Monday, November 26, 2012

Quad Dipsea - My short-lived race...

I wish I could write about how wonderful and epic my first Quad Dipsea turned out. But I can't. Because my first Quad Dipsea turned out to be pathetically short lived. The first 5 miles were great! I was hanging out with some wonderful people like Laura and Kynan, Rick Gaston, and Jennifer Lopez (AKA J-Lo). The weather and the scenery was picture perfect.  Life was good. I was happy. And then it happened.  I was running downhill very well when I stepped on some uneven dirt and turned my right ankle rather violently. I crumpled down in a heap of pain and pulled myself to the side of the trail. I sat there for a long while, not sure what to do. I eventually got up and hobbled along. I took two Advil, but still could not run. I could walk with a limp, but the uneven surface made things very difficult. If there were 10 miles left in the race, I would have been tempted to hobble my way to a finish, but there were 22 miles to go and a ton of stairs. I wanted to cry in frustration! But I didn't. I got a ride back to the finish line and got to cheer in the first 3 runners. They had some delicious pizza at the finish line! They were making it right there from scratch! I wish I could have stayed to cheer in more runners, especially my friends, but I decided to go home to my family and kids.

Bad things can happen in every facet of our lives and in our races.  We can take them with sorrowful tears or we can take them with a positive attitude and a touch of defiance. There will always be some disappointment, but we have to move on and always look forward. I was happy for J-Lo, Rick, Laura and Kynan for their fabulous finishes. I was a little envious that they got to spend their day rocking those beautiful trails! This little sprained ankle is a minor injury and I'll be back to running in no time.

I am still a very lucky and blessed person this holiday season. Thank you all for your support and kindness.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Morgan Hill Marathon 2012 Race Report

I have not run a road marathon in nearly 3 years. After reading numerous race reports from friends, I could not help but feel some "marathon envy"! I found that the race reports that contained a lot of suffering and hardship were even more inspiring than the flawless PR runs. Deep down, perhaps I knew that I would suffer just as greatly and that I would have to "embrace the suck" myself.  Feeling inspired, I signed up for the Morgan Hill Marathon.

My training was less than ideal with all the family problems we have been dealing with in the past few months (long story with my brother and mother-in-law, who both spent time in the hospital). And to top it all off, I came down with a cold a couple days before the race, complete with a cough and congestion. My plan was to run in costume as the Green Lantern, and no cold was going to stop me.

I started with the 3:40 pace group and really enjoyed their company. I thought I might be going too fast, but I figured I could bank some time and still squeeze in before the 4 hour pace group.  I walked through all the aid stations and had a blast.  Everywhere I went runners and volunteers cheered me on or told me how cool my costume was.  I felt like a celebrity! After 12 miles my Green Lantern symbol on my chest fell off. Double sided tape apparently loses its stickiness on sweaty fabric! Doh! After that people could not tell which super hero I was! It was a toss up between the Green Hornet and the Green Lantern!

I passed the half marathon point on my Garmin around 1:52, but I was starting to slow down. It was hilly and it was getting warm. The wheels started coming off after 17 miles. Everything seemed to hurt and my energy was feeling very low. I began to make small deals with myself. Run to that tree, then you can walk. Walk to that cone, then start running again. And when I walked, I walked briskly and "with purpose". "Run till it gets too hard. Walk till it gets too easy." I was suffering, but I was still having fun. I cheered on my fellow runners and thanked those that cheered me on. When I was alone I recited the Green Lantern creed. "In brightest day, in darkest night, no evil shall escape my sight. Let those who worship evil's might, beware my power... Green Lantern's Light!" Of course, I could use a green lantern charging station right about then! After around 20 miles, I saw a man sprawled out on the concrete. There were cops and a crowd of people surrounding him. I knew there was nothing I could do to help and I could hear an ambulance in the distance.  I later found out that he was the 3:55 pacer and that he wound up in the hospital. Be careful out there! Hydrate well and listen to your body when you run your marathons!

The final miles were a bit painful, but I finally passed the finish line in 4:07:22. I was a bit disappointed that I couldn't get a sub-4, but I also knew that with some better training, I'd crush a sub-4 marathon, even in tough conditions. My wife and kids were there to cheer me on at the finish line! But I was in such a daze, that all I wanted was to lay down in the grass under a tree. I was toast! The ending to the race was less than ideal, but I had a blast running my third marathon, as the Green Lantern!

The race photographers took a lot of pictures of me during the race, but I did not like them enough to shell out so much money for them.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Stevens Creek 50K Race Report - 2012 edition

The Stevens Creek 50K took place on September 8th, and I am very late with this race report. Part of me wants to forget that it ever happened. It was slow. Really slow. My slowest 50K. Ever.

I ran out of Vespa, my performance enhancing "supplement" so I had none for this race. Consequently, my energy levels dropped dangerously low after about 15 miles. Apparently, I have trouble fueling normally at the aid stations! One of the highlights of my day was meeting a new friend.  His name was Mike, and like me, he is one of 6 kids.  And his Mom was also running in the race! I thought that was very cool.

I turned/sprained my ankle after 16-17 miles.  I don't know exactly at what point I sprained my ankle, because I wasn't wearing a watch (my Garmin's battery was dead long before the race even started). So in addition to an empty gas tank, I now had a flat tire!

And to make things even more interesting, I made a wrong turn shortly after the sprained ankle, adding 2-3 extra miles (very rough estimate)!

By now I'm in either last place or next to last place. I kept trudging along and I was very tempted to just drop from the race at the next aid station (which happens to be the start/finish line area). After eating and drinking a little, I felt re-energized and got back out there to the last 11.5 mile loop, which I know is the most exposed part of the course (very warm).

I moved relatively well for the first few miles, but then everything seemed to slow down again. My energy levels dropped again, along with my pace. I started to take sitting breaks, which I rarely do in any of my races. None of my muscles were cramping, which I found a bit strange. I knew it was fatigue and lack of energy that plagued me. I was planning on just dropping at the 25 Mile aid station at this point.  I did not want to suffer through another 6-7 miles of this suckfest. And then somehow I made another wrong turn, and missed the aid station! I probably cut off 2 miles from the course!

A runner named Sabrina caught up to me and passed me. She saw that I was struggling and told me a deliberate lie.  She told me that we only had 3 miles to go, when she knew we had at least 6. It worked. It injected a little life back into my run, and I tried to keep up with her.  I even passed her after a few miles.

I finally finished after 8 hours and 39 minutes. I told the Race Director to disqualify me for the wrong turn, but he refused.  I had added a few miles earlier in the race, so I didn't feel too bad at accepting the finish.

Out there in my times of misery I thought about my running friends who inspired me to keep going. I thought of Megan, who lost her Mom, and then went on to finish her first Ultra. I needed to "dig deep for Mom" like she did. And I thought about Keeley who is about to attempt her first Ultra in a few weeks. I want her to believe in herself and to forge a no-quit attitude. So I couldn't quit there! And to anyone out there who is tempted to quit midway through a race (or even before the race has started), believe in yourself, damnit! Dig deep, and banish that mental weakness that threatens to uproot your goals and your dreams. Don't make any lame excuses like "I'm tired" or "I sprained my ankle" (especially if you're not limping)!


Other notes:
I've been icing my ankle almost every day. And I think I'm finally able to run on it. It is still a little swollen and tender, but I think it'll be at least 95 percent healed by next week.  I am considering a road marathon for my next race (the Morgan Hill Marathon, on October 28th). If I do run it, I think I'll run it in a Green Lantern Costume, just for fun.
And while driving home I threw up all over myself. I blame the carbonated root beer. After a hot shower, I curled up in the fetal position and passed out in bed. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Cool Moon 12-hour Race Report

The race starts at 7pm and finishes at 7am. You run around a 10 mile trail loop as many times as you can. The one that runs the furthest wins.  Sounds simple enough, right? What could possibly go wrong? The 10 mile course is supposed to be very well marked. And there are glow sticks out there at night to mark the trail, in addition to the pink ribbons. Of course, I took a wrong turn, not once, but twice.

We start off running with plenty of daylight with overcast skies and a slight chance of rain. The first loop was a lot of fun! There were only 16 of us running the 12-hour night run, and there were 20 100-miler runners out on the same course. I finished the first 10-mile loop in 1:58:xx, which was probably too fast. It was hard not to get a little competitive in such a small field. I was the 4th man (and 6th overall) after the first loop!

The second loop was a nightmare. And it fittingly became a dark and stormy night! Did I mention that my bib number was 966? (way too close to a bad luck number I really don't like) All my bad luck seemed to hit me all at once during this loop.
I met a100 mile runner named Steve just one mile into this loop. He had just fallen and was having trouble seeing.  He was heading back to the starting line to quit, clearly shaken and disoriented. I played the part of a good Samaritan and offered my pacing services for this loop, hoping to jump start his race. He agreed, and we were on our way, with me in the lead.

It was not long after we start running together when I miss a turn and lead us both astray. Instead of making a hairpin U-turn, I went straight. We went off course for a full 2 miles before we turn around.  During these 2 miles, Steve is convinced that someone had maliciously removed the course marking ribbons and glow sticks. Eventually, there are enough signs that lead us to the conclusion that we are off course. We actually ended up on the Tevis Cup horse race course! (the race that the Western States 100 miler originally followed)!

We trudged back at a very slow hike, and by the time we made it back to our race course Steve was out of water and done. We parted ways in opposite directions, and I continued with my own race (with 4 slow bonus miles). I had gone a total of 15 miles, and I had 9 more miles to go to finish my 2nd loop! This was very demoralizing. And to make matters worse, lightning, thunder and rain made their unwelcome appearance. The next 9 miles were quite miserable. The only highlights came with human contact at the aid station and the occasional 100 mile runner sighting. It felt really lonely out there and the lightning made me nervous. I passed a 66-year old runner who was running his first 100-mile race. He was only on his 4th loop after over 18 hours! He suffered during the daytime heat and was traveling very slow, but his voice was strong and his faith in God was clearly unwavering. I wanted to walk beside him for a while, but he moved over for me to pass, and cheered me on! What a trooper!

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. [Psalm 23:4]"

 This quote from the Bible came to mind a lot during this miserable loop. My greatest adversary during this loop was my own negativity. Thoughts of quitting (I even thought about quitting ultras) after this loop were very strong. But how could I quit, when this 66-year old gentleman was out there fighting for a finish! I finally pulled into the aid station/start/finish and sat down. I was afraid of going back out into the darkness. I dreaded a slow slog through that "valley of the shadow of death". If I could run well, things wouldn't be so bad.

 Steve was sitting at the aid station too. And he was trying to convince me to get out there and continue my race. I felt like a whiny baby. Steve offered me one of his Starbucks Frappacinos, which I eventually accepted. And then Rosa came into the aid station, having finished 30 miles for just the second time ever. Her headlamp was low on batteries. She had fresh batteries in her other drop bag at the next aid station, but needed help getting there. Once again, I offer my pacing services. This time however, I'm pacing a faster runner, and I have no idea if I can keep up. I also remember that I have two untouched servings of Vespa in my drop bag. I had not taken any early on because two servings would only last me 6 hours and I did not want to crash halfway into my race! After the coffee and a serving of Vespa, I felt rejuvenated and refreshed.

Me and Rosa head out of the aid station at 1:41am. All of a sudden, I'm running well again and I'm really enjoying the company and the conversation. Rosa's headlamp had turned off a few times and the dark trails really "creeped her out". She was very thankful to have me along, lighting the way with my little flash light. And I was thankful to have her along, a new friend, who clearly loves running just as much as I do. And then, I do it again. I missed the same turn as I did with Steve in the second loop. Disaster strikes again! But this time, we lose only a mile. It still costs us around 16 minutes. I am pretty embarrassed to have made the same mistake again, but we brush it off as if it didn't happen. The miles fly by. Rosa picks up some fresh batteries at the next aid station and we continue on together. We were making a great team! And two lights are definitely better than one. By now the clouds had parted and a bright moon had emerged along with a complementing sky full of stars. The night sky and the trails had transformed again, along with my attitude and good fortune.

We ran well together, and we talked about our kids and the things that inspire us. Lost in conversation and the nice running rhythm, we even ran up some of the hills that I would typically hike up. We finally pulled into the aid station/finish at 4:25am.

Rosa was ready to chase that final lap to get her first 50 mile finish, but I was hesitant. I didn't think I could keep up with her anymore. But I knew that I would have to at least try. We headed out again after I got some soup and another serving of Vespa. After about 3 miles, it was clear that I would not be able to keep up with Rosa's solid pace. I told her to continue on without me, to chase that down that 50-mile goal. She waited for me for a moment, and then reluctantly moved on. I was alone again, but I wasn't lonely. Even though I was moving slower than Rosa, I was still moving well. The skies slowly got brighter, and it was a glorious morning. I felt so alive. With three miles to go and an hour left, I simply stopped pushing the pace and just enjoyed a leisurely stroll through nature. I took more pictures. I breathed more deeply.  I even ate some wild blackberries. It was truly a beautiful morning. I ran the last 100 meters into the finish line, at 6:52am. The race director put a snazzy medal around my neck, and I felt pretty good about my race. Rosa had finished her first 50 mile race (+1 bonus mile) at 6:26am. What a great, epic adventure! Epic races have a way of changing you. The person that went into the woods the night before is somehow different from the person that emerged the morning after. After facing such darkness and despair, I felt reborn and I gained faith and strength. I feel stronger, both as a runner and as a person.

Other notes:
I have two headlamps, but could not find either one before driving up to the race (2.75 hour drive). I only had my Fenix Handheld Flashlight, which I had never run with. It worked remarkably well with just two double A batteries for the entire night. Along with my missing headlamps were a few extra servings of Vespa, which would have really helped. I think I may have become a little dependent on the Vespa, which allows me to reduce my caloric intake. Without it, I need to eat a lot more. It almost feels like I'm cheating! And next time, I need to bring my own Frappacinos. The trails were a lot tougher than I originally thought. Each loop has about 1200 feet of elevation gain! And my 5 bonus miles added even more elevation gain/loss!

Being passed by a trio of 12-hour night runners. I didn't mind. I'll bet that they didn't have 5 bonus miles on their legs!

Nature's Aid Station!

Unmanned water station at mile 8.4

There were a few buckets like this anywhere there was a water crossing. They were meant for the 100-mile runners who had run during the day, when temperatures reach 90+ degrees.

A fading glow stick marking the course.

 Me with a goofy smile, happy to be done, and with a cool medal around my neck! I officially finished 40 miles. My Garmin however, shows 44.91 miles in 11 hours and 52 minutes.

Monday, July 23, 2012

West Valley Dash of Hope 10K Race Report

The West Valley Dash of Hope 5K/10K is a small race in Los Gatos, California. A friend on Facebook was running her first 10K, so I wanted to be there to offer her some support. I've only run 2 other 10K races since high school, and both races were free fun runs at work. I had run a 45:37 in May, 2010, and a 44:28 in October, 2009. I shelled out $45 for the race day registration.  I found it rather expensive, but knew that the most of the money would be going toward a good cause - childhood hunger in the local bay area.  My running has not been very good lately.  My lower back feels tight and my legs have felt very heavy over the past few weeks.  Consequently, I've only run 54 miles so far in the month of July. I lost my running mojo! To get my ultra running mojo back, I signed up for a 12 hour night race on August 4th.  It starts at 7pm and finishes at 7am.  The runner who runs the furthest on the 10-mile trail loop wins.

Back to the 10K race. I forgot to charge my Garmin Forerunner, so I had no watch to manage my speed.  I found someone near the starting line who might be running a similar pace and made a new friend! Mark was planning on running a 7:10 pace after running a 12 miler the day before. Since that would give me a PR, I thought it would be perfect to use Mark as a pacer.  Even if I couldn't keep up, it was worth a shot! The first mile was done at a 6:45 pace.  Too fast! The second mile was done at a 7:13 pace (according so someone nearby), which was a little better.  Then Mark turned off to finish his 5K race. I thought he was running the 10K! And it turned out that the majority of the runners there were running the 5K. The course had a lot of rolling hills, and it got a tad warm, so I slowed down a little, while maintaining a reasonable effort level. With 0.2 miles to go, I sped up a little to pass a 10K runner, then cruised in for a 46:0x finish time.  Surprisingly, it was good for 2nd place in my age group, and a medal! I've never won anything in any of my races! And the 30-39 age group is usually stacked with fast runners! Where did all the speedsters go?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Double Dipsea 2012 Race Report

Last Saturday, I ran the Double Dipsea race with a group of friends I met on the Runner's World "Loop".  The pictures that Brad and Kynan posted in their blogs better describe the beauty of the race, the camaraderie, and the joy of running with good friends. Good running friends carry many of the same goals and dreams. And we know each other fairly well with all the personal blogs we have shared. Brad recently qualified for the Boston Marathon! How cool is that? Part of the beauty of the Loop is that we can live vicariously through our friends and their blogs on the Loop. And the connections we make are very real, as evident in nearly all the Loop-meetup and Loopfest stories.

We may have been running a race together, but most of the time, we weren't very serious about the race. Brad and Laura could have taken a 14 and 12 minute head start before Kynan and I even started, but they chose to run together with us, as one Loop pack.  And we ran as a pack for the first half of the race. We pushed the pace a little harder than what some of us were accustomed to in longer ultra races. We still hiked most of the steep stuff, but at at a moderately hard pace.  We chatted and enjoyed the beauty of the world around us. The redwoods were majestic, the ocean breeze was refreshing, and the volunteers were fabulous. But it was the company that stood out as the the centerpiece of the day. We were a small pack of wolves, naturally loping along in the forest.

At the halfway point, we got a little more serious about the race, and me and Bangle took off to shoot for a sub 3 hour race, and run a negative split.  I ran harder and blew through the aid stations without stopping. I was trying to give Bangle someone to hunt down. But then I ran into a man named Xerxes Whitney. Xerxes has a moderate form of Cerebral Palsy, but he was chugging along up some really tough hills.  I found his story really inspirational! He was also a high school tennis coach! I tagged along behind him and his guide for at least a mile or two. My brother also has Cerebral Palsy (although a much more debilitating form). I just found out that he is also "a three-time marathoner, a college graduate with a bachelor's in economics from UC Santa Cruz and a master's in applied sports science from Indiana University"! Seeing someone with Cerebral Palsy living his life so fully and successfully really touched me.  I was planning to run to the finish with him, but then Bangle caught up and passed us.  I bid Xerxes farewell and took off after Bangle. The hunt was on. Except now, Brad was the deer.

We ran together for a while, but Brad slowly pulled away. I hung around on his heels as best as I could.  Judging from how he descended the stairs, I knew his quads were already trashed. Brad would run better and faster going uphill and on the non-technical flats, but the stairs and the technical downhills belonged to me.  I kept him in my sights and on the final stretch to the finish line, I made my move. My goal was to cross the finish line with Brad, side by side. I pulled up beside him at the last second (literally) and we both did a Bangle pump at the finish. Unfortunately, there was no camera to capture the moment!

We hung around and I got to cheer for my new friend Xerxes as he crossed the finish line, and then witnessed Laura and Kynan duel some random chick to the finish.  They got chick'd! But they put up a good fight!

Me and Laura enjoyed some fabulous watermelon at the finish line, and then we headed off to the beach for an ice bath in the frigid Pacific Ocean! And Laura and Kynan brought some ice cold Blue Moon beer! And they brought technu to wash off any poison oak oils we might have encountered out on the trails! It was wonderful. There is no better way to have an ice bath.

We went out to lunch together at the Lighthouse Cafe in Sausalito, which makes some awesome blueberry pancakes. The special of the day was a Crab and Lobster Sandwich, which sounded pretty good, but turned out to be a little fishy.  Brad and I should have gotten the pancakes! Parting is such sweet sorrow. But we'll be back again someday soon.  And next time maybe some of you will be joining us! Quad Dipsea, anyone? =)

Other notes: I took one Vespa before the race. And even though I brought a handheld with me, it probably only contained no more than 5 ounces of water in it at any given time. Brad carried no water with him and relied solely on the the aid stations.  I was going to do the same, but Kynan scared me into taking the handheld just in case there weren't enough aid stations.I finished the race in 2:58:36, exactly one second ahead of Brad according to the official results.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Fun Run With Scott Jurek

The book Born to Run inspired me greatly. But it was more than just the book.  It was the people in the book; real life people; that I found so genuine and inspirational. I met Caballo Blanco in 2009, and I met Ann Trason and Jenn Shelton in 2010. And yesterday, I was privileged to meet another legend from the book - Scott Jurek, himself, in the flesh. And he did not disappoint, with his kindness and sincerity.

We went on a nice 4.25 mile fun run along the beach that felt simply magical. The weather was perfect and the scenery of the beach, the ocean and the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance was just fabulous. I was able to run alongside Scott and chat with him about Caballo Blanco, and the Copper
Canyons Ultra. It all felt surreal. But I have pictures to prove it all wasn't just a dream!

We started taking pictures with Scott the moment he showed up.
The fun run came first around 7:15pm
Most of the miles were done at an easy pace of 10 minutes/mile, although a few of us were running backwards to take pictures.
 We had a lovely view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the beach!

Some of us took turns running next to Scott and chatting with him. 


 Here we are at the turnaround point in the run, where we decide to take a few group pictures.

 Beautiful, isn't it?

 Before the book signing, Scott talks about his book and then answers a few questions from the crowd.

And here is me with Scott Jurek himself, after my books are signed.