Monday, December 24, 2007

Looking Back on 2007

2007 was an exciting year. My first year doing ultramarathons. I had a lot of trepidation going in as I wasn't sure that I was really a long endurance athlete. To my surprise some of my best races were the longer ultras (50 milers). By the end of the year I felt like I really understood how to race an ultra well. I started regularly finishing in the top ten, generally in the top few masters (old guys). More importantly I was enjoying the races start to finish and feeling strong throughout.

I did 42 races last year (down from my usual 50 or so per year). Twenty of those were marathon and longer. Of the thirteen ultras I ran, three were 50 milers. Some highlights of the year were:

Favorite course: any Golden Gate Headlands race (GGH Marathon, Muir Beach, Rodeo Beach).
Toughest course: White River 50M (and my second favorite)
Best performance any distance: Mount Diablo 8K (overall win and masters record)
Best ultra distance performance: North Face Endurance 50K, Bellevue, WA (seventh overall, second master)
50M PR: JFK 50M (7:57)
50K PR: Mt. Si Ultra (4:24)
marathon PR: Las Vegas Marathon (3:10:56)

My big lessons learned (old saws to any experienced ultrarunners but which I had to learn the hard way myself) were:

- don't try to run when injured - just skip the race (this was a hard one for me)
- run less, cross-train more (cycling whenever possible)
- avoid road marathons, especially when big ultras are coming up
- acclimate for ultras at elevation, or better yet, just stay at sea level!
- go at a moderate pace for the first half hour
- eat something small (potatoes, pretzels, chips) at all the early aids
- don't stop or sit ever

Finally I want to thank the fair Rebecca for all her support crewing my races. I couldn't have done it without her. Judy Ranzer, my travel agent, figured out all of our flight and hotel logistics, just from a list of my races. She displayed endless patience in the face of constant schedule adjustments.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Rodeo Beach, Sausalito, CA

Rodeo Beach is my favorite course to run anywhere. Last year I had won the short course here. And earlier this year I had run the Golden Gate Headlands Marathon there and had a great race. And of course had a great run last week at Muir Beach 50K along much of the same course. So despite having pulled my calf last week, I showed up here to try to do a lowkey run for my last ultra of the season. I had had some training runs during the week, running the flats from downtown Los Gatos to my office in Cupertino. So I thought I might be able to pull off the race after all.

Walking to the start

Heading up that first hill from the beach on the Coastal Trail, my calf was twinging the whole way. Once I hit Wolf Ridge the downhills were fine. Up the hill on Miwok fireroad my calf was getting tighter and tighter. Down Old Springs trail to the Tennesse Valley aid station, I realized that I wouldn't be able to do the 50K after all. Not unless I wanted to walk all the uphills and make my finish time a few hours longer. Probably not a good idea since Rebecca was waiting for me. I told the aid station volunteers there that I would do the 20K, and headed up the Marincello Trail.


I still had to walk all of the uphills, whereas I was able to run the downhills and the flats, despite the pain. I finished in just over two hours. Rebecca had run the 8K and was helping Sarah set up the finish line food. We headed off early for a weeklong trip to Squaw Valley at Tahoe: no running, just snowboarding. Probably just the right cure for my injury.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Muir Beach 50K - Sausalito CA

My favorite place to run on the planet: the sacred Golden Gate Headlands. Despite the advent of snowboard season (shredding it up last weekend on Crystal Mountain in Washington state) it was worth breaking out the trail shoes again to run into the headlands from Muir Beach. Last year I did the 11k arriving late and thus not contending for the win as I used to do at many PCTR short races.

My goal this year was to run the 50k, do it in under six hours, and focus on enjoying the run, taking pictures of the spectacular views throughout (apologies in advance for the photo spam - I love my new Nokia N95 phone with 5 megapixels - a true ultrarunner's friend). Great training for Miwok 100K, Headlands 100, and other races I am planning to do in 2008. Heading up that first killer hill towards Pirate's Cove I was running with the leaders. I realized that I should slow down and save some powder for the long day and stopped to admire the view of the surf.

Pirate's Cove

We undulated up and down the narrow single track of the Coastal Trail before heading down the Tennessee Valley Fire Road to the aid station. I dropped off my jacket, gloves and sunglasses at the aid station. Then up the grind of Marincello fireroad (the same as the Golden Gate Headlands Marathon and the Rodeo Beach Run).

cresting Marincello

Then down the single track towards the Coastal Trail again. Then up the climb out onto Conzelman Road. I hit the aid station and then out onto Field Road running down to the Lagooon.

Looking out over Field Road down to Rodeo Beach

We turned left onto the Oil Spill Bypass, a slightly faster way up to Rodeo Beach.

Approaching Rodeo Beach

From Rodeo Beach, we started the grind up the Coastal Trail, up through the concrete tunnel, then out onto the road, up the steps and finally onto Wolf Ridge.

Up from Rodeo Beach to Wolf Ridge

Down the Ridge, up the Miwok fireroad, then left onto the Old Springs Trail, plummeting while trying to avoid day hikers until we got to the Tennessee Valley aid station again. I grabbed some coke and potatoes from Will Gotthardt who was volunteering after finishing second in the 17km. From there, down Tennessee Valley Road, and a right up the grind of the Fox Trail. Reaching the summit, then bombing down two miles back to Muir Beach and the start/finish area.

I got back to Muir Beach and the 33km mark at 3:15, way faster than I thought I would (about 45 minutes ahead of schedule). I picked up another bottle of Perpetuem and headed back out at a relaxed pace. Back to the Tennessee Valley Valley aid station, Will refilled my water bottle while I grabbed another Coke at around the 4 hour mark. Then the 5km loop up Marincello Trail, turning onto the Bobcat trail to head back down to Tennessee Valley.

Down the Bobcat to Miwok with an hour to go

Then back down Miwok to Old Springs again and the aid station. I ran right past at 4:45 and tackled the grind up Fox Trail again. I did finally flag a bit on that climb this time, and got passed by the friendly Daniel Borcherding. I got to the the top around 5:13. At the top, about two miles from the finish, I felt good and decided to bomb down to the finish. I started really moving, cramped out and just ran-hobbled through it. I must have clocked six minutes miles as I finished to my surprise in 5:25 and change, ahead of my goal. Good for ninth out of 72 in a strong field. A very good day in the temple of trail running.

Ryan Commons had won the race in an impressive 4:32. He has come on strong as I remember running with him for a while at Ohlone. I also chatted with Beth Vitalis and Michael Kanning until Rebecca got there to drive me home. Off to Buckeye's at the bridge for a great post-race meal.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Las Vegas Marathon

This was my "backup road marathon" in case I didn't qualify for Boston at Silicon Valley Marathon. I planned to race this one aggressively: run 7 minute miles throughout unless and until I fell apart.

Race morning the Bellagio shuttled us to the start at the Mandalay Resort in some very nice vans. We still ended up walking quite a ways to get to the corrals. In the huge throng of people (over 12,000 competitors), even trying to get as far in front as possible, it took me a minute to get across the starting line.

I ran the first mile in 6:47 before slowing down to a more reasonable 7 minute pace. My splits were as follows: 6:47, 7:02, 6:55, 6:53, 6:53, 6:55, 7:11, 7:12, 6:53, 6:54, 8:18 (mile marker long!), 6:06 (translates to two 7:12 miles if these two miles were correctly placed), followed by 7:32. At mile 13, I was at 1:31:30 and hit the half marathon at 1:32:25 (chip time). Then up the hill of around 500 feet of climbing (although most people think of Vegas as being flat): 7:32, 7:30, 7:35, 7:35,7:12. All along the way spectators and grade school cheerleaders (in town for a national competition) cheered us on.

Around mile 17 I started to get a bad blood blister on my toepad (us trail runners aren't used to road pounding), slowing down to approaching 7:40 miles. Bummer. I should have worn thick socks for a road marathon. My splits from 18 onward were: 7:37, 7:38, 7:41, 7:29, 7:08 (downhill!) and 7:42. Turning right at mile 23 through the crowd of half marathoners on the backside of the strip all of the faster marathoners had to slow down to avoid the walkers in the half marathon. I held steady at 7:40 miles, as it was too hard to speed up amidst the crowd, and finished at 3:10:56 - a PR and good enough to qualify for Boston regardless of age (the open standard being 3:10 and change).

I felt good about the whole day. I think that with proper gear, no blister emergencies and a clear finish to the course I will be able to run 7 minutes throughout and post a 3:04 as my times from shorter distances indicate I should be able to.