Monday, April 29, 2013

Starting my Gold Rush 100k taper.

Monday - rest day

Tuesday - Easy 5k run with Lucy.

Wednesday - Wanting to get one more long run in before the Gold Rush 100k, and feeling that the weekend's 16 on the Miwok trail came up a little short, I decided to run my first solo marathon this morning. Woke up at 4:45 am and was off and running by 5:15.  I ran down Iron Pt. Rd to the American River Trail, did a partial Lake Natoma loop (which included an out-and-back of a few miles as I ran into my friend Stephen and decided to log a few with him), then headed up and over Folsom Lake Crossing and back onto the Parkway trails.  I ate one Hammer Gel and a Honey Stinger Waffle along the way.  The days have been warm lately and I was certainly starting to feel the heat coming on during the 2nd (uphill) half of the run.  I took it easy and averaged a ~10:30/mile pace.  26.61 miles; +1,115ft.

Thursday - Easy 3.5 mile run.

Friday - rest day

Saturday - I'm starting to accept the fact that it's going to be HOT on May 11th.  There is still time for heat training to have a meaningful impact.  Went out for 10.7 miles; 1,500 ft. at 2:40 pm on a route with no shade.  90 degrees.

Sunday - A little more heat training.  Ran 7.5 miles at 4:30 pm.  92 degrees.  Saw three rattlesnakes in a 1/2 mile stretch!

Weekly Totals: 51.31 miles; 3,560 ft.

Lucy, waiting patiently as we drive to the lake.

Puppy sat this week, Lucy and Zeus.  Trail hounds.

This guy was camo'd up pretty well.

Sun bathing.

Monday, April 15, 2013

A tragic day in Boston

Monday - I woke up this morning and flipped on the live Boston Marathon TV coverage.  I marveled at the performance of the elite runners and imagined what it must be like to win the Boston Marathon, before making my short drive to work.  As I walked into the office, I checked facebook and the BAA live runner tracking site to see how everyone's big day was going.  I decided to get some strength training in during lunch and headed to the gym at work.  Shortly thereafter, I received a text that there were two explosions at the Boston Marathon finish.  I couldn't believe what I was reading and I hoped it was an exaggeration or a mistake, that it didn't mean what I interpreted it to mean.  I checked twitter and various news sites and watched the horrible reports come in.

The finisher's area of a marathon is truly a magical place.  It is filled with emotions, with hopes and dreams come true, tears of joy and laughter, with triumph, and with love.  The pain, discomfort, and suffering brought on by hours of running is, in an instant, erased by all of these things.  Whether one has run to the finish line from the start, arrived there to cheer in family and friends, or to volunteer, the magic is tangibly in the air.  Among others, I have run the New York City, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and San Francisco marathons.  The energy, the vibe that comes with the large crowds of like-minded individuals, all who have trained long and hard, all who have a single focus and a single goal of reaching the finish line, 26.2 miles away, is unforgettable.

Had I qualified for Boston this year, I would have stood proudly in the starting corral at Hopkinton, MA today.  I would have been realizing a life long dream.  I would have been absorbing the sights and sounds of the course.  I would have laughed and smiled and waved while running past Wellesley College.  I would have charged as hard as I could up Heartbreak Hill, making it hurt, running harder in spite of the pain and discomfort.  I would have shed tears while turning onto Boylston Street and I would have been filled with pure elation as I sprinted the last 400 meters and across the finish line.  And based on my recent marathon times (in the 3:50's), as I crossed, or very shortly thereafter, two deafening explosions would have ravaged the scene.  That this happened today at such an innocent place, where people are simply striving to prove to themselves that they can endure, that they can succeed, and to support their loved ones as they have done it, is unimaginable.  It is hard for me to wrap my head around this tragedy.

So many people have contacted me today, in some form or another, checking to see if I was there and telling me that they thought of me and that they're glad I'm OK.  That was so nice to hear, thank you everybody!  That was such a bag of mixed emotions.  It feels good to be thought of and cared for, but is also a stark reminder of all of those who started today with great aspirations and are now gone or are suffering.  RIP to those who were lost and may those who are suffering recover well.

Tuesday - Met up with some Folsom Trail Runners for an easy 4 mile run at 6 am.  Enjoyed breakfast, coffee, and chat at Karen's Bakery after.

Wednesday - I haven't been doing any kind of speed work for the last few months.  I went out for a 10 mile run this AM and decided to mix in a 4 mile tempo.  10.12 miles @ 8:39/mile.  Miles 4-7 were progressive, averaging 7:40/mile.  I'm happy with how good my legs are feeling, given that AR 50 was only 11 days ago.  I listened to "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell during my run.

Thursday - Took a 6 am flight to Santa Clara for a work-related conference, wasn't able to squeeze a run in today.

Friday - Flew home from Santa Clara, ran 8.5 miles with Lucy.  It was a nice, warm day.  I made sure to seek out all of the remaining mud puddles/streams so Lucy could stay cool.  Saw a large king snake and an average sized garter snake today.  As always in the spring and summer, one must stay on high alert for rattlesnakes around here.

Saturday - Ran 16.0 miles from Stinson Beach, 3,500 ft. of climbing.  Beautiful, warm day.  We had a really good time.  Had lunch at the Dipsea Cafe after.

Sunday - Ran from Hotel Vitale, where we stayed, along the Embarcadero.  I made a left at Aquatic Park and ran up Hyde Street to Lombard (tough climb), then ran down the curvy stretch of Lombard, up to Hyde again, and back.  5.5 miles.

Weekly Totals: 44.1 miles; 5,446 ft.

Early morning flight to Santa Clara. I wish they had dropped me in the Sierra instead.

My fears are being realized, construction crews are showing up at some of my most accessible local running spots.
Nice sized California King Snake

Lucy, keeping the mud on, staying cool.
Bill, Joe, Si, and I getting started from Stinson Beach.

Scott, Coastal Trail.

Great view of Stinson Beach in the background (our start/finish point is at the far left of the beach).

A stick managed to plug itself through my shoe.

Cruising on an invisible trail.

There was some "half-track" there.

Sea Lions at Pier 39.

Hyde St (Russian Hill) is a tough climb.  Ran the whole thing.

My inner outlaw won and I ran down The Crookedest Street in the World (Lombard).

Post American River 50 Mile week

Monday - rest day... then back to training.  Gold Rush 100k in less than 4 weeks!

Tuesday - Aside from a tender bruise on the bottom of my right foot, nothing hurt, but it was tough to get (and stay) moving.  Ran 4.45 slow miles.

Wednesday - Post AR 50 M fatigue is still with me. 6.65 miles.

Thursday - It was tough to get going again today.  My midweek runs were mentally and physically tough this week. 5.0 miles.  I felt good about getting some midweek running done, in spite of my tired, post-AR50 self.

Friday - rest day

Saturday - I headed out for a long run and wondered how my legs would hold up.  Turned out pretty well. I downloaded The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, audio book and headed out.  I toured around Folsom, winding up at Folsom lake where I met Candace, Lucy, and friends.  It was a warm spring day.  I ran straight into the lake and hugged my dog.  16.5 miles

Sunday - Ran 8.1 miles with Lucy.  I felt better today than on any run this week!  Oh, and Lucy and I ran across a turtle who was a little to far from the creek and much to close to the road.  We gave him a lift back home.  Finished The Great Gatsby today.

Weekly Totals: 40.73 miles, 1,975 ft.

Meeting up with the pooches at Folsom Lake.


Be free... watch out for the lab monster.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

American River 50 Mile Endurance Run

Monday - Our last full day in Hawaii.  Snorkeled with manta rays at night!

Tuesday - Ended an incredible vacation.  Flew in to SFO and got back to Folsom around midnight.

Wednesday - Back to WORK!  :(  + Kings game :)

Thursday - rest day

Friday - rest day... YIKES!  To many of these in a row.

Saturday - I got dropped off at the start area at 5 am.  I sat as much as possible, chatted with friends and other runners, and made my way to the start line at about 5:45 am.  I felt that my fitness wasn't quite where it was at this time last year and planned on starting out even more conservatively than I did during my previous AR 50.  I lined up at the back of the pack.

The starting horn sounded and I jogged off into the darkness, with 1,000 other like-minded individuals.  I spent the first 6-8 miles running at a 10 minute/mile pace and taking a 30-60 second walk break every 8-10 minutes.  I chatted with my friend Marc, who had a great race, most of this time.  Right from the start, I wasn't feeling fantastic.  I never had that springy bounce, that any runner welcomes in a race, in my step.  By mile 10 or so, I was feeling tightness in my hamstrings and hips.  My mind tried to entertain negative thoughts at this point, thinking "I felt so much better at this point last year" or "I feel bad now and it WILL get worse.  With 35-40 miles left, I may not finish".  After a minute or two of this type of negativity trying to take hold, I put an end to it.  I told myself "this is not last year, this is now" and I immediately went to the bread and butter of the ultra-runner's mantra... "I can make it to the next aid station".  From this point on, I took note of the distance to the next aid station and focused on getting there.

I passed the marathon mark in a little less than 5 hours.  I rolled into Beal's Point where I was happy to see Candace and Joel.  I told them, in an exaggerated way, I was feeling great.  I drank a 24 oz. protein shake that I had made in the morning and kept on my way.  My "nip-band-aids" had fallen off a few miles back, so I dropped my shirt here.  I didn't want to add chaffed nipples to my list of things that were uncomfortable.  Last year I picked up my first of two pacers here.  This year I continued on alone.

As I made my way onto the single track, I continued to feel bad, press on towards the next aid station, and tell everyone I saw how great I felt.  The last 20-30 miles of this trail are stunning.  Green grass, wildflowers, oak trees, and partly cloudy blue skies compliment Folsom Lake perfectly.  I saw Candace again at the Horseshoe Bar aid station, this time with her brother Vincent and niece Kathryn.  A few miles later, at Rattlesnake Bar, I started to smell the finish line.  I knew I would finish.

The last few aid stations started to feel ridiculously far apart.  Time was not passing by very quickly, but before I knew it, I was climbing the 3 miles and 1,000 vertical feet up to Auburn, to the finish.  With a very steep ~1.5 miles to go, I realized that if I ran a sub 10 minute mile the rest of the way, I would finish under 10:30:00 (gun time).  I ignored the pain, looked at the ground in front of me, and pushed.  I crested the last climb, made the right turn onto the grass and into the finisher's chute.  Lots of people lined the chute and were clapping and cheering.  I gave a modest fist pump and the cheers grew louder.  My eyes watered up lightly, I was there, it was over, I finished.  I accepted my finisher's medal and jacket (the real prize at AR 50), hugged my parents and Candace, and enjoyed the post-race party!  SUCCESS, American River 50 Mile Endurance Run number two... complete, 10:27:37!

Sunday - rest day

Weekly Totals: 51.74 miles, 5,164 ft.

Capped off the Hawaii trip by snorkeling at night with manta rays!

Around mile 15 I think.

Mile 38 maybe?
Official finish time was 10:27:37

Friday, April 5, 2013

Hawaii!! + AR50 Taper

Monday - rest day

Tuesday - Flying stand-by to Hawaii has its perks (the cost) and it's downsides (not getting on a flight).  Spent the day in the airport today, standing by on flights to any Hawaiian island.  We bought a tickets from San Jose to Kona for Wednesday AM and when we got back to the long-term parking garage, we realized that my car keys were in my suitcase, which was in Kona (our bags got on the first flight, even though we didn't).  Good thing for the BART and CalTrain!

Wednesday - Arrived in Kona at 9:30 AM, island time!  Got our bags, rental car, and headed to the condo before lunch.  I went snorkeling for about an hour, ran ~5.5 miles on a nice trail along the shore, and then BBQ'd with family.  Fabulous first day of the trip!  Mauna Kea summit forecast called for snow showers and 30-40 MPH winds with 55 MPH gusts, so I decided to push my "Mauna Kea sunrise" trip out by a day.

Thursday - Woke up at 6 AM, bumbled around the condo for a bit and went out for a 5 mile run.  Explored a bit more along the Shoreline Trail before running to Juice 101 for a tasty Blueberry, Pom Juice, Acai, and Kale smoothie.

Headed north up the Kohala coast for some great experiences.  We saw a handful of whales breaching repeatedly (for ~30 minutes), sometimes coming almost completely out of the water.  Snorkeled at Puaku for about an hour and then headed to Hawi for lunch at the Kohala Coffee Mill.

After driving north to the Pololu Valley Overlook (I was dying to put in some solid trail running, but I want to taper for AR50!), we ventured south once again and met up with family at Hapuna Beach, which offered a pristine sandy beach, crystal clear water, and a really enjoyable snorkeling experience.  In ~2 hours of snorkeling, I saw some visually stunning fish, including a 3-4 ft. Moray Eel (a Peppered Moray, I believe).  The highlight of this snorkeling stint was a 3+ ft. Green Sea Turtle, who was casually munching on coral only a few feet away when I noticed it.  It paid little attention to me and I was able to float around with him/her for ~10 minutes.

Oh, it seems that yesterdays Mauna Kea summit forecast was off.  The summit was visible all day today and while I'm sure it was windy, there were certainly no snow showers.  Hitting the summit tomorrow morning!

Friday - Sunrise from the Mauna Kea Summit! On Thursday night, I went to bed at 10 pm, after having set my alarm for 12:30 am.  12:30 am came quick!  I got up, threw back a bowl of oatmeal, made a PB&J sandwich and hit the road.  After driving a little over an hour, I arrived at the Mauna Kea Visitor Center.  It was 2:00 am and nobody was there.  It took me 10-15 minutes to realize that I had to continue on the paved road, beyond the visitor center, on foot, in order to reach the trail head.  There was a lot of frost and ice on the few plants that existed.  I believe the temperature was in the upper 20's, colder than I expected it would be at 9200' (the weather forecast called for a low of 28 at the 13,800' summit).

Wrong trail.

Right trail.

Having recently read Jen Benna's blog on a terrifying shooting incident, this sign roused my nerves a bit.

I set out into the night towards the summit.  The moon was nearly full and was shining brightly enough that at times I wondered if I needed my headlamp.  I occasionally turned off my lamp and admired the view down onto the clouds below, which were illuminated with silvery moonlight.  I could vaguely identify the shades of green in the grasses and trees of the valley between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.  The stars were crisp and bright.  I saw a handful of meteoroids during the hike.

The trail was consistently steep, which was no surprise, given the fact that it climbs nearly 5,000' in the 6 miles it takes to reach the summit.  The footing was generally very good, but was made difficult by fairly long sections of cinders or scoria, occasionally as fine as sand.

As I made my way past ~11,500', I started feeling the onset of what I'm now certain was a case of acute mountain sicknes (ACM or altitude sickness).  I had a mild headache, an upset stomach, and was feeling dizzy, occasionally swaying to my right while navigating the rocky, but safe (in terms of exposure) terrain.  I was surprised I was feeling this way, as I've never felt symptoms before at altitudes of up to 13,000' (Mt. Dana summit).  I think having only slept for ~2.5 hours and the complete lack of acclimatization (I was at sea level roughly 3 hours ago) greatly contributed to this.  In addition to the ACM, there was a steady ~10-15 mph breeze, I was quite cold, and while climbing from 9,200' to 12,000' seemed to have passed quickly enough, climbing from 12,000' to 13,000' seemed endless.  At around 12,500' I sat down in the shelter of a small lava tube and put on a few extra pieces of clothing... arm-warmers under my jacket/shirt and a pair of wool socks.  I was carrying a pair of compression pants, but I wasn't willing to strip down in order to get them on.  I was shivering, it was 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning and I was 1,500' from the summit.  I pulled my fingers into my gloves, cinched up the drawstring on my hood, and trudged on.

The landscape was really amazing to look at and was quite mystical in the dark.  The rust colored cinder cones that pock the slopes of Mauna Kea made me feel like I was exploring the surface of Mars.  They also served as excellent false summits.  Various times I would look up at the top of a cinder cone, towering above me, wondering if I was looking at or near the true summit, only to be looking down on the same cinder cone as I progressed up the trail.  From time to time, I would hear rocks knocking against each other and would quickly point my headlamp in the direction of the noise, expecting to see a mouflon sheep or something (anything), but nothing was there.  I figure I was either hallucinating or the wind was dislodging rocks on the steep slops and causing small slides. It was probably the latter... probably. :)

After a long, cold while of climbing, I came to a fork in the trail and sort of guessed at which way to go. In ~.2 miles, I saw 13,020 ft. Lake Waiau.  I would have loved to explore it, but sunrise was fast approaching.  I turned around and headed towards the summit to a point where the trail intersected a paved road (yes, you can drive to within ~1/4 mile of the summit... but that's no fun).  I couldn't find where the trail picked up again, so I just jogged along the road (for 1/2 mile maybe) until I came upon the final trail section to the summit.  The horizon was glowing brightly now and just as I reached the summit, the sun blazed into view as it breached the cloud layer, far below me.  I was a bit overcome with joy to see the sunrise, providing views as breathtaking as I could have imagined, after a long, cold, lonely hike through the darkness.  It was frigid on the summit ad 13,796'.  A steady 25-30 mph wind was chilling me to the bone and I felt like I was going to lose my glove-less right hand to frostbite (a risk worth taking in order to capture some video and photos).  I took it all in for 10-15 minutes and then started meandering back down the mountain.

Approaching the summit... I suspect this was once a snowman.

Summit video.

Sunrise from 13,796 ft!

Part of the observatory + sunrise pano.

My watch was 100 ft. off.  Notice the pyramid shaped shadow of Mauna Kea, stretching off over the ocean towards the horizon.  Awesome!

I wasn't able to descend as fast as I had planned due to the mild ACM.  Whenever I started moving too fast, I would become slightly nauseous and dizzy, so I just stumbled on down, enjoying the specatcular views, running until I felt nauseous and then hiking for a while.  I started feeling better almost immediately once I had descended beyond the 11,000' mark, at which point I was able to run the rest of the way to the visitor center.

One of the many cinder cones on the slopes of Mauna Kea and the gently rising slopes of 13,200' Mauna Loa in the background.

Heading back down to the clouds.

Clouds started to form around me on my way down.

I couldn't help but purchase a cool USGS summit  marker. :)

I made it to the top in roughly 3 hours and back down in about 2.  As I drove back towards the coast, Mauna Kea became covered in storm clouds and stayed that way for the next few days.  For the rest of the trip, I felt extremely fortunate that I took advantage of the opportunity to visit the summit.  It was a highlight of the trip, for sure.

The summit was obscured by clouds ~45 minutes after I returned to the visitor center.

Another view towards the summit from Mauna Lani, ~3 hours after I summited.

A fitting sunset to go with such a great sunrise.

Hapuna Beach

Saturday - We headed to the other side of the big island to check out Volcano National Park and the surrounding area.

Akaka Falls

A black sand beach.

Racing around on some lava.

Recent flows.  Steam is rising off the current flow on the mountain slope.

Kilauea crater.

Kilauea crater from The Jaggar Museum.

Sunday - Happy easter!  More snorkeling, I may have snuck in a light jog.  I met some great sea turtles today!

Weekly Totals: 29 miles, 5,600 ft. elevation.

Snorkeling with green sea turtles.

We were all getting flipped around by the waves.

Snorkeling with honus (green sea turtles).  There were 8-10 in this cove.