Thursday, May 29, 2008

PCTR Forest Park 20K - Portland OR

I flew up to Portland this year to try to save some face after getting passed in the last quarter mile last year and coming in second by seconds. This year I switched to the 20K to avoid another beating at the hands of Terry McCormick. But this year, despite racing well (I thought 1:30 for the 20K would be realistic on the hills and still ran 1:28), and leading out all runners for the first mile or two, I wasn't as fast as Thomas Cason, a 1:15 half marathoner from North Carolina. So... second by seconds again.

I had a great time as usual in Portland though with the kids. Lots of running books picked up at Powell's: the world's greatest bookstore.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Ohlone 50K - Fremont CA

This race is a classic. Its the hardest 50K not at elevation (based on average times historically). But with this year's 100 degree plus heat-fest it may harder than almost any 50K (Karl Meltzer's Speedgoat 50K probably still beats it).

I arrived at the 50K start Sunday morning at a civilized 7:30am (the race's 8am start time being one of the nicer features of the race except on such hot days). I chatted with ultra fixtures Will Gotthardt (his home course and winner of last year's ultra rookie of the year) and Beth Vitalis (multiyear winner of this race and who would also be this year's winner).

Jack and Lainey and I at the start, with Will Gotthardt and Jean Pommier in the background

I felt (incorrectly) confident of my ability to handle the heat, as normally its not a problem for me. I planned this year to go slow early and summit in around 55 minutes instead of 50 minutes. Otherwise, despite last week's 50K at Quicksilver, I was looking forward to a fun race in beautiful California golden hills.

We headed up the hill and I fell in with Bryan Wyatt, a familiar feeling after running with him last week at Quicksilver.

Climbing to Mission Peak, photo courtesy of Dan Turchin

I reached Mission Peak this year in 56 minutes. I had worn heavier New Balance 800 shoes, so the descent off of Mission Peak didn't hurt as much this year. I reached Sunol aid at around 10 miles at 1:45. I changed into some lighter shoes (probably a mistake) and picked up a new bottle of Perpetuem from my drop bag. Felt great up through the Rose Peak but was holding back in fear of the heat I guess. I got to the Schlieper (mile 25) aid station right around last year's time of approximately 5:30. But on the descent to Satan's Pit I cramped out in my right ab. This has happened before to me once or twice and I've noticed that it can go away. A bunch of people passed me including ultraholic Steve Ansell and Clare Abram (who I had run with at Tahoe Marathon last year). When I got to the bottom at Satan's Pit, my ab was the least of my problems. I was suddenly completely nauseous and dizzy. I laid there by the stream for at least 20 minutes decorating the trail. Even when I got up I still didn't feel right and went into a survival shuffle for the rest of the race. Jim Normile (second place runner in my Overgrown Fatass) passed me around mile 28 (same place as last year). Adam Ray caught up to me at mile 29. He was also having a rough day in the heat. I bombed down that hill to the Stromer aid station with him, but then let him go on ahead. Ultraholic Hao Liu caught up shortly afterwards and we ran the last couple miles together. I finished in 7:10, 43rd and just barely in the top third despite a very rough last hour and a half on the trail.

Jean Pommier had a fantastic day and won by over 20 minutes in an incredible 4:57. Will Gotthardt improved his place to 7th, finishing in 5:37. Beth Vitalis won and set the master's women record which was incredible under these conditions. Caren Spore was second woman this year. I chatted with her about upcoming races and tried to convince her to come up to White River 50M again this year (we had both done it last year). I enjoyed the barbecue and mingling with so many elite local ultrarunners before heading back to the South Bay.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Quicksilver 50K - San Jose CA

What a perfect race to have on my birthday! My "home course" - the Quicksilver 50K/50M. This was one of my first ultras last year, doing the 50K in 5:18, having fun the whole way. This year I planned to do the fifty miler instead. The day before I drove out with my dad to the race start and helped set up for the race, before picking up my bib. Last year I had done trail maintenance getting a severe case of poison oak in the process, but I skipped that step this year.

It dawned a perfect day for the race, not nearly as cold as last year at the start. Just before we lined up I saw Chihping Fu, who said he was still nursing his stress fracture, exacerbated by last week's Miwok 100K. As we ran out I fell in alongside Keith Blom, who knows this course like the back of his hand. I wanted to run 8:30 and Keith usually beats that, so I thought running with him would be good. On the early hills of the Virl Norton Trail though I felt good and took off ahead. I found myself running with Devon Crosby-Helms. This was a sign that I was running way too fast. But I did get to hear about her plans for her budding running career. She wants to do trials for the Olympic Marathon
in 2012.

As we got to mile 6 and the first water stop I slowed down and ran with Bryan Wyatt for a while. I got to hear his story of having his car stolen overnight recently. We got to the dam aid station for the first time around 1:30 and shortly afterwards Suzanna Bon caught up with us and the three of us ran together for a bit. I arrived at English Camp at mile 14.5 at around 2 hours - I was way ahead of last year's split of 2:15. Again - probably not a good sign. The volunteers asked for pushups. "Has anyone done them?". "No.". Well those guys deserve what they ask for so I knocked out five marine styles.

Then up the grind up the hill to the top of Mine Hill Trail before bombing back down and getting into the dam aid station again at 2:30 - well ahead of plan. Coming out of the aid station and running down the Guadalupe Trail I saw Jane and my kids coming up from the road where I had pointed her to a "secret way" into the park.

Shortly afterwards Stuart Taylor caught up, doing the 50K this year again, after doing his first ultra last year in 5:02. On the climb back up to the dam I slowed down and got passed by Quicksilver veterans, Keith Blom, Jim Magill, and Rick Gaston, all motoring strongly up that familiar hill.

I got to the dam again around 3:30 and picked up a fresh bottle of Perpetuem, some electrolytes and a Red Bull from the kids. I grabbed some potatoes and a turkey sandwich and continued up the hill. Feeling like I was plenty ahead of goal pace I slowed to a walk to eat my sandwich. As we crested the hill I was ready to start running again. But as I pounded the downhill the blood blister that had been slowly forming became excruciating. I need to run with more shoe than my favorite New Balance 790s on courses with this much pounding descent. I'll be running in New Balance 800s in next week's Ohlone 50K.

After a second visit to English Camp (where they declined my request for beer saying I could get some on my way back out), I saw Graham Cooper coming back up the hill looking very fresh and strong. Then I saw Chikara Omine and Victor Ballesteros running together. Shortly afterwards on the grind up I saw Mark Tanaka running down. And as I got up to the Hacienda fireroad I saw Suzanna Bon bombing down the hill. I loped in easily for the last couple miles to finish at 5:21 - around the same time as last year.

With the blood blister going on and my dad and my kids in the finish area where the beers were flowing, and the grills were burning, it seemed the better part of valor to just stop at the 50K point. While my time thus far was just fine and I really didn't feel too badly, suffering through the blood blister for another 20 miles just seemed a pointless alternative to enjoying the rest of my birthday. So I stopped there. To my surprise just about everyone I knew doing the 50 mile had also stopped! Scott Dunlap, Devon Crosby-Helms, Sean Lang and others had all stopped at 50K after signing up for the 50 mile. Scott had a great suggestion for improvement: just sign up for the 50K and bring $5. If you want to do the 50 mile then ask to change to the 50 miler once you get into the 50K finish. I think thats my plan next year.

My friends Charlie DeGraw and Marco Garcia had finished the 25K race, their first race longer than 7.5 miles, without major incident. I hung around chatting with Sean Lang and Stuart Taylor while my kids brought me beers and burgers for the next couple of hours. We watched Graham Cooper come in for the win in 6:35, setting a new course record. Chikara Omine was second in just under seven hours. Shortly after that I took off with the kids up the hill for yet another birthday barbecue (gluttony is a nice perk of ultrarunning).

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Pat's Run 4.2M and Race for Literacy 5K - San Jose and Mountain View, CA

I hadn't gotten into the Miwok 100K that was being held on Saturday due to a bad Wifi connection on the ski mountain on registration morning (Miwok sells out immediately). In so doing I missed my chance to the "Bay Area Triple" of Miwok 100K, Quicksilver 50M and Ohlone 50K on successive weekends. I'm instead only doing the latter two.

So this weekend I signed up for a pair of short road races instead. I decided to keep mileage low and intensity high just before Quicksilver 50M next week. This almost resembles a real taper, something I haven't really tried before.

So on Saturday morning I joined thousands of other local runners to do Pat's Run - a 4.2 miler in honor of Pat Tillman. As most of you know Pat was a defensive back for the Arizona Cardinals who volunteered to serve in the military and was killed by "friendly fire". The run started at Leland High School where Pat went to school.

Like many roadraces, it was an uninspiring course. It runs through the surrounding suburban cul de sacs, before finishing up on the football field. There's another 10K run from Leland high school that at least takes you out on the bike trail.

I planned to run 6:15 miles and try to finish in 26:30 or so. I hit mile 1 (with some downhill) at 6:10. Mile 2 had some climbing and I hit it at 12:40. Mile 3 was right at 19 even. Mile 4 should have been right around 25:15 or so, right on track for 26:30. Instead I hit it below 25 minutes. And I finished up at 25:53. This was definitely faster than planned: about 6:10 milers. I think the course may have been a little short.

On Sunday I drove with my friends Charlie and Marco (doing his first organized road race) to Shoreline Park for the Race for Literary 5K. Several hundred people were there at the start in the chilly mist.


We ran out on a bumpy path from the kite-flying area. I had heard Vanessa Lordi say that she wanted to run 6:10 miles. "OK, I'll draft off of her", I thought. We did indeed hit the first mile at 6:06. Going into the second mile I realized she was slowing down (probably to 6:30 pace) and passed her, losing maybe 15 seconds on that. Elyseo Hernandez was running about 50 yards ahead. as we approached the two mile mark at around 12:30. I suspected that he was in the over 35 age group (I turned out to be right), so I guess it was worth making the effort to catch him (I had bet Charlie and Marco breakfast on winning my age group). I started reeling him in slowly. I caught him right around the 3 mile mark and the turn into the kite flying field at 18:45. I sped up and put out a little kick to not get passed, finishing in 19:20. This was good for third overall and winning the 36 and older age group.

I waited for Charlie and Marco to finish. They both came in sub-30 minutes well in the top half. Great job guys! We hung around in the emerging sunshine eating delicious vegetarian Indian breakfast: ukhma (which was sort of like spicy grits), pongol (which was like a creamy lentil dish) and sambar (a lentil-based red sauce). We followed that up with more breakfast (the bet proceeds that is) at Los Gatos Cafe.