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Miwok100k_2013

Course change sign weighted down by Beer.

Miwok 60k

At 4:30 AM on Saturday, Ron Little, Mike Weston, Janeth, and myself lumbered into the Stinson Beach Community Center, harboring buzzed confusion, centered around a stark white poster board with handwritten well parsed paragraphs of red writing; Stan Jenson stood alongside heralding a change.

To even the most alert morning birds of the sport, it took 2-3 recitals of Stan’s speech to reach comprehension, “Due to fire dangers, today’s race has been changed.  The distance is now 60km and will start at 8:00AM.”

Hoards of runners stood pondering the implications of change.  Months of planning now had to be realigned at 4:30AM in the morning – How does that change my drop bags?  What’s my crew supposed to do? What do I tell my pacer?  What about my pace charts?  Once the early morning cobwebs of restless sleep unfurled, runners converged on alternate plans.  To name a singular ultrarunner characteristic would be to declare flexibility in the throes of adversity.  From the top (Tia the Race Director) down to the athletes, we’re a crafty bunch with a drive to move nowhere but forward.

Forward we drove, the change was accepted and we continued in celebration of the miles we could run and not remorseful of the ones we couldn’t.  For that extra 3 hours we were gifted, some chose to nap others chose to log some pre-race miles.  Ron, Mike, and I along with 20-30 other runners dynamically mapped a route ascending to Pan Toll for a glimpse of morning dawn.  As a whole, we ran in scattered groups, but Ron and I’s route was a wonderful 7.25 loop climbing the Matt Davis trail and descending on the Dipsea trail.  Mike chose the more challenging Dipsea trail hill repeats!  You may ask why we all ran pre-race.  The consensus was that Miwok was training for something bigger – like Western States.

During the sunrise miles I did say to Ron, “Let’s run some pre-race miles and treat this like a fun training run.”  At the time I was 100% okay with that.  Then we lined up 5 minutes before the race.  I saw the top guys and girls.  I saw 378 people that would funnel into a single track in 1/4 mile.  I couldn’t get stuck in that so I pressed forward (not Lake Sonoma forward).  I set the goal of this run being: run it at my 100k goal pace of 10:00 min/mile.  That seemed reasonable.

Up the Dipsea stairs we climbed holding a quick pace.  We sped into the Cardiac AS and I was the only one to stop at the water and sponges to start the cool down (it was already getting hot).  I synced up with Jeremy, a Quicksilver runner that I recognized from Montara.  He and I were talking away to almost Muir Beach cruising at 6-7 min/mile.

During the climb from Muir Beach to Tennessee Valley my right calf started hurting.  In past weeks I’ve had tenderness there but today it was a building sharp pain.  My #1 thought, what’s the main goal here?  Western States, right?  I considered dropping at the CRC aid station to minimize the injury.  The visual played through my head as I talked it over with my CRC aid station teammates and pacer; I always concluded I couldn’t stop.

My pacer was a freshmen member of the Half Moon Bay High School track and cross-country team, Khalil.  I know his parents through my wife, I organized a Run for Boston at his school, and I take an Empowered Fitness boot camp class with his Dad on Thursdays.   Starting at Miwok 2010 there has always been a draw to run with one of the HS students as a pacer.  This year, we made that happen.  Yet, if I came into the CRC AS and dropped this opportunity at creating a “moment” in life wouldn’t happen.

I toiled with this a bit, slowed down, cataloged my injury as best I could, then decided I’m not running for me – I’m running to construct a frame work for Khalil’s experience.  My calf pain faded away.

With the CRC motivational signs beaconing, I stormed down the hill into Bridge View saying hello to everyone, many of whom I haven’t seen for months.  A big hello went out to Mor and Eric at the street crossing.  My wife, Jenna, Mandy, and Denise got big hellos and hugs.  I saw Omar and Khalil helping out and Gary who was sitting out the race due to injury.  The ultrarunning staple of good luck was Hallelujah Goat keeping a stark eye out for the runner’s safety from the canopy rafters!  I told Khalil, “Are you ready?” To which he nodded with a quiet smile.  “I’ll see you at Tennessee Valley!”

CRC_Miwok2013

The Lovely Pirate Ladies of the CRC

I was repeatedly dismissed from the AS by my wonderful wife Jen who’d rather see me talk after I’ve finished.  Rushing downhill I saw Loren who recently “50 miled” at AR50 and the amazing Margaret!  Across the street and onto the long climb back to TV to catch a pacer!  This portion of the run was challenging in distance, pace, and heat.  It’s a long climb back to the ridgeline to join the Miwok trail back down to Tennessee Valley.  My stomach faltered here mainly due to the foaminess of the GU Brew sports drink – it halted my digestion and hydration.

Arriving at TV I saw Khalil all suited up and ready to run; both him and his father, Omar, had a grin of excitement.  I rummaged through my drop bag to refill on GU packs and we were off with no runners in sight to chase, until we arrived at the 450ft climb on the Coastal trail. In the distance I saw a runner.

“Hey Khalil, you see that guy up there?  He’s from Minnesota.”

“Cool.  Let’s get him.”

I groaned inside a little because my stomach was still recovering, but we ran up the long hill then paused on a steep section.  Immediately we heard footsteps behind us, turning to see the first place female Darcy Africa right on our tail.  She passed with ease and we wished her a great race.  I could tell Khalil wasn’t having it!  We pushed and finally caught Minnesota proclaiming, “I was wondering when you guys would catch me!”  At the crest of the hill we passed him and another runner.

Emerging from Pirate's Cove with Pacer Khalil.  Photo Glen Tachiyama

Emerging from Pirate’s Cove with Pacer Khalil. Photo Glen Tachiyama

During the downhill to Pirate’s Cove, it was on.  I warned Khalil about the downhill being technical and to watch his step, especially at the stairs.  I love downhill and I knew I had company in that when I heard hooting and hollering from behind as we blasted down towards the ocean.  Wrapping around the cove we caught another runner as we climbed towards Muir Beach.

Muir Beach brought some large stomach issues.  I tried pulling myself together in a 1-2 minute timeframe but it was hard.  Minnesota, Darcy, and Yellow Shirt passed us.  I walked out of the aid station calmly telling Khalil, “Just give me a minute, I don’t want to puke on you.”  I let him know I was ready to run and he set the pace, a great pace.  After 15-20 minutes of silence I reassured him that me being quiet means I’m working hard.  “You’re doing great. Keep me working.”  Sure enough we spotted Minnesota in the trail ahead giving us the look-back.  That seemed to really fuel Khalil to push faster.  At the uphill transition we caught him but were forced to walk as my stomach churned from the push.  Yellow shirt and Sonoma caught and passed us – I raced Sonoma a few weeks ago in Lake Sonoma the last 9 miles and beat him by 2 spots.

Khalil wasn’t too keen on these guys motoring up the hill ahead of us.  “Let’s get them!”  I told him I can’t right now but if we can hang with them I can pass them on the downhill to the finish.  I promise you that!  For 3.5 miles and 1,300 ft of climbing we fought hard to stick with them.  Eventually Yellow Shirt pulled away.  My legs started cramping, my right calf injury was screaming.  Within ¼ mile from the top we caught Sonoma – “Hey I remember you from Sonoma.  You beat me.”  I said yup and ran past him in some of the worst calf pain I’ve ever felt.  I whispered to Khalil, “I’m in so much pain, but I can’t stop running or he’ll catch us.”

As we crested the hill into Cardiac AS we saw Darcy on the opposing ridge.  I point her out and Khalil says, “Let’s get her!”  As we left the AS Sonoma motored in.  It’s a complete crazy downhill race at this point – everyone is ready to empty out the tanks!  We bolted and in ¼ mile found Yellow Shirt puking on the trail.  Asking if he’s okay he said, “Yes, but I’m done!”  Khalil was right, we did get him.  Now we were on the hunt for Darcy and her pacer, a beacon in a bright orange shirt.  I was ready to unload on this downhill.  Again I warned Khalil, “This is some crazy downhill coming up.  Be careful.  Watch your step, especially on the stairs.”  We hit downhill mode completely hunting Darcy.  Yet, there was a threshold I crossed that my calves did not like – too fast and I would cramp BAD.  They hinted then roared as I pushed too hard.  I told Khalil I can’t go any faster right now… but we were slowly catching up to her with 2 miles to go.  I learned I could go a little faster if I transitioned to heel striking and pointed my toes up to keep my calves elongated while running – neither recommended nor comfortable.

I was now in a state where any deviation from my footstrike would trigger calve cramping or a full lockup.  Great, we still hadn’t passed her and now we’re on the Dipsea stairs.  Both runners and pacers rip down the stairs – easily counting over one hundred.  Darcy’s pacer moved aside but she didn’t.  I heard Khalil say, “Take it!” behind me yet I didn’t have that burst without cramping.  A cramp at this point would have seized my leg leaving me tumbling down a rocky forest staircase.  Just before we bottomed out, we passed hitting a quick uphill and catching another runner.  He hopped aside saying I’m cramping all over.  I hear ya!  That uphill stopped me so quick!  I could NOT run.  The calf pain was searing over the adrenaline.  With an attempted power hike we got to the top then gunned it for some runnable downhill.  In the distance I saw a Green Shirt walking.  He was going down.  We caught him but started pulling him with us.  I heard footstrikes superimposed on Khalil’s; glancing back I see green.  Oh great!

My calves were so done.  I had no clue how I was moving.  I was running scared with Green Shirt behind us and I KNEW Darcy was tough.  I just gave it everything and tried to gap them as best I could.  More stairs and ½ mile down the trail there was a road crossing.  We hustled across but when I reached the other side…

WHAM.  I went from 7 min/miles to a COMPLETE screaming stop.  I YELLED, “AHHHHHHHH, MY LEG!”  My right calf had completely seized up.  I grabbed it and vaguely heard Khalil say, “What do I do?” I shot my gaze over to the other side of the street and to my amazement didn’t see Green Shirt or Darcy.  I still have this I thought.  I need to get moving!  I propped my leg against the asphalt, stretching my calf back into running position, and it released a little.  I told Khalil I have to try to run.  We ran, slower but we ran through the final trail section with 0.1 mile to go we hit highway 1.  Double checking, I glanced back and saw a Red Shirt blazing after us in a full sprint. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!  I rolled my eyes and prayed for my calf not to seize as I sped up.

Somehow, I don’t know how, we crossed without being passed.

Khalil walked up and said, “Where’d Red Shirt come from?”  I said, “I don’t know but THAT was awesome!  Thank you!  That right there was all you Khalil.”

After cooling down a little I invited Khalil to come inside the community center.  I went to the shirt swag table and asked Khalil, “What size shirt do you wear?”  The volunteer gave me a small and I handed it directly to him.  “You were awesome!  Thank you, you earned this.”

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Photo by Coastal Trail Runs

In a mix of 1/2 marathoners, marathoners, and 50kers I found myself trailing the lead pack by a surprising eye shot as we traced along the Brooks Creek Trail.  Typically I’m not a fast starter but I was enjoying feeling good on the initial North Peak climb while holding a great pace.  I knew quite a bit about the 50kers  leading the race:  Dan Rhodes is a good friend from the coast that’s a fast marathoner and successfully training for a fast 1st time 50 miler at this year’s AR50.  John Burton whom I don’t know personally but I did know he was last year’s CTR winner and course record holder.  I knew he was well capable of a sub 5 run here.  And most notably Leigh Schmitt whom I’ve met in previous Pacifica events and at the 2011 Vermont 100.  Leigh is an amazingly fast and consistent runner – and one of the nicest guys.  I mean at Vermont he extended an open invitation to swing by his Bay Area home.

With me in tow this group of runners drove me beyond my splits and the coastal views of Linda Mar State Beach on a sunny and warming “winter” day made it seem all too easy.  The out-and-back allowed for a quick time check and I was within minutes of the leaders.  This was also a great time to support other runners and good friends:  Margaret (CRC Club Member), Mariano and Nancy Warren (friends from the waay back High Sierra 3 Step), Rick Hernandez, and Janeth Silva.  I saw at least 3 runners with hats or shirts from last year’s Half Moon Bay International Marathon.  That felt really good being an organizer for the event and they were wearing it with pride.

I knew my ~ splits from last year’s PCTR run (although the course is run in a different order):

  • 1st North Peak to AS — last year 1:15  (this year 1:00)
  • 1st Hazelnut Loop — last year 0:58  (this year 0:50)
  • 2nd Hazelnut Loop — last year 1:00  (this year, run after 2n NP summit 1:00)
  • 2nd North Peak to AS — last year 1:30  (this year 1:06)
  • Short Hazelnut Loop — last year 0:46  (this year 0:41)

Amazing to me this was my first run beyond 20 miles during this year’s training, yet I felt fresh and was continuing to put time on last year’s splits.  I enjoyed the competitive feel of both chasing and being chased.

In the end I finished in 4:51:35 for 5th overall.  I received a neat 3rd place age group medal that my boys quickly confiscated.  Max immediately turned it upside down and told everyone the winged shoe looked like underpants.  Here are the overall results.

Coastal Trail Runs put on a superb event with great organization, a gold standard for course marking, and wonderfully friendly volunteers.  I’d highly recommend thier events for first-time and long-time trail runners alike.

A few new things I’ve been tweaking:

  1. Training more conservatively to start out the year.  I’ve run more 30k distances when in year’s past I’d run 50ks from the start.  The motivation for doing this is to avoid injury, like the stress fracture sustained last year that started with a January 50k in Pacifica.  However, in bartering with my inner self I allow myself to race the 30ks treating them more like a tempo workout.  Over just 2 30 races this has really increased my speed over distance in the longer runs.  I very pleased with this given my Western States goal is 21 hours.
  2. Fueling more.  During this race I was taking GU’s Roctane every 30 minutes as opposed to 40 (which last year I had determined through trial and error was my consumption limit).  What I also noticed is with a sustained increase in pace my body can handle a higher intake of calories.  Often times I found myself taking GU before my alarm went off.
  3. Running minimally.  Not the footware type but equipment-wise.  Even in scuba diving my mantra is less is better.  When underwater and you have 1 extra thing to track or get snagged on kelp, that’s one too many.  I feel like that in running also.  Over time it becomes physically cumbersome for me to carry things.  That’s in part due to my smaller frame and weaker arm and core strength.  It really just fatigues me then cascades into a mental fatigue.  At Montara Mountain I ran most of the race with no shirt which I’ve REALLY wanted to do for a long time – purely for the cooling effect.  But I’ve rarely done it due to a deep rooted, high school-like self consciousness.  It felt good to run free… and chaff in new places.
  4. Mentally, I simply believed in my endurance and ability to push beyond the hurt.  Last year’s Grand Slam taught me acutely what I can and can’t do.  My body often lies, telling me I can’t go on.  The hurt is too much.  Blah.  It lies.
  5. I’ve been taking a supplement from Wicked Fast Sports Nutrition.   I met the owner during the Vermont 100 and later exchanged a few emails with him regarding his products.  He send me a sample pack so I’m finally getting around to giving it a go.  Simply due to the name and number of pills you take I probably won’t have tried them on my own.  However, I am learning that micro nutrients are a critical part of long-term sustainable training.  I feel they’re working – especially the pre-race Energ-Ease.  I’m a difficult to convince, critical thinker but so far it’s helping.

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