Sunday, November 06, 2005

Helen Klein 50 (Nov 5, 2005)

Date : Nov 5, 2005
Location : Roseville, CA
Race : Helen Klein 50M Endurance Run
Finish Time : 10:12

So they came all to distant Roseville
One for the 50K, the rest for eighty.
Eager to tackle every turn, every hill.
Distances so long as to be weighty.
Anu suffered debilitating diarrhea,
To go with her intense foot pain
Cutoffs Padma made. How? No idea.
Her spirit and body never did wane.
Anil, the true friend, doubled back,
As did Kiran in a show of amour.
For kindliness they did not lack.
Pradeep and Ganesh - can I say more
Than to say that they are exceptional athletes,
Attempting and achieving unbelievable feats?

Firstly - congratulations to the heroes of the day: Anu, Anil, Kiran, Padma, Pradeep and Ganesh. A huge thanks to Rashmi, Selvi, Kavya, Rambabu and Uday. They were the best cheering section ever.

Friday, Nov 4
I woke up at 5 am in order to pick up Anu and Pallavi from their respective homes to drive to Stanford, Palo Alto for the Dalai Lama talk. That talk ended at 11:30 am. By the time we parked in downtown Palo Alto for food (in Jing Jing), it was 12:15 pm. Dropped off Pallavi to the office, picked up my bags andshoes from home and hit the road at 2 pm. We made good time on 680N until about 4 miles from the toll plaza in Benicia. The traffic thinned appreciably all the way to Sacramento and Roseville after that. Reached the motel we were staying in around 6 pm.

We checked in to our rooms and decided not to got for the carbo dinner with Anil, Padma and Kiran.

We picked up a few things (milk, peanut butter etc.) from a Trader Joe's across the road and some pasta from an Italian diner next to it. Helped Anu with her shoelaces (Easylaces) and showed her how to use the timer on the Timex she was going to use in the race. Went to bed by 9:00 pm.

Saturday, Nov 5
Woke up at 4:45 am. Woke up Anu too. Showered and then headed over to Anu's room for coffee and a bagel with peanut butter. We hit the road at 6:10 am to drive 6 miles to Cavitt Middle School, the start and the end for the race. Walked in just as the race director started giving instructions to the runners. He used to be the race director of the Western States 100 mile Endurance Run. His wife, Helen Klein, for whom the race is named, has run 73 marathons and 143 ultras, with 28 100+ mile races.

Anu, Padma, Kiran, Anil and I were doing our stuff when we realized that the rest of the people were headed off to the levee, about 0.6 miles from the school gym. We hurried after them. That's where Ganesh and Pradeep caught up with us. Anu was amazed that they were running the 50-miler. There is only one word that truly describes what Pradeep and Ganesh have - chutzpah.

The race had already started and we had not even reached the start point on top of the levee. We were thus 6-7 minutes late.

The first 2 miles or so were on the levee. The surface soon changed to asphalt with a shoulder on both sides. This was more or less true for almost the entire 25 miles to the turnaround point. We were forced to run on asphalt in places where the shoulder was narrow or non-existent. A picture of Anu arriving at the first water stop of the day. Selvi talking to Padma (hidden behind Anu) in the background.

My new Garmin Forerunner 301 worked like a charm. I had programmed it for an 8-minute run and a 2-minute walk. I maintained this rhythm for about 30 miles. The turnaround point was at mile 25.5. This was the first cutoff i.e. 5 hours and 30 minutes. You would be pulled from the race if you failed to meet the time. My run to this point was almost uneventful. I ran with a person I had met in the Marin Headlands 50K in August for about 4 miles between 15 and 20. The phone rang a bunch of times asking me for updates. The sweetest part of this first part were the faces of Kavya, Rashmi and Selvi. I met them at the first water stop (2.3 miles) and then the 10 mile water stop and the 15.5 mile one. Their cheerful demeanor and constant encouragement were fantastic.

I made the cutoff in 4:50. I turned around and was pleasantly surprised to find Anil approaching the turnaround point, about 0.75 miles behind me. he was followed by Kiran (100 yds behind) and then Pradeep and Ganesh, a further 100 yds behind Kiran. Pradeep and Ganesh were very happy when I gave them a gel from my fanny pack.

I soon changed my 8+2 to a 7+3. This continued until mile 37 or so. These miles were moderately hard. Not mentally but physically. Right after the second cutoff, at mile 36.8, I changed to a 6+4 (6 min run, 4 min walk). This proved to be the best thing I could have done. The 4 min walk helped my legs flush the lactates and they felt great everytime I started running. At the 34.5 mile water stop, I met Rashmi, Selvi and Kavya. The young one was running a temperature that day but was out there cheering the runners. I took a gel from her. That one helped me a lot :)

40-50 were my strongest miles. Around mile 42 the phone rang. It was Rambabu. He was at the finish and had called me to find out how I was doing. My first question was whether Anu had finished. I was hoping that her neuroma and asthma had not caused major problems. He said that she had finished in 8:06 and had gone for a shower. Why she was showering I only found out later. I pushed the final 2 miles to finish in 10:12:19.

Anu later told me that using the wrong gel had caused diarrhea, to the extent that she was bleeding badly from the rectal area. In addition to the diarrhea, the gels caused her to vomit 3 times. Her neuroma and asthma did not bother her as much as pain on top of her foot from the newish shoes. What a trooper. Hats off to her.

A picture of Anu at (I believe) the 15 mile aid station.

I found out soon that Anil and Kiran had turned back at mile 24 to run BACK with Padma to help her make the first cutoff. What love from Kiran. What friendship from Anil. You two rock. Kiran and Padma eventually finished together in 12:25. Anil, in the meantime, forged ahead and I guess he was running with Pradeep and Ganesh. With about 6 miles to go, they decided that they had 67 minutes to make it to under 11:00 hrs. Pradeep and Ganesh took off at 10:00 min/mile pace. Unknown to them, the race ended IN the gymnasium, NOT on the levee where we had started in the morning. In the dark, they missed seeing the sign directing runner to the left. They must have run an extra 20-25 minutes (2 miles or so) until they realized that they were lost and turned back to eventually find the finish. Their eventual time was 11:20. Anil finished a little earlier in 11:11.

We partied after that - beer and Chinese food.

Anu - you are crazy. that's all. Blood down the back of your legs, pain in your foot and down one leg and yet you manage to finish an ultra. We should learn pain management from you.

Ganesh - you ROCK!! You are an amazing athlete. To go from 13 mile race to 50-miles is phenomenal.

Pradeep - 2 marathons in 3 weeks (Maui & Chicago, both under 4:00) AND a 50-miler with pain in your foot. Dude - you are simply unbelievable.

Anil - you are The ROCK. That's been my name for you since you and I ran my first ultra in Quicksilver. You and Kiran ran 52 miles on Saturday.

Kiran - you are such a loving soul. You paced Padma step for step to help her achieve her dream.

Padma - You ran at 10 minutes a mile pace from mile 23-25.5 in order to make the cutoff. Whew! That would have been the end of most people not used to running faster than their usual pace. In spite of that, you were strong in the last 10 miles. Hats off to you.

Thank you all for a wonderful day.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Marin Headlands 50K

Date : August 27, 2005
Location : Marin Headlands, Marin County, CA
Race : Marin Headlands 50K
Finish Time : 7:40


I woke up at 3:50 am. Made tea and ate 4 slices of sourdough bread with peanut butter and jelly. Popped a couple of Immodiums and left at 4:55 am to pick up Anil Rao from his place. We hit the road at 5:15 am and were in the Rodeo Beach parking lot by 6:10 am. It was chilly and foggy. It was a good thing I had decided to take my orange running jacket with me. I wore it almost until mile 20. I was also wearing a long-sleeved running shirt. I was carrying my Fuelbelt with a couple of bottles of Accelerade along with the bottle in my hand. I also decided to carry 8 Accel Gels in addition to salted almonds. Anil was carrying Cytomax powder along with Mojo (you folks should try these bars – just plain awesome!) bars.

Both of us were wearing gaiters.

( Gaiters prevent dirt and gravel from getting into one’s shoes.

The gun went off promptly around 7 am. The first 0.25 miles were on the beach, gravelly in places. We finally climbed 30 feet or so to run by the lagoon. Crossed the road we had driven on to get to the start and started up the Miwok Trail (the inspiration for the annual local ultra classic, the Miwok 100K). The trail went up the hillside to our left and we could see a line of runners disappearing around a corner over a hundred feet up the mountain. This was the Wolf trail. Anil and I walked as soon as the trail started climbing (just past the signs in the picture). That’s where we met the race director of my first ultra (the Quicksilver 50K), Tom O’Grady. We chatted for a bit and then Anil and I dropped back to a slower pace. This hill kept climbing for a bit more.

We then descended down the Old Springs trail to the Tennessee Valley aid station (4.0 miles). We were really good with our aid stations during the entire race – never more than 5 minutes anywhere.

I refilled my bottle with Gu2O. We started climbing Miwok again. This was one brutal climb, pretty steep at the top. That’s when my right Achilles tightened up a bit, giving me a bit of a scare. I could feel it and it was just over 5 miles into the race! I tried to stretch it a bit. In the meantime, me left hip flexor was acting up, causing tightness on the inside of my left knee. Luckily we had started to descend by now and it took some pressure off the Achilles.

Passed through a couple more aid stations (at mile 7.23 and mile 9.7) before reaching the Pantoll aid station at mile 12.3. We had to climb the Dipsea trail (famous for the Dipsea and double Dipsea Marin County yearly races, the highlight of the Marin Masochists’ J year) to get there. We reached this point 2:35 into the race. We were in for a shock. Bib number 1 came haring down the hill we were slotted to climb next, stopped for 10 seconds at the aid station, picked up something to eat and took off down the hill to our left. This was the mile 20 aid station for him. He eventually won the race in, hold your breath, 3:49 (7:23 pace), a new course record!! Holy Mother of God!!!! Anil and I were awestruck.

Left the aid station to climb a quarter mile to meet up with the Matt Davis trail. We were at 1550’. Started running down the trail and it was the most brutal trail I have run on.

What seemed like a million switchbacks and irritating steps every 20-30 feet, right where the switchbacks curved back on themselves. A picture of what the steps looked like is below.

This trail descended like this for the next 4.5 miles or so, down 1550’, to the Stinson Beach aid station. Man! Did my hip flexor and quads bother me down this brutal descent!! Just sucked it up and followed Anil all the way down. Ate potatoes with salt and a few orange slices. Topped up my running bottle once again and began the long climb back up to the top again, this time on a parallel trail called the Steep Ravine trail. Adding insult to injury, this trail had 7 trees in the path we had the duck under. Anil and I had hooked up with an Ironman lady named Chris and a guy doing his first ultra. We walked the 2.7 miles up the trail, from sea level all the way back up to 1550’. On the way we had to climb the famous ladder.

We finally reached the same aid station (mile 20 this time around) where we had seen the winner many hours earlier. We then descended along tortuous switchbacks for the next 4+ miles back down to sea level J

Finally made it to the 25 mile aid station (Muir Beach aid station). Spent about 5 minutes here, filling up one fuel belt bottle with Coke and eating potatoes and cookies. Refilled my bottle with a mixture of Lemon-Lime Gatorade and the Gu2O mentioned before. Just 6 miles left but the worst 3 climbs in the race between us and the finish. Started climbing right away, up the Coastal Trail. The views from here on out were absolutely breathtaking. A view of Muir Beach looking back down the trail behind us is below.

The Pacific Ocean on out right with boats all over. The first climb was steep and long. We started descending soon down to Pirates Cove. On the way down, we could see the Coastal trail climbing up the next mountain. That was another steep one. We then descended all the way down to what had been, many hours and a million hours ago, the first aid station in Tennessee Valley. Stocked up again on the Gu2O and started the toughest climb of the race. This climb WAS steep after the first 0.5 miles. So steep that Anil and I slid back a couple of times because of unsure footing. We finally made it to the top and ran along the ridge for another 0.5 miles before beginning the REALLY steep descent down to the finish. The view from here was worth all the pain of the hours before. A 1000' feet with a bird's eyeview of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay, Mt. Tamalpais and the surrounding countryside. WOW!

Had to control our descent using every possible means at our disposal because 0.1 miles were spent on constantly shifting rocks and shale under our feet.

Finally made it round the final corner and ran arm in arm towards the Finish.

A word about Anil: He is the strongest runner I have ever run with. He is a rock, both mentally and physically. I swear that I think of him as the Energizer bunny – wind him up and he goes on forever. Thank you for helping me through the middle miles when my blood sugar had fallen and it took 20 minutes or so for it to come back up. I’ll run with you any day, any place. You ROCK!!

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Quicksilver 50K (May 7, 2005)

Date : May 7, 2005
Location : Almaden Quicksilver Park, San Jose
Race : Quicksilver 50K
Finish Time : 7:05

I woke up at 3:45 am. Finished my morning activities and headed downstairs (I slept the night in Anu's place) to make tea and eat my bagel. At about 4:10 am, woke up Anu. She showed up downstairs at about 4:30 am for her cup of tea and half a bagel.

Started driving at about 5:10 am. I made it to the start at about 5:25 a.m and found Anil almost right away. As usual, I was busy socializing. Met my Oracle buddies - Yuki Negoro (5:16 for the same 50K last year, 9:54 for a 50-miler a month ago and 10:07 Saturday in his second 50-miler), Chihping Fu (5:30 in the 50K last year and 9:44 in the 50-miler Sat) and Amrita Zerbe (6:20 in a 50K on Mar 20, 9:54 in her first 50-miler Sat). Also introduced myself to Kashyap's cousins (ultramarathoners) - madhu and Kishore Avasarala. Madhu ran 5:38 in the 50K while Kishore did 6:45.

The run started promptly at 6:00 am. I had decided to start at the back of the pack. The start was downhill. Caught up with Anil 0.25 miles into the run and we wound up running the next 31 miles together :) What an amazing person he is. Strong as a horse. Never complaining. Helpful. Enjoying himeself on the course. Not worried a whit about time. That's the way to run my friend. Without a care in the world.

About half a mile into the run, we came up on our first hill. The entire group of people started walking. The hill must have been 0.4 miles long and we all trooped up solemnly. My body was slowly starting to warm up. My right was a bit tight, causing tightness in my right ITB. This tightness eventually disappeared after the mile 9 water stop. The first thing I noticed was the frequency with which I had gravel and dirt get into my shoes. Need to get these gaiters that a lot of people were wearing, including Anil. These prevent stuff from getting into your shoes.

Ate a lot of boiled potatoes and salt at the 9 mile stop. The next 9 miles were good. We had decided to walk EVERY hill (big or small) and that's precisely what we ended up doing. That strategy paid off handsomely at the end. My legs were feeling great between 27 and 31. Anil kept up this great walk-run pace and it was easy, mentally and physically to run by his side. Thank you Anil. Owe you one.

Around mile 21 or so, I suddenly started to have breathing problems. Allergies? Anyway, 21-25 was a climb and we walked all of it. At the top, I took one of my Accel gels (4:1 ratio of carbs to protein). This picked up my blood sugar and it lasted all the way to the finish. Miles 25-28 or so were downhill. We met Pradeep and Arun around mile 28. They were a sight for sore eyes. It was fun after that. The few hills left on Hacienda we conquered and the last part was a downhill that was done at breakneck speed.

It was the most wonderful feeling in the world to see the finish and all of you cheering. Thank you for showing up. That was the icing on the cake.

A few things about my running mate - Anil has impressed me no end. He is such a strong runner - both physically and mentally. I am so impressed with his ability to eat up distance and not even break sweat while doing so. He is planning to run his firts 50-mile run in November and I know that he will do well there too.

Thank you Anil.