Nov 17, 2012

Angeles Crest 100: Race Report

Fun action before the start!
I knew heading into this race that I needed to be fully prepared or I was going to get eaten alive.  I started this year with the notion that I could keep my torrid pace of training and racing without any ill effects.  It turns out I was completely wrong.  After the Boston disaster I was still feeling poorly and frankly just burnt out.  However, I assumed with a couple weeks off that my motivation would return and everything would go back to the way it was back in December through February.  Wrong again.  My fear for Angeles Crest was the main reason why I didn't take more time off and return whenever I felt like it.  Training in the Santa Monica mountains and in the San Gabriel mountains were two different things so after a couple months of driving out east and training on the course the race was upon us.  I never felt comfortable with my levels of fitness or mental focus during training due to the lack of consistency and more days off than I should have been taking.  With all that said, I was toeing the line July 21 ready to do what I could.
By: Larry Gassan near the top of Baden-Powell
I wanted to complete the first section which I considered the most difficult, terrain and altitude-wise, in around 5:20.  After hiking all the of ups and trying to take it easy I arrived at Islip in 5:05ish and was happy with where I was at.  My crew of Marshall, Megan, Sim, and Brian performed flawlessly and got me ready for the heat.
After needing to relieve myself (#2) on the climb up Mt. Williamson, where there happens to be relatively little room for privacy, the descent continues to Eagle's Roost.  I was toast after landing at Eagle's Roost; I had officially bonked.  Not entirely unexpected considering the way training had been going but man that's rough when entering a really hot section.  The 3 mile paved section, thanks to the closure of the PCT due to some frogs getting all angry at people treading on their turf, was crappy.  During that unpleasantness Hal, the race director, asked me to close his car door when I ran by it.  Odd request, but OK.
Toast at Cloudburst

I struggled mightily with George Gleason for company until Cloudburst where I sat down and wanted rest.  Soon after I yelled at Sim to "Never run 100 miles, ever!"  I'm pretty sure I was quite serious but I was really out of it so what do I know.  Oh yeah, and the freaking 90+ degree dry heat.  That was fun and it would accompany me a long way.  After struggling to get out of the chair I attempted to listen to some music to help with the lack in motivation.  Useless.
Making it to Three Points was miracle and I soon was in a happy place: sitting in a chair.  I actually got out of my 12 mile funk right before Three Points so as soon as I left I was jamming with The Doors and loving life again.  I need to find out what chemical in my brain allows me to want to slit my wrists one minute and then sing Kumbaya the next.  I was rolling and scaring Dan Lehnberg with my singing all the way to Mount Hilyer where I took my shortest sit down break of 2 min! I was pretty pleased with that.  I stumbled through the maze of stone to Chilao and collapsed in the chair sleepy, tired, and discouraged.  100 milers are fun!
After shoving something like potatoes in my mouth I set off with my first pacer, Sim.  Oh what disappointment he would soon experience for a guy who radiates so much positive energy.  I took advantage of that nice, newbie pacer by sitting in the middle of the trail and stating that I needed a nap.  Poor guy.  His encouragement was falling on deaf ears.  Two miserable hours later, where at one point I was shaking my fist at the sun cursing it, we made it to Shortcut Saddle where I'm sure Sim wanted to dump me.  I took my longest sitting-on-my-ass break: a high standard of 20 minutes.  I sat there gulping copious amounts of caffeine via Red Bull and watched as people passed me by the handful.  After Marshall shoved CANNED potatoes, which tasted like he pulled them out from in between someones butt cheeks, I started the smooth descent down Shortcut fireroad. Sim, bless his soul, stuck with me and I soon started to come alive.  We were clipping off miles and loving life like I just started a run!  We made it to Newcomb's Saddle in the dark (thank god no more sun) and really had such a fun time negotiating the technical trail all the way to Chantry.  It was an absolute blast and I won't ever forget those few hours with Sim.  We made it to Chantry where the thermometer read 80 degrees: it was 10pm!  And I performed, what was now a staple part of the race, the art of sitting down.  I pulled out all the excuses I could muster up to stay seated: "Wait, do you have the Body Glide from the green bag?" (there is no green bag, hehe)
"Quit your excuses!" (Dom Grossman)

Finally I got up, with my new pacer Marshall, and started the arduous climb up to Mt. Wilson toll road.  By now, in all seriousness, I started to feel a pain in my left lower shin and it only got worse.  It got to the point where I couldn't even raise or lower my foot without severe pain.  Try running on that folks.  Then my right knee, through overcompensation, started to swell up and became painful as well.  Doing anything other than rest was extremely painful and Marshall took it all in and didn't say a word about the ridiculous amounts of complaining coming from me.  After the curse-filled climb up to Sam Merrill, by yours truly, we had 10ish miles before the finish.  It was slow and painful but when we arrived on the streets of Alta Dena where Megan and the rest of the crew ran/walked with me to the finish I was satisfied.  It was nice to have completed the race even with the less than ideal preparation, relentless heat, and 50-something% finish rate.  I didn't get the 24hr finish I was hoping but I got what I deserved on that particular day.  I sat down an astounding 1hr40min through the race (compare that to Keira Henninger's 20 min TOTAL at the aid stations), my shin and knee ballooned, consumed 50+ GU gels, had two AC photos of myself published in the August/September issue of Ultrarunning Magazine (by Jamie Burtis), and I was happy as a clam to have it under my belt.  My injuries took 2 weeks to heal with heavy doses of anti-inflammatories and rest.  Poor George rolled his ankle severely and had to drop at Mt. Hilyer. The only way to repay him to for his needed company in Cooper Canyon was to extend my PT services to help the healing process of his ankle.  It was fantastic to see my training partner during many weekday excursions to the San Gabriels, Chris Price, put the hammer down and win comfortably.  He was usually taking it easy to run with me so it was great to see him perform exactly like I thought he could perform.  Anyway, I collected my buckle and now for a real rest break until after my adventure in Nepal in October/November.
By: Natalie Klintz
Chris, George, and myself before AC
by: Sim Dulai

Moments after AC captured by Larry Gassan

Aug 5, 2012

Finally, a Physical Therapist

PT Graduation
The past six years have been dedicated to accomplishing the singular goal of becoming a licensed Physical Therapist.  I'm extremely happy to announce that that goal has been met as of July 11, 2012.  The whole reason this process started was mostly due to my experience on the John Muir Trail in 2006.  Prior to that life-changing adventure I was a college drop-out.  I first attended San Diego State University for 1 year after high school before being kicked out due to abysmal grades (1.67 GPA) and poor class attendance.  I moved back up to LA after another year taking odd-jobs here and there, spending money I didn't have (credit cards), and avoiding any sense of responsibility with no care or thought of where my life would end up.  After taking a seasonal job at REI in the winter of 2004 I started to slowly plan the idea of backpacking the John Muir Trail.  I had always dreamed of backpacking for weeks on end being surrounded by the natural world and its beauty.  I had a 3 week trip planned with a friend when I was 18 but he bailed and I didn't end up going.  A fellow co-worker of mine,  Mike Hon, backpacked the PCT in 2005 and that inspired me to finally make the JMT reality.  So I went solo in July 2006 which happened to be a season with very high snow levels, nearly 200% of normal.  In the middle of that trip I met Joel and he was out there alone as well after the couple he was backpacking with broke up about one quarter of the way into the trip.  Since I had minimal experience with traveling in the high country in snow alone we ended up backpacking the final 150 miles together to the summit of Mt. Whitney.  During those 150 miles I admired Joel's independence: he was a co-creator of a small pub-quiz company which he started over the 6 figure job he was previously working at.  He wanted independence and the ability to do whatever he wanted when he wanted.  At the conclusion of the JMT I knew that was exactly what I wanted: To be able to have the freedom of time and independence to go on backpacking trips while making a decent living.  So I gave school another shot.  Starting from a GPA of 1.67 had me in a big academic hole and the only thing that was going to get me out with a shot at entering a very competitive program (PT) was to get nothing but top grades.  I enrolled at SMC to take Anatomy and Psychology (which I had failed before) but this time I had a purpose, I was focused.  I had to be.
I honestly didn't know much about Physical Therapy and while I enrolled in those classes I started to look for a job as an Aide at a physical therapy clinic.  I was hired by Don Nelson and PRO Physical Therapy, an outpatient orthopedic clinic, in October.  I started to learn what orthopedic PT was all about and I fell in love with it.  This was something I wanted to do.  After a successful first semester (2 "A's") I enrolled in Chemistry in the Winter semester which had me attending class 5 days a week for 6 hours a day. It was awful but with this renewed purpose it made it bearable.  Another "A".  After one more semester at SMC I transferred to Cal State, Northridge hoping to complete by degree in Kinesiology-Exercise Science in 2 years so I could apply to PT school in the fall of 2009.  These two years I was consistently taking 19-24 units per semester, even going as far as attending another junior college at night concurrently in order to take more classes.  All this plus working 3 days/week made any type of social life non-existent.  Even through all this I made sure I was able to continue backpacking during the summers (see side column for trips).
It was time to apply to PT school and I chose only 1: Cal State Northridge.  The reason being was because of out-of-school debt.  Private PT schools demand outrageous tuitions of near $45,000/year for three years plus living expenses which would have it amount to over $150,000 in debt when out of school.  That was simply out of the question for me.  Public school tuition was a mere $2600-$3000/semester, with FAFSA grants covering 80% of it.  I still had to take out loans but a fraction of the amount for private schools.  My gamble paid off and I got into PT school at CSUN.  The hard work was starting to pay off.
After 3 years of PT school and passing my board exams I now work at Kinetic Orthopedic Physical Therapy and my goal is to work with runners in the community.  I've already started treating some ultra-runners with some being local "So-Cal Coyotes" but I want runners to think of me first if or when they have an injury.  As an ultra-runner myself I think I have a better awareness as to the needs of the runner.  I'm going to post another entry to include more details. 
I think back on the past 6 years and wonder how fortunate I am that things worked out because of the many avenues where any of this could have fallen by the wayside.  I come away with the firm belief that the combination of hard work, focus, and true desire create opportunities  for anyone to accomplish their dreams.
I have to especially thank my mother for her support and my father for his guidance.  Without his constant encouragement and advice in my ear, the seed that lead to this fruition may have never been planted.  


Apr 17, 2012

Boston Marathon Race Report

Did Not Finish. I think there is more to that statement than meets the eye. In my case it meant that I started out aggressive no matter what the weather conditions (89 degrees by 12:30pm). The BAA send out multiple emails stating take it easy and to not expect a PR. I can understand those statements and it seems logical. However, I didn't travel 2000 miles to take it easy and not attempt an ambitious time I thought I could do and still think I could do. It just didn't turn out to be my day.  I prepared exactly how I would for any race and I did everything within my power to be prepared.  However several factors may have contributed to this outcome: 1) 2 tough 50 mile races within 4 weeks of each other with the last one 3 weeks ago  3) A 26 mile trail run the week before. And that's all I can really think of but clearly it was enough.  As soon as the gun went off and I started running my legs felt weak and the pace I was running didn't equate to the effort I was feeling. Things like shortness of breath, hip muscle soreness after 5 miles, and just general malaise.  Soon after 5 miles at 6:27 pace I couldn't keep pace and soon enough 8 minute miles felt difficult and unsustainable. I knew immediately that something was wrong but I figured I could run the rest of the race easy. Totally wrong. I started to walk a lot more and just didn't have anything in my legs. It felt like mile 85 in a 100 mile race. This obviously didn't make any sense to me but there was nothing I could do. I started stopping at aid stations for extended periods amounts of time and it took all I had to start up again.  Mile 19 was when the wheels started to really come off; I started feeling very faint and couldn't even walk. I sat on the curb and within 5 minutes a red cross medic came over and started inquiring about my condition. I was soon helped to the tent and my vitals were taken and the one thing that stuck out at me in my semi-conscious state was that my systolic blood pressure was 88.  For someone performing any exercise it should only increase and mine was 15 points below my resting BP.  Any significant drop in blood pressure can cause fainting and dizziness because the brain isn't getting enough blood. I was yawning a lot and that's usually one of those signs.   What came to mind immediately was salt or lack there of.  When I recall what I ate in the past week the quality of food has been exactly what I need and I had been consuming a liter of Nuun (electrolyte mix) every day on top of another liter of plain water.  However, with the symptoms I was feeling a lack of sodium or maybe low blood sugar may have been a player. These are all speculations of course but my confidence has slightly been shaken so I need to find out what the cause of this meltdown was but I don't think it's dehydration.  After I started to feel a little better I encouraged a runner (a faster one by the look of his low number) to join me. We started walking together and then I suggested we run and walk for 30 seconds each. He was OK with that but after a couple times I couldn't run anymore and started to feel more faint. I sat on the curb again. A cop came over and signaled for another medic. The second one in 1 mile. I knew my race was coming to a close. I was guided to the tent and then I lied down not really improving after 10 minutes.  That was it for me.  Several runners and myself soon loaded into a van and were driven to a bus.  I was actually feeling worse in the car and needed to lay down to increase my BP. (It was amazing to me that no medic had any salt on them.) Anyway I lied down in the bus with my feet up. After 15 minutes I started to feel better and most runners we're anxious to pick up there bags so they were hobbling over to the train station. We boarded a unbelievably crammed train and two minutes in I couldn't stand up any longer because I thought I was going to pass out.  I dropped to the ground, exited at the next stop and lay down in the dirt with my feet up relieved to be out of that train. Turns out two other runners exited and started vomiting profusely. We all were laying around and boarded the next train, which, thankfully, was less crowded. Me and this Italian runner sat on the steps in the back corner and put our head in our hands and hoped we didn't experience symptoms. Turns out he speaks French so that's how we communicated.  The train ride was terribly long, hot and soon to be crowded but we finally made it to our exit. After picking up my bag, I got my ass to my flight which I was then worried I wouldn't make, but I did.  With this type of experience there are lessons one can take away:

1) Don't get greedy. I thought that a marathon wouldn't be a problem after 2 tough 50's. Clearly wrong.

2) More space between races. 3 races in 7 wks where I ask for my best effort is too demanding. I need to respect that and give my body and mind more time.

3) Giving it my all regardless of the conditions and outcome was the right thing to do. I'm not going to play it safe and give up on my goal.  That's the one real positive I'm taking away from this.

4) I will never travel by plane to run a road marathon. Never is a strong word but I'll just stick to the local scene with regards to road races.

I want to also congratulate everyone I knew running who toughed it out and finished the race: Ankur, Natalie, Mike, Rit, Su-Yang, Dan, and Crispin.

As far as the next race is concerned it will be Angeles Crest 100, my main event.  I was originally planning on Bishop 50 next month but after this I'd rather train only to make sure I'm fully prepared for that race. I'll give my whole system time to rest in these next two weeks and start to ramp up again.

Mar 28, 2012

Old Goats 50 Race Recap

I remember seeing the listing for this race last year and wanting to one day run it due to the sheer challenge of it.  I was close to signing up for it but I realized I was nowhere near ready to tackle a race of that magnitude; 12,000 feet of vertical climbing to be exact (and 12,000 feet descent).  Fast forward one year later and there I was waiting the last few minutes with a crowd of other shivering runners ready to take on 12,000 ft. of climbing over 50 miles on technical trail.  I didn't have a chance to give this race much thought throughout the last couple of weeks due to being pre-occupied with my internship and realizing that I had absolutely no knowledge of the course.  So I'd been going about my training without really slowing down after Ray Miller 4 weeks previous and not giving this race much thought.  I had been more nervous and anxious before Ray Miller probably because I had put a couple of solid months of training without the confidence of whether or not it was going to pay off.  There were some of the best SoCal ultra runners toeing the line too and seeing where I was compared to them was going to be exciting.

Miles 0-21:
I had a cut out of the elevation profile with aid station points that guided me on this exploration of local mountains.  The first 21 miles was a lollipop loop that proved to be as rocky and technical a course I've run.  I was feeling pretty good from the get-go and just rolled with it.  I didn't hold back or push it and tried to be in flow with the single track and not fall.  It was actually kind of pleasant to start downhill just because it gave myself enough to warm up for the hills.  I was running alone from the get-go and that's the way it would be until the end.  I arrived at the 21 mile aid station in a relatively comfortable 3:12 and in good shape, got a kiss from my sweetie, and was off.  I was a bit nervous going into the next section because at Ray Miller this is where I started to feel like crap and I guessed it might have been a nutrition thing.  So in this race I adjusted my calories/salt accordingly and was hoping that would help me stay in a neutral place.
Early downhill.  Photo: Pedro Martinez

My babe at 21 miles. She literally just woke from a nap in her car. Photo: Jayme Burtis

Miles 21-28.8:
I soon caught Kurt Whittington, who was in 6th on the subsequent climb to the Trabuco Trail Aid Station, and we would soon be passing each other back and forth until mile 34.  The 5 mile rocky and technical descent down Horsethief Trail is where I experienced my first lowish point of the day even though it wasn't as deeply felt in previous races.  Fellow Coyotes Chris Hays and Pedro Martinez coincidentally were also running down as well which made for a short distraction.  I was trying to manage the very rocky descent with as little effort as possible to save myself for the next climb.  So I was running 8-8:10 miles and in hindsight I need to learn how to run downhill a lot better, because times like that aren't going to help.  Consequently, a much better downhill runner and Ironhorse (as I refer to him), Tom Nielson, who finished 14 seconds ahead of me at Ray Miller 50, passed me near the bottom of the descent.   I was secretly hoping that I could reverse the tables on him in this race.  After some hikers saw me unknowingly expose them to my privates while I was taking a brief leak I smiled and continued on.  I still wasn't feeling all that great and all I could think about was the 4000ft up Santiago Peak coming up: the crux of the race.
Photo: Jayme Burtis
Miles 28.8-36.70:
I started Holy Jim a bit slow shuffling my way through the multiple stream crossings and what seemed like tons of hikers.  I was soon able to see the multitude of antennas thousands of feet above and I guessed that was where I was headed.  After that harsh reality, I told myself to not look up anymore.  I established a run/hike strategy that allowed me to climb the ascent at 15-16 min/mile for the next 8 miles.  Boy, what a place to put a climb like that in a 50 mile race.  After seeing the top 6 men ahead of me barreling down the peak I finally made it myself bringing sweet relief with the only thoughts of not getting caught the final 15.  I then allowed myself to finally open up my stride and bust it downhill.
The look of exertion at the top of Santiago Peak. Photo: Mieko Morita
Miles 36.7-47.1:
The seemingly quick descent gave way to rolling hills with continued stiff sections of climbing.  I employed my run/hike strategy and really just plugged along keeping my eye behind me just in case someone wanted to make a run at me.  I also brought my average per mile time down to where I wanted it to be so I just maintained and kept pushing along.  The final climb of the race approached and at the top was the last aid station.  It was wonderful to see and I could smell the sweet, slightly tangy, flavor of the finish.

Miles 47.1-50:
As soon as I started the descent I started running harder than I did all race.  I wanted to get to that finish and I knew there was no pressure from behind either so it gave me a chance to reflect on the race a bit and appreciate what Steve Harvey put me through.  I finished the race strong and let out a whoop when I was in sight of the finish.  I crossed the line in 8:31 placing 7th overall.   What a joy it is to experience a journey such as this all while achieving goals and coming away healthy.  Again, Tommy Nielson was one place ahead of me. Grrr.  I'll see if I can turn the tables on him at AC100.  Huge congrats to Chris Price for running like a stud and establishing a new course record, Dom for running a course PR just coming off a calf strain, and to Keira Henninger for being the 1st female to cross the wire.
A few yards from the finish. You may not tell but I'm soaking it in.
I knew this race was going to be tough and it was the hardest I've run so far.  I was unsure how my body would react going into this race 4 weeks after a hard Ray Miller 50 but now I know.  I felt good from the beginning and I adjusted some race day strategies which I learned from the last race and subsequent training runs.  And I can say with complete certitude that it made a huge difference in how I felt throughout the entire race.  Things like tailoring my salt intake to meet my needs; if anyone's ever seen my face following a long or hot run I excrete an unusually high amount of salt.  With that adjustment I didn't experience the aches in my joints to the degree I normally do, was able to run some of the the final ascents, and overall had no significant highs and lows.  To my surprise music didn't really do much for me so I turned it off and just ran in the moment.  After two of my best 50 mile races in a span of a month I'm ready for a temporary change in venue.  The Boston Marathon is 3 weeks away and I'm excited to tackle the one road marathon I run per year.  I return to trail races in May and my training continues up the hills of the Santa Monica mountains on the weekdays while the weekends will be in San Gabes.
Overall, my performance has improved quite a bit since I started training in December and I'm excited to see what that means in 100 mile races.  I'm fully aware of what consistent training can do to performance and I'm excited to see it paying off early.  I have to continue to eat well, train right, listen to my body, and enjoy the process.  I feel I'm just starting to get my running engine established and I feel there is still a lot more to give in the coming years and only smart and hard training is going to expose that.  That's why my intuition is telling me to run Bishop in late May and use the next 2 months to solidly train for an all-out effort for AC, where I am happy to announce Sim will crew/pace me!  San Diego 100 is 70/30 a no-go, but I'll hold out until the last minute.
On another note, Sunday I picked up the stomach flu with Monday being absolutely awful for me.  Fortunately it only lasted 24 hours and it didn't really effect my training, even though I still can't run downhill <8 min/mile without getting some unwanted bowel movements from my GI system (sorry Westridge).
The New Balance MT110 performed flawlessly and I'm really impressed that they supported me through terrain like this and with no injuries to speak of.  Not to say it's 100% the shoes but minimalism is something I believe in and works (see above).
I also want to give a shout to Jayme Burtis for these great memories using his camera.
Happy Trails!

Mar 3, 2012

Ray Miller 50: Race Recap

Away we go...
The trail was starting to come alive with the creeping morning light and the pack started to move. Some starting their 31 mile journey or their 50 mile one.  Mine was the latter.  Being familiar with this trail it bottlenecks quite early so being near the front was my priority.  It would require a more aggressive race strategy, something I've been reluctant to employ mainly out of a fear of blowing up later.  However, today was different.  I wanted to run to my current potential and I believed a strategy of controlled aggression would be necessary.  The morning was overcast creating perfect running weather but that would soon give way to a strong winter sun that made things a bit toasty later in the race.

Miles 0-19:
A came out with controlled aggression and was feeling good.  I was throwing in some faster miles early for this type of race but I didn't care.  I was nearing the end of Wood Canyon Trail (Backbone Trail) and I got an unexpected surprise in coincidentally running into Megan, who was biking along the Sycamore Canyon Fireroad with the intention of meeting me at the Danielson Ranch aid station (mile 19).  We chatted for .3 miles before I branched off the Two Rabbits Trail.  After the brushy Coyote Trail it was fairly uneventful up to Danielson Ranch.  I was averaging 8:45 miles and was really focused on the upcoming climb to Sandstone Peak.  After getting a bunch of cheers from all the Coyotes and Megan and that aid station, I picked up an extra bottle and was on my way.

Mile 19 aid station manned by Superman (aka Jack Rosenfeld)

                                       Mile 19-28.5:  
As soon as I left Danielson Ranch I started to hit my first low point.  A bit odd so early in the race but after an aggressive outing it was expected.  About 3-4 minutes up the Chamberlain Trail I hear a coyote howl from Jimmy Dean Freeman letting me know he was not far behind, which made me try to push a bit harder.  The climb up Chamberlain was warm now and I forgot to ask for my ipod at the last aid station so I was counting to 10 repeatedly and I must of done that 100 times.  Pretty mundane but it got me into a rhythm and I was very happy to see the Yerba Buena aid station.  I saw Katie Martini Freeman there and soon asked her for a hat.  She came through with a turquoise women's visor but as soon as I put it on it provided immediate relief from the unrelenting sun.

Mile 28.5-34.5:
This out and back section was where I started to see some of the race leaders: Jorge Maravilla, Jorge Pacheco, Chris Price, Dom Grossman, Mark Hartell.  I reached the turn around point and saw Sim and Natalie manning the aid station.  After my hug from Sim I headed back to Yerba Buena and saw who was behind me.  A whole army of people within 5-10 minutes of me including Jimmy and Meghan Aborgast.  I tried to maintain my pace and reached the Yerba Buena aid station needing respite from the sun.  I got my gels and water and headed out.  About 1 min into the climb roars for Jimmy could be heard and I knew he was right on my tail.

Coming to the turnaround point. Glad to be here!

Mile 34.5-45:
This climb to sandstone and subsequent technical descent was welcome even though the next aid was 11 miles away.  I took the downhills OK considering the mileage and situation I was in and soon made my way to the beautiful Serrano Canyon where nausea spoiled my full appreciation of this place:  Rolling grasslands on a clear blue day.  Arriving at the last aid station I was prepared to make the final push up Fireline Trail and thoroughly enjoy the descent and final 3 miles of Ray Miller.  I ran most of the way up Fireline after a runner asked me if I had enough salt. Of course I did, I thought to myself.  However it dawned on me that I tend to sweat more salt and that maybe 1 pill per hour was not enough in this weather over this distance.  I took two pills and immediately could sense a difference.  My nausea had abated and I could run the uphills again!

Final half mile!

Mile 45-finish: 
To my surprise I ran most of the way up Fireline and was soon shuffling on the Fireroad arriving at the apex of the famed Ray Miller. I knew that the race was cake from here and I had the intention of fully cranking my legs on this descent with the hopes of catching some people.  I enjoyed the views but was mainly focused on getting down to the finish.  I passed one runner and was 14 seconds away from catching the next but the finish line came quicker.  I arrived in a personal best of 8:19, 8th OA, in full appreciation of the challenge of this course.  There were personal ups and downs that never seemed to veer too far in each direction and taking in more salt is something I need to start practicing.  Even though this is taboo, I tried something new on race day: Take gels every 20 minutes. Well that didn't work because I felt bloated and full for the majority of the race and frankly gels are disgusting.   So I'll stick to consuming them every 30 min.

I knew if I had a good day and I did what I thought I could do I'd run 8:20.  It was my A-goal and an ambitious one at that considering my last (2nd) 50 miler was half the elevation gain in 9:25 on fireroads.   I laid everything I had out there that day on the course and I was happy I was able to achieve it.  It felt and still feels good.  But it didn't come magically, just hard work on a consistent basis.  I'll be the first to tell you that I don't have the talent the top dogs have but I'll work my ass off to see what I'm made of.  This is a step in the right direction and hopefully there's more where that came from.  I want to thank RD Keira Henninger for putting on a great event, the volunteers, and Megan for making this happen.

Finish. Pose of satisfaction. PR too.

Post-race love with JDF.  Had a mini battle the entire way with him pulling away by 10 min in the final 8 miles.  Great run Jimmy!
Cresting Fireline with Sandstone in the background. Photo: Jayme Burtis

Coyote Power!

Next up is Old Goats 50 in about one month and it's something I'm not 100% sure about.  I mentioned in my last post that running high effort races takes a lot of someone and I can say with a fact that this was one of them for me.  Will I expect a solid of an effort at Old Goats? I hope so but I think it's going to be a different goal: to gain more 50 mile experience under my legs with tons of climbing (13,000 ft in this case).

Feb 18, 2012

Get Rhythm: Ray Miller 50 Mile Preview

I guess the majority of the work for this race is complete so now I'm here typing, itching to get out and race this thing already.  Usually come taper week I can relax and enjoy the lead up to the race.  But something has changed.  I used to solely run to race and stay in "backpacking" shape but late last year I re-thought my goals and I wanted not only to race events but race them as well as I can; be the best prepared I can given a balanced life and normal life circumstances.  In order to do well, consistent training had to increase substantially with racing taking a back seat.  The two weeks pre and post race day have suddenly apparently turned into a feeling of wasted time, even though my better judgement says this is the proper way to be approaching this event.  My last race was back in mid-November, so it's been a while (15 weeks), and I have to say running hasn't really stopped since then.  The past 9 weeks have been as solid of training weeks I can muster  (Average: 80.52 miles/week, 17,444ft vert gain/week), with consistent long runs, track work, easier weeks, etc, creating a unique and fulfilling rhythm; waking up before sunrise every weekday morning for a quiet trail run, thinking of what the next long run will be, seeing improvement.  This weekend things slow down a bit:  the long runs aren't as long, the mentality has changed, and everything is focused on getting things right for next Saturday.  In the past year (the first year I started training), I've usually welcomed this change with relief and open arms, but as I sit here and type this out, I have an itch.  An itch to continue this rhythm, to continue improving, and I've realized that racing less and having A-races are the only ones worth having.  
It takes, relatively, a substantial amount of time and money to race, and in order to see improvements I needed a heavy dose of training and few races in between.  It depends on ones goals, but the intensity of races requires high effort levels, ones not usually achieved during training.  Producing those quality efforts at each race, without burning out or getting injured, takes time in order to recover and train.  I think last year I was more engaged with the destination and not the journey that lead me there because of a strong desire to say that I was able to complete that distance (no matter the effort quality), or get that buckle.  This year has changed a bit.  I'm over that first-time excitement and now looking to see what this training will produce.  I'm nervous and curious.  It's time to trust in the work I've done so far and just run.  There is a deep satisfaction in toeing the starting line of a race you've prepared as best you can for and will soon be laying it all out for.  No "training" races, no running just to finish, no-half-assing it, no excuses.

Morning run sunrise

Jan 19, 2012

Where's Winter?

All quiet in the mountains; maybe until this weekend.  It's been quite a dry winter so far and even though the runner side of me has no complaints the rest of me is wondering what the heck is going on.  It really only started to get "SoCal Cold" this past week so winter might be getting a late start.  After all, the past 2 years have been monsters so we're due for a dry spell.  This weather has certainly been ideal these past months for getting out on the trails.  Since the new year commenced I've also started my full-time 4-month internship (final one!) at a local PT orthopedic clinic.  The hours are 8-6 M-F forcing me to run in the early morning and waking up at 540 five days a week isn't my strong suit; however if I am serious in what I want to accomplish this year I simply have to do it.  I'm glad to say that so far it's worked out.  God knows I despise the first 0-20 minutes after I get up and you'll often hear common mumblings like "Why the hell am I doing this?" and "Daaaaamnn, it's too early to run!" Plus to get the adequate and necessary rest and recovery, I need to be tucked in by 10 pm.  It can get exhausting if you have other interests but this is my self-created world for now.  The crazy part is that I'm guessing a lot of ultrarunners have similar schedules or are even more hectic.  My hats off to 'em.  I could in fact get up later and run on roads but that is something I'm not willing to do.  I'll wake up the extra 45 minuted early and hit the peaceful trails with elevation involved.  I AM training for mountain races, so why would I train on the roads? It's a simple concept called specificity and if you know a lick of exercise physiology you know what that truly means! Plus it's better for my psyche; I love the natural world called Earth!
With that said the last 3 weeks have included an easier week and two subsequent solid ones.  I'll start from the oldest:

December 29-January 4, 2012:  69.25 miles, 17,000 gain: Wanted to take an easier week after the past two intense weeks and that was the case.  Had arguably one of the worst "runs" of the year December 30th where a lot of hiking was involved.  I got out of bed dead tired and I couldn't run the first 50 meters of the run! But those types of days happen so I wasn't too down about it.  Other than that run/hike up Old  Baldy on the first of the year was special and great way to kick of 2012.  

January 6-12, 2012:  83 miles, 18,100 gain:  Solid week that saw a climb up Mt. Wilson (via Eaton Canyon), a calorie-less (metabolic system needs training too) long-run lollipop loop in Topanga State Park, and an unexpected PR to Parker Mesa Overlook.  

January 14-19, 2012 (6 days): 82.4 miles 17,600 gain: A compacted week, almost the same as the previous week but take away one day and it's obviously more intense.  Saw a  PR on Bulldog x2 which I have to sadly admit was my longest training run (non-race) ever, 29 miles.  I also was pleasantly surprised that I was able to run both loops completely, which was also a first, and shattered my race PR (Bulldog 50km) that takes place at the same location by 10 minutes.  This is an indication that the training plan I'm putting together is the right one and the fact that I ran a patient and conservative run.  I wanted both loops to be within 10 minutes of each other; I got 8.  2:20, 2:28.  Overall extremely happy with the week and tomorrow's recovery day is well deserved.  I get to sleep in until 7, woohoo!

I think for me incorporating a 6 days/week training plan with 1 day for recovery will get me to the starting line physically and mentally ready; not injured and burned out.  I'm going to get out of it what hard work I put in so I'm really excited for what's coming up.  My race schedule is starting to come together with the addition of Old Goats 50 miler March 24 and possibly San Diego 100.  SD100 has been gnawing at me ever since last year where I know my inexperience and end-of-season lackluster showed bright on race day.  My competitive side won't let me swallow this one because of the fact I can do a ton better than what showed up that day.  It's very strange to plan races this far in advance but this is the culture of the ultra scene now.  Sign up for those coveted few spots or risk losing out.  It's forced my hand a bit but I'm confident that these races, spaced appropriately apart will be the right set-up for me. If I get lucky enough to get into SD100 I'll explain in a later post the rationale behind entering two 100 milers 6 weeks apart.  Be prepared: there might not be anything worthy.

Major Race Schedule for the 1st half of 2012:

Ray Miller 50mile (2/25/12)
Old Goats 50mile (3/24/12)
Boston Marathon (4/18/12)
Bishop 100km (5/19/12)
San Diego 100mile (6/9/12)
Angeles Crest 100mile  (7/20/12)

Running Los Liones with The Onion

Backbone Trail

Old Baldy

Down Devil's Backbone

Sunrise at Westridge

Morning runs

Denali Expedition Recap

Summit Ridge I won’t be writing about the day to day as that was succinctly put in the twelve “Denali Transmit” posts which you ...