Sunday, September 30, 2007

More AC 100 pictures

At the finish line with all the ladies

At Chantry Flats, drinking hot chicken soup

This was at Three Points when I was going the wrong way - call me WRONGWAY Ted??

Being weighed at Chilao

At Cloudburst Summit with Rich and Karen behind, I looked pretty happy.

Crew picture at Chilao.  Jon, Bernie, Cheri, & Fred not pictured. The best crew a person can have.

Karen, Rich, and Deb Clem (the ultra nurse)

Annie pacing me starting at Chilao, Jason was ready to chase if I needed anything.

Finish!!!

Crew cheering as I came into Chilao

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BBQ Party for my AC Crew

I had a BBQ party yesterday for my Angeles Crest 100 crew and pacers. We had a great time eating yummy foods and telling stories.  I especially enjoy those "behind the scenes," stories which the crew told of me and each other. We looked over the pictures and video that we took and had a blast. Now, I know the real reason why the crew almost missed me coming in to Three Points. 


A race is just a race, but friends are forever.

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Friday, September 28, 2007

Cordyceps Sinensis - WHAT!

I've been taking this Chinese miracle supplement. It sounds gross when you find out what it is; but, hey, it works.  Instead of me telling you what it is, you can refer to this wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cordyceps.


How did I find this? Well, we had an extended-family dinner back in early July. My cousin, Jenny, knew that I do all those crazy runs.  So, she asked me if I would try this thing out.  She said that it would raise my lung and heart functions. "What," I said, "raise my lung and heart capacity?" I would definitely try it out. No athlete do not want to raise their lung and heart capacity. Okay, I know what you are thinking; it is not doping, it is a natural extract - like eating good food.

I started taking the Cordy capsuls, one in the morning and one at night.  After about two weeks, I noticed that I wasn't as winded when I did my hill repeats. I have done the same workout many times before, on the same hill. But this time, I felt as if I didn't push hard enough.  So, I went back down the hill and ran up it as fast as I ever did. I still didn't feel as winded. So, one more time; this time I sprinted up the hill faster than I ever did.

There's a story of the Chinese National Women's Track and Field Team taking Cordy and taking world records at the 10k, 5k, and 1500 meter events at the 1993 World Track and Field Championships.

I've been taking Cordy since July, I think it definitely has helped me finish the Angeles Crest 100 Mile Endurance Run. I've never finished a hundred mile race before.  AC was my third 100 mile try; and three is a charm. During tempo runs, I also noticed that my lung and heart are no longer my limiting factors; but my muscular system. My legs would tire out before I run short of breath. It used to be the other way around. I haven't done a hard 5k or 10k since July, so I don't know what times I can run. But, I definitely feel I can PR a 10k.

If you want to try Cordy, let me know, I can probably work out a deal with Jenny.

Disclosure: My cousin Jenny is a distributor for Cordy.

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

2007 Angeles Crest 100 Race Report

Sorry, I haven't been posting much.


Now that the big race is over, I have some "down" time. This post is going to be long.

It all started when I paced my friend "Gundy" (Jonathan Gunderson) at the 2006 Badwater Ultramarathon in July.  I got smitten by the ultra bug, badly.  Last year, it was too soon to try and do the AC100.  So, this year, I could not pass up the opportunity.

What a beautiful race this was!  And, it is in my back yard (I literally just live down the hill from Chantry Flats).  I have just fallen in love with it.  I definitely will be back.

I thank my crew and pacers: Bernie, Cheri, Fred, Rich, Antonio, Karen, Jon, Sachiko, Annie, Jason, Colleen & Ann - the people wearing the green shirts. You guys rock, and provided inspiration for me to keep going. You don't know how significant your contributions to my successful race were.  Because I knew you believed in me, I strive to keep going to honor you all.  You put up with me; as I was probably rude, demanding, and impatient in my disoriented, sleep deprived, and adrenalin induced state.

Somebody said that running an 100 miler is like a microcosm of life.  You are bound to have ups and downs, and your success depends on how you handle your adversities. It takes mental determination, focus, and strength of character to finish an endurance run like this. You are changed by it, never will you be the same!  

Okay, enough philosophizing, let's get on with the race report. 

Cheri and Bernie picked me up from Monrovia at 2:30 am Saturday morning.  As we drove out to Wrightwood for the 4:00 am sign-in and 5:00 am start, we saw the fires burning in the Big Bear Lake area.  I felt bad for the fire victims; but truthfully, I was glad that it was not on or anywhere near the race course. It was a little bit of selfish thought: I trained hard for this, it would be sad to not be able to do the race. Gundy, who is from San Fran, and part of his crew stayed with me for the night; it was good to see him, even if it were just one brief night. We left the house before they did, but I will for sure see him one last time at the start. He was doing the AC 100 too; as well as many of my So. Cal. ultra friends and acquaintances. 

At the start, Jimmy Freeman was distributing ribbons for Gary Hilliard, a fellow So. Cal. ultrarunner and RD of the Mt. Disappointment race, who was severely injured recently in an accident.  The ribbon read, "100 for Gary".  I took one and pinned it on my neon yellow shirt. I will also give honor to Gary by finishing. We, the racers, greeted each other and we were off.

I started the race near the back of the pack. It was warm, so I took my jacket off and threw it to my crew. The climb out of Wrightwood was uneventful; however, in my training in this area I've been caught in a thunder storm with hail, pounding rain, and high winds. But, race day morning, it was beautiful and calm.  The sunrise was awesome, we were going to have a great day. 

My race plan was to start near the back, then slowly and surely pass people while trying not to get passed. I kept to my plan while climbing out of Wrightwood; I fought back the temptation to go faster and kept to my pace. By the first Aid Station, Inspiration Point (9.3 miles), I was in 84th place out of the 125 who started the race. "Not to worry," I said to myself, the real race was yet to unfold. 

I admit that I am a competitive person, and the competitiveness in me said that this was about beating other racers.  However, there was also a desire to just beat the course; for this was my third 100 miler, and I haven't finished one yet. I would be happy if I just finished. 

I took as little time at Inspiration as I possibly could, I think even my crew was surprised at how fast I went through there. My plan was to run a steady pace without undue stops and rests.

The next stop, Vincent Gap (13.85 miles), was just about 4.5 miles away, and downhill. It was time to make up some ground. I took off and passed a few people. It felt great. By the time I got to Vincent Gap, I moved up 15 spots. I think I'm more adapt at running down than up.

Next, the course climbs out of Vincent Gap, up Mt. Baden-Powell, and down to Islip Saddle, the next Aid Station.  Mt. Baden-Powell is the highest point on the course. During the climb, I felt my legs tightening up.  I thought to myself, "this is not good", for it was still very early in the race.  My thoughts were, "did I go out too fast", "didn't I train enough?", "can I finish this?"; I was starting to second guess myself. However, I pulled myself out of this slump and resolved to keep moving. I knew that if I just kept moving, the legs will sooner or later come around. So, I took it easy while trying not to get passed. Eventually, the legs did loosen up and I had my second wind and my confidence back. Then, I settled into a very comfortable and steady pace. I counted my paces to keep focus on running, and to prevent my mind from wandering. My steps just kept on ticking like clockwork.

On the climb, I also ran with Diana Rush for a while, I meet her during a training run here.  She won the Mt. Disappointment 50 miler earlier in August. Unfortunately, she was having problems with her knee; but she still went on to finish, what a gutsy performance.  You rock, Diana.

I cruised into Islip Saddle (25.91 miles) and felt really good. My crew told me to stop to get weighed.  But, I didn't want to stop, I wanted to keep going.  I didn't realize that I had to be weighed for the medial check. 

I was glad to see my second crew here, Antonio, Rich, & Karen. They made it up to meet me.  For my first crew from Wrightwood was off at Vincent Gap and would come back later on at Chantry Flats. Here you see Antonio taking my pack as I headed for the medical weight check.

Now, it was just a short 1.5 miles up Mt. Williamson and 1.5 miles down to Eagle's Roost (29.05 miles), the next Checkpoint. On the climb, I passed some racers walking slowly up the steep switchbacks.  This was the third major climb, I guess it was starting to take their toll. I saw David O., he was having some difficulties early on.  He is such a strong runner, what a bummer. From this point on, he and I would be passing each other back and forth all the way to Chantry Flats. It was good to have his company. Coming in to Eagle's Roost, I improved 4 more places.

From Eagle's Roost, the course descended into Cooper Canyon and climbed back up to Cloudburst Summit. There was a short pavement section going out of Eagle's Roost; Deb Clem, the ultra-nurse, was shouting encouragements from her car; and stood roadside to cheer and give me some extra motivation. Thanks, Deb. My second wind was continuing, I was feeling good about the race. No blisters, no pains, no problems - I hoped that my good streak would continue. I was enjoying the race and having so much fun.

I was continuing to catch people. I didn't think I increased my speed, but instead people were just slowing down. By the time I reached Cloudburst Summit (37.54 miles), I moved up 8 more places. My crew told me that Matt D. was about 12 minutes ahead, and that I had made up 5 minutes on him from the last checkpoint. I first meet Matt at the Monday night Nike runs in Pasadena. Matt is an awesome runner, and in my competitive spirit, I wanted to catch him. 

From Cloudburst, it was a rolling downhill to Three Points. I knew I couldn't catch many people here, so I just kept to my same pace. Coming in to Three Points (42.72 miles), I didn't see my crew.  I was concerned. I looked around and saw them at their car; I guess they had just come in.  We rushed to get my pack switched and my nutrition.  However, in the rush, I took a wrong turn and ended up losing about 10 minutes. "That's okay," I said to myself, the race was counted in hours, not minutes. I tried not to get discouraged. Up to that point, the race was going almost perfectly. The 10 minutes, as it turned out, was insignificant. But, at the time, it seemed like a "oh-no" kind of thing.  It is funny how the mind can turn a slight set-back into a huge disappointment. But, I kept it together and didn't let it bother me. I think the key to finishing one of these 100 milers is the ability to control your mind. You really need to keep focus on the "now" and not let your mind wander. I kept telling myself to concentrate on just taking the next steps, and the rest will come. On a positive note, I did improve 3 more places.

Going from Three Points, the course climbed Mt. Hillyer.  At Mt. Hillyer (49.08 miles), I saw Gundy.  He had went out fast, hoping for a sub 24 hr. finish.  He is fast and can easily go sub 24. But, he was having stomach issues. Bummer! It just goes to show that in an 100 mile race, anything can, and usually do, happen. Mt. Hillyer was the first of the no-crew-access checkpoints. I got my own hydration and nutrition and set out for Chilao, the mid-point of the race and where I would pick up my first pacer. I was still feeling good, except for some very minor chaffing which I took care of with some vaseline. I got to Mt. Hillyer losing 1 place, not too bad.  The 10 minutes lost isn't all that important.  As you'll see, I will loose even more.

From Mt. Hillyer to Chilao (52.8 miles), the course went down a gnarly single track with large boulders. I didn't see anyone on this section. It felt good to come into Chilao. Not only was it the second major Checkpoint and the half-way point, it was also where I would get a pacer. It was definitely a psychological boost. It could of been, "I have 50 miles more to run", or "I have 50 miles less to run."  Sort of the, "half full" or "half empty" kind of thing. 

It was still daylight, but I knew it would get dark soon. So, having a pacer is a very good thing. My crew had made a shift change and were waiting for me. See all of those green shirts in the picture? Jon came out to meet me on the short paved road leading into the Aid Station. Now, I have Jason, Annie, Jon, Sachiko, Colleen, and Ann backing me up. Annie and Jon were going to pace me. And I think the crew from the previous shift were hanging around too. So, I had a really large group cheering for me as I came in. The ham radio volunteers at Chilao, Gary Jagers, is a friend of ours; and he kept the crew apprised of where I was. Thanks Gary!  Matt got in to Chilao about 12 minutes before I did, but left Chilao after I did. But I never saw him. I guess I got through Chilao so fast that I didn't look around for who's there.

Annie was going to pace me from Chilao to Shortcut Saddle, a distance of about 6.5 miles mostly on downhill single tracks. Annie had never run trails in the dark, so I was concerned knowing that it would be dark before we got to Shortcut.  But, Annie is a trooper and did amazingly fine for her first night trail run. (Afterwards she said she tripped many times while running in the dark.  But, at least she didn't fall :).)  Having Annie there was a great help to my psyche. She embodied the crew and the people that believed in me to be able to slay this beast. From the psychological lift of having a pacer, I was able to pick up my pace. I still felt good when we got to Shortcut Saddle as we picked up 4 more places. 

The darkness had fallen when we got into Shortcut Saddle (59.3 miles). Annie had done an incredible job, and it is now Jon's turn to pace me to Chantry Flats via Newcomb's Saddle. Taking the advice of a race veteran who had finished 10 AC 100's and was working the Aid Station, I took my long sleeve shirt just in case it got cold. This turned out to be the smartest thing I did. Soon after we left Shortcut, I suddenly stopped in my tracks and asked Jon if we were going in the right direction. I had become disoriented, as if waking up suddenly and not remembering where I'd been. Jon assured me that we were going in the right direction, but it took me a few minutes to be convinced. I am strong willed and can be very stubborn at times. This was the start of my disorientation, it got a lot worse later on. I had been out there for almost 15 hours straight. We kept up the pace and passed a few more people. 

I still felt good on the way to Newcomb's Saddle, the next Aid Station.  I told Jon that if I remained feeling like I was by Chantry Flats, then I would have a very good chance of finishing.  Hal Winton, the co-RD warned us about the climb out of Chantry; I took his words to heart and wanted to save something for that climb.  It was going to be truly brutal.  Fortunately, I had trained on that climb many times, it is my backyard climb; and I knew every turn and switchback. Psychologically, I knew I could do it; and that was a big advantage

On the climb up to Newcomb's, Barefoot Ted McDonald and his pacer went flying past us. Good job, Ted! He saved his energy and now is making a run for it. We made it to Newcomb's about a minute after Barefoot Ted and picked up 7 more places.

Coming in to Newcomb's Saddle (67.95 miles), and seeing BFT (Barefoot Ted) sitting down.  I thought, "let's get our hydration and nutrition quickly and get out of here before BFT."  I told you I was competitive; but, always friendly and I have the utmost respect for all of my competitors. However, after I had taken some solid food, I suddenly felt cold and started shivering. I knew something was wrong; and I kind of knew what it was, as I had experience of it before. I was starting to get dehydrated. I sat down and wrapped a blanket around me, took some hot chicken soup, and drank a bunch of gatorade. In retrospect, I think I was borderline dehydrated; and when I took the solid food the stomach absorbed more water for digestion, putting me over the edge. I had been taking many GU's during the day and not much solid food.

Sitting there, being the first time I had sat since 5:00 am, I was starting to implode mentally.  I was saying things like, "I was doing so well," as if I had already given up. Jon quickly rebutted me and said that I still was doing well. Jon guided me and kept me from further implosion.  This was the first of my low points. Thank God that Jon was there. After about ten minutes, we got up and kept going.  I put on my long sleeve shirt to keep warm. BFT had left before us, I never saw him again until the finish. He went on for a five hour improvement over his AC finish of last year. Way to go!

I felt better as we descended out of Newcomb's toward Chantry Flats, the next checkpoint. I started sweating, which was a good sign.  However, I had finished drinking 2 liters of gatorade even before we reached Sturtervant's Camp. We knew this section of the trails very well, as we trained on them all-the-time. We knew we could get more drinking water at Sturtevant's Camp even when it is not an Aid Station. Jon went and got the water for me, as the camp is about 1/8 of a mile off trail. We made really good time down the trails from Newcomb's. When we got to Chantry Flats, we only dropped 1 place. All was not lost, we were on a great pace.  My legs were still feeling good, nothing hurts, I recovered mentally, now I'm ready to take on the brut. The real race starts, now.

Coming into Chantry Flats (74.55 miles), I felt like I was at the corner before my house. It was a familiar place and gave me great confidence. I knew that if I got here in good shape, I could finish this thing. My many hard training runs over this section were paying off big time at just the right moment. The Chantry Aid Station was like the ultrarunner's party central, I was amazed to see all the people and the spread of food. My crew from the morning in Wrightwood had come back, plus my day crews from Islip Saddle to Shortcut were also there. Don't these people need to sleep?  It was after mid-night. Crazy!  I heard that Gary Hilliard was there too, but I didn't see him. I was running also to honor him. I took more hot chicken soup.  Jon had done a great job pacing me, without him, I would not be in such good shape.  Now, it is Fred's turn to take me to the finish. I spent very little time at Chantry. After Chantry, I would not see my crew until the finish; as there would be no more crew-accessible checkpoints. It was just Fred and I.

Leaving Chantry, soon I saw David O. on the big climb. He was stopped and eating an energy bar at the side of the trail with his pacer. I looked over at him and kept going. I suspected something was up. Later on, I learned that he went back to Chantry to join the party. 

This killer climb is long and steep. It is hard even when you are fresh, but exponentially more brutal after 75 miles or so. Fred and I pushed on, keeping the same pace. We passed some people, and saw some more people at the benches; but we didn't stop and left them there. At the top of the climb, the Mt. Wilson Toll Road junction, I felt cold again.  The dehydration had come back. The climb really took a lot of energy out of me and I drank all 2 liters of water I was carrying.  

I stopped briefly at the junction, I knew that there was a stash of water from our previous training runs through this area. I looked for them in the dark, but did not find them. So, we pushed on. I thought, "this is not good, I am out of water and dehydrated and I have about 3 more miles down to Idle Hour," the next checkpoint. But, mentally, I kept strong. I decided to walk down into Idle Hour instead of running it, so as to conserve my strength. I was drinking out of Fred's water while walking down. Thanks Fred, you are a life saver. Walking this section meant that I would be about 20 more minutes behind. But, at that point, it didn't matter to me; I just wanted to make it into Idle Hour in one piece. Some people passed us, and we passed some people.  When we finally made it into Idle Hour, we still picked up 6 more places.

Seeing Idle Hour (83.75 miles) was a big relief.  It lit up in the night like a hotel on the Las Vegas strip. Amazing!  I sat down, for the second time since the start, to get some rest. I decided that I needed to take care of my dehydration once and for all, so that I could go on and finish without any more duress. I drank more hot chicken soup, water, gatorade, and whatever they had on offer.  It was about 3:30 in the morning and it was cold.  I crawled into a blanket on a cot and rested until 5:00 am. Fred stayed up and would wake me up. I didn't really fall into a deep sleep, I was just keeping warm and laying there. I heard a few people go by. I got up a few times to pee - good signs. When I finally got up, I felt a 100% better. We packed up and took off. All-in-all, we stayed at Idle Hour for about an hour and 40 minutes.

Leaving Idle Hour, we faced a brief downhill and then the last major climb. At the bottom of the canyon, I experienced second sunrise. It was kind of cool to be back in the light. However, during the climb out; I got disoriented again and just stopped, thinking that we had somehow gone off course. I insisted that I didn't remember the section of trail we were on, and some how we got lost. I was so disoriented that I think I confused Fred too. We didn't see any ribbons for a while, at least that's what it seemed like, and got really worried. Consequently, we back-tracked to a point until we saw a ribbon and then kept watching for the trail and the next ribbon. All of this took about another 30 to 40 minutes off our time. Even after this, when we came to a brief downhill cove, I told Fred that we had done this already and that we were making big circles. I had really become disoriented and were not making good decisions. Fred insisted that we were on the right track, that we were NOT going in circles, and guided me to keep going. I thought that this climb would never end. It was hard. Actually, the hardest time I had on the course was on this climb. I had been out there for 26 hours; and 7 hours for Fred. I think both of us were getting worn down. 16 people had passed us while I was resting at Idle Hour.

We finally came to Sam Merrill (89.25 miles). It seemed to take forever to get there. It was a relief, for I knew that there would be no more climbs, except for a short jaunt out of Millard Campground, the next Aid Station. But, that's nothing compared to what we had just done. All the rest is just downhill. I liked downhill running. We took a breather to get our hydration and nutrition, and kept going. It looks like I'm going to finish. I started to believe, my hopes were raised.

Going out of Sam Merrill, I started slow.  My downhill legs were still coming on-line; we've been climbing for quiet a while and my quads needed some time to adjust to downhill running.  Soon enough, we were off and running. We were making good times again. Soon, we reached Echo Mt., one of our favorite spots for my crew and I. Go, Arroyo Trail Blazers! We experienced some of our best trail runs in this area. It was mid-morning, the sun was coming up and getting much warmer. It was gorgeous, but we didn't stop to enjoy the view. We knew the remaining trails like the back of our hands. I got that feeling of coming home; like driving into town from far away on the 10 freeway and seeing those familiar signs before you hit the exit for home. We made the hard right turn onto the old rail way bed, up the gradual incline, down the short pavement section, and down the Sunset Trail. Fred did not prefer to run downhill on rocky trails; so, while I took a nature break, he went ahead and walked down the trail. I soon caught up with Fred, and we made our way down into Millard.  Just before Millard, I was getting really tired.  However, I kept telling myself to "suck it up." 

Coming into Millard Campground (95.83 miles), It was like nobody was there. I was surprised to see the sparse Aid Station, I guess being so close to the finish, nobody wanted to terry. So, we got our needed water for the "home" run, and left quickly. The climb out of Millard was quick and painless. Soon, we were at the El Prieto trailhead. This is one of my favorite downhill trails; in training, Jon and I would fly down this thing at 6 to 7 minute pace. It was about 10:00 am Sunday morning. I had a chance to break 30 hours; so we decided that I should go ahead and Fred will walk the downhill and meet us at the finish line. Fueled by hope and adrenaline, I took off like a banshee. I made awesome time down the remaining 4 miles or so to the finish. 

There were lots of hikers on these last trails, I even saw some horses. When they asked me where I had come from; I said, "Wrightwood," and they all had this funny look on their faces.

Making the turn from the Brown Mt. fireroad onto the pavement of the Arroy Seco; it felt so different. We had done this turn for a thousand times in our runs. But, for some reason, this time it just seemed so out of the ordinary. I felt as if I've been gone a long time; and upon returning and seeing the familiar surroundings, I was seeing them with a new perspective. At the bridge, before the finish, Richie came out to meet me, he is the guy behind http://www.wheelbuilder.com. He builds some of the most awesome bicycle racing wheels. He ran me in. I was feeling so happy. It was one of the best day of my life, spent in my favorite place, the outdoors, and with some of my best friends, who were also my crew.  We had done it together, I just happened to be doing the running. As I neared the finish banner, Ritchie told me to keep my chin up, look good, and smile for the cameras.  I looked at him and laughed inside from a feeling of joy. I crossed the line at 10:41:19 am.  My time for the run was 29 hours and 41 minutes. Not bad for a first AC 100 finish. I was very happy and proud of myself.

Everybody was waiting for me at the finish. I felt like a superstar, I could of asked for anything - and gotten it. But, the crew was the superstar. Fred had done the yeoman's work, he took the hardest, steepest, and longest section to pace me. Hat's off to him. He was also very tired at the end. He deserves to take the rest of the week off, :).  Thanks Fred!

I can't believe that I forgot to have a group photo taken of the crew/pacers under the finish banner.  I guess I was too out-of-it to remember that.  This picture of me and the ladies was taken by someone else. I also misplaced my finisher's t-shirt.  Note for next year: have someone else take care of my finish-line logistics. 

Here's a video clip the crew took of my run:

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