altitude, but I managed to find a pace that was good and I experienced no more racing of the heart or light-headedness even during the climb up to Snow Valley Peak where I had managed to catch up to some people who had passed me even before the turnaround point. One of them was a Carson City local who told me that it was pretty much all downhill from Snow Valley. This had me very excited as the one positive side-effect of the 3-1/2 hour bad spell was that my legs felt great.

I didn't waste too much time in the aid station as I felt like I had also taken better care of my hydration and nutrition needs than I had earlier as well. I was prepping for the downhill as we traveled along the ridge a bit after Snow Valley. I also realized that my realized that my time goal had gone from 11 to 12 to 13+ then back down to 12 and now I could even imagine 11 1/2 as a possibility. This gave me an even renewed sense of spirit and incentive to get down this hill. I don't think I have enjoyed any downhill as much as I did those last 6-7 miles. I don't know how many people I passed on this section, but that wasn't really my focus. Many did, however, wonder how I still seemed so fresh this late in a hard race. I tried to explain when I had the chance, but mostly I just enjoyed the pure pleasure of running free and "fast" at the end. The final bit is flat back into Spooner and I enjoyed just cruising to the end in a fairly respectable time of a 11:37:32.

I must say that this race is probably the most beautiful from a scenery stand point. It is also one of the most difficult as this was my second longest run from a time standpoint. The amount of walking I did, I think, will be a big help with HH100. I also learned that I probably need to pay better attention to drinking and eating more when I am running at altitude. However, the most important lesson I learned was that no matter how bad things seem that you can push through them. All you have to remember is to never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER give up on yourself. Ever.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

My Mental State

I went for a run last night up at Garin Regional Park in Hayward. I didn't even know this place existed until I was looking for some place to run while my son was at a basketball workout in Hayward. It's a nice little park with a decent amount of trail, not enough to do a long run without loops, but enough for maybe a couple hours with some bit of climbing and nice views. I ran the Vista Peak Loop Trail combined with the Zeile Creek Trail for a nice little loop. I took it easy the whole way trying to keep that "all day" pace. I took a side trip to hit the peak and check out the views. Very nice views of the bay. Different than Mission Peak (which I could see) or Redwood Park as it is right between the two of them. In fact, I think this park is just the other side of the hills from Pleasanton Ridge where I ran on Sunday. I have always wondered what was on the other side. Now I know. Discovering and running new trails is always good. It was very nice for my mental state before heading to Tahoe this weekend where I also will be running on new trails.

Mentally, I am in a bit of a strange state with respect to the race. For the longest time I have been more worried about TRT50 than my upcoming attempt at a 100 miles 3 weeks later. However, now that the race is but a few days away, I am not worried and my mind is now starting to concern itself with the Headlands Hundred. I know that 50 miles is still a huge challenge and being at altitude is definitely new, but I've done the distance before and at this stage I am usually more concerned with getting all my gear and stuff together. I have a pretty good idea on my drop bag needs for a 50-miler. This will be my 4th race of that distance or longer. However, as I prep for Tahoe, I realize that maybe I need to really start thinking about what I am going to need to go twice the distance. What will I need to have waiting at the 75mile aid station to get me through the night? You see, I don't do pacers and I am actually not going to have any sort of crew either. I know. Some people will question the wisdom of trying my first 100 sans pacer or crew, but that's kinda how I like it. With the two smaller loops after 50 miles, there really doesn't seem to be a need to have someone following me along the course, but I am beginning to wonder if some random desire for a different food, a change of clothing or something totally unexpected will hit me somewhere out there in the wee hours of the night. To me, that really is part of the whole adventure of the race. And that's my mental state.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Quality over Quantity

I think the extra days off was just what I needed. I felt fully recovered and the only thing that suffered were the numbers in my running log. May the statistician in me be damned as the quality of the runs I got in this weekend more than made up for the lack of quantity for the week. I had to fit the runs in around a very busy youth basketball tournament, but the weather this weekend was so perfect that it was an absolute necessity to get out there on the trails. Clear and sunny on both days with a nice cool breeze to keep it from getting hot and remove any hint of haze from the air providing perfect vistas of the entire Bay Area. I a managed a little over 2 hours on Saturday and then more than 3 1/2 on Sunday.

Saturday - Mission Peak
Freddy's basketball games went late Friday night, but Saturday didn't start until the afternoon. This allowed me to sleep in a bit and still manage to get out for a solid run up Mission Peak. I started up the main trail and the extra rest must have helped as I my running felt as light and effortless as I have ever felt while moving up 2200ft in 3.5 miles. As I hit the ridge in about 35 minutes I realized that a PR to the peak was at hand and I pushed it a little more to see if I might even be able to break 45 minutes. The last rocky section took a bit out of me (especially while dodging hikers) and I hit the top in 45:32. Definitely a PR for me. I realized that a sub-45 shot was definitely possible, but I will probably never do it. I am always heading up there as part of a longer run and so I'm unwilling to give it all I got to the peak. Not really an issue and not really a goal especially since the rest of my run was so, so nice. I didn't have unlimited time so, after shooting down behind the peak to fill my water bottle, I headed out on the nice smooth rolling trail towards Monument Peak. I only went far enough to get good view of the south valley before heading back. I hit the peak (and that perfect panoramic view) again before heading back down. I had to get home and clean up as we had a full afternoon of games and then an early morning on Sunday. We stayed Saturday night at my parent's house near the tournament. Mom always makes sure we are well fed.

Sunday - Pleasanton Ridge
Sunday we were done with basketball by noon. This allowed me to get home and get out on the trail by a little after 2pm. I wanted something a little less steep and more runnable than Mission Peak so I headed over to Pleasanton Ridge. It still has plenty of hills and some of the climbs along the Ridgeline Trail might be considered steep, but they are all relatively short grinds interspersed with flat or even downhill sections between them. Despite started off a little more tired than Saturday, I was remarking to myself how much easier it felt than Mission Peak. I'd never run the entire ridge before and with a full afternoon at my disposal I wanted to give it a try. Other than the nice rolling hills at this park, the other nice thing about it is that there is lots of accessible water along the way allowing for a single water bottle even on a long run.

My plan was to head up the main Oak Tree Trail to the Ridgeline as usual and then head north as far as I could go staying on the ridge on the way out and returning via alternate trails. If you want to follow along at home, I took the Ridgeline all the way out to the Bay Leaf Trail and then followed the awesome single-track section of the Bay Leaf to the Shady Creek Trail which climbs back up to the North Ridge Trail following that to the end where you need to cut over on the Mariposa Trail. The Mariposa heads over to the Sinbad Creek trail which is the return route, but I decided to touch the northern boundary of the park first by running out to trail marker 32 and back first. I followed Sinbad Creek back until it cuts back up on the very steep climb returning to the Ridgeline Trail. I stayed on Ridgeline again until the junction with the Thermalito trail. I followed Thermalito back to the intersection with the Grove Trail which heads back to where the Oak Tree Trail hits the Ridgeline at the start. Then it was simply back down the Oak Tree to my car.

Since I was on a long run and prepping for an ultra next weekend I wanted to keep this at an easy pace. I tried to manage my running at what felt like a 50-miler effort level. I ran the uphills, but very slowly and reminded kept myself from pushing at all on the level and even the downhill bits. The pace felt easy for most of the run and it was one of the most peaceful times I've had out on the the trail in a while. Other than the handful of people I saw walking during the first 10 minutes of the run, I didn't see another person (a solo mountain biker) for almost another entire hour. After that, I wouldn't see anyone for well over two more hours until I returned back down the main fireroad. Mostly, it was a nice relaxed, easy long run. At least, it was easy until I started approaching the three hour mark and the one package of Clif Blocks and small amount of Clif Shot gel that I brought was fully consumed and not nearly enough calories for a run of this length. However, it is ultra training so a little bit of struggling is probably a good thing :-).

Sunday Night - Sushi!
I finshed the weekend off with a very satisfying visit to the local sushi boat restaurant with my son. Lots of good quality protein and carbs to top off that good quality running. The albacore tuna was especially good. In the end, my body still does feel a little beat up. With a big 50 miler this weekend in Tahoe I will spend most of this week resting up. I am considering taking the full week off from running to make sure all the sore spots like my hips feel good. However, I will probably do a little light mileage and hope to also get in some easy cross training. Either way, Tahoe will be my final big run before I started the serious mental prep for the Headlands Hundred three weeks later.

Friday, July 13, 2007


Staying home from work today and probably no running. Took yesterday off from running as well. I think my body is in fatigue. During Tuesday's run my ankle sort of gave out. No real twist or trauma, but just in the middle of running...ough! This has happened before as I have plenty of scar tissue in my ankles from years of soccer sprains (though I've yet to have a major sprain since starting trail running about 10 years ago). Usually, some stretching and walking will make the problem go away, but it was much more persistent. I finished the run and iced when I got home. Wednesday, the ankle was still a problem and it has felt weak since then. Beyond that, I have pretty much been tired as a whole this past week. I think my body is crying for a rest. I came to this realization after reviewing the past week in my head:

Wed 7/4 - Thu 7/5: Arrive home from Costa Rica at 1am, can't sleep until 3am.
Thu 7/5: Work full day then fly to LA with Freddy for basketball camp. Get to sleep around midnight.
Fri 7/6: Check Freddy into camp. Fly home. Rest and prep for race on Saturday.
Sat 7/7: Wake at 5am for Angel Island 50K. Have a great race!
Sun 7/8: Work in yard cutting up a tree. Crash for 4 hrs on couch further messing up sleep cycle. Trouble sleeping that night.
Mon 7/9: Freddy flies home, flight delayed and gets in late so another late to bed night.
Tue 7/10: Up at 5am to take boys to practice. Fly to LA for work. 7 mi run upon return, ankle twinges half way through. Yoga workout after run.
Wed 7/11: Get Freddy up at 5am. Go back to sleep for an hour. 7 mi run after work, ankle still problem. Mini-yoga workout after.
Thu 7/12: Get Freddy up at 5am. Don't go back to sleep. Leave work early, tired. No running.
Fri (today): Tired. Fatigued. Staying home typing lame blog entry.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Angel returns what the Devil took from me

My last race on Mt. Diablo was not on my original plan, but I still had hoped for a better race than I had. However, the struggle was, as usual, its own reward. The steepness, the heat and blood left on the course left me feeling that I had made my sacrafice to the devil. With my wife still in Costa Rica and my son down at basketball camp in LA, a hole opened in my schedule. So, when I noticed that the PCTR Angel Island Run was the same weekend, I knew my redemption was at hand.

Even on paper, the run on Angel Island is the opposite of the one on Devil's Mountain. It has less than half the overall elevation change. While they both make two trips to a summit, Mt. Diablo is a straight climb and followed by a direct plunge down repeated twice. Angel Island takes 6 halo-like loops around the island of gradual climbing and dipping to complete the two trips up. Diablo was devilishly hot, angel island was cool and breezy, a runners heaven even though the views were obscured behind clouds. Diablo was a slow trudge, Angel Island was a fast run with plenty of opportunity to push both up and down.

All and all, I enjoyed Angel Island. I'm not a fan of loops ad so this was also a mental test to see if I could keep my spirits up after each return trip back to the start. In truth the loops here aren't bad since there are three different routes around the island which only share common trail at the start (stairs) and the final descent. The perimeter loop (1st and 4th) is mostly paved and has the no big climbs, but some up and down. The middle loop (2nd and 5th) is mostly trail and has the a couple bigger climbs with some up and down variation, but the least overall elevation change. The summit loop (3rd and final) has the most overall elevation change, but is almost all straight up followed by nearly all down.

The 4th loop was definitely the toughest from me. I have been doing too much road running as it is lately and my feet, left hip and even my left knee had problems at times. I wasn't looking forward to repeating all that asphalt, but once I finished it, I knew the rest of the race would go better. Since it was cool the whole time, I was going with just one water bottle through the 4th loop and wasn't taking electrolytes. The 5th lap was also still a bit tough as I felt the pain from the 4th and my hip and feet were especially giving me trouble. I also realized that I needed to catch up a little on hydration so I ran it with a second water bottle and took an S!Cap before heading out. I felt like I was playing catch up a bit on this lap even though I only saw one other runner (someone who had passed me earlier and then gotten lost). I couple Advil for the pain (and my mental state) helped prep me for the final lap. I also knew that the all up/all down summit run would suit me. After the stairs, I went into heads down climbing mode trying to keep a hard, but maintainable pace. Once I hit the peak, I told myself the Advil would keep my feet from hurting and pushed a fast pace all the way down.

I touched summit at exactly 4 hours 50 minutes. I decided to shoot for getting down in a very aggressive 20 minutes. It probably wasn't doable especially with all the hikers around, but I ran hard the whole way (while still being polite to all other trail users). As I hit the final downhill to the finish, I knew 5:10 was out, but I also knew a new 50K PR was eminent. I pushed it to the finish and came in at 5:11:47. This was faster than my flat 50K with which I started the year. A very satisfying result and one that let me know that a sub-5 hour 50K is a possibility should I ever wish to go for it. Right now, I need to figure out my hip mainly and make sure I am in better fitness for TRT50 moving into HH100. It's getting closer than I think.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Pining for Paradise

Well, I'm typing this from home reading my wife's emails from Costa Rica and wishing I was still there. It was really only 5 full days and was clearly not enough. I felt like I had just just gotten into the groove of the place when I had to leave. Each day started with a humid run down to the beach and back. Sometimes I would end up running an extra couple miles along the beach or exploring the rambling backroads (some of which were less developed than many of the trail I run). I did end up going shirtless on my runs. My discomfort ended up defeating my modesty. After my run I would shower off and sit in the pool for a bit while drinking coffee. The rest of the day was filled with a lot of laying around the house, watching the wildlife from the balcony, reading or just sitting with my Zane and relaxing. We did walk to town or the beach a couple of times and even ate out once or twice, but most of the time was spent in the house. The house was really the crux of the vacation and a few look at the pictures below are explanation enough.

The house looked cool enough from the outside:
House Front
House Side

The inside was charming and simply invited you to relax
Kitchen Area

But, the views from the balcony were the real deal:
Pool Scenery
Also From Deck

And of course, sometimes the jungle came right to you
Bird Closeup

Especially, my friendly Iguanas who proved endless entertainment
Pool Side
Iguana Closeup
Two Iguanas

The place and the relaxing time we had there will be with me forever. I think if the owner ever wants to sell the place we may just end up with a vacation home in Costa Rica! We'll see how Zane feels after another couple weeks. Will it grow even more beloved or will its charms eventually wear off? At any rate, it was definitely one of the best vacations we've had.