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.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Pacifica 30K Race Report

Me: It's been a long time since we talked or simply hung out and had a beer together! How are you? How's your running going? Anything new and exciting happening in your world?

You: It has been way too long since we got to talk. The election week was emotional and I'd rather not talk about politics. I hear you ran a race on Saturday! How did it go? Did you have fun?

Me: After that crazy election week, I think we all need a beer and a really long run! And yeah, I ran the Pacifica 30K this past Saturday. It was really no big deal. Just a good long training run with good friends, great weather, gorgeous trails, and a beer (an ale actually). 

You: That does sound like a good time. But why 30K? I thought you ran really crazy long distances all the time.

Me: Haha! A 30K trail race is a great way to train for the longer stuff, especially if you haven't been doing enough trails! 

You: How has your running/training been going? 

Me: It's nothing special. I'm not training for anything specific. I'm running 3-4 times a week. Usually just 8-10 flat miles at a time. At least once a month, I'll go out and do a long run on trails if possible. 

You: I'd love to hear more about this 30K you ran. I know you don't want to bore me with mundane details so give me an executive summary.

Me: The race was supposed to be 30K race, but it ended up being only about 16 miles long according to my Garmin. I went out too fast, not knowing how hilly the course was. The first 10 miles were quite hilly! Some of the downhill sections were very steep. After a couple miles, I dialed back the effort level and just enjoyed the weather and the scenery. I was done after 3 hours and 19 minutes. 

Here are the pictures I took with my iPhone: 

You: Any closing remarks?

Me: I really enjoyed this race distance. I felt good after the race and I didn't feel like I needed any real recovery time. Races with old friends on awesome trails remind me of how much I enjoy this stuff. It's easy to forget about the things you love in this crazy world. Find the time to do the things you love, people. Life is too short to neglect the things that make you happy. And be kind to one another out there.  

Friday, July 8, 2016

Just some senseless rambling...

Do you ever feel like you have nothing noteworthy to blog about? Especially when your running isn't going well or you're sidelined by a pseudo, semi-serious injury? Who want to read about a vacation to Hawaii on a running site, anyway? 

After my last race (Born to Run 30) in May, I decided to run more. I used a step-counting, fitness challenge at work as an excuse to run every day. I ran every day for 17 days straight, and at least 8 miles for each of those days. I should have taken some days off or cross-trained on some of those days. Consequently, I developed a twinge in both my heels, which was probably the early stages of the dreaded plantar fasciitis. I shut down my running, and have been hitting the elliptical machine since then (with a couple more recent 5 mile runs to test the running waters). After a chiropractic visit and maybe a good massage, I'll probably ramp up the miles again soon. I'm turning 40 in August, so I'd like to run an 50K or 50 miler before the summer is over, just to mark my passage into the "masters" division.

On a side note, I did have a wonderful trip to Hawaii at the end of June! If my heels weren't bugging me, I would have been able to run the Kona Marathon while I was there! We went on a 6-hour fishing trip (which cost over 700 dollars). My brother in law is a serious fisherman! For 5 and a half hours, we got nothing! And then a blue marlin hit one of the lines! Estimated at 9 feet long and 120 pounds, it was a monster (relatively speaking, since these fish can get a lot bigger). My brother in law got strapped in "the chair" and pulled in that fish in about 10 minutes - a surprisingly short amount of time for such a powerful fish! It was amazing to witness the action. It was a dream come true for any serious fisherman! 

The next day, I went on 1-hour helicopter ride with two of my sisters to tour some inaccessible waterfalls on the island. I always thought those helicopter rides were overpriced, so never even considered them. I really, really enjoyed the ride! It was almost magical and epic. It was as if we were flying beside these majestic waterfalls. It was all just so beautiful. We also spent a lot of time on the beach and at the pool. Having my parents, siblings, and nephews there made it all extra special. It was a truly epic vacation that I will never forget. 

I've been reading a lot of great Western States race reports lately! I even dreamt that I was running Western States last week! It is still my dream race, and I hope to make it back there someday. Never give up on your dreams, people, no matter how crazy or unattainable they may seem at times.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Born to Run 2016 RR

The people that come to the Born to Run Race Weekend are a mixture of humble, crazy, fun, inspirational, and all-around wonderful people. There was a 4-day, 200 mile, 100 mile, 60 mile, 30 mile, 10 mile, and 0.0 mile race! And yes, some people took the 0.0 mile very race seriously. There were archery runs, bolla races, a beer mile, a cartwheel challenge, wrestling matches, a talent show, a dirtbag prom, and lots of live music. I'm sure I left out plenty of undocumented shenanigans that took place over the long weekend. It was more than just a running event. It was a party. It was a family reunion. Arnulfo Quimare, and the Tarahumara were there. Christopher McDougall was there. Words and pictures only tell part of the story. Some things need to be experienced in person to be fully understood. Born to Run is one of those things.

I arrived on the ranch in Los Olivos on Friday afternoon after a 4 hour drive from San Jose, California. I missed the archery and the bola races with the Tarahumara, which was a shame. I have fond memories of playing a shortened version of the Rarajipari game with the Tarahumara in my first Born to Run two years ago. Having the Tarahumara there amongst us is a special treat. And the legendary Arnulfo Quimare was there! He is the one that beat Scott Jurek in "the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen", down in the Copper Canyons. Seeing Arnulfo speak to all of us was surreal. I wonder if he needed a few drinks to do that! And he was one of the judges in the Talent Show!

I met Christopher McDougall and shook his hand. And I told him how his book opened a door to this amazing world of ultras to me. I told him how it inspired and motivated me to run far, as though I too, was "born to run". Meeting Christopher McDougall and shaking his hand was very cool! My iPhone was having storage problems, so I was unable to take any pictures this weekend. Totally lame, I know! I have my memories though and there was no shortage of pictures from everyone else!

So there was a cartwheel challenge that was going to happen. It wasn't in my plans, but it made perfect sense at the time. I have always been pretty good at cartwheels. The rules were simple. Keep doing cartwheels, back and forth, until you cannot do any, anymore. Last man/woman standing wins. If you fall, you're out. If you take more than 10 seconds in between cartwheels, you're out. I lost track of how many cartwheels I did, but they got progressively harder. My lungs were burning and I was getting dizzy from all the cartwheels! I bowed out in 5th place. The college girls that won the event were animals! I could have sworn they were gymnasts!

Next came a 1 Kilometer vertical challenge, sponsored by Patagonia! Sprint straight up a hill for cool prizes! It was tempting, but my head was still spinning from all the cartwheels. And there was still a beer mile coming up! I was content to spectate. There was no way I could compete with these trail studs anyway. It was a very intense scramble up the hill for the men and the winners scored a very nice Patagonia jacket! The short race did look like fun...

Here is Luis Escobar being chased by a shark in the Beer Mile!

Last year at Born to Run, I sat out of the Beer Mile. I felt undertrained and needed every muscle fiber available for the 30 mile event the next day. Watching it from the sidelines last year was tough, so I decided to do it this year, knowing full well that it could affect my race the next day. This was only my 2nd beer mile, having done my 1st beer mile at my first Born to Run two years ago. I chose Bud Light, just because I am not a seasoned veteran of beer chugging. I marveled at how hard it was to chug down the beer. I had to take burping breaks while drinking the beer, which never happened before. Perhaps my beers were extra gassy after being shaken up during the drive? Anyway, the beer mile was super hard and I almost threw up. I did record it on Strava, which had me running at a 7:22 pace when I was moving, and about 11 minutes for the whole beer mile. There was about 100 of us doing the beer mile! Good times! The beer mile left me a bit tipsy, but I was no where near "drunk". I was buzzed just enough to float around camp and enjoy myself without making an ass out of myself.

I listened to a special tribute to Akabill before the start of the 100 mile race, who had passed away unexpectedly in the past year. He was the one who crafted all the amulets that we received after our little adventures on the trails. He was always there at the bottom of the steepest hill to cheer for us and to take our pictures! That hill was fittingly named Akabill Hill, in his honor. He was an accomplished ultra runner with 100 mile finishes at Western States, HURT, San Diego, Angeles Crest! But what moved me most was how much his old cross country students loved him - like a father. I had a really cool father-like coach back in high school too. Luis Escobar (AKA, the sheriff and Race Director) is also a great coach and mentor from what I hear. It's no wonder that Akabill and Luis were such good friends. Like Caballo Blanco (Micah), Akabill will be missed by everyone he touched with his kindness, love and support.

I woke up Saturday morning feeling like I got hit by a truck. Okay, maybe not a truck. Maybe more like a professional linebacker. My shoulders, hips and hamstrings were sore. Even my right calf seized up in a cramp for a second! And I knew exactly why. It was the damn cartwheel challenge! My spirits sunk for a moment, knowing that my 30 mile race was going to be slower. I had no idea what to expect, but I wasn't going to let it bother me. If I screwed up my race, it was my own damn fault.

This is what an ultrarunner dog looks like.

Waking up at 4:30AM to the sound of shotgun blasts was pretty cool. There was no way anyone was oversleeping and missing their race start. The 10 mile, 30 mile, and 60 mile race starts promptly at 6:00AM. Christopher McDougall leads us in the traditional Born to Run oath started by Caballo Blanco himself. Raise your right and repeated after Chris: "If I get hurt, lost, or die, it's my own damn fault." With that, Akabill's sister fired a shotgun and we were off.

My race was nothing special. I could probably describe it all in a short paragraph. I was happy to be consistent throughout the day. I finished in a respectable 6:07. Not too fast, not too slow. Pretty boring, if you asked me. I felt more like a spectator than a racer. I took no pictures (since my phone was having storage problems), so I was planning on borrowing lots of wonderful pictures from everyone else. I blamed the cartwheel challenge more than once, for all my lollygagging throughout the race. The race felt harder when the sun came out and it got warmer. The rattlesnakes must have woken up too, because I could hear a few rattles in the high grass once in a while. The most memorable and enjoyable parts of my race happened when I shared the trail with others. I loved hearing about others' inspiring stories.  And when I ran alone, my thoughts drifted to friends who shared these same trails with me in previous years.

If you got this far in my race report, I strongly suggest you put the Born to Run race on your calendar. If a 7 year old can run the 10 mile so can you. A cute little 7 year old ran the 10-miler this year. A 9-year old boy ran the 30 miler. A dog also finished the 30 miler! There is no shortage of inspiration and support on the ranch. And there isn't much of a time limit either. And if you weren't "born to run", sign up for the 0.0KM race and come out to have a beer and see all the crazy people as they run around in circles while having the time of their lives.

"Life is good! And getting better..." -Akabill

Interested in race results and where you'd stand?
Born to Run Race Results