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Archive for the ‘50 Mile’ Category

Lake-Sonoma-50-logoSaturday the 14th started out typical, well as far as race mornings go.  Jen, my beautiful one lady crew, and I set out at 5:30AM from our hotel and promptly got lost.  The 3rd year of running the Lake Sonoma 50 wasn’t a charm but Jen and her portable computing and texting device steered our groggy efforts.  Arriving with plenty of time I was able to check in with two wonderful ultrarunners that I’ve been training for Western States.  Janeth was in grand spirits as usual and utilized the massive draw of ultra talent to score pictures with Timmy Olsen and Max King.  Mike was his usual calm self and practically has running ultras down to a recipe.  Well wishes exchanged and bib numbers on, it was race time.

I positioned myself near the top 1/3 of the race prior to the “gun” sounding.  I glanced around to see Hal Korner, Jorge Marvilla, Karl Metlzer shoulder to shoulder with me.  In the distance, off to the side, I saw my wonderful Jen mouthing, “You’re too far up!”  To which I responded, “I know” but embarrassingly some shirtless runner guy thought I was wafting sweet  nothings his way and waved back.  Begin Awkward Sequence!  Jorge yelled with uncontainable excitement then John Medinger launched us into the streets.  I used the 2.5 mile stretch of road to withdraw myself from the gunslinger pace promptly.

My race strategy was straight forward – average 10:00 min/mile across the entire race.  Not even across all miles, but for the duration of the race.  Using last year’s splits I knew where I ran too fast and where I crashed.  I adjusted my initial splits to slow down (9:30 min/mile for the first 15) then hold a steady 10:00 – 11:00 min/mile on the backend.  It was a little more complicated than that but you get the idea.  Backing off was key because my longest training run leading up to this time was 26.2 miles.  Right now my body knows a fast 26.2 miles – if I push fast for longer, the wheels can fall off.  That strategy equated to an 8:22 finishing time.  I rounded my goal up to 8:30 but that still scared me.  This would be my fastest 50 miler to date on a challenging, early season, “relentless” course.

Churning up the paved uphill road I immediately realize my Garmin isn’t tracking mileage.  DAMNIT !  It was in some weird indoor mode.  I quickly power cycled it, locking it’s infuriating microcomponents to the Sonoma sky.  I then spot Ken “All Day” Micheals and say hello then pose the off beat but required question of “How far do you have?”  He replied, wondering if it was a joke, “0.3 miles!”  Now I had to add .3 miles to everything… All Day !!!

In the distance I saw Jen Phifer – a great competitor and wonderful person; we had run close-ish splits for the 1st half of Lake Sonoma in 2012.  I was drawn to stay near her, but my logic took over and I found myself pulling back from sub 8 min/mile on the road.  Yet, I also noticed she didn’t pull away.  I’ve ran with Jen enough to feel something was different with her today and was concerned (I later found out that see was recovering from the flu and dropped out of the race).

So concerned, maybe OVERLY concerned, that once we hit the single track I saw her pulled just off the trail hunched over, kinda kneeling.  I too pulled off and asked, “Are you okay”.  She bounced up saying yes, just PEEING.  Oh so AWKWARD.  That thought didn’t even cross my mind.  I bounded over the creek crossing, darting up the other side in TOTAL embarrassment.

Only to be embarrassed again I saw the Race Director John Medinger directing traffic towards the first water only aid station.  I enthusiastically yelled out, “THANKS GREG!” … to John, not Greg.  As my wife would say about me at that moment, What a turd.  For the next 2-3 miles I BURNED it into my head in an attempt to remember 40 miles down the trail, you need to apologize to the Race Director JOHN when you finish.  I repeated that, silently, over and over again.

Just before Warm Springs Creek AS (11.6) I grouped up with a quick pack of runners that were purposeful but not too fast. Leading the pack was Meghan Arbogast, an amazing runner that has been a top-10 female Western States finisher something like 6x, many of those sub-20 hours (which is my WS goal).  I hung behind her with the sole purpose of studying how she runs.  I watched her through aid stations, up hill techniques, down hill techniques, foot strikes, running form, I just watched it all in a non-creepy, non-stalker kind of way.  She has been running, and winning, ultras since 2006 and she’s still doing it at the age of 51.  This was a wonderful learning moment.

Never fast, but ALWAYS consistent she picked apart the LS50 course with surgical experience molding her specific running technique into the terrain.  She’d happily let a pack of guys bound past her on the uphill (which she’d NEVER walk) then promptly run them down effortlessly on the downhills.  At Madrone Point (18.8) I was a few yards behind her.  Last year it was the same story but I came in with Krissy Moehel.  However, Krissy promptly smoked me at the turn around while hung back smashing into the 25 mile wall.  I thought about this — and was waiting for the crash.  I expected it, envisioning a timer set to a moment invisible to me.  When would it chime?

I saw my Love, Jen, just past Madrone Point (18.8) and she was spectacular and happy!  I had been running with a gentleman in a blue shirt and snapback hat.  He was behind me when I arrived then he promptly passed me, gingerly with an unwavering effort.  Jen whispered in her Jen like way, you have to beat that guy.  Because I had been talking to him while climbing the hill I knew he was working and my conversational pace was quicker than his.  No questions asked, I agreed to beat him later re-passing him on a climb.

Then I saw Greg, I mean John.  I was HAPPY to apologize for calling him the wrong name.  I stopped and shook his hand professing like he was a priest.  He simply smiled and said, “It’s okay, Greg is a good guy.”

Photo: Gary Wang

Photo: Gary Wang

I continued my push to the 25.2 mile turn around after repenting.  It wasn’t long before I became a complete spectator in one of the most amazing races of the year funneling back to me.  Max King zipped by me first with about a 1 minute lead on Cameron Clayton (easily spotted by his stark blonde hair).  About 4-5 minutes back was Sage Canaday, the eventual winner.  Then one after the next the elites of the sport whisked by and I greeted them all by name, because I’m an ultra stalker.  No, but really: Jorge, Hal, Nick Clark, Timmy Olson, Dave Mackey, … on and on and on.  I even saw Mr. Ricky Gates that recently moved to SF and has been pegging some of the Strava routes on Montara Mountain, setting insane times to North Peak.

Brian Tinder blipped my radar from the Adidas ultra team.  Him and I ran parts of my first marathon, the Sedona Marathon, side-by-side.  As the 1/2 marathoners closed the gap he veered off and dropped his pants while smacking his stark white bum at them.  Who could forget someone that does THAT?  “Good Job, Brian!”

Finally I made it to the turn-around feeling GREAT!  And, I saw Meghan just leaving.  My confidence leaped, I was running shirtless, I saw my Jen, and it was time to run HOME.  Off I went chasing shit, feeling the race that I wished I had in 2012.

After harassing the volunteers by trying to purposely go the opposite direction they were directing me, I went bounding down the hill quickly catching up to runners I perpetually read before mine in race results.  This drove my momentum as I was riding this excitement; I’m holding my own in a runner’s tier that I’ve projected myself in but have never held for the “big” races.  As I began wrapping back around to the runners behind me I sang their praises and said hi to each and every one of them (and I mean EVERYONE).  There was some deja vu as a passed the runners that I was grouped with in earlier years, yet today I was miles ahead.  When I saw Scott Leberge with whom I have ran a few races with, he said, “Wow, you’re up there with the elites.”

It started to morph from a dream to a reality.

My absolute highlight was seeing Janeth and Mike Weston in the race.  I’ve been training them for Western States and to seen them in the race was so special.  I KNOW all the hard work they’ve brought to that day and I also know some of the challenges they faced.  I saw Janeth first, instantly freezing in my tracks, then asked how she was doing – a bit of a rough patch that I tried coaching her through.  I wish I had 1/2 that girl’s toughness – it puts most ultrarunners to shame in what she can endure.  In all ways she’s an inspiration!  We both pushed on, me a little stronger than before because of her.  Shortly after I saw Mike.  He put a smile to my face because I snuck up on him.  Maybe it was coincidence but the minute he saw me he lurched from a walk to a run.  I stopped and checked in with him.  He was looking strong and consistent, like he always is – practically a machine.

lake_sonoma50_travolta

Photo: Jennifer Dill

Energy renewed I crested a hill nearing Madrone Point (30.9) again and saw iRunFar’s Byron Powell.  Yet another little sign that I was mixing it in with the fast folks.  I LOVED it.  This excited my ultra stalker self to no end!  Emerging from a trail wiggle and some tree cover I saw my Jen AND good buddy Hao.  And yes, my reaction was to posed shirtless doing scrawny John Travolta poses – even repeating some poses once the FaceBook camera’s were ready.  Another quick crew exchange and I was off.

Where’s that crash, that timer that was suppose to go off?

I pushed for Wulford AS (32.8) beginning to feel some heat, although not effecting me much, still moving strong.  Thanks to Rick Gaston and friends for taking great care of us.  In and out I was off chasing some more runners running everything – just like Meghan I thought.  I had watched her so long in the beginning of the race I had her pattern, so I just mimicked it.  I didn’t think, only copied.  I passed one runner on an uphill, then another.  Converging on Warm Springs Creek (38) I saw another runner struggling on the uphills.  As I caught him and glanced over to say good job I recognized him and a delayed HOLY SHIT rang in my head.  It was Andy Jones-Wilkins (known best for being a 7x top ten Western States finisher).  My world rocked for a second, maybe more, time dilation was in full effect.

HOLY SHIT that was AJW and HOLY SHIT what does that mean for my Western States this year?  Or does it mean anything at all.  My mind was spinning.  Not only was I hanging on the back heels of the elites I was still passing people.

This was also about the time things got difficult.  I had ran out of water on the last stretch and really felt it coming into Warm Springs AS.  Jen was wonderful and lifted me by saying, “The next time I see you you’ll be done!”  At the AS there were 3 runners and I felt the other two look at me like who’s this guy? (at me).  I was first out and immediately started running like someone was chasing me – because they were.

I hit a mode and ran and ran.  I know this section of the course is hard to I tried to numb the pain and simply proceed.  It’s hard running when you feel chased because your body is constantly negotiating with you to walk a hill or take a 1 minute break but the adrenaline keeps saying, “NO, THEY’RE RIGHT BEHIND YOU!”.  I caught 1-2 more runners but ran mostly alone imagining footsteps behind me or packs of runners chatting effortlessly (pop, you’re down 4 spots when you’re passed).  Thankfully these were the voices of the boat goers lounging on the boat deck in swimsuits drinking beer beneath me.  Damn, that would be nice!

Into the quick out-and-back to the last aid station I saw Meghan.  SHIT she’s strong and SHIT I was hanging with her.  It works both ways as I left the aid station I saw everyone that was chasing me.  They felt so close.  I had a hard 4 miles to go, primarily uphill to the finish.

Up and Down around the lake I snaked mostly alone.

Then I saw a flash of someone below me with 2 miles to go.  I wanted to stop running up hills and rest my legs.  I was hoping I could break from this chasing runner so I belted out a few good paced sections.  I finally saw the 1 mile to go sign (still climbing uphill) I looked back and got a crystal clear, almost electrifying, visual of who was chasing me.

It was blue shirt was snapback hat.  The ONE FREAKING GUY in this entire damn race that MY WIFE told me to BEAT.  I was pissed.  So pissed.  I wanted to walk a fucking hill.  Now because I saw who was chasing me I couldn’t.  So with 1/2 mile to go it was an all out 100% effort to the finish – I can’t let him by!

A rocky summit followed by a street crossing (crossed fingers there was no car coming so I didn’t have to stop… crossed fingers again hoping a car WOULD come forcing him to stop).  I popped up on a flat and kicked it into gear with a quick glance to see if he was on the road behind me.  Weaving through some barriers I hit the grass with 50 yards to close on the finish line and FINALLY felt safe.  He finished 13 seconds behind me!

And it was done, an 8 hour 20 minute finish.  A full 1 hour and 2 minutes off last year’s race that into itself was phenomenal.  I was 34th in a race of MONSTER ultrarunners and it felt right.  It’s where I want to be and continue to be as more boundaries fall.

This being my third Lake Sonoma, John Medinger and his faithful crew, continue to do an amazing job in building an “old school” feeling event into an international destination race that is quickly building to lottery-like magnitude.  A 100% class A event that, with its old school feel, doesn’t cave to pampering runners and lives up to its relentless tag line.

There’s NOTHING that beats a fresh tamale with sea salt sprinkled over it and a cold beer after a 50 mile run!

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I’m behind, as usual, on my race reports. But I wanted to capture a few highlights of this race.

Background:
This race is deep with history and is centered at Lake Hughes, CA Community Center traversing mostly on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) within Angeles National Forest.  The course has approximately 8,000 ft of elevation gain and descent with 5 significant climbs on mostly exposed desert-like trails.  The PCT is wonderful, yet difficult to run.  The views across the Mojave desert are breath taking, especially with the California Poppies in full bloom – splashing entire mountains with swipes of vibrant orange.

My Run:
To keep this short, I simply ran my race.  My main goals were to take away 1) heat training and 2) where’s my body’s fitness level.  At the start I took off quickly and held what felt to be an aggressive yet sustainable pace.  I pulled into the 3rd aid station at a sub-9 hr. pace feeling great.  A quick exchange with my ultragodess and I was off (I’d only see Jen 2x during the race at the same aid station – it’s an out-and-back course).  I ran the monster hill out of AS 3 and the day began to warm.  At the turn around I was feeling low on energy, a coke perked me up.  I blazed through the next aid station after an extremely long climb back up to the PCT.

At this point my body pushed back.  I had a full, but not nauseating, feeling and I simply tried downing some GU according to my 30 minute schedule.  Immediately I knew I was going to throw-up.  I only had time to turn to a bush and unload probably 30 – 40 oz. of fluid.  I was really surprised I had THAT much liquid stagnant in my stomach.  After 5 solid heaves I began walking and troubleshooting.   “Okay, what do I do now?”  My reasoning was I wasn’t taking enough electrolytes.  My body wasn’t absorbing to protect itself from diluting my blood’s electrolyte levels.   My diagnosis was confirmed when I attempted to run just a little and my calves cramped immediately.  Over 15 minutes I proceeded to take ~600 – 750 mg of sodium (2 S Tabs and 1 unknown aid station pill).  Shortly thereafter I could drink again, then run again – albeit much slower.

I made it to AS 9 and my ultragodess and her mentor the ultrangel went to work.  Lots of Sprite and ICE.  I put on my cool off bandanna, put ice in my hat and left with a cup of Sprite fully content with walking the upcoming long and steep 3-4 mile uphill.  Yet, to my surprise I was able to run about 5 minutes out.  I not only ran the entire hill but caught 3 racers in the process.  A sub-9 hour finish was within  reach if I averaged 12 min/miles on the hill – I came damn close in a hard pushing effort.  My reward was the AS at the top of the hill had popsicles!  When seeing the box in the tree as an advertisement I exclaimed, “Screw a sub-9 finish I’m having a popsicle!”  To that a nearby competitor said I’m going for it and took off.  I stayed and ate my treat with the smile of a 4 year old.  Then dropped the hammer and took off — I now was getting sub-9 and a popsicle!  I quickly caught Mr. Competitor and motored both up and down hill averaging 8 min/miles.  I remember noting the freshness of my legs while charging downhill at mile 48.  Training is paying off!

I crossed the finish in 8:50 and change. My time was good, but most important to me was experiencing total break down and patching myself back together in a path to a PR at the 50 mile distance.  I think electrolytes are a foundation for few other shortfalls I have at longer distances (i.e. calorie & fluid absorption) and this race played a vital part in exposing the problem AND and solution.

Here are some Race Photos:
Leona Divide 50, 2010 Photoset

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For those that may not have noticed, I’ve signed up to run my 3rd 50 mile race of the year – the North Face Endurance Challenge.  The course is set in the Marin Headlands and includes 2 traverses to Pantoll totaling 10,731 ft. of total elevation gain and descent.  Why’d I sign up for this?  Well, after the Dick Collins 50 mile I felt good, that I had some momentuem.  My original plan was to race the Woodside 50km, but I preferred something longer.  A few weeks ago Ron Little’s blog brought this to my attention and I immediately lit up and, well, signed up.

Photo from www.bahiker.com

Bootjack Trail - photo http://www.bahiker.com

I’m trying something a little different with this race, I’ve built a training plan and am tracking weekly mileage.  Also, I’ve signed up for PCTR’s Nov. 15th Stinson Beach 50km as a long training run for the NF50 2 weeks following – a perfect compliment because it covers some of the same trails (Dispsea, Steep Ravine, Heather Cut-off, Matt Davis, Redwood Creek).

I’ve been researching the NF50 trails a bit and reading the website course description.  In doing so I came across a trail description that brought an instant smile to my face.  Although the Bootjack trail isn’t run in the PCTR event, hitting it at mile 30.4 to 36 in the NF50 will be a race highlight.  Here’s the description from the NF50 website:

Pantoll Station to Old Inn Aid Station:

Lost Trail

Lost Trail - photo http://www.bahiker.com

Get ready to enjoy this ride! The Bootjack trail descends almost 1,300 feet in less than two miles along a stream through the beginning of a valley of redwoods. The single track trail is very technical. This is arguably the toughest trail descent in all of Marin. It is steep, rocky and root-filled. Be sure to keep your focus through here.

Where there’s a sweet downhill there’s always a climb and Muir Woods doesn’t disappoint.  The course turns left to the Pelvin Cut fire road then transitions to the Lost trail.  The Lost trail gains over 800 ft. in less than 1/2 mile!  The steepest part covered in about 260 steps.  Thankfully it’s under the cover of redwoods and california bay.

So this is one small section of the course that peaked my curiosity and I thought I’d share.  It’ll be a wonderful run.


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On Saturday the 11th Jen and I pulled into Lake Chabot parking lot for the Dick Collins Fire Trails 50. We began preparations for a long Saturday run and I was privileged to have the wonderful Jen crewing for me at all the aid stations except one (what a sweetheart)! I gathered my gear and we set forth into the darkness to find the start. Bringing a flashlight would have been good but in the spirit of just making do Jen used the camera’s flash to illuminate the path! 🙂 Another funny anecdote: In the parking lot an amped up runner was blarring some pre-race Joan Jett, I Love Rock’n Roll. And YES, I had that song stuck in MY head for at least 10 miles!

00AM - Gearing for FireTrails 50m start

6:00AM - Gearing for FireTrails 50m start

The race was off at 6:30AM just as planned. I was a bit worried as it was announced the first part of the course wasn’t marked at all. The RD gave some brief directions… turn left, a single-track bridge. I figured I’d follow the masses and all would be well. Thankfully it worked and the remainder of the course was marked superbly. I mean very well (flour, chalk, ribbons, signs). Many kudos to the RDs!

The miles just rolled by, eased by the beautiful views and terrain in perfect running weather. The course was primarily fire roads but included some very nice rolling redwood single track – some of which I remembered from the Sequioa 50km. We soon reached the Skyline Gate aid station (one of my favorites) at mile 17. I liked it because of the “mini-finish” atmosphere. Because it was such a high traffic area for many weekend hikers, bikers, and runners a fair amount of spectators gathered. What a rush to have so many people cheering you on! What a boost!

Skyline Gate - Mile 15

Skyline Gate - Mile 15

After traversing some really sweet redwood single track followed by the steepest climb of the day we approached Sibley Park (mile 18.4) then Steam Trains (mile 21.7). Steam Trains beacons you with it’s train whistle carrying through the air. You make a beautiful and exposed climb with the peak being the Steam Trains aid station; the train whistle draws you up the hill.

It was here and the long, long decent to Lone Pine that (in retrospect) my waning hydration caught up to me. I didn’t feel right. Jen handed me 2 bottles this time – although I wasn’t happy carrying so much weight at the time when I was suppose to be bounding downhill. It turned out to be just what I needed. I sucked up that 28 oz. of water quickly, dumped my entire bottle of Perpetuem (because at the time the mere taste of it made me nauseous) and blazed down the mountain. Now, this is one long hill on hard packed fire road. My legs were good for, say 2 miles but the hard impacts wore my quads out and the jostling really aggravated my developing stomach problems.

I finally pulled into Lone Pine (mile 26) and there was Jen! It was so wonderful to see her there! Unfortunately I was distraught and told her, “No Perpetuem, only water and GU, where’s the bathroom, I need music” then shuffled off in the direction of ‘over there’.

Fueling at Lone Pine (Mile 26)

Fueling at Lone Pine (Mile 26)

So there’s beware of the chair, right? Well, I can really relate because I sat down in that outhouse-ish thing and was in H-E-A-V-E-N. To sit was magical and to have a cool breeze blowing up my underside formed a moment in time I will never forget. It sounds gross but pain makes the most mundane things special and special it was! I eventually sprang from the outhouse-ish thing and ran back towards the aid station, immediately babbling to Jen about my out-of-this world pottying experience (boy she must have thought I was looney). She had loaded up my waist pack for me and filled my water bottle… it was perfect and off I was to tackle the climb back to Steam Trains.

As the aid stations went by my energy picked up. I was drinking between 20-30 oz. of water and downing 2-3 GUs in between aid stations. On top of that I upped my electrolyte intake to >1 hr. because of my increased water consumption and pace.

Arriving at Skyline Gate (mile 37)

Arriving at Skyline Gate (mile 37)

As a result I was beginning to feel good, really good in fact.  At around Sibley Park (mile 33.6) I was back to feeling like my old self – although my stomach problems continued to stick with me.  I pressed forward and started picking people off as my focus felt like a spotlight on the trail before me.  I was now in a zone and really looking forward to the Skyline Gate aid station (mile 37).  It was everything I had hoped it was…  like a mini-finish line.  20 or so strangers lined the paved path leading to the aid station all clapping as I arrived.  I was in and out of the station in no time and dead set on passing the girl in front off me that I had recognized from a recent Headlands 50miler – she beat me that day… today would be my day.

I ran almost alone to Big Bear (mile 41.5) and, with much relief, through the bee sting area.  {Ya, by the way I got stung 3-4 times back at mile 9}.  It was at Big Bear that I put together that I actually had a chance to pull out a sub-10hour finish.  So I started pressing harder. Soon came Bort Meadows and then the final aid station Bass Cove (mile 47).

I arrived at Bass Cove at 9:30 with 2.9 miles to go.  The volunteers appropriately warned, “this section can take you 30 minutes or an hour.  It all depends on what you have left in your tank.”  They then offered me a beer!  Oh! the torture!  I was so tempted.  I bolted off, and was quickly greeted by a series of very steep rolling hills – the clock was ticking.  I pressed hard, in fact my mind pressed to a point my body simply couldn’t go.  There was an inner turmoil and my mind and body weren’t in sync.  My energy was low and I began feeling sleepy as I pushed my pace.  I recognized it as the initial phase of a bonk and took 2 GUs, although my stomach really wasn’t ‘in the mood’.  In no time I could hold a decent pace.  I cranked an NIN techo remix with both earbuds in then pushed with all I had.  I passed a group of 4 one mile out from the finish.  From behind I heard, “wow, I wish I could finish like that.”

I saw Jen at the finish cheering me like crazy (and some random really happy guy) along with a ton of other people.  I pulled in strong.  My in-laws, Eli, and Max had arrived just in time to see me finish, a minute later and they would have missed me – perfect timing.  It was great to see everyone and even better to be done.

The post race festivities were unrivaled with drinks, hamburgers, hot dogs, ice cream… and the list goes on not only for the runners but ALSO for our friends and families.  It was fabulous and so over-the-top generous.  I must also give them the swag award.  I got a embroidered running jacket, a very nice running shirt, and a fire trails wine glass.  Sweet.

I’m absolutely doing this race next year.  A+ all around to the volunteers and RDs but especially to my one woman crew Jen!  I have a lot to improve upon for next year.  I’ll lay it down right now: next year I’ll pull a sub 9 hour finish.  Guaranteed.

Here are my stats for this run on bones in motion.

Entering the Finish

Entering the Finish

Fire Trails 50m Finish

Fire Trails 50m Finish


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In an amazing conclusion to a set of back-to-back races for me, this Saturday I completed my first 50 mile race in the Marin Headlands – Headlands Hundred (the 1/2 way version). My goal going in was simply to come in within 12 hours. I would be ecstatic to complete the course in a Western States qualifying time of 11 hours. However, mentally I was completely set to finish in 12 hours – primarily because my legs HAD to be tired from last weekend’s 45 mile race! Right?

Jumping forward a bit, I completely took myself by surprise finishing with a VERY strong 10 hours 37 minutes! I exceeded my “pie in the sky” dream of 11 hours by 23 minutes. I couldn’t have been happier especially considering how much fun I had out on the trail. Go figure, it was fun this time. Not grueling mindless plodding, but genuine fun – a runner’s high start to finish.

My wife, Jen, and I drove into Rodeo Beach at 6:15 from Hayward. Note to self: If you’re privileged enough to have your wife crew at least pick up coffee in the AM! Right off the bat we met a gentleman parking next to us with a wonderful laugh whom I’d cross paths with a few times throughout the race: Ernesto Matal Sol. Great guy, guaranteed to bring a smile to your face! It wasn’t long before I spotted Ron and Eric. I finished my race prep. work then said “hi” and posed for a pre-race picture. I missed Mike Weston at the start though 😦 but I’d see him on the trail later.

Shortly before 7 AM Wendell assembled everyone at the start-line. He gave us the normal PCTR run-down of ribbon colors, stripped, turns to look for, etc. 57 people lined up for the 100 mile course and 117 for the 50 miler. Eric, Ron, Mike, and I all lined up for the 50 mile race of which we would all finish but overall only 86% of the field completed. The race was on and although I really wanted to chat with Eric and Ron a bit the 2 of them blasted out of the gate much faster than I had planned to go so I settled back into various groups of fellow runners – chatting here and there.

The Race Begins:

I quickly started to work on my hydration and fueling plan which was rather simple: drink approx. 20 oz. – 28 oz. of water between aid stations and consume 1 Cliff Block every 15 minutes. I would do this to Pantoll. Then I’d switch to a 20 oz. 2x bottle of Perpetuem and a 28 oz. bottle of water. Electrolyte wise I took 1 Salt Stick cap on the hour (230mg. of Sodium) and if there was any hint of cramping I’d take another right then – it never exceeded 2 per hour though. I’d also partially bite the tablets when taken, just enough to taste a little salt. Mixed in with all my caloric intake and electrolytes I’d eat potatoes, fruit, trail mix, and drink 1 cup of Coke at every aid station. And, I took GUs when feeling just a hint of a low energy or needed a boost to power up a hill. In total I took about 6 GUs.

The trip up to Pantoll was relatively uneventful – although the flats out of Muir Beach did drain my legs a bit. Honestly I was expecting the climb up to Pantoll to be much worse; it really wasn’t that bad. I emerged at Pantoll with my beautiful wife, Jen, there to greet me. She had my bag out and I quickly did some very poor blister control and re-powdered my feet. The aid station was soooo chaotic at this point – the ranger was out threatening people to move cars or else and to pay their parking permits. Needless to say many were pre-occupied. I stayed a bit longer than I would have liked but Jen was wonderful throughout – even racing back to the car to get a 20 oz. water bottle.

I started the run out to Bolinas Ridge, a phenomenal view with a trail that just doesn’t quit: long, narrow, and horrible footing at times. It was here that I began seeing the front-runners. My spirits were way up and I gladly bounced to the side, yielding to others and throwing out a “looking good”. Off in the distance I saw my first CRC shirted runner. I exclaimed “RON LITTLE! Looking good. Nice Pace” Although Ron looked good, he casually mentioned his low energy level or something to the effect of not feeling well. I pressed forward a bit weary that Ron had a 6 mile lead on me, suddenly feeling a tad slow. Then 1 mile later another CRC shirt in the distance. I yelled out, “Eric, looking good!” Eric said he’d recognize that yellow hat anywhere – we shook hands and pressed on. Eric was 4 miles ahead of me. What a boost seeing those guys on the trail and they were hauling butt!

I finally made it to Bolinas Ridge, the mental halfway point, and got a good boost of energy. I was ecstatic to see that Jen was there after she mentioned she might not have the gas to make it. She hooked me up with ice in my bandanna another Perpetuem and water then I was off. The trip back was made so much easier with the ice on my neck. That was fabulous and a must do for all races. I caught a lot of runners on this section and can contribute that to the ice that kept my body temp down and solid fueling. A lot of runners were being sapped of energy here – it’s a long exposed section and mentally difficult to tackle. I felt good, really good throughout.

I passed Mike Weston on his way out to Bolinas Ridge, cheered him on, and shook hands. He looked kind-of-spent but still strong… immediately rattling off my mileage lead over him. Great job out there Mike.

I made it back to Pantoll, finally catching up to female ultra phenom Roberta Mcgraw (she’s a solid hill climber). Jen was there to greet me, prep. another ice bandanna, and swap water / Perpetuem bottles. I ate some fresh fruit and grabbed a few Paydays for the road and was off. Close by was a gentleman I nicknamed mini-Dean. I don’t know his real name but he had the build of Dean K. even wearing the visor. He had been trailing me for sometime, making runs at me then fading back. It was here that I finally left him behind for good 🙂 with Roberta just ahead.

It was a mile out of Pantoll that things got emotional for me. At the return cut-off to the right at Old Mine road was a huge commotion: 2-3 fire trucks, and a park ranger. As I approached I asked a fireman, “Is everything okay?”. His response would hang with me for more than a few miles.

“It is now. An older gentleman just had a heart attack and died.”

“It happens here almost everyday. Watch out, there’s another truck coming up.”

I hit a mental wall at that very moment. I continued on following those silly pink ribbons while my mind flashed scenes of 2 weeks past. You see, on July 22nd something horrible happened and what I saw and heard on that hill brought it blazing back to the forefront of my mind. The founder of our small 30 man company, a good friend to all, and a wonderful mentor in engineering and life Jack Anderson died here at work of a heart attack. On August 9th, I saw him again laying in the parking lot while co-workers James, Ed, and Dean started CPR – everyone else looked on, with hope. I shed a few tears re-living the moment at mile 37. And reached out to an old-time ultrarunner that was just ahead. I chased him down, I told him of the incident on the hill above and his response was EXACTLY what I needed.

“Well, if he was a older runner that’s how I’d want to die – running the trails.”

I responded, “Wow, I didn’t think of it that way. Thank you.” He then charged down the descending fire road and forward into the Heather Cutoff switchbacks. It was then that I snapped to and felt my left leg seemingly cramping up. I caught up on my salt and hit the water in hopes of fixing things. It waned a little but still persisted. The images soon faded but none were forgotten. I was almost done.

Muir Beach arrived and I spoke with Will Gotthart and Fred Ecks about the heart attack and asked if all the runners were okay. They knew nothing of it, meaning it’s likely not a runner. Jen wasn’t there; I fueled up and sped off eager to see her at Tennessee Valley. I caught up to another ultrarunner on the climb who was a 5x veteran of the 50 miler. He encouraged my goal of 11 hours and said you have it in the bag. In fact if you bomb these hills you could break 10! So I tried, but not knowing the course that wasn’t going to happen. I did however pass 3-4 people who where just beat.

Tennessee Valley finally! Jen was there and it was awesome. She told me I looked great and passed a friendly reminder that I was only 4 miles away. I told her and the aid station volunteers that my left was cramping. They grilled me on my salt intake (I passed – 3 pills in the last 1.5 hours and lots of water). They told me to eat a banana. I did and it didn’t help. I got a partial water bottle fill then took off.

Only 4 miles to the finish. I’ve got this done right? Holy crap that’s not “just 4 miles!” That 4 miles contained the steepest grade hills yet! Ohhhh and then just to toast your feet and quads you’ll have you run downhill on pavement! And better yet how about dropping down a few hundred feet of stairs! Ohhh yea, then some more pavement! Ouch!

Fortunately my quads were okay today. No problem. I passed 2 guys on the downhill 1/2 mile stretch into the Finish clocking in 7 min/miles. The cheering was phenomenal. Everyone was yelling go Franz. I heard Jen cheering. I saw Eric standing at the finish and Ron setting up for a finishing photo. What a terrific ending to a great race! I LOVED this one!

I’d like to especially thank Jen for her fabulous job and crewing for the first-time. She even stepped up and took care of Ron in Tennessee Valley. She’s so wonderful!

Because I like Ron’s Good Thing / Bad Thing summerization, I’m going to follow suit:

Good Things:
— Pace – Excellent
— Hydration – Good. Could have been improved on Muir Beach – Pantoll (Only had 28 oz. bottle of water for exposed biggest climb of the day). Also at last Tennessee Valley stop get a full fill of water; I only had 1/2 bottle.
— Fueling – Excellent.
— I had a GOOD time! I had such a fun time out there and never once felt like I was suffering!
— I got an interesting life lesson bundled up in an ultra package.
— It’s so great running with other CRC members. That really personalizes the experience.
— My wife, Jen. Excellent first-time crewing, hopefully with many more races to come.
— Not running the course before. Really, this one is better left to the unknown 🙂

Bad Things:
— That leg cramping turned out to be a strained muscle. The next day I had visible bruising in the area of my left shin and left calf. This explains why the “cramping” was only in one leg and not both and not responding to electrolytes. I did take 200 mg of Motrin at mile 37 then again at mile 42. I was very hesitant to take pain killers on a run. By doing this I’m risking short-term relief for potential longer-term injury. Two days later I’m okay but am still following rest, ice, compression, and Ibuprofen. I hope all is well!
— My shoes were a 1/2 size too large causing my feet to slide around slightly.
— That’s it. Really.

Franz.

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