Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Quad Dipsea Race Report 2017

"First run in 1905, the Dipsea is the oldest trail race in America. It is run every year on the second Sunday in June. The scenic 7.4 mile course from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach is considered to be one of the most beautiful courses in the world. The stairs and steep trails make it a grueling and treacherous race. And its unique handicapping system has made winners of men and women of all ages." (http://www.dipsea.org/)

The Quad Dipsea is a bit easier to get into, but still sells out pretty quickly every year (4 times the fun of the Dipsea?). This year was the 34th running of the Quad Dipsea! This was my second attempt at this race. I started this race a few years ago, only to sprain my ankle and drop after only 7 miles. So there was unfinished business to attend to.  My goal was to just finish the race in the 8.5 hours we are given for an official finish.
Eight and a half hours for only 28.5 miles sounds pretty easy, doesn't it? The 9200 feet of elevation gain makes things just a tad more interesting...


The course is beautiful, despite seeing the same sections 4 times!

I was having a wonderful time in the first half.  I was running well and climbing well. I even blew through a couple aid stations!  I got through the first half in 3:28, but I already knew that I was going to slow down in the second half. I was running well, but my climbing legs were woefully under-trained.

My climbing grew slower and slower as the race went on. My legs started to cramp and hurt on the steep climbs.  I was officially in survival mode, despite being able to run on the descents.

On the last lap, I was scared I wasn't going to make it. The climbs hurt, and I had to take breaks going up just to keep my heart rate down. I kept telling myself to take one step at a time. I was still able to drink my Tailwind Mix in my handheld bottle, but nothing was easy at this point. One of the great things about a race like this is the people. Everywhere you go, people are cheering you on. And you get to see everyone racing on the out-and-back course, twice! When you're hurting and suffering, you can take comfort in the fact that you are not alone. You can see pain etched in the faces of many of your fellow runners. It's a reminder to keep fighting, to dig down deep and to keep moving despite the pain.

Somewhere in those final miles, I must have found my limit, and ran right past it. "You must do what you don't think you can do." Isn't that one of the reasons why we run ultras? To find the limits we place on ourselves (mentally), and then surpass them? It's a great feeling! Of course, I would've had a better limit if I had trained better! Oh well. Life goes on.

I finished the race in 237th place out of 300 finishers, in 7 hours and 53 minutes. The shwag was great (a finisher's patagonia jacket and long sleeve shirt)! I felt sick for hours after the race (even after throwing up). My legs randomly seized up through the night. It was all worth it, because I didn't give up and I finished. I didn't win the race. I just owned it (my own race, that is).

Find your limit. Pass it. And don't look back.


Friday, October 6, 2017

Overlook 50K Race Report

The Overlook 50K was created by Ann Trason and is run mostly on the Western States course. Most of you know that I hired Ann as my coach a few years ago when I trained and ran my first Western States race.  Despite the painful DNF (did not finish) there, I had a wonderful journey, highlighted by Ann Trason's inspirational tutelage.

I came into this race pathetically under-trained, with no long trail runs for about 4 months. Still, I was hopeful that I could fake my way to a finish and get a long training run in the process.

Surprisingly, I ran really well for about 27 miles! Then it got hot and hilly. I became mildly dehydrated and my body started to protest with a series of cramping and pain. The last 4 miles were slow and tough.  But somehow, I managed to run-walk-crawl to the finish line in 6 hours and 7 minutes.  Good for 49th place out of 139 finishers! I had a great time!

Everyone is wearing tutus at this river crossing aid station! The river is both refreshing and a shock to the system!

Laura Matz, in the distance...

 The views are breathtaking everywhere you turn!
It's a waterfall!

Gordy Ainsleigh! He is local hero/legend, and everyone around here loves him. He always gets a nice ovation and cheer at the finish!

Other notes: One the mantras I used in my first 27 miles was, "Run like you're in 2nd place." I was thinking about my 2nd place finish at the Mokelumne River 50K when I was better trained and the fast kids were doing a different race. I ran like I was being chased. I ran like I was protecting a lead. And I passed a lot of people after going very easy in the first 10 miles. And I really thought I could keep it up right to the finish.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Mokelumne River 50K

The Mokelumne River 50K seemed like the perfect opportunity for a long training run. While I was out doing this long training run, my wife and kids would be hiking at Folsom Lake with my in-laws and their kids. I got to the race at 5:45 in the morning, just 15 minutes before the start. I scrambled to sign up and get ready just barely in time for the start. It was just supposed to be a training run, so even though I was rushing through my preparations, I was not overly stressed.

I tapped Tony (AKA Endorphin Dude) on the shoulder and said hi just before the race started. This guy is always so full of positive energy. Ann Trason is coaching him, and he too is using this race as a training run! I miss Ann's coaching. She is simply amazing. Her kindness, her expertise, and her friendship makes you want to run better and smarter. I am a better runner because of her.

The race starts and I quickly settled into a comfortable pace. I look around and find myself in 6th or 7th place. Why is everyone going so slowly, I wonder? The 50K runners and 50 Mile runners start together, so I have no idea who my competition is, but it doesn't matter at the time. I make some small talk with the lead lady, who I recognize as Beverly Anderson-Abbs (a well known ultra speedster!). Her husband, Alan Abbs was running the 50 Miler, who is also an amazing ultra runner. 


Bev was dealing with some knee issues, so wasn't as speedy as her usual self, but was still looking super-strong. I felt honored and inspired to be running with a local legend. And it was a beautiful day to be running!

I skipped the first aid station because I had plenty of fluids and calories to last at least 20 miles. I just kept Bev close and "zoned out", The hills were mostly rolling and not outrageously steep, so I ran up most of them. I had never run in this area before, but I had childhood memories of camping and fishing at this lake we were running next to - Lake Camanche. I remember thinking about how cool it would be to finish in the top ten - which is rare for me. I do not consider myself to be fast and have only placed in one ultra (a 12 hour night race where there were only 15 of us).

When we got to the aid station at mile 12.5, I was shocked when the volunteers told me that I was 3rd overall and 2nd man! I wasn't sure I wanted to know that. While it was an awesome place to be, there was still 19 miles to run! And it was supposed to be a training run! Do I put my game face on and dip into beast mode? Or do I run easy and focus on the original plan (so I don't wreck myself)? I was still feeling good, and the opportunity to win hardware was too much to pass up.  Game on.

In racing mode, I started to take mental notes of my competition both ahead of me and behind me. The course is an out-and-back course, so you get to meet everyone, especially those that you might be chasing and who might be chasing you.  1st place looked way out of reach at the turn-around. I had a decent lead on third place, but in a long race anything can happen.

Other runners I passed would comment on race position and cheer me on! I felt like a rockstar and an imposter! I don't belong in the top 3!  I was loving it, but also feeling the pressure to keep it up. I kept looking back to see if someone was chasing me.  Bev was still there just ahead of me. It was like having a personal pacer tow me along. I thought about racing Bev, and maybe even passing her near the end, but quickly dismissed the idea.  I was honored to have her there and didn't feel like pushing for an extra place in the overall standings was worth it. At mile 24ish, I took a couple extra minutes to fill my hydration pack.  It had gone empty and it was getting warmer.  That's when I lost Bev for good.

By mile 26, I started to feel the effects of all that "racing". Up until now, I ran up most of the hills. I let myself hike up some of the uphills. Running those hills, while possible, would surely wreck me.  And then it was all over. I finished in 5:20:07, 2nd man and 3rd overall. I was still in a state of disbelief and shock. I received my snazzy finisher's medal and a wooden spoon trophy.  It wasn't traditional hardware, but it didn't matter. The field size was small, but that too did not matter.  It felt like a dream, and it wasn't even a goal race. I won.

The Quicksilver 100K is coming up on May 13th. It won't be easy and it might be hot. I have no idea what will happen. It will surely be an adventure though and I like my chances with the training I have under my belt. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

2017 Night Sweats Marathon

I ran this race back in 2014 as a training run for Western States. Back then, I had a ton of training miles under my belt and had just run a PR 50K. That year, I ran this trail marathon in 5:20. This race was just a training run for me, so as long as I finished without wrecking myself, I would count it as a win.  I drove to the race and signed up just 15 minutes before the 8pm start! With some rain earlier in the day, I was hesitant to even sign up! I am so glad I did!

If you love trails, put the Marin Headlands on your bucket list for places to see. Whether you run or hike, this is a magical place you have to visit! There are plenty of races here to choose from too if that's your "cup of tea".  

I had been running really well lately, with long runs of 25, 28 and 20 in the previous 3 weekends. I turned my ankle a couple times in my 28 miler, so I was extra careful with my ankle on any technical trail sections. 

Early in the race, I ran to a fellow runner whose headlamp was terribly weak.  I was very concerned. I had an extra flashlight as my backup light, but I was initially very selfish. If my main headlamp ran out of batteries, I would be in trouble. I had not tested any of my lights for three years! After an internal debate, I decided to offer my extra light to the fellow runner. After all, "light was meant to be shared, right?" Super corny, I know. But it was those words in my head that settled the debate. I found out it was Randall's 20th marathon and that he flew in from Arizona to run the race. There was a chance that I had just derailed my own race, but I knew it was the right call. It was just a training run for me. Without my flashlight, Randall could have gotten hurt and his race would definitely be in trouble.  I was just doing what most trail runners would do; helping each other stay safe out there. 

There were about 50 of us running the marathon. I had Strava running on my phone, but never looked at my progress. The miles ticked away almost effortlessly.  The night sky was brilliantly lit with the familiar glow of the moon and the stars. I turned off my headlamp whenever I could just to admire the night sky.  I wish I had a real camera with me, but no picture would do this world justice. There was magic in the air.  I felt so alive and strong.  I run-walked many of the hills and felt at peace with my effort level. It was still a training run, after all.  

With about 5 miles to go, I caught up to a random girl who was running very strongly. After running alone for most of the race it was nice to follow someone. I wasn't sure I could keep up with her, but I was going to try. I zoned out and just ran as though it were a road marathon. And road marathons are supposed to hurt at the end, right? I eased into the "pain cave" which was more discomfort than pain.  And then it was all over, after 5 hours and 19 minutes. I was shocked with how well I did! And I felt like I could have gone on for much, much longer! What a wonderful run! I would have gone back out for bonus miles, but another fellow runner needed a ride home.  I received my snazzy wooden medal with pride and drove off into the twilight, feeling amazing.