Sunday, September 27, 2015

Pine to Palm 100

View at the top of the first climb shot by Masha.

Well she did it! A big sigh of relief in our tiny household and we've been riding the post race high the last two weeks. Well maybe except for cat, she was just glad we finally came home. Such a huge accomplishment and I'm still shaking my head about it. Pine to Palm is a tough first 100 and with the record breaking heat, I was genuinely worried for her safety. Mashas' nemesis, her weakness is heat. The climbs, the distance, her limited experience in ultras and the fact that her longest distance completed was 50 miles was also a source for anxiety. She had put in a lot of training however and had an experienced crew. In the end, with a lot of work and perseverance, she crossed the finish line at 31:51:26.

Showing off her schwag at the awards ceremony. The ladies got a silver necklace on top of their buckles. I may have passed out after this, having been awake for 36+ hours.

This all started last year when she shared her aspirations for attempting the 100-mile distance and honestly I was surprised. She seemed to have had her hands full at the 50-mile distance and I felt she needed more experience mastering that distance before jumping to the 100k and the 100 mile. I was not for the idea but I didn't voice that opinion too loudly having learned my lesson from the 2014 Lake Sonoma 50 mile. Long story short, she wanted to run the race as her first 50, I said she should target something easier, she trained hard, finished and I ended up with egg on my face. As part of her mental preparation she signed up for the Quad Dipsea and the Northface 50 mile at the end of that year. These hilly races, only a week apart, was an ambitious goal and quite a challenge. I told her, if you can't fathom running back to back tough but shorter ultra races, you shouldn't be thinking about hundreds. So she gone and signed up the crazy kook but unfortunately she never got the chance to start either events.

Masha suffers from hyperthyroidism. When it strikes she has the typical symptoms, fatigue, weight loss and rapid heartbeat. The latter is a scary one. She could be in bed at night, ready for sleep, and her heart rate will be in the 90's. It first struck in London while she was working towards her masters degree, then again shortly after arriving here in San Francisco. Both times it was treated with medication, beta blockers for her heart and each time she recovered nicely. However the doctors advised she should think about a permanent solution which involves taking the thyroid out either by surgery or radiation treatment if it returns for a third time. Not an attractive solution considering she would require medication for the rest of her life. When it flared up for a third time a month before the Quad Dipsea she adopted a wait and see approach and pulled out of both races. Backing off the running seemed to improve her condition and this year she signed up for the Lake Sonoma 50 miler in April. She struggled through training, ran the race an hour slower and was laid out again for the rest of April. Finally she went back to see the doctor, was able to get back on the pills and by June she was running again. The hundred was still on the table and the big question was whether she could be ready for a late summer or early fall race. It was down to either Rio del Lago here in Norther California or Pine to Palm in Ashland, Oregon. I've run both races and I advised her to go for Pine to Palm even though it was harder and earlier than Rio. I felt she would have a better experience; a more scenic course, great schwag including a buckle and it's in Ashland—we like Ashland.

So June opened up with a big run in… Ashland, okay not quite but close enough. Our good friend Dana Katz celebrated her birthday by running 40 miles of the Rogue River and we joined her despite Masha being under trained. It was a grand time. It was warm, mid-80s, and the heat bothered her as early as 12 miles in, but she plowed on and got as far as 28 miles before her running was done. We hiked the last 12 miles to beer and birthday cake and celebrated 40 miles. It was a victory for her and it set the tone for the summer and ultimately her race.

Pine to Palm was an uphill battle from the very start because of the hotter than normal temperatures in addition to all the usual difficulties at a race of this distance. It's usually hot, in the 90's but it was especially hot this year. I wouldn't know, I ran it in it's inaugural year during a storm. Yes much like this years edition of Cascade Crest. I'm 2-0 for rain in PNW hundreds. Anyway she got as close as 25 minutes to the cutoffs at mile 52 and mile 67. The latter was the big one, the highest point on the course at 7400 feet, capping a long uphill slog that they started at mile 45 and had to reach by 2 AM. She made it with 35 minutes to spare, haggard and hungry, but animated and relieved—so were we! From there she had more than 14 hours to complete the last 23 miles for the finish. 23 miles is not nothing especially with one last climb to go but the hardest parts were behind her and she would be close to the finish before the heat returned. I paced her from that point to the mile 74 aid station and Dana took her the rest of the way. No crew access from 74 miles onward but I was able to follow her progress on and through Dana's texts. I kept myself busy taking care of our hotel accommodations and following up on our friend Simon who was part of our group and was also in the race. He would PR the 100 mile distance with a 26 hour finish.

At the pre-race brief; Dana, Simon, Masha and me.

Simon and Masha at the start.

Coming in at Seattle Bar/Applegate River aid station, mile 28.

Squaw Lakes, miles 39-42.

Pep talk at Squaw Lakes.

Simon, eager to leave Squaw Lakes.

Caffeine high at mile 68:)

In step with pacer D at mile 98, getting close!


A picture with Hal after the awards ceremony.

What a journey and I was glad I got to be a part of it. Huge thanks to Dana for crewing and pacing Masha those last miles. Huge thanks to the Pine to Palm crew for hosting. Much like our visit in June, we bought a bunch of Oregon beer before returning to California. Even Simon picked up a couple of 6-packs. The day we left, the temps were down to the 60s with a light morning drizzle. At my race, the rain stopped and the sun came out right before the awards ceremony. Thank you Ashland! Hahaha! On the drive home both conceded that they would entertain possibility of running the race again in the future. After we got home Masha said something that really stuck with me, "I'm glad I finally have my own 100 mile schwag, I don't have to keep using yours." She was referring specifically to the duffle bags I got from running Bighorn and Javelina. Uh huh, well she still uses my stuff because she doesn't want to trash her new Northface Pine to Palm branded duffel. But more than material things, her comment just made me think about how she has succeeded in carving out her own space and identity in this sport. She's a strong runner in her own right, living her own adventures and writing her own stories.

Thank you Dana! With Jason Leman (Red Ranger) at Seattle Bar.

photo copy
And then there were two. One earned in a storm, one in a heat wave.

and Piggy is still unimpressed.

Uh-huh uh-huh, 100 miles…yaaaawwwnnn. Don't ever leave me again.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Cascade Crest 100-Mile: The Short and Sweet

My favorite picture from the weekend, Masha and I at the Hyak aid station, mile 52.

I'm trying to write a race report... hard, it was so f*ing awesome,
words are not enough.
Facebook message to a good friend Keli Kelemen.

Over a week later and a part of me is still out there in the Cascades. Like a great trip, I left a part of myself behind and it is not in a great hurry to come home. The post race excitement has already died down and I'm supposed to be focused on Masha's race this weekend at Pine to Palm 100 in Ashland, Oregon — her first attempt at the distance. However I'm still thinking about CC100, my mind filled with all kinds of good emotions, memories and inspiration from the race. I want to go back. I want to give it another go. Most of all I want to shape myself into a better runner to do better. Great right?! Why do I keep running 100's, it's because they still can make me feel this way!

I had run the race before, in 2005, but I was so new then. Wide eyed and green in all ways ultra. It worked to my advantage then because I didn't know any better. They say it's better when your body doesn't see physical impact before it is about to happen, you don't tense up, prepare for the blow, and sustain more damage as a result. A loose, unprepared body goes with the flow. That is what happened in 2005. Ten years later my experience just made me more anxious and tense. However with experience also came the knowledge that I was in a truly special place, great in the things that inspire me to run. I could appreciate more now the uniqueness of the event and what made it special.

It was impressive, beautiful, awe-inspiring, and hard. The course boasted 21,000 ft of climbing, it was mostly single track through tall pine trees and majestic ridges, filled with amazing views of other mountains and lakes, and the technical rocky course was on another level in the summer storm that swept through Saturday night into Sunday.

I finished 28:46:48, looking better than I felt. Needed a beat down from the wife because I was bemoaning missed time goals rather than fully appreciating being in one piece at yet another finish line. When I was single I got away with that behavior way too often. Thank you Masha. Huge thanks as well to Janet for crewing. I tell you, without those two... And much love to the community of runners, crew, pacers and volunteers of the Cascade Crest Classic. You made it happen for all the starters, not just the finishers.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Back For More

Been awhile! Well actually I thought I was ready to let the old blog go, but I've decided it isn't time yet and nothing gets my the juices going like another 100 mile race. Besides, I need more reading material for my later years when I'm less mobile and reminiscing of younger more active days:)

The running has actually been good this year, wish I wrote about it. I greeted January with a lot of enthusiasm and high hopes and it translated to more training and better running. A bout with pneumonia in the spring put a small damper on things and hurt my training for spring/early summer races but I still managed a finish at the Lake Sonoma 50-mile and the Quicksilver 100k. It was slower going, harder, but overall solid runs. I took a small break after Quicksilver, it slapped me around a bit, then continued training for the Cascade Crest 100 mile. Got in great runs and a couple of running trips in June; Dana's birthday run on the Rogue River trail in Oregon and pacing my buddy Stan at the San Diego 100-mile. Now here we are at the end of August and tomorrow is Cascade Crest! Time flies. I was over trained heading into taper and first two weeks of the taper I felt sluggish and horrible. I was irritable and but I've bounced back this week—just in time!

This is my second time at Cascade, I ran it 10 years ago and I'm pumped for the opportunity to enjoy WA trails again. Unfortunately it's been rough here with the wildfires, bad situation with real lives impacted. In light of this, a 100 mile races seem so arbitrary and frivolous and because of it I'm much more relaxed and less anxious—it's just a race. Thankfully a storm front is scheduled to hit tonight, bringing rain for the weekend and into the beginning of next week. I can tell you that thankfulness was not my first feeling when I first heard about the weather forecast but now I think it's the best thing. That rain will help with the fires and scrub the smoky skies. There will be wind too, it will feed the fires but I'm hoping for strong rain. So it will be wet, slippery, muddy, windy and cold and we will have fun doing it. This is the Pacific Northwest after all. Because of the drought in California, I haven't had a good storm run in several years. I'm sure to get my fill of it tomorrow.

So yeah, back for more:

- writing/blogging

- trail running in the PNW

- rain and mud

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Mohican 100 Mile Run Race Report

What a buckle, love it, wished it was bigger.

This was the run, not to be confused with the 100 mile mountain bike race—easy to do when you are at the event website. It was held in Loudonville about 1.5 hours South of Cleveland. The course is 95% single track and it is comprised of 4 loops; two 26.8 mile loops and two 23.2 miles loop. The shorter loop is just a variation of the longer loop, it cuts out a technical but fun and scenic part of the course. The single track is gorgeous, hardly technical and not too hilly compared to our trails here in the Bay Area. Long sections of soft, tree covered trails to lose yourself in. On the long version of the loop we are treated to Vernon Falls, a small rocky waterfall that is down to a trickle at this time of the year, accessed via a long set of wooden steps. This was followed by running in a creek bed that is more creek than trail with lots of logs and vegetation which eventually led us at the foot of a wall made up of tree roots about one story high. It was a blast to climb. Time consuming section but a ton of fun. From there we made our way to a dam, a river and a covered bridge, the one immortalized in the finisher's buckle. The final 11 or so miles back to the start/finish is mostly downhill. I enjoyed this section the most. There is some road to chew before finally arriving at the turnaround and while this was my least favorite section, especially since we passed by the finish line, I enjoyed the cheering and clapping.

Yours truly, excited to start another 100.

Something wonderful and cozy about a dark start. Hard to get up for but I love it—more daylight hours on the course.

This picture doesn't do it justice but here is the root wall.

Hotels in Loudonville are surprisingly expensive. Well expensive if you don't want to spend over $100 a night. I ended up staying in a Super 8 in Ashland which is about 30 minutes away. There was a Denny's right next to the motel and a Walmart Supercenter only 5 minutes away where I picked up a back up 150 lumen light for $10 (more like 75 lumens but it does the job ). I was set on food and supplies but what I couldn't get was sleep. I was too anxious and my body was on Pacific time. When I finally got sleepy at 3 AM, 12 AM Pacific, it was time to get up. I should have come a day earlier. Thankfully I had caffeine in my drop bags. I was out and on my way by 3:30 AM.

Race morning was a bit tricky but not too bad. When I got to the race venue around 4 AM there were no volunteers with flashlights to show us the way. That's something we do here in the Bay Area and I've gotten used to it. We're quite spoiled. The packet pickup location, which also served as the finish line, was about a quarter of a mile from the parking lot which in itself was also about a quarter of a mile from the start/turnaround point. I found out later that this was new for this year. Finding these places in the dark was a challenge; found packet pickup after I drove by it, found the start line first before I found the parking lot but eventually with the help of other runners I found my way.

It was a dark start, lots of running by light on the first hour but it went very smoothly. The weather turned out great. I worried it might rain as in the previous days and it did but not until we were already under tree cover. I could hear the rain hitting the leaves but almost none of it got to us. The overcast skies kept the temperatures low. I felt really good and I had to work to keep it dialed down. The course felt more rolling than hilly, no major climb that left me breathless. There were a couple of climbs where I felt I was hiking up for 10+ minutes but they were not that bad. The first loop went well for the most part but at the end of it I felt fatigued and sapped. I wasn't worried but concerned I was hitting a low point so soon. The other issue that did worry me was nausea and I traced it down to the gels I was using. I prefer Power Gels which pack a high electrolyte content (200mg per packet)which is great on hot races but the wrong thing to use on this day. I was using two packets an hour with water but with the weather being what it was and my conservative pace, I was barely sweating. I needed the calories but not the salt. When I cut back on the Power Gels things improved a bit. I even started peeing again with my body not needing the extra water to dilute all that salt. My stomach was never the same however and the nausea would gradually get worse on the second half. This was probably due to the fact that since I no longer wanted to use my Power Gels, I used what they had which were Hammer Gels. My stomach also doesn't like Hammer gels but better Hammer than Power Gels at this point. I could have switched to real food I guess but none of it sounded good once the nausea set in. Thankfully, in addition to caffeine, I had also brought Pepto Bismol tabs.

Heading towards the river.

The covered bridge.

Much like the first it went fairly well at the beginning. It had been raining during the week but despite that the water level on the creeks were low and the trails were fairly dry. There was one section that was especially slippery and I slipped and fell on that section but I came away with only a dirty backside. I made 50 miles in 11 hours which was good and it gave me a reasonable shot for sub-24. As I was finishing the loop however I got a familiar pain on the right side of my left knee which greatly worried me. It's right on the side, a small muscle surrounding the joint. The first time this happened was 2008 at the Kettle Moraine 100, mile 95, and it left me hobbling the last 5 miles to the finish. The second time it happened was at the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 six weeks later. This time the pain came on around mile 78 and I walked the last 22 miles to the finish. Running at any speed was painful. I massaged it, had a volunteer tape it at the turnaround but to no avail. As I left for the third loop the knee locked up and I was forced to walk.

Loved all the greenery.

Wonderful singletrack.

Vernon Falls, down to a trickle.

I didn't panic but I was probably sweating. I just couldn't fathom walking the next 46 miles but I didn't want to quit either. I had never dnf'ed a race and moreover this was my only qualifying race for the Western States lottery on my race schedule. It was this or nothing. Walking back to the trail head I resolved to give it my best effort. I tore off the tape because it wasn't helping and hobbled along at my best speed. I tried different foot strikes, different postures, and I found that bending over and running on my toes helped with the pain but not a realistic viable solution as you can imagine. Wouldn't you know it though, after 1.5 miles of this, it loosened up on it's own like a cramp. I beat that sucker down to submission and I would run well for the entire loop, finishing strong and at 18.5 hours for 77 miles.

I had 5.5 hours to do the last 23 to attain a sub-24 but I knew then that it wasn't going to happen, not unless I had some untapped reserves that was ready to go. I had slowed down a lot and the pain on my left knee was coming back. Darkness had settled in and under the cover of the trees it was quite dark. It made me sleepy despite the constant infusion of caffeine. There is something cozy about the darkness, like a blanket over your head, shutting out a lot of stimuli. The lack of sleep caught up with me. I played with the idea of taking short nap at the next aid station despite never having done so at a race. I'm a napper though, give me 5 minutes and I'll be 100% better. I was pondering this very thing when it happened, for sure it was the fatigue. I blew by a sign telling me to turn right for the aid station and continued down the gravel road I was traveling on until it met back up with the course further down. I cut out about .5 to .75 miles. I didn't realize my mistake until I could hear the music of the second aid station. The miles on my Garmin confirmed it. It was frustrating and heartbreaking but at least it woke me up. There was no question I was going to go back and make it right. The last thing I wanted was to finish the damned thing knowing I cut the course. I'm no podium runner, the finish is my reward and I won't taint that. It was demoralizing running into people going the other way but what could I do. The first runner pacer pair I encountered estimated they were 30 minutes from the aid station I missed and that was accurate. The pride I took in doing the right thing gave me a warm feeling but it was still a shitty situation. My inner voice was kind and kept silent the entire time, it wasn't the time for self-recrimination. After making it to the aid station, I wasted no time heading to the second. When I got there I followed through with my plan to catch some sleep. I didn't think I could fall asleep with all the cheering and clapping but I did. A volunteer was going to wake me up after 10 but I was up at 9 and out there as soon as I could gather myself. Cold, with a sore knee and nausea, I wasn't looking forward to the remaining miles but it was what it was.

The sun rose halfway through the loop, thank God because the caffeinated gels only made me more nauseous. The pepto tabs helped but only so much. I was dry heaving by mile 90. With the goal of sub-24 long gone I was content walking in the last 10 miles. My only regret was not being able to take full advantage of the great singletrack. What a waste! I finished at 28:12 and relieved it was over. Happy to have finished but… I really wanted another sub-24.

Finishing at 9 AM in the morning doesn't leave you much time to clean up, nap and check out of the hotel but what the hell, at least I finished that sucker. I went back to get my drop bags after checking out and caught the awards ceremony. I wasn't in a social mood so I watched for only a little while then left early. Made my way to Cleveland and another motel, glad to be back in a city. My flight the next day was not until the evening so I hit the town and checked out a few sight. Walking around a natural museum helped loosen tight muscles as well as entertain.

I had a great time and I wouldn't mind coming back. Such a great time and I liked Cleveland.

That's me, all legs no arms. Working on it though, hitting the gym again. At the natural history museum in Cleveland.