Saturday, November 21, 2009

My Scooter

Well I just washed my bike, so I thought it was a good time to take some pictures of it. Since I have pictures of it nice and clean, I might as well capture the moment on the blog.

It's pretty much stock from the factory except for the hubs.
Bike: Felt 2007 single speed 29er
Fork: Reba Rockshox SL
Hubs: The Hive Chub Hub SS
Crank: TruActive something
Current Ratio: 32-17

It looks pretty good for having about 1,500 hard trail miles on it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tahoe-Sierra 50 mile Mountain Bike Race

Whoa, another blog post! I kind of take the summer off from running. It's a nice break after 7 months of training for Western States, and I get to do some other things that I love. I get to play soccer again, and ride my mountain bike.Well, I pretty much ride the bike year round for crosstraining, but I don't play any soccer from December to July. It's not worth getting whacked in the ankle or something. Western States is too hard to get into to risk a silly injury.
Anyways, this is about a bike ride in the mountains. The Tahoe-Sierra race is one tough ride. I had considered the 100 miler cause that's just what I do. The harder the better right? Well I'm not super experienced at endurance riding, but I'm pretty fit. I was worried more about the logistics of the full 100. What would I put in my drop bags? What aid stations would I place drop bags? Will I have to drive up the day before, and get a hotel room? Would I hit the last aid station before 6:15pm, or would I finish in the dark? Oh crap, I don't have lights for my bike! All those worries would be ended by my buddy Steve Gallo's training ride on the course. He rode 67 miles of the course and it took him about 10 hours. Yikes! He's a better rider than me, so that put things in perspective. The 100 would take me forever. I signed up for the 50 mile course.
I saved some cash as the 50 was cheaper, and I didn't have to get a hotel room. I just drove up early race day morning. I got there about an hour before the start, and scored a sweet parking spot right across the street from Ice Lakes Lodge. This is where the start and finish was. I walked over to the starting area and studied the course map for about 10 minutes. I was very interested to see if we would be riding on any of the Western States course. It looked like we would be on Red Star Ridge for a bit, and Robinson Flat was the turn around point. Most of the 50 was on fire roads that went around the WS trail though. As I was unloading the bike, the race director came by, and said we couldn't park on this side of the street. Ah, bummer. It was too good to be true. I loaded up the bike and found a spot down the road a few hundred yards. Now I was a little pressed for time to get everything unloaded and get my gear on. I got it all together, and made my way to the start.
I was carrying my camelbak loaded to the brim. It had about 100oz of water, my tire pump, 2 tubes, tools, and all kinds of Salt-caps and Shot bloks. I was hoping to skip most of the aid stations, and not refill my water until Robinson Flat at mile 30. I was also rockin my new Victory Velo jersey. Thanks guys for your support and keeping my bike rolling. Oh, and the jersey has cool pockets in the back. I had two gel flasks loaded up back there for easy access. I had a good 1000 calories in those, and that would be the bulk of my fuel. I don't bother with those while running. It's too easy to take out the gel pack and open it. On the bike though, that is very difficult, and the gel flasks work great.
The 100 milers took off first, and the 50 milers 5 minutes after. We cruised up the paved street for a bit before dropping down the 8 mile dirt road descent. This was interesting. Imagine 100+ riders bombing down a fire road covered in powdery moon dust. The thick dust cloud kicked up made it nearly impossible to see the many holes and boulders scattered across the road. I was very glad I had brought a bandana to cover my face with. It was still hard to breathe without chocking on all the dust though. All the dust sort of negated the advantage the other riders had on me. I'm riding a Single Speed bike, so they could easily pull away from me on the downhills and flats. There weren't too many guys gutsy enough to pedal all out downhill with poor visibility. There were some though.
We leveled out and began the grueling 2 mile climb up to the red star ridge aid station. This was the shortest of the big climbs, but the steepest. I generally pass most people on the climbs becauseof my single speed. With gears, they can sit down and enjoy an easy granny gear pace. For me, I have to stand up and mash the pedals, or I will stop and fall over. I rode all of this climb, but looking back, there was a section I should have walked. It was early enough in the race that I still had power, but it took a lot out of me.
I hit the top soon enough, and was one of the few who blew through the aid station. Now I was on a section of the WS course, and I enjoyed the views, and the reflection on that June day. The course split off from there into a super fun single\doubleish track downhill with technical water bars. The moon dust was really bad here, and made everything feel very loose. There was a guy a bit in front of me, and the thick dust he was kicking up was just hanging in the air. I almost went down several times through here. We spilled onto a fire road, and I recongnized it as the one just above French Meadows campground. I had worked an aid station out here for brutal 100K run last year. The geared bikes blew past me on this very rare flatish section.
The flat was soon past, and we hit the long 4-5 mile climb up towards the next aid station. This was an enjoyable steady grade similar to the Stage Coach trail in auburn, but twice as long. I passed lots of riders here, and easily recovered any lost places from that flat section. I got to see my buddy Steve who was looking stong on his way to an amazing 100 mile finish. The 100 milers split off at the top of this hill, and it would be just the 50 milers that I saw for the rest of the day. I hit the aid station at the top, and looked at my watch. This was about mile 22, and I had been riding for 2 hours. Not bad. I knew the last half of the race would have more uphills, and my pace would likely slow. I didn't need water, but I stopped to grab a cup off the aid station table. I was a good opportunity to reach in the camelback and grab some margarita shotbloks. I was drinking straight water, and I could use some sodium. The was weather perfect, and I don't know if it even hit 80. I wouldn't have to moitor my water\salt intake as closely as I would on a hot day. For some reason those little shot bloks love to be dirty. This time was no different, and one of them lept from my gloved hand into the thick dust. I've had this battle before, and this little guy wasn't going to get away. I snatched it before it could burrow further into the dirt, blew what dust I could off of it, and popped it into my mouth. Mmmmmmm, dirty margarita.
There was actually a bit more climbing as I left the aid station, but I was feeling strong, and passing people. It had thinned out quite a bit, and I was wondering how close I was to the leaders. I was also wondering how my pacing was going, and if I was pushing too hard. I always wear my Heart Rate monitor, but I don't have much experience with pacing bike races. If this was a 50 mile run, I'd be pushing way too hard.
I passed a few more guys, and began the up and down fire road section into Robinson Flat. Perhaps an unlucky name for me because what I had feared might happen. I looked down, and my front tire was quickly going flat. I had hoped I wouldn't have to go through this, but it was very likely going to happen on a rocky 50 mile ride. I had everything I needed except experience. I've changed flats on the trail before, but it has taken me up to 30 minutes to do it. I hoped this time would be faster. Luckily it was on the front which is a little less to deal with. I pulled out my extra tube, and started to switch out the flat one. I think at least 10 people passed me while I was working. They all asked if I had what I needed which was nice. Good on them. I finished the repair and checked my watch. It said 13:30! All right, a new record for me. I still think someone else could do it much faster, but I was pretty happy with that.
I headed out towards Robinson Flat eager to see when the leader would be coming the other way. I could gauge how far ahead of me he was. I finally saw him and made a note of the time. I doubled it when I got to the turn around point and figured he had about 30 minutes on me. I had no intention of trying tocatch him, but I was curious how far up the leaders were. Now I could go back to focusing on my race. I refilled my camelbak with water, and ate some more shot bloks and salt caps since the camelbak was off. While I was riding I had been fueling with the easy to grab gel flasks, and I had allready emptied one. I got out of there in about 3 1/2 minutes, which is not too bad for my biggest planned stop.
The race director had warned us about the trip back from Robinson Flat. He told us not to underestimate it just cause it was a fire road. He was right of course. It was pretty technical so you could never relax on the downs. The ups were generally not too steep, but they had lots of loose sand and dust that made it extra hard to keep momentum. The tires rolling through the thick moon dust made a weird "patter" sound that kept freaking me out. It sort of felt and sounded like my tires were going flat all day. Then I'd look down, and they would be fine. From about mile 35 to 45, there was a good deal of downhill. This was so bumpy and technical that I had to hold down the brakes on a lot of it. I don't know if you build a tolerance for this or not, but my hands were really hurting. All the vibration was taking it's toll, and every bump was painfull making it hard to grip the handlebars. I thought I should have been going much faster on that downhill section than I was able to do. It wasn't all downhill either, There was a nasty climb that I just had to get off and walk. I was actully much happier to get to the uphills because the downhills were hurting my hands so much.
The final aid station was about mile 46. This was right before the final 4-5 mile climb to the finish. I was pretty whooped at this point, and wasn't sure if I could ride all the way up to the finish. I grabbed a cup of cytomax, a PBJ square, thanked the volunteers, and began the final climb.
One of the things I like about Ultra runner and endurance rides is the unknown. You get to a point where you are not sure if you can do it anymore. Most of the time you can dig deep and surprise yourself. I just focussed on a steady pace, and if it got too steep I would walk. The walking point never came, and I was able to power up the whole thing to the finish. The grade even flattened out a bit at the top so I could really push to the end and finish strong. Right before the top I took my last sip of water just as my camelbak went dry. Perfect timing! I was so happy to be done, and am pretty proud of the overall race. I think I finished in about 5 hours 30 min, and was somewhere in the top 25. I'll know when the results are posted in a few days. I think the course was actually about 53 miles long.
I had so much fun out there, and want to do another 8hr race in the next month or so. It was hard, but that is part of the fun.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Western States 100 mile run - 2009

I ran my perfect Western States 100 mile race in 2007, and missed sub 24 hours by 32 minutes. I just needed to be a bit more “perfecter” somehow. I had hoped better fitness, and some faster aid station transitions would be the difference this time. I also expected it to be much hotter this time around, but I was ready for that too.

We pulled into Squaw Valley Friday morning, and did the weigh in thing. I was 152 lbs which seemed to be about 3-4 lighter than what I was a few days before. Regardless, that was going to be my baseline for all the aid station medical checkpoints. If I strayed too far below or above 152, I would have to sit, or be pulled from the race. I don’t usually have a problem with weight, so I wasn’t too worried. As usual, we got some sweet race swag. There was a nice backpack, two technical-shirts, a hat, and a fleece jacket. I finished up with the check-in process, and began the fun part of milling about and talking to friends. It was then that I heard the news of my friend Dan Moores passing. He was the owner of Auburn Running Company, a shoe store in Auburn. He had lost his battle with Leukemia much sooner than expected. At least, sooner than I expected, since I can only picture him blazing past me running down the trail. This race was now going to have even more incentive to finish. I’m having trouble putting the right words together here, so I’ll just stop. I’ll miss Dan.

I met my buddies Matt and Chris, who were also running, and we went to grab some delicious wraps from the sandwich shop. The village in Squaw was buzzing with energy, and is super fun to be a part of. We then grabbed our spots for the mandatory race briefing. It’s here that the RD gets to thank everyone, and we get updates from trail conditions and last minute changes. The course was going to be in perfect shape with no snow, and no downed trees. We were just going to have to deal with the heat, and that running 100 miles part.

After the briefing it was time to relax and think about dinner. I always have pizza in the village there. That way I can have leftovers for breakfast, and maybe a piece or two during the race later the next day. Now it was back to the room and try to relax. I set the alarm for 3:30am, and ended up climbing into bed around 8:50. I got up around 10 to talk to my crew, and make some changes to the written plan I had printed out for them. I then went back to sleep, but never really fell asleep. I was too pumped. I kept looking over at the clock hoping that more than an hour had gone by only to see 15 minutes passed. I think there was a long block between 12 and 1:30 that I actually slept. I woke up at 3, and tried to rest some more until 3:30. I finally just got up at 3:20, and started getting ready.

After two years of training, I was finally going to get another crack at this race. I wandered over to the start, and grabbed my bib and ankle chip. It was only 4am, so no need to hang around for an hour. I could keep warm back in the room for another 45 min. The temp at the start was about 50 degrees, which I think is pretty warm for Squaw Valley. It was a little chilly standing around in only my sleeveless Auburn Running Company jersey. Still, I decided that a long sleeve over the top was not necessary once we got going. I was right, and I was glad to not have to carry it.

The gun went off and everybody cheered, and started up the hill to the top. I was going to hike a little harder this year to try and get in front of the huge conga lines. I did pretty well and hit the escarpment about 4 minutes faster than my 2007 race. I rolled over the top and could see a big line in front of me. I made some pretty aggressive (yet strategic) passes on 3 conga lines up there. I was floating down the trail, and passing lots of people on the downs. I tried to take it easy on the ups as per my normal strategy. One thing I was doing differently than 07 was trying to keep it simple. I carried a big waist pack with all kinds of stuff in it for the 2007 race. I realized that it was unnecessary, and the aid stations have everything you need. All I carried were my bottles, drug baggie, salt cap baggie, and TP. At each aid station I grabbed a few extra GU’s for the time between. Anything special, I just waited until I met my crew at RF, MB, FH, or GG. This was much simpler, and nice to run “lighter”. Also, anything around my waist usually contributes to feeling nauseous.

The Gamble

I had been training harder for this race than I was able to before. I was in the best shape I had ever been in. I knew I could finish because I had already done it in 2007. Something in me just kept saying to go for it. I’ve seen many WS100 races ruined in the first 30 miles, and I knew what the smart play was. Take it easy until Robinson Flat. I also knew that this was probably going to be the only time I would have the chance to have a really big day here. I‘ve seen a few people beat the odds, make time in the first 30, and hold it together for the rest of the day. Why not me? I decided to gamble a bit and push the high country. I wasn’t going to go crazy, but towards the upper limit of what I normally do for the first 7 hours. I was consistently running about 80% max HR, and that was freaking me out a little. The good news was that I was surely putting a big gap on my 2007 time and the runners behind me. About half way to Red Star Ridge, I was starting to feel a little fatigued. This was only a little over 3 hours into the race. It was right about then that I heard familiar voices behind me. It was my good buddies Matt and Paul. I asked if they were pushing a bit too, and they both said no. That was a big hit to my confidence for the day. That they caught me when I was working hard, and they weren’t, was tough to take. They were going to have great days, and I was happy for them. My metal battle began there about mile 15…not good. It appeared that I had gambled and lost. I wouldn’t know for certain until later in the day how much damage I had done. I started to psyche myself out, and all kinds of crazy thoughts came pouring in. I tried to get myself together and just concentrate on following them down to Duncan Canyon. It was very dusty here again, and it was great to have the bandana to pull over my nose. If someone was in front of you, it was very hard to see the trail. I had a couple of near ankle twists here on rocks I couldn’t see because of the dust cloud. Bandanas are highly recommended for this race. Pushing before Robinson Flat is not.

Duncan Canyon – 10:20am, mile 24, 228th place

It felt great to get to Duncan Canyon, and blow through the aid station in about 1 minute. I knew the creek was only about 20 minutes away, and it would feel great to lie down and soak in it. Oh yeah, it was supposed to be really hot today, but I wasn’t feeling it. Either it wasn’t that hot, or all the hours in the sauna were paying off. Matt and I were together again, and that’s always nice. We both admitted to already taking some Tylenol, and promptly stopped talking about why. No need to dwell on what hurts. I figured it was his IT band again, but was hoping it wasn’t. For me, it was my quads. They were starting to ache. It was baffling to me. I never had problems with them before. I pounded them in training runs, and had many trips into the canyons of this very course. They should have been able to handle the course today. For them to be hurting less than 30 miles in was very scary and frustrating. Matt and I got to Duncan Creek, and he jumps completely in. I had a thought before I did it. My feet felt pretty good. I could probably skip my planned shoe\sock change at Robinson Flat if I could keep them dry here. So that’s what I did. I did dunk my hat and bandana though. We started the long hike up to Robinson Flat. I knew from 07 that this section could be as long as 1 hour and 45 minutes from Duncan Canyon. That is a long time to go with only 2 bottles. Ah yes my bottles. I was running with the polar insulated 24oz bottles with Ultimate Direction straps. This worked great for keeping the water cold, and the ice from melting too fast. They are a bit heavier though, and I was looking forward to switching to smaller standard bottles at RF. The aid stations are closer after that, and you don’t need to carry as much. We had a good hike up to Robinson Flat, and I was out of water about 15 minutes out. I was really good to see the 1/2mile sign, and we knew we were close. This aid station has tons of energy. Most runners haven’t seen their crew since the start 30 miles ago. I like to call this the end of the “high country”. It’s really hard to imagine 100 miles, so it helps a lot to break it up into sections in your mind. Hal Koerner had a really great quote in his post-race interview this year. He said the course shrinks a little bit in your mind every time you run it. I found that to be very true. Here is how I like to break it up:

“High Country”- Start to Robinson Flat

“Transition Zone”- Robinson Flat to Last Chance (name stolen from KiwiPaul)

“The Canyons”- Last Chance to Michigan Bluff

“Volcano”- Michigan Bluff to Foresthill

“Cal Street\Loop”- Foresthill to the river

“The Horizontals (canyons)”- Green Gate to Hwy 49

“Cool Loop”- Hwy 49 to the finish

Robinson Flat – 11:53am, mile 30, 196th place

Matt is fun to run with cause he gets super pumped for aid stations. We cruise into RF and he lets out these huge whoops. It’s fun, but I was very nervous in the back of my mind. I felt way better at this point in 2007. I was afraid I was in for a long day. Hopefully it was just the elevation, and I would feel better once I got down to around 5000 feet. I weighed in right on the money, and glanced at the watch. I was 30 minutes faster than 07. That was great time wise, but how much did that extra effort cost me? Was it worth the 30 minutes? I ran over to my awesome crew. My sister flew out from New York just to wash my filthy feet and listen to me whine all day. Her crew buddy was my friend Shane who also helped out and paced me in 07. They had a great spread laid out in the shade around the bend. I told them I was skipping the shoe change, and this would be fast. I think I wasted 15 minutes here in 07. I grabbed my ipod, a turkey wrap, switched bottles, and was out of there in about 3 minutes. Great! Another few minutes shaved off. I hiked up little bald mountain eating my turkey wrap, and getting ready to roll over the hill down to Miller’s Defeat. This was a high point for me in 07. This time I felt half way to lousy. I saw some of my other running buddies (Ryan and Steve) hiking up with me, and we sort of checked each others’ status. None of us was feeling great.

There is a long exposed fire road heading down to Millers Defeat. I was expecting this to be very hot, and not looking forward to it. A funny thing happened. A cloud came over what seemed like just that section, and a little breeze with it. I had to chuckle a little. “Thanks God. I needed that.” I was moving pretty well until Millers, and then I saw it. The aid station was not there. There was a sign that said it was .8 miles further down the trail. This race has a history of certain aid station moving a bit, so I kind of expect a few surprises. I tried to look on the bright side. Now this was going to make the following section to the next aid shorter. Cool! I cruised though Millers and headed on down to Dusty Corners. In all my haste to get out of Robinson Flat quickly, I forgot something. I forgot to grab some toilet paper. Oops. I hope I could make it to Dusty Corners, and hopefully they had some. Meanwhile, I kept my eye out for big leaves, but I saw none. What I did start to see was people walking very runable sections. This seemed a little early for that, and it made me wonder if we were in for one of ”those years”. Would this be one of those years with lots of carnage and drops galore? We would have to see. Would I be a part of that? I couldn’t believe that it was even crossing my mind, but I wasn’t feeling so spunky. I kept running down the hill and came into Dusty Corners. I handed my bottles to a nice lady and asked for ice and water. I had only been drinking water all day, but I think I was taking enough sodium from the S-caps. As I handed over the bottles I saw something over on the side of the road. A port-o-potty! Jackpot! There aren’t too many of these things on a 100 mile trail run. I was a bit fortunate to come across one exactly when I needed it. Business finished, bottles full, and GU’s eaten. It was time to move on. They had a hose or something there where they were spraying runners down as we left. That felt so good. I was moving pretty well here but still not feeling super. I was noticing that my heart rate was coming down to normal. I still felt like I was running the same pace, but now we were down to about 5000 feet. Hey running is easier when you have more oxygen. I really like the pucker point section through here. Well pucker point itself is exposed and hot as heck, but most of the rest of that section is shaded with a gentle grade. I made good time here, but still wasn’t feeling great. I was passing people though which always feels good. In 2007 I couldn’t wait to get to the canyons. I spent many training days there, and I love running down hills. This time was different. I wasn’t worried about the heat. There are too many creeks to cool off in, and I was heat trained pretty well. I was worried about the downs. My quads were on the borderline of starting to hurt. I knew I had to be conservative, and not bomb the downs like normal.

Last Chance – 2:40pm, mile 44, 143rd place

I pulled into Last Chance at 2:40pm. I was still holding my 30 minute lead on my 2007 race. I was sure to give that back in the canyons, but it was nice to see. I weighed in on the money again, and grabbed the special grilled cheese sandwiches at the end of the table. They had buckets of ice cold water that they were drenching the runners with. Yeah that was nice. The problem was you felt dry in about 15 minutes.

It’s all downhill from Last Chance to the swinging bridge. I can do it in 30 minutes pretty easy, but I wanted to be over that today to try and save the quads. I hit the bridge in about 34 minutes, and still passed several people. I caught my buddy Paul here, and was a little surprised. I normally pass him on the downs, and he then passes me back on the climbs. I was a little surprised cause I thought he had built a big lead on me. He was running so strong earlier. I hoped he wasn’t having any problems. I found out afterwards that he eventually tore his calf muscle, and had to be carried out by mile 85.There is a really nice waterfall with a pool across the swinging bridge just before you climb Devils Thumb. I laid down in that and soaked everything. I also refilled my bottles here to have for the big climb. I saw two of my friends here that also seemed to be struggling a bit. They are very strong runners and I did not think I would see them again. It looks like it was going to be one of “those days”.

Devils Thumb – 4:00pm, mile 48, 131st place

I climbed up the Thumb pretty well, but am always glad to be done with it. I think I was up a pound here, but I drank all that water on the way up. The best things at Devils Thumb are the popsicles. Yum! I got my head soaked by the ice bucket guys. Thanks Mike! He told me I was right in the money still for the silver buckle. Time wise I knew I was, but I also knew I probably didn’t have the legs to chase it. It really does help to see so many familiar faces as you move along the course.

The trip down to El Dorado Creek is one of my favorite sections on the course. You basically run down hill for an hour, and its super fun. I had so many great days on this during my training that I was expecting to make up time here. Today I was just hoping to get down the hill without blowing out what was left of my quads. It started pretty good as I was moving well and passing 4-5 people. After about 15 minutes the going became more labored, and my legs were really hurting. This was the hottest time on the course for me. The sun was blazing from across the canyon, and radiating off the rock wall beside me. I was definitely going to be jumping in the creek at the bottom. I slowed to a walk to see if a quick rest would revive me. It only seemed to make things worse. It was very hard to get going again, and the legs felt just as dead. One of the guys I just passed came up and passed me back. I don’t mind getting passed, but never on the downs, and certainly not on my favorite hill. Another guy came by, and I was just power walking now.

This may have been the low point mentally for me. I just walked past Kaput Springs, the half-way point of the race. I now realized that my quads were gone, and I was low on energy. I was feeling like I should feel at mile 85, not 50. How was I possibly going to run another 50 miles feeling like this? I knew everyone has ups and downs in a 100 miler. You feel good, then you bounce back and feel better, and the cycle continues. The problem was that I had never heard of anyone’s blown quads ever recovering during a race. I knew the truth. The truth was that I was in for a very long slow painful march to Auburn. I never really considered quitting. How could I? I could still walk, and my weight was spot on. Time wise I was way ahead of a lot of people, and the cutoffs were way back. For me, unless I’m risking permanent injury, they will have to drag me off that course. I was a little scared though of the new levels of pain I was going to experience in the next 50 miles.

I got down to Eldorado Creek about 7 minutes slower than normal. Not too bad looking back now. I gave them my water bottles, and climbed down into the icy cold creek under the bridge. Wow this always feels so good. The water was deep and moving well enough to keep me off balance. I had to make a quick adjustment, and my left calf locked up in a cramp. Yeowch! I got my toe pulled back, and the calf released. That was the only cramp I had all day, other than an occasional side ache. I made sure to stay in the water for at least 4-5 minutes. That last section was blazing hot, and I wanted my core nice and cool. I was hoping the water would work some magic on my quads as well, but I don’t think it ever did. I climbed out refreshed, and made my way up the hill. I noticed an aid station worker had followed me down to the creek. I asked her if she was my life guard, and she said, “You never know what could happen.” The volunteers in this race are amazing.

I was relieved to know that all I had to do was an hour’s hike, and I would be done with the canyons. I could hike up pretty well, but I was still feeling a little drained. Looking back now, I was probably a little low on calories. I was certainly a little low mentally, and feeling a little sorry for myself. I need to work on that a bit. I spent a lot of energy worrying about things I couldn’t control. I was happy that I was going to see my crew and family at the top. I passed a few people towards the top, and tried to put on my aid station face. I’m not sure I succeeded. Shane had gone down the trail a bit, so I saw him as I emerged from the Manzanita chute. I gave him a quick status report, and he tried to get me to jog into Michigan Bluff. I think we did.

Michigan Bluff – 6:03pm, mile 55, 113th place

I weighed in at Michigan Bluff either right at 152, or within half a pound. I grabbed my bottles back and headed out to where my crew had the sweet setup. I plopped in the chair, and I think it’s the first time I had sat down all day. Wait, no, in the port-o-loo I took a quick sit. Still, I was really looking forward to that chair in MB. I had 3 or 4people tending to me, which was nice, but a bit confusing. They got my trail shoes and gaiters off, and then yanked off my socks. I hadn’t made any footwear changes until now, and I was really looking forward to it. The feet looked great, and I had no blisters. I re-lubed everything, put on fresh socks, and then the new Asics Cumulus road shoe. Wow, these babies felt like running on pillows. That was a nice boost, but I still knew the rest of the going would be tough. I told my crew to let my pacer know he was in for a very long night. My pacer, JR, is a really nice guy, but also a fast runner. I was hoping to be chasing sub 24hr and doing lots of running. I knew that wasn’t likely going to happen, and I wanted to warn him in some hopes that he wouldn’t pace me at all. I felt bad making a runner as good as he is walking with me all night. I also knew what kind of guy he was, and I would not be able to talk him out of it. I munched on a delicious ice cream bar, and walked out of MB with half a burger. I did not want to eat this, but I needed something substantial. I did get it down as I walked on the very fast runable road leaving Michigan Bluff.

I walked until the road comes to a big climb. Then I continued to walk, but at least I didn’t feel bad about it on the ups. I was actually able to run to downhill section going to volcano creek. I had to stop and walk the last few switchbacks because it got too steep for my quads to take. I wasn’t feeling that hot at this point, so there was no need to get anything wet in the creek. I rock hopped across and continued up to Bath Rd in decent time. The climb was pretty uneventful until it leveled out. I tried to run, but found it very painful on my legs. I still managed to shuffle ok if it was flat, but had to stop and walk on anything that went down. I got to the Bath Rd aid station in about the same time as 2007. This one was run by the Auburn Running Company crew, and my friend Pete Korn. It was a little emotional because I had hoped Dan Moores would be recovered and back here for the race. They had a nice picture of him with lots of signatures on it. As Pete was getting me some Sprite, he mentioned that my friend Julie was now going to pace me. Huh? She was supposed to be pacing one of the top 10 women. I guess her runner had dropped, but I would have to find out when I got to Foresthill. I walked up Bath Rd with a cup of Sprite and ice. Chewing on that ice was great for some reason.

Foresthill – 7:54pm, mile 62, 114th place

I came into Foresthill right on my 2007 time. If only I had my 2007 legs right now sub 24 would be a real possibility. It’s always exciting to come in here regardless of how you are feeling. I weighed in at 152, and moved over to my crew. I grabbed my lights, and downed a Starbucks double-shot. Yum! I also took 800mg of ibuprofen. I had been holding out waiting for Foresthill to take anything. It had been over8 hours since I had anything, so it was all right. You want to be careful taking lots of ibuprofen when you are really taxing your body. I knew I was going to need it during the night, but I wanted to keep track of how much I was taking. I saw JR and Julie talking, and then they let me know what was going on. Julie’s runner had dropped, and she was offering to run the section to Green Gate with me. I later found out that JR had gotten off work late, and hadn’t eaten yet, so this worked out great. I had lots of family and friends thereto cheer me on, and it was really great to see them all. I still feel bad for them because they wait around for hours, only to see me for a few minutes.
Julie and I headed out down Cal St with the crowd cheering, and the sun still up. I checked in with her and gave her my status. I feel bad because I was one whiney little wussy. This section down to the river is a lot of fun to run, and you can make up some major time here. That is, if you still have legs. I was able to shuffle along behind Julie, who had set out in front. I was hoping to take the lead, and go at a much more enjoyable pace. I think she knew that. She was going to make me work. Julie is a fantastic pacer, and an outstanding runner. She has finished the race in the top ten women several times. I was in good hands, but I was in a racer’s hands. She wasn’t going to coddle me. We moved pretty well along the course, and I wanted to hold off turning on my light until Dardanelles (Cal 1). I made it, but not by much. I was a little behind my 2007pace now, but I didn’t care. I knew the rest of the race was going to be its own adventure. I sat down on an ice chest at the aid station and had some soup, melon, sprite, and a GU. This became the norm at each station, as I Julie tried to get my energy back, and my stomach working. I was not nauseous at all, which is a great thing. My stomach did feel full though, and I was constantly thirsty. My mouth wanted to drink and drink, but my stomach wasn’t processing it fast enough. By the time we got to Cal 2 it had sorted itself out pretty well. I was amazingly running the flats and gentle downs now, and we were passing people. I can only assume this was the ibuprofen kicking in, and taking the edge off the quad pain. About 10 minutes before Cal 2, there is a steep technical downhill aptly named, “elevator shaft”. I can normally run this pretty well, even in the dark. Today was a different story. This hill about brought tears to my eyes it hurt so badly. I tried to jog, zigzag, walk, side-step, and everything I could think of. Nothing worked, and I just had to grind through it to the bottom yelping with every step.

Peachstone (Cal 2) – 10:10pm, mile 71, 105th place

There were several chairs set up at the Cal 2 aid station for weary runners. I happily sank into one as Julie buzzed around grabbing things to shove down my throat. I looked at the runner sitting next to me, and it was Scott Dunlap. He must also be struggling today because he is a much faster runner than I am. I also noticed the tell tale wet dirt between his feet that suggested a good vomit has just occurred. He noticed my Auburn Running Company jersey, and said this course should be easy for my Auburn legs. I informed him that my Auburn legs had left me in the high country. We commiserated over coming down elevator shaft. He asked about whether or not I could see, and I showed him the advantages of holding a handheld flashlight over the headlamp. The shadows off a handheld go off to the side and you see more definition on the trail. With a headlamp, the light comes right from your eyes, and you can’t see the shadows behinds rocks very well. Julie got me out of the chair and we walked out of the aid station. I was feeling good energy wise now, but knew I had limited life in my ibuprofen filled legs. There are some very fun downhill switchbacks after Cal 2, and we ran all of them. It felt good to be running again, but it was very painful. The trail spills out onto a steep fire road going up to Cal 3. I was burning though my energy fast now, and Julie kept feeding me GU’s and sport beans. Ford’s Bar (Cal 3) was not at the top of the hill, but it had moved before in years past. I knew it would probably be only a few minutes down the trail. Again Julie did a great job of getting my bottle filled, and handing me stuff to eat. I don’t even remember what it was. She gave it to me, and I’d eat it. Well, with the exception of crackers. She tried to give me those a few times. I don’t know how people eat those things. I did not sit here, as we wanted to get to the river quickly.

I don’t remember much after that. We moved well on the flats, and slight up hills. If anything was steep up, or steep down, it killed me. It felt so good to get to “Sandy bottoms.” This is a section along the river that where the trail is mostly soft sand. It’s harder to run in, but it’s so soft, you really don’t care. It also means you are getting close to Rucky Chucky. We moved through sand bottoms well, and hit the fire road. This road is the worst. It’s very hard and rocky, and there isn’t a soft or smooth place to run anywhere on it. I remember hating this section in 2007 as well. We ended up running a 4 hour “Cal Loop”, which is amazing to me for how my legs were feeling. This is the given 24hr pace as well. With decent legs you can easily run 3.5hours here saving the 30 minutes I fought so hard for in the high country.

Rucky Chucky – 12:02am, mile 78, 100th place

The river crossing at night is really a fun thing to do. There are so many volunteers down here, and you come out of the dark into this lighted up oasis. My friend Chuck and Trish run the near side aid station, and I had several other friends helping out down there as well. I don’t remember seeing anyone at this point. I just wanted to weigh in, and get across the river. I was right on with my weight again, and Julie and I headed down to the water. I had been looking forward to the icy waters cooling my legs for hours now. It really felt amazing, and I hoped it would rejuvenate me a bit. Another good sign was that my feet didn’t sting in the water. That meant I didn’t have any blister problems going on. We got to the other side, and I sat down in a chair while Julie did the soup thing for me. Then we started the 40 minute hike up to Green Gate. My spirits were pretty high here from the water, and the energy of the aid station. I was also going to see my sister, Shane, and pick up JR at Green Gate. We marched up the hill in good time, and were soon at Green Gate mile 80.

Green Gate – 12:42am, mile 80, 100th place

Julie went over to JR and handed him the pacer bib. I imagine she probably updated him on my status, what I was eating, and other vital info. I was afraid to sit down, so I remained standing as my sister handed me items. I had another Starbucks Double Shot, and she had an In-N-Out burger for me. I couldn’t bring myself to eat it. It had been 4 hours since I had any Ibuprofen, so I took another 400mg. The last batch had completely worn off, but allowed me to run much of the Cal St section. I was still a little worried about how much damage I was doing to my quads. I figured my CPK count would be off the charts at the finish. This is creatine phosphokinase, and I believe an indicator of muscle damage. This is related to Kidney problems and renal failure. This from the Western States Participant guide:

Renal Shutdown: Cases of renal shutdown (acute renal failure) have been reported in other ultra marathons and have occurred in varying degrees in the Western States Endurance Run. Renal shutdown occurs from muscle tissue injury which10 causes the release of myoglobin, a protein material, into the blood plasma. Myoglobin is cleared from the blood stream by the kidneys and will look brownish-colored in the urine. Adequate hydration will help flush myoglobin through the kidneys. Overwhelming amounts of myoglobin may clog the filtering system of the kidneys either partially or totally.”

We would just have to be sure to keep very hydrated and the urine a nice clear color. Of course, too much liquid flushes out your sodium levels and you can die of Hyponatremia. So, I would have to stay on top of my sodium intake. Oh on top of that I was taking Ibuprofen in able to move my legs. Ibuprofen is an NSAID. NSAIDs reduce the flow of blood to the kidneys and impair function of the kidneys. I had to monitor my body and intakes carefully because I had the makings of a dangerous situation. Ultras are a fun game of balance this and that to keep your body functioning.

JR and I are finally ready to leave Green Gate, and we walk over to the edge of the trail. There is a really nice downhill grade here that I flew down in my 07 race. All the standing around in the aid station must have stiffened up my legs. I took one step down the hill, and almost fell over. The pain was tremendous, and I was a little surprised. I tried another step at a different angle, and was greeted with the same shooting sting. I tried sideways steps to hit different muscles, but that was only marginally better. I stopped and asked JR, “How am I going to go 20 more miles like this?” He assured me that they would loosen up again, and to just concentrate on getting down to the flat section. We eventually made it down and stayed left. This was part of the trail that people miss every year for some reason. It turned out that the leading woman missed this turn, and went all the way to the bottom before turning around. She still won. I was very grateful that I never had to worry about finding the trail. I knew where I was the whole time, and even if I didn’t, JR knew the trail very well. That’s just one less thing to have to worry about.

The trail changed to a decent climb, and I was able to start hiking again. We weren’t going fast, but we were moving. Normally I hate this section because it seems like a slight uphill all the way to ALT aid station. That’s just what the doctor ordered for me today though. I think the ibuprofen was kicking in, and I was able to run several sections through here. It felt good to run again. Well good mentally, but not really physically. It still hurt really badly, but it seemed like I had the energy for it. My fitness seemed to be fine, but the legs were just entirely used up. This was very frustrating because all of the last 20 miles are extremely runable. Here I was making the classic Western States mistake. Run a bit too hard early, and completely wreck you race in the last 20 miles. I don’t know why I thought it would be different for me. This was the last section I would be able to do any running on.

Auburn Lake Trails (ALT) – 2:31am, mile 85, 95th place

The volunteers called in my bib number a few yards out from the aid station. Then they asked what I was doing. I had to walk sideways down the hill that led to ALT. I’m sure it looked ridiculous. I weighed in ½ lb down here I believe. Still, that’s great at this point. This was my lowest placing in the race. I got down to 95th place. After this everyone would start passing me as I hobbled in. I got my soup, melon, GU2o mix, and looked for something else that appealed. Nothing ever does at this point. You aren’t looking for something to eat that looks good. You are looking for something that you are pretty sure you can keep down. Oooooo, M&M’s. I grabbed a handful of those and walked out. There is another downhill here that took far too long to get down. I really felt for JR. This pace must be driving him crazy. Every time I said anything of the sort, he shot it down, and said not to worry about anything but getting to the next aid station. I had great pacers.

We were reduced to walking everything now. I tried several times to get the legs to shuffle, but it just was too painful. I could still walk at a decent pace, so that’s what we did. Somewhere before Browns Bar I heard voices behind us. There were some runners who likely wanted to pass. We offered, but they seemed content to walk with us for a bit. It turns out it was my friends Chris and Steve. Chris was one of my pacers in 2007, so it was nice to share some trail time with him. He had gone through some battles earlier, but was rebounding nicely. Steve was still having some stomach trouble, but was powering through it between “reversals”. This was Steve’s first Western States, but his 7th or 8th 100 miler. I knew it would take something major to keep him from the finish line.

Browns Bar – 4:11am, mile 90, 97th place

JR and I did the regular aid station drill, and were keen to keep moving. Chris and Steve took off down the trail as it was a nice downhill section. For me it was pure torture. I knew I had this big downhill, and an ever longer one going down to No Hands later on. I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to get down either of them. I should be able to run this section in about 15 minutes or less. I checked my watch when we hit the flat quarry road, and I had just gone through 35 minutes of torture. The sun was also starting to come up again. This can be a rejuvenating thing for lots of runners, and it was in my case as well. It’s weird to think of seeing your second sunrise in a race, but that’s how long we had been going. On the slightly negative side, it confirmed that I missed the 24hr cutoff. What was worse was that I was going to have to be out on the course as it got hot again. Somewhere before Browns Bar we tried some more Ibuprofen. It never seemed to make any difference, so we quit taking it. I think I ended up taking 1600mg in 16 hours. Not too bad, but I wouldn’t want to go much higher.

Moving along the quarry rd towards Hwy 49, nature called again. I spare the details, but squatting in the woods when you can’t squat makes for an interesting predicament. I barely managed, and we were on our way. I was really looking forward to the uphill hike to Hwy 49. I’ve never been such an uphill lover in all my running days. Somewhere in here my buddy Tom passed me looking quite strong. He went on to finish and win the 60 and over age group. Go Tom!

Hwy 49 – 5:43am, mile 94, 104th place

I had told my crew not to worry about being at 49. I wasn’t going to need much, and they could use the sleep. My sister surprised me when she said that was one of her favorite aid stations. I thought that was strange, but I heard it from another crew member as well. So, what do I know? Don’t tell your crew to skip 49, they might have fun there. I know one thing though. They have bacon. Oh man that piece of bacon tasted so good. I was up 4pounds here from all the hydrating and no sweating. I wasn’t sweating because I wasn’t running anymore. I told them that was the case and that I felt fine. They let me go without incident. It was nice to get rid of my lights, and have one less thing to carry. All I had to do now was get down the 800ft or so decent to No Hands Bridge. This was really going to hurt.

There are some steep parts of this downhill that were completely miserable. I got through those, and found the majority of the trail to be a tolerable grade. I was still just walking for sure, and it really hurt, but more doable than I thought it would be. I also had to stop and pee about 5 times. It was nice and clear, and my kidneys were working like champs. I had dropped 2 pounds when I reached No Hands Bridge, and was now just 2 over my starting weight. Weight was good, but the legs were toast. I could see it people’s faces when they looked at me hobbling along. No matter. I was about mile97, and I was going to finish this thing! My sister had told me there was a huge group waiting for meat the track. I had lots of family, cousins, and friends that had come out to see me. I choked up just thinking of all the support just for me. Then I felt bad for making them wait so long.

The climb up to Robie Point went well. It was getting harder to even do the flats and up hills now. I knew I was within crawling distance now so it didn’t matter. JR did marvel a bit at my stomach though. I was still able to down a GU energy gel going up to Robie Point. I was a little surprised myself, and could only remember one time all day that I gagged on a GU. That’s a big help to be able to always go to those for quick calories.

We came up through Robie Point, thanked the volunteers, and didn’t take anything. These folks work hard to be out here for us, but not many runners stop here. You have about a mile and a half to the finish, and you just want to be done. Right then I saw my family. My Dad, cousins, brother-in-law, and sister were waiting up the hill a bit. I started to choke up again. Man I’m a wussy. We ran in strong from here in 07, but today not a step was run. I did get an emotional boost, but it only entered my upper body. The legs got nothing.

The Finish – 8:26am, mile 100.2, 122nd place

We all walked across the white bridge and I limped down the street. Tim Twietmeyer was running out two cheer on the runners still on the course. That’s a really cool thing for him to do by the way. He shouted some encouragement and something else about lots of drops. I knew I was going to finish on one of “Those Days”, and it felt good. As I entered the stadium, my boys pulled in beside me, and we circled the track. I really wanted to run on the track, but I was broken. I would have to walk. I thought about doing the pretend running where you swing your arms faster, but decided against it. I kept looking back to make sure no one was coming. I really didn’t want to get passed on the track. I was safe, and no one else was coming. My boys and crossed the finish line at 27:26. I was done.

The day did not go as planned, but these things rarely do. I gambled early, and paid for it later. I don’t know for sure if taking it easy early on would have saved my quads. I think that it would have. I don’t have any regrets though. I’m glad I took the chance. Had I not done that, I may not have found out how deep I could go. Finishing this race was by far the toughest running related thing I have ever done. Thanks to everyone that had a hand in helping me along the way.

I got my second buckle, and only had to walk with crutches for one day.

Friday, July 3, 2009

My First Post

Hello everyone, or no one. I have no idea how this will turn out, but hey let'sgive it a shot.