Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Chantry Flats Now Open

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

Link here: http://www.inciweb.org/incident/1233/

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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