Wednesday, June 11, 2008

San Diego 100 - Race Report

About 58 hours after finishing the San Diego 100 Miler, I was out on an easy training run. I didn't regret the decision I made to save my body by walking the last 14 miles instead of pushing to break 24 hours. It was at mile 86, the Milk Ranch AS, when I realized that I was very close to hitting the 24 hour mark. However, It meant that I had to keep the pace and push my body to the max in order to achieve it. I had 2 hours and 52 minutes to cover the remaining 14 miles. I had been very conservative right from the start; and had kept a very steady pace the whole way. I had no low spots, no foot issues, and I took care of myself in hydration and nutrition. Had I pushed, I really don't think I would be able to resume training so quickly. Besides, I needed to collect a bronze buckle anyway, since I didn't have one. I can always get the silver buckle (sub 24 hours) next year.

I have to admit that I was not ready physically for this race. The wear and tear of racing 6 ultras (four 50 milers and two 50K) in 8 weeks was catching up to me. On the eve before race morning, I still had a nagging sore spot on the outside of my right hip. Without any tapering, I was just not feeling fresh at all. It was not that I didn't know how to taper and get ready for a race, but that this was for getting more racing experience at the 100 mile distance in preparation for AC100 in September, which is my big race of the year. I was content to just do as much as I was able.

I started out from the very back of the pack. At one point, about a mile after the start, I think I was the very last runner of the 81 brave souls who attempted the race. I purposely kept a very slow pace, about 2 minutes per mile slower than my 50 mile pace, and just kept going. As I went along, I gradually picked off runners and moved up the standings. The course was very runnable, the four climbs on each loop, which we did twice, were gradual and from 3-5 miles in length. It was an easier course than AC. To give you an idea, this was how I moved up:

Sunrise 1 (5.9M): 73rd place
Pedro 1 (12.6M): 67th place
Camp 1 (19.3M): 65th place
Paso 1 (25.3M): 54th place
Big Bend 1 (30.4M): 47th place
Milk Ranch 1 (36.2M): 41st place
Sweetwater 1 (42.4M): 36th place
Camp 2 (50.0M): 31st place
Sunrise 2 (55.9M): 19th place
Pedro 2 (62.6M): 18th place
Camp 3 (69.3M): 16th place
Paso 2 (75.3M): 14th place
Big Bend 2 (80.4M): 14th place
Milk Ranch 2 (86.2M): 14th place
Sweetwater 2 (92.4M): 15th place
FINISH (100M): 16th place

Since I started slow, I got to run with people I don't usually see. They were surprised to see me so far back and were wondering what was wrong with me. There was nothing wrong, I was just executing my strategy. It was good to see so many familiar faces.

As I started, my sore right hip bothered me right away; so I kept rubbing it with my hand whenever I took a walking break. This kept going for about twenty miles and then the soreness went away like magic. I was very glad. I was feeling good, and it was as if my body had adapted and grew out new muscles to tackle the loads I was putting on it. I don't know how else to explain it. One moment it was there, and then it was gone. And I don't have that sore spot even now as I write this. Someone must have been praying for me.

As I moved up through the field of brave runners, I kept the same pace. I was not speeding up, but people were slowing down. It turned out to be a hot day, and 38 out of the 81 starters dropped out, including some seasoned ultra runners. After the first loop (50 miles), I started to move up very quickly as I pickup off many runners going up the climbs. I was still feeling strong at the 70 mile mark. I remember thinking to myself, "I have seven and one half hours to do the last 30 miles." I said to myself, "now the race starts." I tackled the climb up to Paso (75.3M) even a little faster than I had done on the first loop.

Up to this point, I had no low spots. I was really enjoying the run and having a lot of fun. I made up even more time as I ran down to Big Bend (80.4M). I really thought that I had no problems going sub 24 hours. I made it over yet another climb and got into Milk Ranch (86.2M) and started to feel a little tired. Here, to make 24 hours, I had almost 3 hours to cover the remaining 13.8 miles. I thought I could do it, but I would have to push hard and it would be close. The choice was between grinding my body down to the ground, or to take it easy and be able to resume training much quicker. I made the later choice.

I didn't hallucinate, I never got sleepy (I think all the coke I drank helped), I just plodded along slow and steady. I carefully and accurately dialed in my hydration and nutritional needs early in the race and I didn't have any problems what-so-ever later on. I think I achieved a lot for this races. I kept very good pacing, I didn't dehydrate like two of my previous 100 mile attempts, I kept very strong mentally, and I proved that my strategy works. This gives me increased confidence for AC100.

Congrats to all my friends who finished their first 100 miler.

Until the next ultraholic adventure, happy trails!


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Bishop High Sierra 50 Mile Race Report

... Leaving Overlook (20 miles), the highest point of the race course, I was set to start my chase. I took off down the hill and caught two guys almost immediately. By the time I got to Bishop Creek Lodge (30 miles), I think I had picked off about 6 guys and LT was just in front of me. I counted the number of people coming back on this out-and-back portion of the course, and I was in about 13th. I kept my pace until about mile 36, then I felt the cumulative fatigue from all the weekend ultras I have been doing. I had no more gas left in the tank. I had to slow down...

I arrived in Bishop on Friday night just before the free pre-race dinner was about to begin. I had heard from past year's participants that the pre-race dinner and raffle was a must-attend event; so, I was looking forward to it. The dinner was held at the Whiskey Creek Restaurant, a very nice establishment, and the food was excellent. LT and Beiyi from the Trail Headz came just before they started the raffle and I was happy to join up with them. The raffle did not disappoint, as most people in attendance won some prizes. LT and I both won some socks, and I also scored a pair of Innov8 shoes. Now I can't say I never win anything. The pre-race dinner was fun as I meet some new people and saw some old familiar faces.

The course didn't look too hard from the elevation profile, but it was much harder than it looked. In past years, some very good runners had not posted very fast times on this course. The higher elevation meant less oxygen, and the very runnable course meant that you actually could have ran the whole 50 miles if you could do so. It gradually climbed for 20 miles for the first part, then 3 miles of downhill, then rolling terrain for 12 miles, and then it went back down to bishop for 15 miles.

For this year, the challenge was enduring the heat, as the course offered very little shade. The weather was HOT, HOT, HOT! It was like running in an oven. The nice aid station people offered to put ice cubes in my bottles, but that just froze my hands and the water turned warm very quickly.

As the gun went off, LT and I started together. Beiyi was still in the restroom and would join the race a little late. I went about two miles and my legs and hips were feeling sore. It was not a good sign, but I was hoping the soreness would go away as I warmed up. I settled into a more relaxed pace than normal for the climb and was feeling pretty good. I got up to Overlook (20 miles), the highest point of the course, and was still feeling okay. The heat nor the altitude was bothering me. LT had gone ahead and was probably about 15 minutes in front.

Leaving Overlook, I was set to start my chase. I took off down the hill and caught two guys almost immediately. By the time I got to Bishop Creek Lodge (30 miles), I think I had picked off about 6 guys and LT was just in front of me. I counted the number of people coming back on this out-and-back portion of the course, and I was in about 13th. I kept my pace until about mile 36, then I felt the cumulative fatigue from all the weekend races I have been doing (6 in 7 weeks). I had no more gas left in the tank. I had to slow down.

I was tired and running the remaining 14 miles of gradual downhill felt like running on the flat. It was very hard for me. I ended up walking for about 4-5 miles to save strength and then ran the rest of the way back to the finish line. It was not one of my better races, but I still had a lot of fun. It was good running with LT for part of the way. He is a very strong runner. I enjoyed the raffle, the food, the outdoors, and the company. It was my pleasure to hang out for dinner with LT and Beiyi after the race.

After a few days of rest, I'm looking forward to the San Diego 100. Last night I was dreaming I was running it. Now, that's an ultraholic. I will get a weekend off from racing over the Memorial day holiday, then I'm doing the Shadow of the Giants 50k and then the SD 100 a week after that. The Shadow 50k will be a tapper race for SD, and I will just enjoy myself and not go for time.

Until the next adventure, happy trails!


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Garmin Forerunner 405 - Update

I put the Garmin Forerunner 405 through yet another grueling test. This time at the PCT50, an epic 50 mile race over some of the most scenic and yet technical and unrelenting single tracks east of San Diego, CA. This course had its share of dense tree cover to test the sensitivity of the GPS and also would push the battery life to its limit.

It was a very hot day with direct sunlight most of the time I was out on the trail. The display never became hard to read. However, towards the end, the bezel stopped responding to my finger touches. I might have been a little dehydrated so my finger tips were a little dead. But, I though, "what if I didn't use my fingers but another part of my body?" So I used my other wrist to touch the bezel, and that worked like a charm.

I charged the battery over night before the race and it lasted 7 hours when it told me I had "low battery." At that point, I had another hour of battery if I kept the GPS portion turned on. The unit would have lasted 8 hours, as advertised. However, my race was going to last more than 8 hours, so I turned off the GPS functions to save power and continued to use the unit as a stop watch.

The trail went through some dense tree cover and I noticed that the pace reading was way too low for how fast I was going. This meant that the GPS was not getting enough signal and the accuracy was lacking. Consequently, at mile 25, it read 23.75. This discrepancy is consistent with my experience with the 301/305. It always reads too low, never too high.

I'm satisfied with how the unit is performing so far; but I just wish that the battery life is a bit longer.


PCT50 Race Report

We drove out from Monrovia at 2:00 am on race morning to make the two and a half hour freeway trek down to San Diego. My carpool mate was Andy Kumeda, we talked almost the whole way down, so the time passed quickly. The starting line was just off the 8 freeway, it was the most convenient ultra race start location I have ever been to. You just get off the freeway, park, and there it was. What more can you ask for! I was filled with anticipation as I looked forward to meeting some new friends in person from the SoCal Trail Headz.

It was still dark when we checked in. The registration table was set up on the shoulder of the highway, and a bunch of cars were already there. It was as if crazed ultra runners just took over the highway; I love it. I saw Jerry Armstrong's trailer and parked next to it; I was looking forward to the prime rib and the post-race party he would host for the tHeadz. Thanks, Jerry; it was great.

After a short nap we got up and got ready for the start. The mountain air was crisp and invigorating. The temperature was in the mid 30's; but I knew it would warm up very quickly. The forecast said partly cloudy skies; but there was not a cloud in sight. The day would turn out to be very warm. I braved the cold and went without arm warmers and gloves. The course was an out-and-back on entirely technical rocky single tracks. Some of the tHeadz recognized me and introduced themselves; thank you very much, Chaz and Eric. Sorry, if I forgot to mention some of your names as there were so many new friends to meet.

Somebody shouted "go", then we were off. After about a mile or so, Akos came charging up to the front; passing everybody. He had started late. I guess better late than never. I settled into a nice pace, a few faster people passed me, including iMichelle, who had also started late. After a few miles, I looked back and I was pulling a pack of 5 runners. I kept a comfortable pace, so I was happy to oblige. We kept going and soon caught up to Keira; then I slowed down, thinking that I might be pushing too hard. The pack behind me noticed that I had slowed and passed me; but I was content to let them go. I wanted to save some energy as I planned to negative split this course. The pack I was pulling included some very good runners.

For some reason, I kept tripping on the rocks as I ran. I have trained on my share of rocky single tracks, and tripping is usually not a problem. I guess I was just not concentrating and mentally unfocused.

At one point I was running with Eric and caught up to Krik, I introduced myself. Kirk looked good! Then, Eric went ahead; and when I saw him as I approached the turn-around, he looked good! I had no idea what was happening to him. I was just one place behind Eric at the turn-around.

At the turn-around (25 miles), I was feeling really good. My legs felt strong and I had no issues. I thought to myself, "now the chase begins." My time at the turn-around was about four and a half hours; so I was on sub 9 hour pace. I kept a very nice running pace back to Penny Pines, about 2 miles. There, I saw Eric, I didn't know he had issues; so I made a very quick stop and went ahead.

I kept running through the undulating course by myself; then, I just didn't feel like pushing anymore. This has never happened to me during a race. I had no reasons to not push, at least not physically; but mentally I just didn't want to. May be racing my fourth ultra, including three 50 milers, in five weeks was catching up to me. Or, may be being alone had something to do with it. I thought to myself, "so what if I caught a few runners going back." I felt that it wasn't worth it to push to get a better time or place higher. This is very uncharacteristic of me, normally I fight until I have no more to give. But, that day, I had no fight.

I needed something or someone to inspire me; but I found none. Running uninspired and alone, I slowed down and walked a lot of the sections I knew I could run. My mind wandered, and I kept tripping on the rocks. This kept going until about 10 miles to go; when I tripped and fell and cut up my right hand. Then I realized I needed to concentrate more. When I started concentrating, I felt better mentally and the miles seemed to go by faster. One positive note, I kept moving and never thought about quitting.

This race was tough, as I learned that mental preparation was just as important as physical. My thanks go out to many of the tHeadz at the aid stations who introduced themselves to me. Beiyi served me food at the finish, thanks. Oh, almost forgot, I saw a huge rattle snake right on the course and almost stepped on it but stopped short.

Next weekend is the Bishop/High Sierra 50 miler. I will use what I learned.

Until the next adventure, happy trails!


Monday, May 05, 2008

Garmin Forerunner 405 - Initial Impressions

I just got the new Garmin Forerunner 405 GPS running watch this past weekend and was able to use it for the 50k race. Right off the bat, the styling and elegant look of this watch made it one slick piece of running equipment. This thing is much smaller than the Forerunner 305/301 and actually looks like a watch rather than the albatross that was strapped to your wrist. Sorry, I just didn't like the size of the older Forerunner models. The fit was excellent around my wrist; the model 301 I had would make my wrist hurt after wearing it about 5 to 6 hours. Okay, I have boney wrists and I don't think most people would have the same problem. However, I was happy that it was very comfortable for me to wear all day.

The 405 seems to do all the things the 305 did and then some. It comes with only two buttons on the right side. The top one is the start/stop/enter button and the bottom one is for exit/quit. The bezel of the watch is a touch sensitive ring that allows you to scroll through the menu with a swipe of the finger and a simple tap to select menu items. This thing is like the ipod of sport watches. It is a joy to use. The bezel can be locked so accidental touches won't mess up the display, just simply press both buttons simultaneous and it locks and unlocks. Have you ever struggled to turn on the back light in the dark; well, on this watch, just simply touch two fingers on the bezel and the backlight toggles on and off - very slick. To enter the four modes, just touch and hold at the four designated and labeled areas on the bezel.

The 405 also doesn't have an "off" button. Now, it just goes into a power save mode in which the GPS portions goes to sleep to save battery and the unit functions pretty much like a regular watch.

The 405 now have up to 20 hours of recording capacity. It automatically stores routes and your run data to be downloaded to your computer wirelessly. That's right, wireless. And since it is wireless, now you can transfer route information from unit to unit. Can you imagine showing up for a new run and you get a download of the route straight to your watch? We just might never get lost on the trails again. One major bummer, however, is that Mac support won't be available until the Fall. Luckily, I have an Intel Mac and is able to run Windows through Bootcamp. If you have a G4 or G5 Mac, you are out of luck.

The display is smaller than the 301, and each of three screens only displays 3 fields. The 301 displayed four fields, but I was never able to really make use of the extra fields anyway. I usually just care about my pace, distance, and time when I run. If you do use three fields, the digits on the bottom fields are a little small and was a bit hard to read on the run. The battery lasted only 6 hours on my first full charge but the manual said it would last 8 hours. However, I didn't charge it overnight. I think the GPS receiver sensitivity is also better than the 301/305; I was able to receive satellite signals indoors at the bottom floor of my two story house. I have only done one run with this watch, more comprehensive observations will come in a later review.

Happy trails!


Sunday, May 04, 2008

Wild Wild West 50K Race Report

The occasional but persistent wind was rustling the tent as I slept lightly through the night. I tossed and turned in my sleeping bag as I tried to get some good sleep, but could not. I had gone to bed just before dusk, at around 8:00 pm, in anticipation of a 3:30 am wake up time. The race was to kick off about a mile away from my campsite at 6:00 am, and I wanted to have plenty of time to make coffee, eat, and get over to the starting line. This was going to become one of my more memorable races...

I made the trip alone and drove the 4 hours from my house to Lone Pine, CA, on Friday afternoon for the Saturday morning race. Lone Pine is famous for being the gateway to Mt. Whitney, the highest point of the continental United States. And, if you are a movie buff, you will recognize the Alabama Hills, in which many Western movies were shot. One of the roads on the course was called, you guess it, "Movie Road." If you frequent Mammoth Lakes, CA, from So. Cal. you will also recognize Lone Pine as a way point along Hwy 395.

The Wild Wild West Marathon is the third oldest trail marathon in the United States; in recent years, they added the 50k, which shares almost the entire Marathon course plus an extra loop. The very non-technical course was from point to point, starting at the Tuttle Creek Campground and ending in Lone Pine Park, just at the North end of town. The net elevation loss was a boon to those who like to run downhill; the climbs, which happened mostly in the beginning 7-8 miles, were gradual and entirely runnable. Some parts of the course were covered with soft sand and made the going a little tougher; but, I didn't think it was too bad. The 5+ mile run down Hogback Road, which was all downhill on a perfectly groomed dirt road, was a nice reprieve after the climbs. My favorite part of the course was the section through the Alabama Hills. Those oblong rock formations were extremely interesting and I would have loved to spend an entire day there to explore the area; it was definitely an outdoor photographer's paradise.

I got into Lone Pine just before 5:00 pm and picked up my race bib and goodie bag and proceeded up to the campsite. I erected my tent and unpacked the car and went for a walk to look for the starting line. The wind was starting to really pick up; I heard the people in town say that it had been very windy during the week. I found out that the starting line was about a mile away from my campsite; so, I decided to drive to the starting line in the morning because I didn't want to walk that far in the cold morning air. Plus, it was nice to have a car near the start to sit in to stay warm until just before the horn went off.

I woke up as scheduled, made my coffee, and went through my pre-race routine. My camping stove didn't work for some reason; luckily, I had a spare, or else I would not have been able to have coffee. I broke camp and packed up the car in the dark and drove over to the starting line at about 5:15 am. When I got there, no one was directing parking or anything; so, I sat in the car until some race staff showed up at 5:30 am. When I finally stepped out of the car, the temperature had risen considerably; so, I knew that it would get hot very quickly. There was no wind, the temperature was about 48 degrees and would warm up into the high 70's. There was not a cloud in the sky, we were about to enjoy a gorgeous day in the mountains with blue skies and snow capped Mt. Whitney in the back ground. I had on a sleeveless full zippered jersey, shorts, lots of SPF 45, and my trail racing flats. The sun-exposed course would offer absolutely no shade from the UV radiation.

At the starting area, where we congregated, there was not much fanfare. No banners, no tents, no mats, and not even a line was drawn in the dirt. I guess, after putting on the race for so many year, they figured out how to get it the simplest they can. I think they had a hand held blast horn and that's it. Some racer dragged his feet across the sandy dirt and made a line. I didn't see many of the So. Cal. ultra regulars. I guess this was more of the first time ultra crowd; I talked to many of them and most seemed to be doing their first 50k after completing a marathon.

The horn sounded and off goes a group of charging runners. The 10 mile, 15 mile, marathon, and 50k races all started together. I figure the front runners were probably the 10 milers and didn't care to chase them down. I kept to a steady pace and remembered to keep drinking and took care not to eat too much at the beginning. I think I'm beginning to learn how to pace and have more consistent race results. One thing good about this race is that the aid stations were about 2-3 miles apart; however, I still carried a hand bottle and skipped aid stations to save time. The climb from the starting line was on a consistent gradual grade with loose sand in many spots. We had a mile of downhill at about mile 2 for a bit of a break and kept climbing until mile 8 to the highest point of the course. My pace would vary according to the steepness of the grade; but I tried to kept my energy exertion at the same level. I kept from putting out bursts of acceleration, as that's a waste of energy.

I caught up to a 50k runner at about 6 miles into the climb. I found out later that his name was Ray. Ray and I would end up 5th and 6th overall and we would pass each other back and forth all the way to the finish. The 10 milers and 15 milers had split off at about mile 8 and now we were pretty much alone. I think I saw very few runners, except for Ray, until the last few miles or so when the slower marathoners were finishing up. Ray is faster than me on the downhill, but I was faster on the uphill. I was first to reach the top and started the descent down Hogback, Ray then passed me at about two miles into the downhill. Later I passed him on Moffat Road, a section of 5 miles or so of rolling uphill. We ended up right together at mile 20, where the 50k course split from the marathon.

Ray was behind me as we came up the initial climbs

Ray and I ran together until mile 24, when we caught up to another 50ker, (Doug, as I later found out). Doug, Ray, and I were running together in a close pack; and it turned out that we were 1st place, 2nd place, and 3rd place in our age group. There we were, battling it out at mile 24 with about 10k to go; this was the most competitive race I've yet to have. Ray skipped an aid station and surged ahead of Doug. I got right behind Doug but was never able to pass him. I was beginning to tire and trailed Ray and Doug about a 100 feet. I kept them close until we rejoined the marathon course at about mile 27, at which point they disappeared behind the rolling hills. It was hard to keep chasing when you don't see the "rabbit." I never saw them again until the finish line. It turned out that Doug passed Ray back, and Ray only finished about 30 seconds in front of me. The last few miles of rolling downhill into Lone Pine was very hard as I was fighting fatigue, but mentally I was strong and kept pushing as hard as I could have.

I was very content with the race I had; as I ran almost the whole way, with very little walking. It was a good consistent effort, and a great training day as I'm trying to dial in my pacing skills. I have to say something about the course markers. They seemed to get more scarce as the course went on; I got off course three times! I'm normally pretty good at following ribbons, but they used yellow ribbons which didn't stand out much among a sea of yellow wild flowers. Why did they use yellow, go figure; you would think they'd have this figured out after so many years. Anyway, my GPS read 31.93 miles at the finish; I definitely ran some extra mileage. But I'm still happy, as I ended up 6th overall, 3rd in my AG, and PR'd by over 20 minutes with a course time of 5:04:46.

As I finished early, I took the shuttle back to get my car at the starting line, washed up, and then went back to Lone Pine for the award ceremony. I saw Gary Hilliard, Gabor, and Steve and Annie Harvey. Gary did the 10 miler, Gabor, Annie and Steve did the 50k. It was good to see some people I knew.

Until the next adventure, happy trails!

UPDATE: It has been almost a week since the race and the results haven't been posted. It don't know what's holding it up. Most other races I do posts their results one or two days after, or at the most three days. So, if you plan to do this race in the future, figure that you are gonna have to wait to see the full results.


Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Chantry Flats Now Open

Yes, I'm so glad. Chantry Flats is my trail running paradise. According to, Chantry Flats opened at 10:00 am on Wednesday, 4/30/08.

Link here:


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Fire Break!

No, I did not misuse the word "break" in the title. The on-going Sierra Madre forest fire was burning about a mile and a half up from my house. I saw the flames this past Saturday when I was driving home from a training run in San Diego. It started off the road leading up to Chantry Flats. Fortunately, I'm okay and my house is okay. Some of my ultra friends, like Gary Hilliard, had to be evacuated. The fire is still burning as I write this, but it has gone away from Chantry Flats and is burning towards Bailey Canyon. I'm glad that the Chantry area was saved, I would hate to loose access to the trails over there. Unfortunately, the fire did consume the lower portions of the Mt. Wilson Trail. I wonder if the annual Mt. Wilson Trail Race will be cancelled this year; or they might just run through the burned area because it is such an historic race. The bad air quality from the fire has given me an excuse to rest.

I haven't been running very much! I know, it's shocking. I ran a total of 10 road miles last week during the week. I was tired after Leona. Then I ran in the mountains for 20 miles this past Saturday, and 12 miles on Sunday. Total for the week: 42 miles. I felt pretty tired after the 20 miler on Saturday, so on Sunday I took it easy.

The 20 miles I ran on Saturday was the first loop of the San Diego 100. It was my only chance to preview the course. I would have liked to preview the 30 mile loop as well; but it will have to wait until later. I woke up at 3:00 am this past Saturday and drove 3 hours down to the Cuyamaca mountains in San Diego. It seems I've been doing this early morning ritual every weekend. It was no big deal, I was used to it by now. There were about 9 of us on this training run. It was very cold at the start, but warmed up very quickly. The RD, Paul Schmidt, was a really good guy. I seemed to have bonded with him. I've never meet him before; but by the end of the run, we seemed to be long-time friends. Paul is also a very good runner. I'm glad to have meet him. There, I also meet John Martinez, the RD of the PCT 50.

On Sunday, we were going to run from Chilao to Chantry as part one of the four part AC100 training run series. Needless to say, the road up to Chantry was closed due to fire. So, we changed plans and drove out to Islip Saddle to run to Chilao. This 27 miles section of the course was very enjoyable; the higher elevation of the run meant lower temperatures and was actually very pleasant. I felt tired right from the start, I guess the 20 miler on Saturday and the cumulative racing miles and heavy training load was finally taking their toll. With 3 more consecutive races coming up the next weekends, I decided to pack it in at mile 12. This was a fully supported training run, thanks to Xy Weiss of Dirty Girl Gaiters for donating the food and drinks. I transformed from a runner to aid station volunteer, as I travelled in the sag wagon of the famous Hal Winton, the AC100 training run coordinator and the name-sake of the Hal Winton Mt. Disappointment 50 Mile Endurance Run. We drove ahead of the runners and set up our traveling aid station for their arrival. It was good hanging out with Hal, he has so many stories which I will never get tired of listening to. It turned out to be a very easy and relaxing day. I learned that Hal was a sub 20 hour finisher of the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run. Wow!

On Monday, I was going to resume my regular training; but the bad air quality has forced me to put it off for a couple of day. I should be back to my regular training regiment starting this Wednesday.

My upcoming weekends are packed until the San Diego 100 in early June. This weekend is the Wild Wild West 50k in Lone Pine. The next weekend I will be in San Diego again for the PCT 50 Miler. Then, it is back up to Bishop for the Bishop/High Sierra 50 Miler. It should be fun.

Until next time, happy trails!


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Leona Divide Race Report

After the exciting weekend at Old Goats, I was all revved up for Leona Divide 50. I thought I had recovered sufficiently, but my mental toughness was to be tested. We got up super early, as usual, and drove out to Lake Hughes. I had a friend accompany me this time so I didn't have to drive home with my after-race stiff and sore legs. I had no idea what time I would do for the race, as I've never done this course. And since there is such a difference from course to course and from year to year; I had no idea what to expect. I just wanted to keep a comfortable pace and hold on for as long as I can. However, back in the corner of my mind, I was hoping to place again. Hey, call me an elitist or a dreamer if you want, but I'm only human to hope for that. I knew it would be very unlikely given the racing talent that shows up at this race year after year. For a moment there, I gave in to my desire for recognition. Honestly, I wouldn't say it would never happen again; but, suffice to say, recognition is not why I race.

Leona Divide was a much bigger race than Old Goats. There was only the 50 miler; and the field of 160+ was five or more times that of Old Goats 50 and there were runners attending this race from as far as Maine. Leona is also more mature and established, given time I think Old Goats will establish its own heritage, character, and following. The elevation of the looped course was 9,000 feet compared with 12,500 feet for Old Goats. Again, I had not pre-ran the course and was going in blind. But, I did study the map this time. The weather was cool - what a difference a week makes. There was a very chilly wind and I wore arm warmers and gloves the whole time. The course was very runnable and well groomed (non-technical); I can see why this race is so popular.

This was the third race of my triple header; however, from how excited and nervous I was at the start, you would think I'm doing this one race all year! I lined up near the front as I have been doing this season and took off with the front quarter of the field. Right away, my legs felt good, just like last week. I was happy and having a good time. I thought I was going to have another fun race.

I kept going at my pace and didn't really push very hard. Last week, at Old Goats, I thought that I didn't go hard enough, so this week I was pushing a little bit more; but not that hard. I was able to talk comfortably while I was running. I trudged up the hill and started reeling in people; I caught up to Keira, last week's second place finisher, and chatted with her until the top of the first climb. I wanted to make up a little time on the downhill, for I knew I would give it up on the next climb. So, I push up my speed a little bit down the descent. Soon, I caught up with Rob and iMichelle. I started chatting with Michelle and ran with her for the next several miles, including the second climb.

I thought that it was kinda strange that I was able to run with Michelle, because she is a speed demon. The thought did cross my mind that I was going out too fast; but I truly felt comfortable and was able to talk and chat with Michelle for the whole time. My legs felt good and I wasn't out of breath. I didn't think too much about it, I thought may be I was having another good day.

Shortly after Aid Station number 2, at about 15 miles into the race, I felt fatigue setting in. Perhaps Old Goats and a hard training week were taking their toll, or I went out too fast. So, I slowed down my pace and let Michelle go; and she quickly disappeared out of sight. As I slowed, a whole line of people passed me by. The competition at this race was at a higher level; as there isn't that much of a gap between people in the front pack.

As the line of people passed me and got further and further away from me, I got discouraged; and mentally I was having a let-down. The excitement from the start of the race had turned into disappointment and misery. Emotions can swing quickly in a race. In my mental let-down, I was giving up; and I did think about DNF at one time.

However, physically, I was still able to do the race just fine provided I kept a slower pace. After the faster people passed me, I kept going for a few more miles and there wasn't anybody passing me anymore; I felt a little better. I started running/walking up the hardest climb on the course to conserve energy. This was also the out-and-back section with a turn-around. I counted the runners coming back, I was in about 50th position.

When I got to the turn-around (35.5 miles), I knew I would make it. It was all downhill from there, save for one last climb. I ran the whole way down and ran up most of the climb. Finishing strong, I was able to catch about 7 or 8 people on the final climb.

Lessons learned: I need to nail down my 50 miler pace. I was eating too much early on and had to go to the restroom.

Until the next adventure, happy trails!


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Looking back, getting 3rd overall at the Old Goat 50 has gotten me all philosophical and reflective. Granted that Old Goat is not a very big race (35 started the 50 miler); but at least it is on the So. Cal. Ultra Series calendar. Getting a podium finish has always been one of my long standing goals ever since I started running. Now, that I've done it and reached that personal milestone; it falls on me to set new goals and directions. On the one hand, seeing that my hard work had paid off; I'm even more motivated to train. But, on the other hand, I'm fully satisfied with what I've done. I think I would be happy even if I don't ever get another medal.

Should I leave running and go on and do something else? Good question. Right now, I don't really know the answer. However, I do know that as far as my development as a runner is concerned; I've only just begun. I'm curious to see how much more I can push; and just how much leaner, faster, stronger, and longer I can go. I love being on the limit, constantly pushing forward the envelope of possibility. The ultra community is also another motivation, because I so enjoy being with them. If what I do and have done can bring positive influence, inspiration, and motivation; then that makes everything worth while. Also, I don't like to leave things unfinished; at least I will finish this season with all my might - that's for sure.

It is so amazing to me that after Old Goats I'm getting so much encouragement from the ultra community; even from would be rivals. Ultra runners are the best. This just goes to show that it is not about ourselves, the glory of the individual; but it is about the challenge of being out-there. As we toe the starting line, we become a testament of courage, resolve, commitment, and discipline. I firmly believe that the will power to see it through to the finish line does not come intrinsically from within, but it is feed by the community and the supreme power that is with-out. The seemingly insurmountable struggles on the course and the fight we can muster against it ultimately is dug out from the depth of our spiritual motivation. We fight harder when it is done for a cause other than ourselves. Ultra runners have a common enemy, the course; we draw inspiration from each other.

Whew, that was a mouthful. :)

Looking forward, I have Leona Divide 50 coming up this weekend. This is a much bigger race than Old Goat. I will approach this race as I have every other race so far; to do the best I can. Since this will be the last of the triple header of races; I can give it all I got. I've got plenty of time to rest and recover afterwards.

My recovery from Old Goat is progressing very well. I ran a short 3 miles on Sunday night to help flush out the lactic acid from my legs. By Monday night, I felt almost back to normal. I did some hard hill work and a tempo run on Tuesday. Wednesday, being tired from Tuesday, I ran some easy miles. I also took it easy today, Thursday; and Friday I will take a rest day. I should be ready to go for Leona.

Happy trails, just get out there!


Sunday, April 13, 2008

Old Goat 50M Race Report - 2nd Billy Goat

... At a few miles down the Trabuco, the 50K and 50M racers finally parted company; the 50K course went right and the 50M course went left. Now, the dust has cleared, all you see are your competitors. Shortly after the split, the defining moment of this race happened for me. I was coming down a single track into a small ravine, getting ready for a creek crossing. The photographer (who I later learned was Doug Malewicki, Michelle Barton's dad) told me, "you are 4th overall." I replied, "no way, you are kidding me." However, he was serious. I could hardly believe it. ...

Picture taken by Doug Malewicki

The day started all wrong. Well, actually, even during the days prior to the race, I was just brain dead. I was very disorganized and just couldn't focus my mind on preparing for the race. This is very uncharacteristic of me, normally, I prepare meticulously and leave nothing to chance.

I packed my stuff the night before the race, I just kind of threw everything in a bag. When I awoke the next morning at 3:30 am and was going through my pre-race ritual, I suddenly remembered that I needed to bring duct tape and pen to mark my drop bag. I was looking for my duct tape and couldn't find it. I kept looking through my house and still couldn't find it. I was distressed and ended up leaving about 10 minutes later than I wanted to. I later found out, after I got back home and unpacked, that I had packed the duct tape in the bottom of my backpack the night before.

I got on the road for the 1 hour and 15 minutes drive to the race site and found out that the connector to Freeway 71 South from the 57 South was closed. Being already stressed, I though, "oh no, I'm gonna be late to the race." Having no other option, I continued down the 57, hoping to find an alternate route to the 71. Just then, the freeway traffic totally stopped. I was just sitting there in my car on the freeway, with the engine off, and really starting to have a bad feeling. Fortunately, the traffic started flowing again in about 5 minutes; it just happened that there was an early morning accident. Continuing, I took the 60 East from the 57 and was hoping it would connect to the 71; it did. I was back on track.

I drove quickly and got to the race site at about 5:30 am; the race was starting at 6:00 am. I took the first parking spot I could find. By then, the line of cars was already well formed and it was a nice long walk to the starting line. Normally, I'd get to the race site nice and early and be the first few cars; which is how I like it. I still needed to register and get my number, and then put on my number, fill my bottles, go to the restroom, and mark my drop bag. I normally would do most of that at the car. I proceeded to the registration tables, hoping to find some duct tape. At about half way there, I though that I better just bring the drop bag, pen, number belt and everything with me so I didn't have to walk back to the car. So, I turned around and went back to the car. I was scrambling and stressed, I grabbed what I needed and started for the registration tables again. After walking for a few minutes, I realized that I forgot my hat and to apply vaseline; this time I ran back to the car and got the hat and put on the vaseline. Then, I quickly made my way to the registration tables - finally.

Most of the 50 milers were already checked in when I got there. In fact, they were calling the names of those who haven't shown up. I checked in, and did find duct tape at the registration area. I made my pre-race preparations and put all the race goodies, a nice Old Goat tech T-shirt, a blue Old Goat hat, and an Old Goat coffee mug into my drop bag. I realized that I forgot one thing, my spare shoes. But I wasn't about to go back to the car.

I was wearing my New Balance 790 to start the race. Those shoes were the ultra light weight trail racers. I thought that they were a little too thin and flimsy for the long stretches of rocky trails and fireroads on this course. I have used them for 50k races, and my feet were just about at the limit of my pain threshold when I was done. I had planned to put my trusty Vasque Blurr in my drop bag at Bear Springs AS (mile 32.5/38) so I could change out the NB 790 if I needed to. The course would hit Bear Springs twice, once on the way up to the highest point on the course, and once on the way down. So, I had an option of when to put on the spare shoes. The light weight shoes would help the climb up to Santiago Peak if my feet were still okay.

The temperature was starting to soar even at 6:00 am. I wore arm warmers to the starting line, but they came off quickly and went into my drop bag. Now, I was in a full front zippered sleeveless jersey and shorts. The jersey zippers really came in handy later on in the race to help regulate my body core temperature. I later learned that the temperature would soar into the low 90's during the day.

I've never ran this course, and I didn't know any of the trails, place names, or landmarks in the surrounding area. I really didn't study the map, instead I just showed up and planned to follow the ribbons. I guess even having a detailed elevation profile and map doesn't fully tell the story of the trail. I have spent most of my life in the Southland, but haven't ever been in this part of So. Cal. This just goes to show how blessed we are to have so many trails to enjoy. In hind sight, it would have been better If I had done some trail runs in this area; as Baz holds the WTRS (Winter Trail Run Series) in this same region. I have heard good things about these runs.

The race organizers had decided to delay the start time for 15 minutes to allow for more day light on the first stretch of a downhill rocky trail many racers would try to squeeze through. I thought that was a good call; no complaints from me. We weren't really freezing or anything. However, instead of going back to the car, I just stayed at the starting line and tried to relax as I was all stressed out from the morning scramble. By the way, Baz and Doc (Steve) Harvey, the 50 Mile RD, are very friendly and personable; and Doc is really a class act as he was willing to go out of his way to help me after the race with getting my drop bag back.

The 50K and 50M runners started together, so it was kinda hard to know who your competitors are. I decided to just kept my pace and not worry about the other people. I really had no expectations of any time goals. Coming into the race, I was just intent on making it a good training run, and using it as a stepping stone to my big goal of the year, AC100. Plus, I was racing Leona Divide the following weekend, and I wanted to not get too wasted. This was to be the second race of a triple header. I had read on the Old Goats 50 website that the elevation change was about 12,500 ft. gain/loss. I really thought that 12,500 feet of gain/loss meant that gain and loss combined were 12,500; so that the gain was 6,250 and the loss was 6,250. I surmised that 6,250 ft. of climbing was no big deal for a 50 mile race.

The starter gave the signal and we were off. Right away, some fast people took off up the asphalt road leading to the trail head. I didn't take the bait and just kept to a comfortable pace. My legs felt good immediately, I though, "may be my day will turn out okay after all." I guess I had fully recovered from the intense efforts of the Chesebro 1/2 marathon last weekend. I didn't need any warm up at all. I had not taken any rest days during the week; in fact, I ran twice a day. But Friday night I ran only 3 miles and kept it very easy. Counting the race mileage, I would end up with a 100 mile week.

I didn't know if the people in front of me were 50K or 50M; I didn't really care. I just kept to a conservative pace. It almost felt like last year's AC100 pace. Soon after we entered the trails and got down into the canyon, I caught a whole string of people about 20 deep. We were on a single track and I had to squeeze through. Everyone was very cordial and friendly as the passing went on. Trail runners are great people. As the trails were narrow and technical, I didn't bother to look for numbers to find out if people I passed were 50K or 50M. As we got out of the canyon and approached the Candy Store (10 miles), the sun was already out and shinning and getting very much warmer.

The first part of the course went from Blue Jay to the Candy Store and back. The way out was a fast rolling descent and the climbs begin on the way back. We would climb back up to Blue Jay (20 miles) and continue the climb up Main Divide Rd. The trail going out terminates as a circular loop, with the Candy Store at the mid point of the loop. So, as I went past the Candy Store AS, it felt like we were continuing and hadn't turned back. This confused me because I had not studied the map. We continued on the loop and when we reached the point where we got back on the out-and-back portion, I got very much directionally challenged. I though we were still heading out when in fact we were heading back in. Fortunately, I was running with someone and he knew where to go. To show just how lost I was; at one point, when we were seeing runners heading the other direction, I thought that they were ahead of us and coming back. But, in fact, they were slower runners still heading out to the Candy Store.

I started power walking early on with the climbs coming back to Blue Jay. I thought, "man, that's a lot of climbing." The guy I was running with took off and I let him go. A couple other people passed me, I wasn't sure if they were 50k or 50M. I let them go as well and just kept a conservative pace. I was taken a little off-guard by the amount of climbing going back to Blue Jay. The temperature had soared and I definitely felt the heat; so, I zipped down my jersey for air-conditioning. The jersey would remain zipped down for the rest of the race.

Mentally, I broke the race up into three parts. The first part was going out to the Candy Store and back to Blue Jay; this was the warm up. The second part was an uphill race to Santiago Peak. And the third part was a mostly downhill survival run back to Blue Jay.

Once we got back to Blue Jay (20 miles), the course went right down the asphalt road where our cars were parked. I stopped at the car and made it an aid station. I could of changed shoes then, and I though about doing so. But, with so much more climbing left, I really wanted the lighter weight shoes. So, I decided to bite the bullet and go with the NB 790 for the duration of the race. I still felt very fresh. I thought to myself, "now, the race begins."

After leaving Blue Jay, the course went up Main Divide Rd., and it just kept going up. I thought, "there can't be that much climbing;" it was then, at that point, I realized that 12,500 ft gain/loss meant 12,500 up and 12,500 down. But, undaunted, nothing was going to stop me. Feeling good and strong at the time, I said, "bring it on." One of the keys of successfully running these ultras is to be able to adjust your mental attitude as problems and/or surprises come up.

There were six of us leaving Blue Jay at about the same time. So we were strung out on the climb, I was in third position. I power walked and slowly reeled in the second guy and passed him, he was a 50 miler. I could not catch the guy in front; since I didn't know he was 50K or 50M, I didn't really care. At the top of the climb, the Trabuco Trail AS (22.6 miles), my watch read 3:55. Not too bad, I thought, given that I've walked a lot of the climbs.

The Trabuco Trail headed down into Holy Jim, which is a nice 5 mile descent on a combination of single tracks and fireroads. I welcomed the descent as we've been climbing for quite a while. At a few miles down the Trabuco, the 50K and 50M racers finally parted company; the 50K course went right and the 50M course went left. Now, the dust has cleared, all you see are your competitors. Shortly after the split, the defining moment of this race happened for me. I was coming down a single track into a small ravine, getting ready for a creek crossing. The photographer (who I later learned was Doug Malewicki, Michelle Barton's dad) told me, "you are 4th overall." I replied, "no way, you are kidding me." However, he was serious. I could hardly believe it.

On the one hand, I still didn't really believe that I was in 4th; but on the other hand, I kept playing the scenario in my head. I knew that Akos Konya must be ahead, unless something happened to him, which was unlikely. Also, I knew that Michelle would be ahead (later, I learned that she switched to the 50k due to injury). I didn't know Keira Henninger was even in the race (until I saw her later coming off Santiago Peak). Suffice it to say that I knew some runners with high credentials were in the race. How could I be in fourth, that means I'm at least 3rd male and 1st or 2nd in my age group. On and on it went, I kept re-playing the scenario. At times, I was overjoyed; but, at times, I was thinking that it must be a mistake. For, it was too good to be true.

I kept up the pace going downhill, making up much slow progress on the climbs. By the time I reached Holy Jim (27.5 miles), I immediately asked the Aid Station captain nicely, without really looking around first, "how many people are ahead of me?" I was expecting the worst answer, as I still had doubts that I was fourth. He said, "you are fourth." And then said, "and you are third," but pointing to the guy standing next to me at the water cooler. He was the guy that was in front of me on the Main Divide Road climb. I later learned that his name was Jonas Hansen. I was surprised that I had caught the third place guy, as he looked pretty far ahead of me on that climb.

Jonas, upon seeing me, immediately took off. I then took off after him. However, I could not match his pace going uphill. The climb out of Holy Jim up to Bear Springs Aid was another brutal ascent. This long and sun-exposed ascent would continue past Bear Springs and go all the way up to Santiago Peak, about a 3,800 ft. continuous climb. At the Holy Jim Aid, I had run out of NUNN tablets. Due to my disorganization and lack of focus prior to the race; I had not checked my supply and found out on race morning that I hadn't enough to last through the race. So, since the stores do not open that early, I took what NUNN I had left and also brought along some table salt and put them in a small vial for ease of carrying and dispensing. Since I had not practiced dispensing salt into my water bottle, on my first attempt, I put too much salt into it. This made my water taste like salty soup. When I took a sip, I got more thirsty because of the saltiness. Yikes, that's not good, especially on this climb. The trail crossed the stream several times before heading out of Holy Jim and the climb started in earnest. I decided to dip my water bottle into the stream to dilute the water. This was risky, because I didn't know if the water was safe for drinking or not. But, I had not much choice. At least the water looked clean and I picked a spot with flowing water. I reasoned, if I get sick from giardia, the symptoms won't manifest itself until a few days later; but at least I will be okay for the duration of the race. Even with the diluted water bottle, I still was fighting slight dehydration and lack of energy due to heat exhaustion while climbing out of Holy Jim. I had cut short my aid station time because of Jonas, and had not hydrated enough before I took on the climb. I now regret it. I probably would have saved more time if I took an extra minute to drink a few cups of gatorade or water.

I finally reached Bear Springs (32.5 miles), I asked about Jonas. Bill Ramsey was manning the AS, he was very nice to me and knew my name. Thank you very much, Bill; you are awesome. I guess the ham radio operators were keeping track of the front runners. I was totally not used to that, I even asked Bill, "how do you know my name?" I just wasn't used to that kind of treatment. Bill told me that Jonas was about two to three minutes ahead. I took some time at Bear Springs to re-hydrate and downed some Mt. Dew which really hit the spot. I figure, now, that Jonas was well ahead.

Feeling much better and having my energy returned, I power walked up to Santiago. On the way up, just before the tent and truck, I saw Keira coming down. So, now I know the lone women ahead was not Michelle, but Keira. Keira looked fast going down. I never saw Akos. Some hikers I passed said I was a mile down the road from Jonas. Keeping my quick walking pace, I saw Jonas running back down a little ways before the turnaround sign. He didn't look like he was going that fast. I knew I had closed in some of the time gap. I went straight up to the turnaround sign and touched it and turned around and started the downhill race. Mentally, I shifted gear and now I was in a chase mode.

Coming down, I saw Andy Kumeda and a few others. Andy had made up some ground and passed a few of the people I passed earlier. I was careful about my steps and was picking my way around the rocks, as the rocky trail was starting to take its toll on my feet with thin soled trail racing flats. I kept going as fast as I was comfortable; however, I definitely could have gone faster if I had on my Vasque Blurrs. I hit the single track leading back down to Bear Springs with some vengeance. I knew the fifth place guy was well behind and didn't really worry about him catching me. As long as I kept my pace, I was okay. Near the bottom of the trail, right before the set of switch backs going back down to Bear Springs (38 miles), I caught Jonas. He politely let me go by and pulled in to the AS just behind me. I had made up a mile in about three miles of racing. When I caught Jonas, I was all pumped up, I remembered saying to myself, "now, I have my sights set on Keira." But, that was not to be, she was way too far ahead of me.

This was the second time I caught Jonas, and both time on the downhill. So, I knew I had an advantage on the downhill. He would pull away from me on the uphill, but the question is if he could pull away enough to stay away on the final 3 miles down to Blue Jay. The game was on. From this point on, it was all about strategy and calculated risks. On the remaining 9 miles of rolling terrain and a final uphill, I purposely saved all my energy for the last three miles. My risks were if I let Jonas get too much of a lead, I would not have enough space at the end to catch him.

I was feeling very good, no cramps of any kind, no signs of dehydration, my feet were holding up, and had no aches and pains. My hydration and nutrition was working perfectly. I used my own Ultraholic Power Mix, a combination of carbohydrate and protein powders and ground almonds, as my main nutrition for the whole race. I've really got my hydration and nutrition nailed in the last few races. On those 9 miles when I tried to saved energy; occasionally, I glanced back to see if anyone was coming. But, I didn't see anyone; I knew I had a good lead. I was comfortable, I even pulled over for a pit stop at the side of the road.

At the Trabuco AS (47 miles), after a quick final stop, I turned on the after burners. I got into a great rhythm and soon saw a runner way ahead. I though it was Jonas; excited, I got even faster. As I approached from behind, It turned out that he was a slower 50K guy trying to finish. Undaunted, I kept going and passed a few more 50K finishers. I got on to the asphalt road leading into the Blue Jay campground and still did not see Jonas. I thought that I would not catch him. I was willing to settle for fourth overall and third men. That still would have been the best I have ever done in a race. I slowed down a little, and even took a few steps walking. At that moment, something (I think it was the Holy Spirit) inside me said to keep going and give it all I have. So, I resumed my charge to the finish. I came to what looked like a turn into a trail, and I was about to take the trail when out of the corner of my eye I saw Jonas ahead on the asphalt road. I was not sure I saw the turn correctly, so I took off down the asphalt road in full pursuit of Jonas. I caught Jonas and ended up with him together in someone's campsite. He looked pretty spent. It was evident that we had gone off course.

Thoughts of panic flooded my mind. I thought, "oh no, what if someone sneaks in while we were on our untimely detour." That would have been very unfortunate and erased all my hard work. I quickly sprinted back on the asphalt road and rejoined the trail that I saw previously. I was running as fast as I could, Jonas had nothing left to keep up with me. It felt really good to have such a kick at the end of a 50 mile race. I sprinted across the line and asked how I did. Someone said, "you are second men." Relieved, I was overjoyed. I guess a good story doesn't end without some drama. Finishing only behind Akos and Keira is not too shabby. Since It was my first medal, I get to brag at least once. :)

Picture taken by Anne Harvey

Lessons learned: Don't assume that other competitors know what they are doing. Pack drop bags the night before. Learn the course as much as possible.

My legs still felt good even after I crossed the line, I guess I could have gone faster and pushed harder. Good lesson learned. I liked the challenging course very much, thanks to Doc for designing it. Something funny happened after the Awards Ceremony. I was just hanging around waiting for my drop bag to show up; suddenly, people whom I have never meet before were asking me training questions. It was weird.

This was my first medal, I still can't believe it.


Friday, April 11, 2008

Triple Header

This weekend, I'm heading into the second of my string of three races in three weeks. I did the Chesebro Half Marathon last weekend. It was a hard race. It was hard not so much because of the distance but the intensity. It usually takes two or three days for me to fully recover from a 50k. But, today is friday, and I'm just about recovered from Chesebro. Then, tomorrow, I'm running the Old Goats 50 Miler down in Blue Jay between San Juan Capistrano and lake Elsinore on Ortega Hwy. This race will have over 12,500 feet of climbing. Then the following Satruday, I'm running the Leona Divide 50 Miler in Lake Hughes - another tough race. How did I end up with a schedule like that? I though I was only going to do one race a month! A hard 1/2 marathon followed by two hilly 50 milers, am I crazy?

Well, I originally planned to do Leona Divide 50M for the month of April. Then, ATBers decided to all do Chesebro. I though, it is only a 1/2 marathon, what could it hurt. Plus, I love the camaraderie of the group. This was back in February. Then, my training was progressing well and I was getting leaner and felt much stronger. And recovery from the monthly 50k races were quick and I didn't feel that bad after them. I thought, I should really tweak up the training load and see how I respond. So I added another 50 mile race to the schedule, Old Goats. I'm the over-achieving type, never knowing when to say enough. Sometime it bites me back, but most of the time I survive. I love to push my limits; as I feel alive when I do that.

In the week leading up to Chesebro, I did 62 miles for that week. That was a moderate week for me. But, this week I will end up with 100 miles, and then will do another 100 mile week the following week, ending with Leona Divide. This ought to test my fitness. So far, I'm feeling good. After Chesebro, my left calf was very sore the day after; more so than all of my races recently. I think it was due to the intensity. But, I was still able to run. Right now, I feel good and ready for Old Goats.

I do cross train! I'm up to 1 hour and 15 minutes for my spin sessions on Monday through Friday, and I do core exercises three days of the week. I feel my nutritional regiment is going well. I'm gaining a new passion for foods that are good for you and tastes good. I think good nutrition has definitely contributed to my recent fitness and speed gains. The other day, I tested my resting heart rate just for fun. It read 39 bpm. Wow, that's really low. My heart is stronger now so it doesn't have to beat as fast to pump the same amount of blood. Recently, when I get out of bed or get up from a sitting position very quickly, I feel my vision blurring and a little light headed. That's because my heart beats so slowly at rest that it has to catch up when I stand and start moving. It is perfectly normal, I just have to remember to not get up too quickly.


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Run Blind Dave, Run!

Can you imagine if the electricity went out at night and you have to feel your way around? Well, that is what Blind Dave's world is like, but all the time. Now, can you imagine running in that kind of condition. Blind Dave is doing something amazing. He is running 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 days. For his third leg, he ran around the Rose Bowl in Pasadena; and I had the opportunity to run with him. Here's a little video about Blind Dave Heeley.

I got to the Rose Bowl a little after 10:30 in the morning. There was already quite a bit of fanfare. The ABC Eyewitness News crew was there filming, as well as a press corp taking pictures and doing interviews. The Mayor of Pasadena even came out and gave a short speech. The people from the Braille Institute, with their blue t-shirts, filled the audience. Dave gave a short speech and then started running.

It was very exciting to be part of his journey. I think I had a smile on my face the whole way while running. There was about 10-20 people in the pack with Dave. I was surprised that not more local runners were out there. I guess people have to work. However, I did see Tom and Nicole, then Chepo joined in later. I only ran the first 4 laps with Blind Dave as I was scheduled to only do 12 miles that day.

People like Dave is such an inspiration to me. After seeing him, I would never take my running for granted.


Saturday, April 05, 2008

Chesebro Half Marathon Race Report - PR

This race was one of the most enjoyable of the races I've done recently. And I realized that the primary reason it was enjoyable was not because of the very challenging course, nor because I got a half marathon personal record (PR), nor of the after-race yummy blueberry crêpes, but of the camaraderie of my friends. I just love hanging out with them. Sure, we enjoy the great outdoors, we love being healthy and fit, but our friendship is the most important to me and what keeps me running. I'm truly blessed.

Another thing: I appeared briefly, not just once, but twice, on the official race video; once near the beginning and once near the end. How cool was that? This almost never happens to me.

Having been warned about parking, or the lack there of, our carpool embarked on our journey to the "Valley" very early in the morning. Upon arrival, being the bright eyed, bushy tail, super energized morning person that I am, I wanted to jump out of the car for I could hardly keep a lid on my excitement about running the race. However, my carpool mates had different ideas; and since they out numbered me four to one, we just parked and took a nap. I, reluctantly, followed along. But, inside the car, I think I did a very poor job of hiding my reluctance. Sorry, carpool mates

Once out of the car, I went and found the other carpool. Fortunately, they were parked very close to us. We took a group photo and walked toward the finish line and expo area for a restroom stop. Then we walked a half mile up the the road to the start, where we will run back down once the race starts.

I huddled near the pace car to keep warm. The engine had been running and it was still giving off heat. I lined up on the second row on the starting line. Once the horn went off, I bolted down the hill like being shot out of a canon. While I was breaking out of the pack I was in, I heard a voice behind me, it was Dean. I didn't know Dean was running the race too. I've trained with Dean briefly last year, and Dean had done the race before; so I knew at least I can gauge his pace to determine mine.

The course went downhill for the first mile and then followed a gradual incline until mile 7. The first three or so miles were on pavement until it entered the park and the world of dirt and wild flowers took over. From mile 7, it tilted up and reached the highest point at mile 8, from where it went down for a mile before hitting another, and final, steep climb out of the trail section. Once on the road, it descended gradually to the finish line. The trail section was very well groomed compared to what we are used to in the San Gabriel Mountains. There were a few rocks and stream crossings, but all were very runnable.

I really had no strategy coming into this race. I had not done a half marathon for so long, and the last one I did was on the road and relatively flat. I just knew that I felt stronger and had more endurance now than ever before. I did have one goal, and that was to leave no reserve; I wanted to "empty" the tank and give it all I had while out on the course. I decided to not purposely save my energy in the beginning and just keep running at a pace I can sustain for as long as I can. I did this because I wanted to see just how much endurance I had to sustain a near maximal effort. I guess I ran this half marathon like most people would run a 5k or 10k.

The first mile went by and my watch read 0:06:05. Wow, I did the first mile in 6 minutes. But, this pace didn't last long; I gradually settled down to a more sustainable 6:30 pace. Dean passed me back soon after the first mile, then on a slightly inclined stretch of straight pavement, before the dirt, I reeled him back in and passed him. At one time, I even saw the VW Bug pace car up ahead, as the road went gradually up and you can see a long way. That was kind of cool!

Soon after I entered the trail section, I passed this seemingly overweight guy. I though that he just went out too hard to be up near the front pack. But, this same guy passed me back around mile 5 and never looked back. It just goes to teach me a lesson to not judge a person by his or her appearance. I should respect all runners for simply being out there without regards to gender, race, age, or physical size. Running is an equal opportunity sport :)

I kept my place pretty much during the gradual incline section from mile 2 to 7. I settled to a consistent pace and the pack sorted out. Dean passed me back on this section and looked to be pretty comfortable. Way to go Dean. I would almost catch him again at the end, but I never did. The narrow trails were never a problem for us as we were out in front. I heard from other ATBers that the middle-of-the-packers would cause a huge traffic jam later.

Once we hit the steep climb from mile 7 to 8, I had to slow down. Here, four or five guys passed me; but once over the top, I quickly passed them back. I'm much more adapt at running downhill than uphill. This back-and-forth race action continued through the very hilly sections.

On the final steep climb out of the trail section; I was getting very tired. But, I held on and pushed through it. Once over the top and on the road, I picked up the pace again. I kept speeding downhill until I saw Dean about 30 feet in front of me, with about two miles to go. But, just then, the road went gradually up again. I was beginning to cramp so I dialed back my pace. The last mile was a real struggle. I gave it everything I had and my legs were screaming at the end. It was great; this was awesome for my preparations. I don't think I would have ever push myself this hard in a training run. I ended up 36th overall out of 1,256, and 4th in my age group out of 99, with a 1:34:26 chip time. Yes, it was a PR; but by only 24 seconds.

As I stood over the barricades and cheered on the rest of the ATBers, they all did awesome, as usual. Rich got third in his age group. Sachiko got first in her age group. They didn't credit her time because somehow her chip did not register when she crossed the line; but, in my book, she came in first :). I like to think that the Mt. Zion loop training run I lead the weekend before had helped to prepare for the race. Way to go! You guys rock. I want to be like them when I grow up.

The after race party was great. We hung out and got to eat yummy food and picked up a bunch of freebies. What a way to spend a saturday morning.

Until the next adventure, happy trails!


Monday, March 31, 2008

Next Race

I'm set to run the Chesebro Half Marathon in Agoura Hills, CA, this coming Saturday. I haven't raced a half marathon for such a long time. The last half marathon I did was in 2005. This one is a little hilly as far as road racing goes, taking place on both roads and trails. But, compared to the terrain I've been running on, this course is relatively flat. My climbing legs have been developing and running slight inclines and flats feel pretty much the same. I also have a better power-to-weight ratio than before. I should be able to PR this course if everything goes as planned. But, you never know.

It should be a fun day, as most of the ATB and Pacers are running the race, so I get to hang with friends. It is said that this race has the best after race food and party. I'm looking forward to that.


New Friends, Old Friends

Yesterday, we went on a 10 mile run of the Mt. Zion loop, starting and ending from Chantry Flats. It was so much fun running with a bunch of people from the Arroyo Trail Blazers. An old friend, Laura, came up from San Diego to visit, it was great to see her. And we meet a new friend, Dan. Dan is super fast. Good to meet you, Dan!

It was drizzling when we meet at Grandview and Santa Anita. We decided that we were not going to let a little rain spoil our fun, so we proceeded up to Chantry Flats. As we came up to the parking lot, it started raining much harder. But we were determined to run, rain or shine. What a hard core group of poeple. I changed from shorts to tights and donned arm warmers and gloves, as it was also getting colder.

We set off in the rain. However, as we climbed, we got above the moisture layer for a few miles. It was gorgeous looking down at the mist and looking up at the blue sky trying to come out. It was freezing at the summit of Mt. Zion. Dan was running in front, with me a few steps behind, for almost the whole way up. It was good to have someone pushing the pace, as I run alone most of the time.

Laura and Dan are not frequently runners in these parts of the forest, so they got to see some of our local trails. Laura is the super fit duathlete (cycling and running). She is going to race at the World Championships this year. Dan places top three in his age group in most of the races he enters. He has done numerous 50k's, a few 50 milers, and paced at AC100 last year.

Dan and I lead the way going off Mt. Zion, we flew down those trails. Then, four of us, Dan, me, Antonio, and Laura, attacked the paved hill at the end of the run. I started the hill with an easy pace, for I knew the hill was half a mile and pitched up right at the end. Then Dan took over the lead, with Antonio and Laura in tow. I kept my pace and then slowly reeled in Antonio and then Laura. I got to within 50 feet of Dan, but was never able to catch him. It was fun. A little friendly competition never hurts.

We swapped our wet clothing at the car with dry ones and then went out to breakfast. What a great way to end a great run, with hot food, coffee, and friends.

Happy trails!


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Updated Race Schedule

I've added some races and took some out of my schedule. Training is going well. I feel really strong right now, so I've added more 50 milers, and I'm doing the San Diego 100 Miler in June to test my fitness.

01/20/08 Calico 50K (3893 ft) - DONE: 5:42:32
02/16/08 Sequoia 50k (5030 ft) - DONE: 5:25:42
03/16/08 Montaña de Oro 50k (6400 ft) - DONE: 5:52:19
04/05/08 Agoura Hills 1/2 Marathon
04/12/08 Old Goats 50 Miles
04/19/08 Leona Divide 50 Miles
05/10/08 PCT 50 Miles
05/17/08 Bishop High Sierra 50 Miles
06/07/08 San Diego 100 Miles
06/21/08 Pacifica 50k
07/19/08 Sequoia 50k
08/09/08 Mt. Disappointment 50 Miles
08/23/08 Bulldog 50k
09/01/08 Mt. Baldy Run to the Top
09/13/08 Angeles Crest 100 Miles
11/16/08 Pasadena Marathon


Monday, March 17, 2008

Montaña De Oro 50k Race Report

Another 50k race? You must be kidding me? I know that's what you are thinking. But I planned in January to do an ultra a month, and, so far, I'm sticking to it. This is my way of getting some good training leading up to AC100 in September. This past weekend, I was near beautiful Morro Bay, CA in the Montaña De Oro State Park. This race location was, by far, the most beautiful place I have ever ran in. With the mountains extending right down to the ocean, the physical geography created a magical blend of coves, cliffs, and sandy beaches. The rugged coastline was breathtaking, especially at the top of Valencia peak. At one point during the race, I almost wanted to stop and enjoy the view :) If you know me, that say a lot about the view.

I left home at 3:00 am on Sunday morning and drove to the race site and got there around 7:00 am. I was the second car there, other than the race volunteers. There were no entrance fees, no parking fees, and no fees of any kind. How can such a beautiful place be free to the public? This is sure a hidden gem of a State Park along the central coast of California. As I got there a little bit early, I took an early morning stroll along the beach and took some pictures.

The race course was a two loop course. The loop climbed Valencia Peak and Hazard Peak; so, for the 50k race, we climbed each peak twice. The trail surface was similar to our So. Cal. dry, hard packed dirt, with occasional sharp rocky sections. One advantage of a looped course is that you learn the loop the first time out; then you know what to expect on the second and finishing loop. The climate was semi-arid, and the hillsides were covered with golden wild flowers and low slung bushes. The "Montaña De Oro" means "Mountain of Gold" in Spanish; and the "Gold" was referring to these golden colored wild flowers that bloom about this time of the year.

A cold weather front moved in a few days before the race; so, on race morning, it was about 40 degrees at the starting line. It warmed up a little bit as the day progressed, but the cold wind coming off the ocean kept things chilly. I always prefer to over-dress than under-dress; so, I wore tights, arm warmers, and gloves.

This was my second PCTR (Pacific Coast Trail Runs) race; and as before, the race atmosphere was very low key and the course well marked. The starting line was staged right on the beach at Spooner's Cove. There can't be a more spectacular starting location; it was fabulous. I lined up in the front this time. As I took off with the front group, I saw Cheryl running along. I meet Cheryl at the Javalina Jundred in 2006. We exchanged greetings and had a few words, then I took off and never saw her again until the finish line. She took third place female overall.

After leaving the beach, the course went on to the Bluff Trail, which winds along the rugged coastline overlooking the water. It was a very enjoyable 3 miles to start the race. As we turned inland and hit the first climb which is up to Valencia Peak, it stated to get warm and I took off the arm warmers and gloves. I felt really strong. I carried two 20 fl. oz. water bottles this time, as the aid stations were about 7-8 miles apart.

This race, my hydration and nutrition worked perfectly. I used NUNN tablets and a homemade mix of maltodextrin, soy protein powder, and ground almonds. Liquid nutrition worked a bit better than solid food. But I still took some boiled potatoes and salt. I'm getting really close to dialing in my exact hydration and nutrition needs.

As I approached the top of Valencia Peak, which was an out-and-back section, I can count the number of people in front of me. I counted about 7, so that leaves me in 8th place. I wanted to stop and take in the spectacular view at the top of the peak, but I was in a race, so I had to go. One of these days, I like to do a race where my goal is to take pictures. The second climb, Hazard Peak, was not as steep; but the downhill was more of a rolling gradual descent. This roller section turned out to be very hard for me at the end of the race. After the first climb, the front pack thinned out quite a bit. I didn't see many people on the second climb and the rest of the loop.

As I started the second loop, I was pretty much alone. I caught one of the guys in front of me going up to Valencia Peak, he was dehydrated and struggled to keep going. He dropped out at the next aid station. Coming off of Valencia Peak, the turn around point, I saw three guys hot on my heels; they were probably about one to two minutes behind. I got a good pace going and flew down Valencia Peak. I still felt good at this point. But when I hit the aid station at Spooner's Cove, I felt the legs tightening up and I knew I had better take it easy for the fourth and final climb. I power walked most of the final climb and at the top of Hazard Peak, I saw no one coming up. I guess I had put more time into the guys behind me. Going down Hazard Peak, I had to resort to run/walk along the gradual rolling descent as my legs were cramping up. I knew I slowed down, but still, no one passed me.

As I came to the beach, I stopped for a moment just short of the finish line. I couldn't find it, it was so well hidden behind some bushes. That was a little amusing. Still, I finished 6th out of 33 overall 50k finishers; 3rd in my AG @5:52:19. The race distance was actually 31.7 miles and 6400 feet of cumulative elevation gain/loss.

I got a hotel room for Sunday night as I knew I didn't want to immediately drive home after the race. I rested for the rest of the afternoon and went to bed early. Monday morning, I felt good considering what I did the day before. I recovered really well, and even felt like going out for a run.

The hotel was in downtown Morro Bay, which is a very quaint commercial fishing village. The cost was $39/night and the location was three blocks from the beach. What a deal! The room also had Wi-Fi, so I worked a little bit in the morning right in the comfort of my bed. Then, I took a stroll along the Embarcadero and took pictures of Morro Bay and the Morro Rock. Then I went to the Farmer's Market in Bayview Park, a neighboring village. In the afternoon, I drove out to Montaña De Oro and did a little sightseeing and picture taking. I hung around the area until sundown because I wanted to take pictures of the sunset at Spooner's Cove. It was fabulous. What a beautiful place to spend a relaxing day in!

It was a wonderful trip. I enjoyed it very much. Until the next adventure, happy trails!


Sunday, March 09, 2008

Chantry Flats to Newcomb's Saddle Run

This was my birthday weekend! Last year, I ran my age in miles around Pasadena's famous Rose Bowl. For this year, I thought about doing 47 laps of the Rose Bowl on my bike - about 146 miles. However, I didn't think my biking legs were at that level yet. Maybe next year! So, I settled for a nice long run from Chantry Flats to Newcomb's Saddle and beyond. The weather was, in true Spring fashion, cool in the morning and very comfortable as it warmed up. And, I got to break in a new pair of shoes.

I got to Chantry Flats about 7:00 am; it was a later start for me, but I still beat most of the hikers to the parking. Since last weekend's run was an epic. I figure that I should just do a nice easy run this week to let my body rest and also be ready for next weekend's 50k race near beautiful Morro Bay.

I proceeded up the Upper Winter Creek trail. At the Hoegees junction I took the Mt. Zion trail and went up and over the Mt. Zion summit. It was a nice little climb about 1,000 feet in 1.5 miles. I thought that I should at least throw in some climbing for the day; as the rest of the day was going to be gradual ascents and descents. Once over the summit of Mt. Zion, the trail descended to Sturtevant Camp.

I was breaking in a new pair of shoes. If anything was wrong with the shoes, I would go back to Chantry from Sturtevant - a short 4.5 more miles. I planned the route that way so I had an option. But, everything went well, no blisters and no toe pinching. They were the New Balance 790's, a super light weight trail racing flat. Watch for a more in-depth review coming soon. Those shoes felt really comfortable; I think I will use them, with a minor adjustment, for next week's 50k race.

I got water at Sturtevant Camp and proceeded up the Gabrillino Trail towards Newcomb's Saddle. Half way up the trail, I saw Hal Winton. Hal, an experienced ultra runner himself, is the perennial trail maintenance guru in these parts of the San Gabriel Mountains. The Mt. Disappointment 50 mile race is named after him. I chatted with Hal for about 45 minutes. Just like that, out in the middle of no where, we talked about everything under the sun. It was nice seeing someone and was a great diversion. Hal drives up from Harbor City almost every weekend to be in the mountains. It makes me feel so privileged to live so close to Chantry Flats. I can be in the Chantry parking lot in under 15 minutes from my house.

Once I got to Newcomb's Saddle, I took a right following the AC race course in reverse. I was planning to just follow the course in reverse and turn back once I got in the mileage I wanted for the day. However, somewhere along the way, I missed a turn. I ended up going along a fireroad, I think it was the Redbox-Rincon Road. But, it doesn't matter, as I was just going out and back.

The run back to Chantry was just nice and easy, following the AC course, except for the part where I took a wrong turn. I got back to the car not feeling tired at all. The run was about 20 miles and took four hours. It felt really easy even with 3,000+ feet of climbing. I am feeling good about where I am relative to the upcoming season.

Happy trails!


Saturday, March 01, 2008

Saturday Training Run - Bailey Canyon to Mt. Wilson Loop

Today, I ran what I call the Bailey Canyon Loop - long version. It was an epic day with three sustained climbs, it totaled about 26 miles and 8,600 feet of elevation gain. I started at Bailey Canyon Park in Sierra Madre and went up to Jones Peak. Then I took the left fork at the Crossover trail sign and climbed up to Hastings Peak. Past the peak, the trail continued up a steep ridge and took me to the Mt. Wilson Toll Road. I then headed up the Toll Road past Mt. Harvard to Mt. Wilson's Skyline Park. Then I went down the Sturtevant Trail behind the observatory to Sturtevant Camp. Past the camp, I followed the Gabrilino Trail along Little Santa Anita Canyon to Chantry Flats. From Chantry, I took the Upper Winter Creek Trail and climbed back up to the Benches. Then I descended the Mt. Wilson Trail down to Orchard Camp. About another senven tenth of a mile past the camp, I went up the unmarked Jones Crossover trail. This trail lead me back to Bailey Canyon Trail, completing the loop. My car was then just at the bottom of the Bailey Canyon Trail.

The day started with me getting to the Bailey Canyon trail head at about 6:15 AM. Upon arrival, I was surprised that the parking lot was almost full. Apparently, there was a boy scout camp-out and they had stayed the night in tents. As the trail went right through where they had set up their camp, I ran past a whole bunch of blurry eyed kids trying to figure out how to eat breakfast. Luckily, they were already awake and I didn't have to sneak around their tents trying not to wake them up.

It was pretty gloomy when I started. The sky was overcast. The marine layer was very thick and even precipitated into a slight drizzle. It wasn't very cold, but I decided to wear arm warmers, which turned out to be a great choice, as the temperature went up and down through out the route. When it got warm, I pulled the arm warmers down; and when it got cold, I kept them up. I love arm warmers! The climb up Bailey Canyon was steep. I had forgotten how steep this thing was, as the last time I went up this trail was about 13 months ago. It climbed 2,400 feet in 3 miles. I was felling very strong, so I ran part of the way up to Jones Peak. The marine layer was so thick that I didn't have a lot of visibility. The cool misty scenery cast a different tone on the mountains and gives you a slightly different perspective on the surroundings.

As I went past the Crossover trail sign, I noticed that the marine layer was starting to clear. Well, actually, it was not clearing, but I was gaining altitude and going above it. As I power hiked up to Hastings Peak, I saw sunshine and crystal blue skies. Suddenly, it got very warm. The 360 degree panorama of the sea of white clouds washing up against the mountain canyons was a sight to behold. Distant peaks poked through the white blanket of heavy moisture and looked like islands. I wished I had brought a camera. Next time, I will!

The trail continued its steep ascent past Hastings Peak and snaked its way along the ridge to end at the Toll Road. These trails are unmarked and nameless. Once I got to the Toll Road, I started running again until the Mt. Wilson Trail junction, where I stopped a bit for a break and ate some food. As I sat down on my favorite rock, I noticed that behind it someone had stashed a gallon of water and a cookie tin with duct tape to seal it. I was tempted to open the tin to see what's inside, but I didn't do it. I thought it would be a good idea to build a locker at that location so that everyone can stash stuff, as it was a very key spot for rest and refueling.

After my brief rest, I continued running up the Toll Road until Mt. Harvard, where the ascent turned off the fireroad and took yet another unmarked trail up to Skyline Park. Up to this point, I had not seen anyone around, hiker or runner. I figure that it was still early and no one was up yet. I got up to Skyline park and refilled my water and electrolytes. On today's run, I had been using a liquid nutrition from Hammer called Perpetuem. I think liquid nutrition is definitely easier to digest. At this point, I had reached the highest elevation on my route, the climb from Bailey Canyon Park up to Skyline Park was about 5,000 feet in 7 miles. Nice!

I saw some people around the observatory; finally, there are people! These long trail runs can really play with your head some times. For a few hours, it felt like I was the only person alive. I went around behind the telescopes and continued down the Sturtevant Trail. All that remained of the heavy snow from a few weeks ago was a few patches here and there. Downhill trail running is my favorite part of the whole ultra running experience. I flew effortlessly down the rock and root strewn path of dirt,
dogging rocks by carefully placing my feet or hopping from boulder to boulder. It was a dance with nature. The trail was my partner, my stride and arm swing was the rhythm, and the sound of wind rushing past my face was the music. It got really cold as I descended back into the marine layer. But I felt great and was going fast, the downhill legs were fresh and the energy high. As I concentrated on the trail, I got into a zone. I was energized mentally and previously cloudy issues became crystal clear in my mind. It was truly therapeutic.

The hikers were out in force as I got near Sturtevant Camp and Chantry Flats. I can tell that many of them don't get out into the woods a lot. I was thinking to myself, "what's the matter with them, don't they know how great the outdoors are?" I guess I'm biased. :) But, at least, they come out once in a while. As I started the climb up to Chantry, I had done 7 miles of downhill running. Now, it was time to climb again. I refilled my hydration a second time at Chantry as some passers by stared at me. For what reason, I don't know. May be I looked like a crazy runner. I power walked the climb up to the benches. This climb shoots up for about 3,000 feet in 6 miles. This is roughly the same climb as in the AC100, where it comes at 75 miles into the 100 mile race.

Once I got up to the benches, I stopped and sat on the benches with some other hikers to share a few moments of the view. I think they spoke Korean so I didn't stay long. Quickly, I headed down the Mt. Wilson Trail into Orchard Camp. That downhill was very steep and technical as my quads got a good workout. As I went beyond Orchard Camp and started up the canyon where the Crossover trail was, I stopped to move some tree branches to block a way that could easily be mistaken as the trail. I head noise behind me, I turned around and it was Carmela. She had started with Andy, but Andy turned back early because he was running the LA Marathon the next day.

Carmela and I then continued on the climb for a little bit, we talked and shared some trail stories. This climb is about 600 feet in 1 mile. So, it was relatively easier than the other two, but it was the third climb and comes at about mile 22. However, I was still feeling good and was powering up the climb at a pretty good pace. Pretty soon, I didn't hear Carmela's footsteps. I turned around and she is way back there. Sorry, Carmela!

As I crested the top, it was all downhill from there to the car. The trail was steep but well groomed, so it made for a relatively easy and fast 3 mile downhill run. I few down the tight switchbacks at about 7:30 pace. It felt great to run the ending miles of a long training run in such good shape and with so much energy. It was cold down at the car, especially with my drizzle drenched shirt. So I drove home right away. I'm sure I will see Carmela again out on the trails.

My total mileage for the day was about 26 miles with 8,600 feet of elevation gain/loss and it took 6 hours and 4 minutes. Not too shabby! I think today was sort of a breakthrough for me, as I have never felt this good after a six hour run in the mountains.