Saturday, June 21, 2008

Pacifica 30K - Pacifica CA

There's something about this course that I really don't like. Last year it started with running in the mist (which I found depressing). Then it was the necessity to come back to the starting area and run back out again. Finally its the unrelenting continuous climb followed by continuous descent. I don't mind one or two long grinds. But five of them (which is what the 30k's three loops had) is too much. Then the long quad-thrasing ab-cramping descents. I much prefer some rollers and runnable area thrown into the mix. People that do well at Ohlone (like Will Gotthardt and Jean Pommier) probably like this course. I think in the future I'm going to avoid both courses if there are alternatives on those weekends.

I also had a lot of trepidation about this race, as I would have to do it in orthotics. I've been training in Nike Frees recently (a minimalist shoe with basically no support of any kind). I went a little overboard this week with long trail runs in them. By Friday my feet were very sore and I was getting twinges of plantar fascitis, something I thought I had licked many years ago. So the only way I could do this race was to go ahead and turn my beloved lightweight New Balance 790s in to awkward "high heeled" running shoes with balky orthotics in them. On a technical trail run like this - a recipe for disaster.

At the start this year it was sunny and warm. I don't think I've ever even seen sunshine in Pacifica in the morning before. I saw Chuck Wilson and Rob Byrne on my walk into the park this year, and regaled them with tales of Kettle Moraine's biblical extremes of this year. Will Gotthardt was there, as was Ryan Commons (a surprise show, no doubt to keep Thom Clarke, who he's competing with in the PCTR Ultra series, in the dark). Obviously Will and Ryan were then the 50K favorites (which proved to be true). Ray Sanchez was there sporting an expedition hat. He would come in third. Also lining up was Jason Wolf the PCTR Trail Series overall leader, who would win the 30K in an incredible 2:46.

Jason Wolf, Ray, myself and others at the start, photo courtesy of Rick Gaston

I headed out up the hill in chain following Will Gotthardt (there may have been a couple 20Kers ahead of him, but he led the longer distance guys). Halfway up the hill Ray passed me which is unusual as I've generally led him throughout in these PCTR races when I'm doing middle distance. Good running Ray. Ryan was still behind. I got to the top fairly quickly without noticing the awkward orthotics. But on the descent that high center of gravity with the raised heel was very noticeable. I came in after the first 12k loop out to North Peak in around 1:10. I grabbed some coke and potatoes and filled my water bottle with Perpetuem and some coke (not all the way it turns out due to the coke foam, I would regret this later). I'm guessing Ryan came in and headed out for the second loop while I was doing this.

Heading out for the 9k loop I still felt good most of the way, but tried to keep my speed in check. I was pretty much by myself the whole time, but could see Hoa Tran up ahead. My water bottle wasn't full and in the hot sunlight I came in after the second loop in 2:12, passing Drew Beesing (2nd in the 20K 20-29 agegroup) just before he finished. By this time I was getting sore toes and some chafing (remnants of Kettle Moraine 100K flaring up). So I took about ten minutes to retape my toes and apply BodyGlide. I should have had an extra pair of large toebox shoes with me. That would have helped quite a bit. I also made sure to get a full water bottle on this trip.

I headed back out for the final loop, feeling alright energy-wise. But my toes were still hurting. Also the chafing wasn't really solved by the BodyGlide. Also I really hate repeated "Groundhog Day" loops. Its like some kind of penance for sins having to do that. Makes me want to join the gymrats and go run on a treadmill watching bad TV.

On the last descent I slowed down in noticeable quad pain. I don't know if the orthotics were to blame or not. I did have one wipeout with about a mile to go on the switchback descents, putting a noticeable bend in my middle finger. That wipeout I am pretty sure was due to the orthotics. Luckily the need for them seems to have disappeared already so I won't have to go through this experience again soon. Will just confine myself to Nike Free training only once per week

I finished as bib number 332 in 3:32. This was good for fifth in the 30K and first master, earning for another 10 points in the age group part of the PCTR Race Series. Will Gotthardt won the 50K today with Ryan second, and Ray third. Surprisingly PCTR Race Series competitor Phil Oreste did not show for this race though he was registered So I guess I'm leading the 40-49 age group 66 to 36 points. I'm third overall in the trail series, but will not be able to catch either Jason Wolf or Jeff Emery as they are just too fast for me.

Afterwards I chatted with Rick Gaston, who was volunteering to get in hours for TRT 100. This reminded of the one week I have left to get those 12 hours. Yikes! I'll have to cram in a lot of assistance with Quicksilver Running Club at the Western States Duncan Canyon aid station to get that all in. I also got advice from Rick (also pacing next week) on how to pace for next week's pacing of Jean Pommier at Western States.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Geraldi's Tag

Alan Geraldi (he of the back to back Hardrock, Badwater, TRT, Leadville, UTMB, Wahsatch this summer) tagged a bunch of Ultraholics (Jean, Michael, Chihping, Baldwyn and myself) with 5 interesting questions today.

1. my running ten years ago
I've always been a cyclist. 10 years ago I was a workaholic at Microsoft in Seattle. Once I moved to California in 2000 I got back into bike racing and then triathlons. I found, to my surprise, that running was my strongest leg. I did almost all my training on the trails around my house and loved it. I did surprisingly well in the first trail race I entered and started doing them absurdly frequently.

But it took me many years to come around to doing ultras. I only started doing them last year. I still do a lot of shorter distance trail races and I still have a lot to learn about how to do distance well.

2. the best and worst race experience
My best ultra performance was North Face Seattle 50K last year. It was a brutal 10,000 plus feet of climbing course. I was running with the big boys for almost the whole race (Tim Twietmeyer, Kami Semick, finishing second master to Tim and 15 minutes behind Kami). I have a lot of shorter distance wins that were a lot of fun. The most beautiful courses I've done (short or long) were all in the Marin Headlands.

Although I've made a ton of mistakes doing ultras (almost every classic one) I don't know that I've ever really had a truly "bad" trail run. Even the total bonk, 10 miles off course disasters were amazing experiences that I wouldn't get rid of.

3. why do I run?
Being out in nature, pushing myself to my limits, at one with the trail and the mountain, is an indescribable and ineffably moving and exhilarating experience. It is completely addictive. Although I love to race weekly and am very (probably overly) competitive, the core of the passion is really just the trail running itself. My morning trail runs in the Santa Cruz mountains are something I would find extremely difficult to give up under any circumstance.

4. best and worst advice I've been given
Hmmm, good advice? I came from an old triathlon coach: "do something every day". Simple. Effective. Not everyone follows it.

Bad advice: overhydration. Beyond the risk of hyponatrenemia, people are just beginning to discover that the body can only process so much fluids per hour. Beyond that more fluid and sports drink makes it difficult for your body to metabolize any fuel.

After doing a bunch of reading, I'm starting to become convinced that my races with big GI issues were due to too much drinking. One water bottle of sports drink per hour (supplemented with aid station cups) seems to work best.

5. tell us something surprising that most people wouldn't know about you
While I was still a hardcore cyclist, in high school my ambitions were much more geeky. I led my high school chess team to the state championship (which we lost).
But my true ambition is to be a Beastie Boy (replacing one of the other Adam's when they retire)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Lake Youngs Ultra 50K - Renton WA

This race traverses the 9.6 mile loop surrounding Lake Youngs in Renton, WA three times. It's almost all trail and there are nice rolling hills most of the way for about 900 feet of climb. One unfortunate feature is that you never actually get to see the lake. Its run around a fence on the outside of Lake Youngs. Participants who want to can add another 2.3 miles at the end running back to a marked spot on the course and back. I did the race last year and just ran two loops, tweaking my ankle and having to stop.

This year when I showed up race morning Arthur Martineau said "Hey Adam I didn't think you were coming. You need to register and give some money". Wow, why was I listed on the entrants list then I wondered? (I had checked the race site yesterday to see if I was signed up or not) "Oh, I saw that you listed this race as planned on the Marathon Maniacs site so I saved you a spot." Amazing - now there's a useful aspect of the Marathon Maniacs organization!

This year I had ran the Kettle Moraine 100K the week before in biblically extreme conditions (heat, thunderstorms). And then done a lot of long training runs this week. So, I had no lofty goals for today's race. I figured I would run three 1:20 splits of the 9.6 mile loops with a couple minutes for refuels and then tack on 20 minutes or so after the 28.8 to do the 50K. This would put me right around my 50K PR of 4:24 but not much less. The approximate 8 minute mile pace seemed reasonable since there is supposedly 900 feet of climbing on each loop. My primary goal was just to run even splits and keep a consistent pace.

But out on the first loop I felt great and settled into a 7:30 pace instead. I got back to the start at 1:12:04. I had to take a bathroom break after the first loop (these woods are not deep enough as they skirt the fence) and I stopped to drink a Red Bull and eat potato chips (co-race director Jennifer Martin said "huh? why would we have potatoes?") and headed back out onto the trail at 1:18.

The second loop I was shooting for being 1:18 again. I ran slowly at first eating my chips (man I miss those potatoes). I fell in alongside Roger Chou and Cindy Bigglestone. This was apparently Roger's second trail run. His first being PCTR Forest Park from a couple weeks earlier. Otherwise it appears we like to do the same races as he also did Vegas and Boston. Shortly afterwards Cindy and I sped up and moved ahead. Cindy is a hardcore triathletes venturing out onto the trail for run training - this was her first trail race. She asked about other good local trail races and I regaled her with my Seattle area favorites. She also told me about her training for Ironman Canada in August. I haven't done any multisport events since last year so I enjoyed hearing about it. I'm going to go to her spin class in Redmond, but only if its raining out! (the only excuse for indoor cycling in my opinion)

We came back in at 2:33:12. Cindy stopped after this loop. I took two minutes to drink and eat and headed back out at 2:36. On the third loop I still felt good and felt like I had actually sped up. But instead I noticed that I was approaching the finish around 3:55:40. I headed back out and kicked it in gear for the final two miles to the 50K finishing in 4:11:08 - my new PR. However I think that 50K mark was just set up at one mile though (i.e. not quite enough for 2.3 miles additional), since I felt like I was doing 7 minute miles at the end not 6:30 miles. I think with some tapering this would be a good race to try for a sub 4 hour 50K some day.

Feeling great about the PR, I hung around eating delicious barbecued burgers and chatting with Marathon Maniacs president Steve Yee (he's good luck, my previous PR of 4:24 was set at Mount Si 50K where we ran together as well), Francis Agboton (we had run together last year here and at White River), and Roger. After eating my fill I headed out to pick up the kids and begin a weekend of constructive laziness, milking Father's Day and race recovery to the fullest.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Kettle Moraine 100K - Madison WI

I seem to have a knack for picking unexpectedly brutal races this year. First the inaugural North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Miler in April in Bear Mountain, NY. This ended up being called for time for all but the top 19 of the participants (and their average time was 12 hours). Ohlone 50K three weeks ago was a scorching almost totally exposed 100 degree plus heatwave, with two runners being hospitalized. In terms of effect on the participants though, Kettle's heat and humidity had far more effect on the field.

In fact, though I've only been doing ultras for a little over a year, I haven't heard of any races with this high a drop rate. In the 100 Miler, 15 participants finished out of 114 runners who reached the Scuppernong mile 31 checkin. This is an over 85% drop rate. Stunning. In the 100K, there were over 70 starters but less than 40 finishers.

On race morning, the heat and humidity was already evident at 6am at the starting line. So we knew it was going to be a tough day. I lined up at the starting line with a custom bib made by Ultraholic leader Chihping Fu (see below), alongside last year's 1 and 2 finishers fellow Ultraholic Mark Tanaka and fellow Philly boy Joe Kulak.

I ran with Mark, Joe and Zach Gingerich (with a 3:20 50K PR) until the Tamarack aid station at mile 5. At that point I let the leaders move on ahead and stopped to beg some potatoes from the just opening aid station. I headed back out enjoying the soft firetrails and constant up and down hills that wound through the forest.

From miles 16 (Emma Carlin aid station) and mile 23 (Highway 67 aid) the course runs through quite a bit of open high grass fields. The heat in these areas was overwhelming. Once the trail led back into the woods the temperature was a bit more comfortable. I reached the 50K mark of the Scuppernong aid station turnaround in 5:08. I was in fourth place for the 100K at the time, and first master.

As I hit the fields on the way back the heat did take quite a toll (everyone around me was walking). And then I hit some blister issues (presumably due to extreme sweating. I took 30 minutes at mile 45 to fix the blisters, change socks, and try to cool down. On the next leg I hit some major chafing issues beyond what I've had at any race (not really sure why at this point). I had to take time to pin up my shorts in something like an adult diaper to alleviate it (I know - not a pleasing image).

Shortly after that a serious thunderstorm started up. It was apparently part of a tornado warning. The sky was lit up several times with massive lightning. We don't usually get thunderstorms in California. So this was interesting to see. It also cooled things down a bit. At mile 50 there is an unmanned aid station called Horse Riders. Some runners stopped here to take shelter from the rain. But to me this was an opportunity to run in cooler weather. However in the extreme thunderstorm I couldn't quite see the way back onto the trail. Eventually after running into an actual horsebarn one of the locals directed me back onto the trail.

At mile 55 I stopped for another 20 minutes, to eat soup and drink Red Bull. I had spent so much time stopped before that I assumed (incorrectly) that I was no longer in contention for my agegroup so I was in no particular hurry. It was my first 100K and finishing was the primary goal.

After leaving Bluff Road and running one or two miles I saw Mark Tanaka and Zach Gingerich running together. To me it looked as if Mark was in the lead. Apparently that honor belonged to Joel Eckberg, who I guess reached Bluff Road and the turn to Rice Lake before I got to that aid station. Mark looked like he was having a tough time in the heat. He finished second in 20:39 this year after winning last year in close to 16 hours.

After another mile or so I stopped at the Tamarack aid station five miles out and sat down again chatting with Ultraholic Ian Stevens, while he got me potatoes and Mountain Dew. It was a festive atmosphere there with tiki torches all aglow in preparation for the night runners of the 100 Miler. Feeling good after this point I took off a good clip. I ran across Bay area ultrarunner Rick Gaston coming back out for the 100 miler with about 2 miles to go in the 100k. Rick was looking strong and would finish 3rd overall in the 100 miler.

I felt great this whole last stretch and managed to pass about five people enroute to finishing in 13:55. This was 13th overall (out of 70 starters) and fourth master. Third master had come in two places ahead and 10 minutes earlier. Perhaps a little less than an hour in aid stations was called for! But overall I was very happy with this race, and toughing out my first 100K (and first race over 50 miles) under extremely difficult conditions.

Thanks to Chihping for the great bib!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Lake Chabot Trail Challenge - Oakland, CA

With one more week to the Kettle Moraine 100K (my first race over 50 miles) my training plan had me doing a 13 mile run on Sunday anyway. So I decided to drive up to the familiar Lake Chabot, site of the Skyline 50K and Golden Hills Trail Marathon, to do this lowkey trail half marathon. My goal was to run about 1:40 on this hilly course and stay fresh for next Saturday.

I brought my friend Marco, a budding new trail runner who had just done Quicksilver 25K a few weeks earlier. At the start I saw Ultraholics Baldwyn Chieh and Chihping Fu (whose wife was doing the 5K).

Heading out on the east side of the lake, after leaving the asphalt pavement of the Lake Chabot trail, we did a quick up and down of a two hundred foot bump at mile 2. At Mile 3 we hit the Live Oak hill: 600 feet of climbing in a mile. Then up and down rollers until mile 9, when we dropped back another 400 feet to skirt the western shore of the lake. I got passed twice in short order once I got to mile 10. I considered chasing after them since I really don't like being passed. But today was not supposed to be about racing. Just before the finish I wasn't sure which way to go so I made the first left that would get you to where I remember the start being. Once I figured out the right way to go I had to backtrack 50 yards or so and keep going to hit the finish the right way. I finished in 1:40 and a few seconds (not really sure of my exact time or place).

Afterwards I relaxed in the sun chatting with Baldwyn Chieh, Mike Palmer, Julie Nye and other local ultrarunners while waiting for Marco to finish. Marco came in around 2:52 and we headed back down to the South Bay shortly afterwards.