Saturday, December 28, 2013

My 2013 Recap With some pictures...

2013 was a great running year for me, even though I only ran 4 races. It started with my first 100 mile race finish at the Rocky Raccoon 100 in February. I came into that race ridiculously under trained, but with a little luck and some great friends, I pulled off an immensely satisfying finish in 29 hours. The finish qualified me for the Western States 100, which is practically impossible to get in. 

In April, I ran the Big Basin 50K (almost identical the Skyline to the Sea 50K race in October). I turned my ankle in that race, but was still able to finish in a decent time. The course was beautiful and it was great to get back on the trails.

My new goal for the year was to get faster. I wanted to return to the Rocky Raccoon 100 and shoot for a faster time. I neglected the trails and ran on flatter terrain. I also started doing speed work on the track! Everything made sense until Plantar Fasciitis bit me in the "behind" in June. I was running in denial till July, when I shut things down and took care of the injury.

In August, I still ran a 12-hour night race - the Cool Moon 12 Hour Run, but I planned to run it very cautiously. I taped my feet with Kinesio Tape and tried to take it easy. When I found myself in first place after 14 miles, my plans to run cautiously were thrown out the window. My new plan, was to go for broke and try to win the race. It was an amazing experience! I ended up winning by a landslide (47 miles)! There were only 15 of us in the race, but I felt like a superstar to win my first race - in my whole life! The only other running moment that surpassed this one was my 100 mile finish! I was so very proud!

My injury did not get worse with my little 12 hour run. Still, I continued my hiatus from running to take care of my injury. I iced my feet, went to the chiropractor for soundwave treatments, and cross trained with yoga and the stationary bike. I started running again in October - very minimally at first. Then on November 10th, I ran a road half marathon that turned out to be 15.5 miles due to poor race planning and lack of course markings! It was still a good training run, even though I was a bit disappointed with the race.

Then, in December, I got picked in the Western States lottery! What a great feeling it is to get into the race of my dreams! This is my Boston Marathon! My training officially began on December 16th. AND I hired Ann Trason as my coach! She is probably one of the greatest ultra runners of ALL time! Can you tell how excited I am? I am a huge fan of hers! Since I started training, I've been running almost every day, taking only one rest day per week. There are plenty of easy recovery days thrown in there, but things are going pretty good so far. The Plantar Fasciitis isn't completely gone, but thankfully, it is not getting any worse. I would say its about 95 percent better. With careful management, I think I can at least hold it in check as I train for my dream race.

I have some in-laws that live in Roseville, CA, which is about a 20 minute drive from Auburn, CA, where the Western States race finishes. And this year, we had a Christmas dinner party for my wife's side of the family on December 26th. This was a great opportunity to study part of the Western State course during a long run! So the morning of the 26th, I went for a long run, planning to do 18-20 miles. I wanted to preview at least 9 miles of the course. Things didn't go as planned when I took at least 3 wrong turns. I ended up running/hiking 23.1 miles, and covered only about 8 miles of the course. Course markings on race day should help! Here are some pictures! We also took the kids to the Tahoe area with their cousins to see snow for the very first time. They loved the snow, of course!

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, and a fabulous New Year!

 Snow tubing!
 "Do you want to build a snowman?" - this song is from the new Disney movie "Frozen", which my kids love!

And here are some pictures from my little 23 mile training run...

This is where I want to be about 6 month from now, after logging 99 miles!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Western States Dream

The Western States States Endurance Run is my Boston Marathon. This is my dream race. This year there were 2704 people entered in the lottery, and 4307 tickets (some people had up to 5 tickets)! I had only one ticket in the lottery! The lottery happened on December 7th, and I am still wondering how my name got pulled.

It's been 10 days, and I am still having trouble writing about everything. Overall, I am overjoyed and excited at the opportunity to run my dream race. I am also scared/frightened/terrified of all the things that can derail/crush/destroy this dream of mine. What if I get injured during training and can't even toe the starting line! What if the race day temperatures climb to 100+ degrees! I'd be screwed!

I've been telling everyone about this dream race. I get goosebumps just thinking about the race. I quit tennis to run and train more. I took off a day from work every other week to train - all day on trails. And I hired a coach! I am hoping that a coach can help me stick to a training plan and keep me on track. I ended up choosing Ann Trason as my coach. She is probably one of the greatest ultra runners of ALL time! And she is a really nice, knowledgeable person too!

This quote keeps coming to mind when I'm feeling overwhelmed.
The future belong to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. - Eleanor Roosevelt.
 It reminds me to believe in myself. Like my old high school coach used to believe in me. Like how my old cross country teammates believed in me.

You have to believe in your dreams no matter how difficult or crazy they may seem. You cannot give up. Do everything possible to realize your dreams. But do not neglect your family and friends. Dreams that have already materialized are no less important than the ones you are reaching for. All of my friends who believe in me - you help make my dreams come true. I don't feel like I am alone in this journey, and if it doesn't have a happy ending, that's okay. Because I know I have a great family and great friends (some I haven't even met yet) who love me just the way I am. Thanks guys.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Inaugural Half Marathon at The National Veterans Day Run

On Sunday, I ran an official half marathon race. The National Veterans Day Run. Sounds big right?

"This year we've expanded to more than 40 cities across the nation. Bring your friends & family and join our 1-mile family walk, 5K or 11K. If you're really up for a challenge, then join us in San Jose for our inaugural Half Marathon."

A decent sized crowd showed up at the starting line on a chilly November morning. Veterans were recognized and a General gave an opening speech. An NBC news van was even there! The National Anthem was sung and it wasn't long before we were sent off. It was a great start. Things went downhill from there.

It turns out that most of the people there were running the 5K or 11K. I started out faster than I probably should have, but I always do that in anything less than a marathon anyway. I had left my Garmin at home because my strap was broken. My plan was to run the race like a hard tempo run. If I had a good day, I might even run a 1:45. I had no idea where I was, running-wise. The race follows a bike path that runs along the Guadalupe River in San Jose and passes the airport. After we passed the 5K and 11K turnaround points, there were no more course markings! I was running in 2nd place for while, before I made a wrong turn and had to back track! A few people passed me here. I dialed down the pace, feeling a bit frustrated at the lack of course markings. We kept plugging along. There was no one at the turnaround point for the half marathon! We kept going and going! At the end of the trail, roughly 7.75 mile into the race, everyone decided to turn around. At that point, the race felt more like a long training run. I passed a couple guys and finally finished in 2:10:23. One of the runners GPS watch had us running 15.54 miles. It ends up being comparable to a 1:50 half marathon, which is a decent tempo training run for me. The official results puts me at 6th place out of 35 runners. The first runner listed in the results probably took a wrong turn and cut the course short. 

For an inaugural half marathon, this was terribly done. The were no age group or overall awards (I was the 4th man to finish anyway). Still, it was all for a good cause - to recognize Veterans who have served our great nation. Maybe they'll learn from their mistakes and do better next year or just scrap the half marathon if they're just going to do a half@ssed job of running it. Sighs... I wish I were in West Virginia!

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Light at the end of the Tunnel

I've been dealing with Plantar Fasciitis since mid June. I kept running with some discomfort for a month before shutting down the running and sought treatment. I ended up going to my chiropractor for three sessions with Soundwave Therapy (EPAT), one orthopedic massage, and a couple of acupuncture sessions. I had also been wearing heel seats in my shoes everywhere I go, which have helped. Although I can still feel some stiffness in the morning, there is very little discomfort left, especially during my runs or a friendly game of tennis. I finally see some light at the end of the tunnel!

So now, its time to start rebuilding my base and to start planning my racing for 2014! And there are so many options to choose from. Here are some races I am considering.  The Bandera 100K in January and Rocky Raccoon 50 in February sound like lots of fun! But I can probably choose only one, and on my limited training, the Rocky Raccoon race seems to be the safest race. The Bandera 100K sounds like a really tough race! Going into that race with minimal training is crazy! Crazy races also make things more interesting and adventurous though. Luckily both races will not sell out too quickly (if at all), so I have some time to train and decide later on which race to run. There is also the Miwok 100K in May (if I get in via lottery), the American River 50 in April, and the Western States 100 (which is unlikely but still possible)!

The Western States 100 Mile race is still my dream race. It also scares the heck out of me. It is the granddaddy of ultras, and it is a beast! If I do get in, I'll probably have to hire a coach to help me train and to hold me accountable to the training necessary for success at that monster of a race. Honestly though, I hope I don't get in for the 2014 race. My kids are still too young (2 and 6) for me to disappear for all those long training runs. I could probably do it, but I'd feel guilty for leaving my wife and kids to chase a dream that can probably wait a few years. Since I qualified for the race with my Rocky Raccoon finish, I feel like I owe it to myself to at least throw my name in the lottery hat. You never know...

On Saturday, I ran 7 trail miles with 2400 feet of elevation gain, and I followed that up with another 6.65 miles and 2200 feel of gain on Sunday (while my eldest daughter was taking a tennis lesson). Both runs took me to a scenic peak, where the views are always pretty amazing. Ultra running is like climbing peaks. Going up, it doesn't matter whether you are running or hiking (although its always impressive to see someone running up a steep incline). The object of the game is not to go fast. With so much variation in terrain and climates, the goal is simply to reach a peak (or finish line), and to overcome the obstacles along the way. And at that peak, when you worked hard to get there, the panoramic views just seem so much sweeter and more breathtaking.

 This is "Mission Peak" in Fremont, CA. Its one of the more popular local hikes in the San Franciso Bay Area. And it got really windy and cold up there!

 This is the view at a peak in Alum Rock Park in San Jose, CA. This is where I log most of my train miles.

Monday, October 21, 2013

My Daughter's First Race - On Trails!

This past Saturday, my 6 year old daughter, Allyson, ran her first race! This is a free 1-mile kids race, but they got really nice medals for completing the race! I was so proud of her. I had invited her whole girl scout troop, but only one other girl could make it. The main events were a half marathon and a 10K trail race, put on by the Quicksilver Running Club. Although I am an official member of the club, I am fairly inactive with most of their activities (which I hope to change as my kids get a little older).

Having a fellow girl scout and friend to run with helps! They get to hang out before and after the race. And it probably takes off some of the pressure from having a crazy running dad! There were 28 kids running in the race and they all took off at a sprint at the start. Kids always do this! Me and the other scout's mom followed the kids for moral support. It's an out-and-back course. At the end of half a mile, the kids get a bracelet to prove they made it to the turn-around point. Ally started to take more walking breaks in the second half. When she did run, she ran fast! But the hills would take out her steam pretty quickly. This was not an easy trail!

She finished the race with one last sprint. And looked completely wiped out! I was so proud of her! She was close to last place, ahead of a couple three year-old kids, but placement did not matter.

I don't have any big expectations of my daughters. But I do hope they find some joy in running someday. Most importantly, I hope they find their own calling - something that they find a passion for. It has to inspire them to dream big dreams. Even if they don't reach the pinnacle of their heart's desire, the simple act of dreaming will enrich every day of their lives.

Monday, August 5, 2013

My first WIN at the Cool Moon 12-Hour Night Race

The Cool Moon 12-Hour Night Race is not a big race. When I ran the race last year, there were 16 runners and I came in 10th place with 40 miles. This year, the course was changed. Instead of 10 mile loops, there was a tough 14 mile loop followed by more runnable 11 mile loops. The race starts at 7pm and ends at 7am. I had been having mild Plantar Faciitis pains for the previous 2 weeks, so this race made me nervous. If the pain got bad, I would simply quit. My Garmin was low on batteries and I had forgotten my hydration pack, so all I carried was a 10 ounce handheld flask for water and a pack of Honey Stinger chews (one for each lap). Earlier in the day, my 6 year old daughter told me, "I hope you win your race, Daddy." I laughed a bit a told her that I'm too slow to win any races.

When the race director sent us off to start the race, everyone hung back at a snail's pace. No one wanted to lead the race it seemed. So naturally, I took off! I wasn't even going that fast! I just settled into a easy pace and zoned out. So it was extremely embarrassing when a few of them hollered at me to get back on course after a missed turn! From 1st place, I dropped into 10 place (where I normally belong). I had no business leading the race so early anyway. We were now on a narrow single track trail with some rocky technical parts, so going slow was the smart thing to do. Passing would be difficult. After a few miles I slowly inched up in the race. I enjoyed the company of the other runners, but when we hit any non-technical downhills, I naturally sped up. By mile 8, I was in 3rd place. And at mile 12, I could see the headlamps of the 2 guys leading the race. I was probably only a few minutes behind them. The hunt was on! I was already thinking that I had a shot at a podium finish - which felt like an absurd pipe dream. When I finished the 14 mile loop, the race director informed me that I was the first to check in! The lead runners must have made a wrong turn! All of a sudden, I found myself in first place. Everything would have to be perfect for me to maintain the lead for next 8+ hours! I could not afford a wrong turn, a fall, or a turned ankle! And I would have to run well! I had no idea how fast or steady the 2nd or 3rd place runners were. 

I drank a serving of Vespa and a serving of Pediasure before heading out for the 2nd loop - intent on maintaining and building my lead. I was running scared. I was scared of being passed. And I was excited about the possibility of a win - a real ultra win in an official race. The mere thought of winning felt surreal. The pressure was on. I ran as though my life depended on it. I pretended I was being hunted. The fear and the adrenaline pumping through my veins were real.

I thought about the Rocky Raccoon race and thought about the "beast mode" where I got a second wind and powered my way through miles 66-80 in that race. I needed to do something similar here and I had to maintain it for at least 33 miles. I tripped on rocks a couple times, which scared the hell out of me. The 11 mile loop passed quickly. After 25 miles, I was still in the lead. And I was feeling really good! I drank another serving of Vespa, a Pediasure, and a Starbucks double expresso, since I was starting to get sleepy. My right foot was aching and left hip felt tight, so took two aspirin at mile 27 and all my pains magically disappeared.

The miles flew by. But by mile 32, something felt wrong. There was was supposed to be an aid station at mile 31, and I had a nagging feeling that I had missed it. A Garmin would have come in handy here! My heart sank. I must have made a wrong turn somewhere. I felt like I had just lost the race. But the course marking and the ribbons were all still there. At the next aid station at mile 34 I reviewed the map and found my mistake. There was a short out and back section to an aid station that I missed. I had only missed about a quarter of a mile on the course. When I explained to the race director what had happened, he told me not to worry about it. I was so relieved! In the next loop, I planned to rerun the section I had missed for my own peace of mind.

Normally after 36 miles, I would slow down. But I was still leading! And by now, I was probably leading by about an hour in front of 2nd place. As long as I didn't blow up, I had a great chance at winning! I was giddy at the prospect of winning the race. And everyone I talked to knew about it! I pushed on and ran. My mantra became "Earn it!". The skies began to lighten up when I got to an aid station at mile 45. I sat down in a chair for the first time in the race and just enjoyed the view. It was a glorious morning. I got back to the start/finish area with 47 miles at 6:18am and felt confident that it was enough for the win. The race director thought so too. I had done it. I had won an ultra race. And it was AWESOME! I was so happy. The only happier running moment came after my 100 mile finish, only 6 months ago.

Other Notes:
In the middle of the night, around 2-3am, there was a ribbon with a reflector on it was was waving in the air. I could see it, even at a distance. I figured the wind must be blowing it. But as I passed the ribbon, I could feel no wind. It gave me the creeps. Was it a ghost cheering the runners on? Or was it a simple hallucination?

Later in the race, I came up behind a skunk and ran behind it for probably a quarter of a mile! The poor thing probably thought I was chasing it! I definitely did not want to pass it! It eventually turned off on a side trail. A 100 mile racer encountered a black bear on the 14-mile loop! And there was a pack of coyotes that could be heard howling and yelping in the distance. Even though no one saw any mountain lions, I had a feeling there was a mountain lion out there keeping an eye on us...

I took a total of 4 servings of Vespa, 4 servings of Pediasure, and 2 Starbucks Double Expressos. I wore my New Balance 890v2 shoes, since I forgot my La Sportiva Crosslites in my other car. My wife and kids were about 30 minutes away from the race to attend our niece's baby shower on Saturday. So I didn't have to drive all the way home after the race!

Running in first place kind of sucks. You're alone for most of the race! The best part of ultra running is the companionship and the camaraderie and there is less of it when you're leading in a race. It was great fun to lead and win a race, but I'm happy to be middle-of-the-pack runner, where there's lots of company and no rush to get anywhere fast.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Big Basin 50K Race Report

The Boston bombing incident affected me in a deep, personal way. It was an attack on runners everywhere; our way of life, our hopes and dreams. I originally wanted to run the San Francisco marathon in honor of Boston, but the Big Basin 50K (AKA Skyline to the Sea 50K) better suited my own goals and dreams. The SF Marathon also does not allow race day pickup of race packets which would have made things terribly inconvenient for me. I wore a nice 2013 Boston Marathon racing tank top that I specifically bought for this occasion.

I was running for Boston, especially for Martin, his little sister, and everyone who lost a limb. It broke my heart to hear about all the people that lost a limb. Growing up with a handicapped little brother makes it especially hard to see a child in a wheelchair. And my 2 year old baby just broke her leg last week! She was recovering well, so finally pulled the trigger and signed up for this 50K late on Wednesday night.

The Big Basin 50K is a point to point course starting in Saratoga, CA and ends at the sea at Waddell Beach (just north of Santa Cruz, CA). I drove to the finish line area and took a shuttle at 6:45am to the starting line.

The first 2 miles were very crowded. I should have started further up in the pack! There wasn't very much room to pass other runners but once I warmed up, I started to speed past runners whenever I got a chance. At mile 7, I got stung by a yellow jacket wasp on my left shin, which hurt! I swatted it off my leg, but the swollen sting mark is still there today.  The race was going perfectly, until I decided to pass yet another runner at mile 11. I made my move, slightly off the trail when I turned my right ankle. Ouch! I had to stop and limp for a little while before I could continue running. It was bad, but it wasn't a full sprain like I managed to do at the Quad Dipsea back in November. But for the remainder of the race, I could feel my ankle on uneven surfaces or if I stepped on a rock or root in a funny way. At this point my daydreams of a fast finish (shooting to for a 5:45ish PR) were thrown out the door. If I wasn't careful, a misstep could end my day altogether!

At mile 13.5, the 50K runners get to do an extra 4-5 mile loop that the marathoners get to skip. This loop contains the toughest hill in the race. I have not done any serious hill training in ages! This hill kicked my butt! All kinds of negative thoughts crept into my head during this section. I stopped and drank a Pediasure and regained some energy and positivity. I was ready to really climb the hill when I turned a corner and found that the uphill was already done! Darn it! I should have chugged that Pediasure 10 minutes ago!

At around mile 15,  I ran into a lady who had just sprained her ankle and taken a fall! I felt so bad for her! I stopped to see if there was anything I could do to help. She ended up dropping from the race. And at mile 20, I slowed down to walk with Chuck Wilson, who I had met before at another race.  I found out he had torn his quadriceps muscle and had had surgery to reattach it back in September. And here he was, running a trail marathon! He wasn't a fast runner, but his passion for trails and the ultra running sport was very inspirational! Eventually I bid him farewell on some very gentle downhills. The trails became less technical, and the ankle no longer caused me any pain. I started to run well, even though I was feeling some fatigue.

At mile 28.5, I got to the last aid station on the course to drink some coke and eat some watermelon. I chatted with Allen Lucas, who is also a passionate trail runner! I love his enthusiasm! He even took a picture of me here.

I probably spent too much time at that last aid station, but at that point I didn't really care about my time as much since I was not going to break 6 hours anyway. Plus, it just isn't as fun to be too competitive in these races. I took my time to enjoy the beauty of the trails and to appreciate the simple gift of the ability to run.

Other notes: I only took one Saltstick Electrolyte capsule, even though I brought 6. I probably drank no more than 30 ounces of water throughout the race. I drank one Pediasure for breakfast, one right before the race, and one midway through the race. I took a total of 3 servings of Vespa and one pack of Honey Stinger chews. Next time, I think I'll pack another Pediasure to drink late in the race. My longest run in the past 4 months was a 2:50 20-miler on asphalt, which is clearly insufficient

 Mile Splits:

Mile 1 11:24
Mile 2 10:55
Mile 3 7:48
Mile 4 8:48
Mile 5 8:46
Mile 6 9:17
Mile 7 11:09
Mile 8 13:09
Mile 9 12:20
Mile 10 10:34
Mile 11 13:37
Mile 12 12:04
Mile 13 12:10
Mile 14 11:50
Mile 15 11:52
Mile 16 15:14
Mile 17 16:37
Mile 18 12:41
Mile 19 13:39
Mile 20 15:02
Mile 21 18:19
Mile 22 11:20
Mile 23 10:34
Mile 24 18:15
Mile 25 12:35
Mile 26 11:07
Mile 27 10:26
Mile 28 10:33
Mile 29 16:11
Mile 30 14:23
This is were I parked to wait for our 6:45 shuttle to the start.

Here is another lady with a camera!

This reminded me of my 6 year old daughter, who is a Girl Scout in a Daisy Troop!

This aid station was full of cheer and encouragement! I stopped to take a picture with them!

There were some exposed sections that got a little warm, but it wasn't too bad...

We run under a lot of downed redwoods like this too!

There are majestic redwoods everywhere!

And there were a lot of interesting bridges to cross (your feet stay dry throughout the race!)

Here is a cool bridge!

At the top of some of the climbs, there are some very scenic overlooks!

Here is a free pictures from one of the official race photographers. I like it!