Tuesday, May 30, 2006

New Zealand trip

Friday, May 26
Memorial Day weekend started with a bang. I drove to near Auburn for whitewater rafting with friends. Reached the camping site around 8 pm and set up my tent in no time at all. We ate dinner with a whole lot of other folks who had also come over for rafting the next day. We stayed up way past 11 pm, making a ruckus, and one of the camp volunteers had to come over and ask us to keep it down. It rained a bit at night and got a bit chilly but I was OK. I had a couple of wool blankets to keep me warm and the cold did not bother me much.

Saturday, May 27
The morning was beautiful. The sun came out slowly and started warming up the camp site. We ate a hearty breakfast (Anju's delicious upma helped start the day off on the right foot). Soon afterwards, the rest of the gang was all suited up (wet suit, splash jacket, helmet) and ready to leave for their rafting trip. I had elected to stay behind and take care of Malhar and Trisha. I had the best possible time with the two of them.

We first visited a blacksmith's forge where he showed us how to make a hook. He then took us on a tour of his shop, showing us all the intricate metal stuff he and his partner had made.

As soon as we came out of the forge, the children noticed a cafe next door and made a beeline for it. We were soon happily munching on popcorn, snicker doodle candies and sandwiches.

Our next stop was panning for gold. The children were soon engrossed in this amazingly exciting activity. The prospect of finding flecks of gold, which they both did, made for an exciting hour.

We made a pit stop on the way back in a curio store where they both bought a couple of things each.

Trisha jumped into the cold pool as soon as we got back and spent the next hour happily in there. Malhar braved it for exactly 2 minutes and then got out promptly. The adults were back soon after and I decided to go for a run around 4 pm. Char and I ended up running for about 58 minutes on a moderately rolling course. Came back, showered and settled down by the campfire with a glass of alcohol. We ate dinner and gossiped until about midnight.

Sunday, May 28 (& Monday, May 29)
I left for San Jose around 10 am. Reached home finally at around 1 pm. Hurriedly finished up some last minute packing and showered. Lugged my suitcases downstairs where Shekhar showed up promptly at 2:45 pm to drive me to the San Jose airport. The airport was absolutely empty. Checked in my only suitcase and was the only person through security. Others eventually showed up a few minutes later. The flight took off on time around 4:45 pm

Landed in LA around 6:00 pm. Decided to eat an early dinner. Found myself in Wolfgang Puck's where I had Corona and a margherita pizza. Spent the next couple of hours reading my Ultra running book in the gate area. Flight Air New Zealand 1 started boarding around 9 pm. It took off about 15 minutes late. I promptly went to sleep at about 11 pm. Sleep was sporadic and the 12+ hours passed by faster than I had expected.

Tuesday, May 30
I landed in Auckland at 5:45 am. I was out of Immigration and Customs and into a shuttle in 30 minutes flat. The Immigration officer, a woman, asked me the strangest question ever - "How come you do not have a US passport?".

The cab wound its way through the industrial outskirts of Auckland in order to drop off a couple who were sharing the shuttle with me. I eventually reached my hotel, Heritage Auckland (picture below), and my room (# 518) around 7:10 am.

I quickly got into my running clothes and headed out the front door, armed with my camera and a map of downtown Auckland.

The one structure that dominates the skyline, a la CN Tower in Toronto, is the Sky Tower. There is a restaurant up there and a casino (Sky Casino).

The run was awesome. The last 0.7 miles before I turned around were hilly and they helped open out my legs. I returned to the hotel and found the gym. The view from there of Waitemata Bay was awesome (pic above).

Auckland is where New Zealand lost the America's Cup to Alinghi and Switzerland. The city is a sailing mecca and its people are almost maniacal about that sport. No wonder thay call it The City Of Sails. It is New Zealand's 3rd biggest city.

I came back, showered and made my way to my office in the next building. I was given directions to the client's office and I got there with the help of a Fijian cab driver.

The day was spent debugging a problem they were having. The day ended without a resoultion. I got back to the hotel and went back out after depositing my laptop in my room. I wandered in the direction of the water only to learn that most retail stores in downtown Auckland close around 6 pm Mon-Thu and stay open until 9 pm Fri-Sat. I eventually settled on an Italian restaurant for dinner (bruschetta and fettucine pasta with vegetables).

I was so tired that I crashed at 9 pm.

Wednesday, May 31
The day started with the same run that I had done the day before. I ate breakfast on my return and promptly reached the office at 8:15 am Spoke with my manager and then left with Aneez, a fellow employee, to go to the client site. The day was spent debugging the problem of the day before. We finally cracked it around 5 pm.

Dinner was again in the same restaurant. What can I say? I'm a creature of habit! I picked up some bread and milk on the way back to the hotel. The room has a microwave, an oven, a toaster, glasses, plates, silverware and a big fridge. I've decided to eat my own breakfast instead of ordering it from Room Service. The one thing that disturbed me was the onset of a sore throat. That always means fever.

Thursday, June 1
The night went by in some discomfort. My throat got progressively worse. I finally got out of bed at 5:45 am and went to the hotel gym. Biked hard on a stationary bike for 40 minutes and then did some weights and crunches. My throat and general condition got a bit worse so I left the office at 4:20 pm to get back to the hotel. Went to Queen's Street to pick up some medicine (Dispirin Max) and did some shopping in the stores along that busy street. Ate pasta again but in a different restaurant this time around. Went to bed again at 10 pm.

Friday, June 2
What a beginning. I woke up early again and was preparing breakfast when the hotel alarm went off. I callled the Front Desk and they informed me that I needed to exit as soon as possible. So I got my passport out of the room safe, splashed cologne all over me and headed for the exit. Wonder if my priorities are right! Anyway the alarm was turned off in about 10 minutes so I promptly went back, finished my breakfast and got into my office by 8 am.

I went for lunch to this little Asian food court where I ate Indian food after almost 4 days. It tasted so good!!

Have just come back to the hotel. My cold is still harassing me (runny nose) but am planning to go for a short 3-4 mile run to clear my head. Rain is forecast for the next 3 days (Monday is a national holiday here) and I will have to plan my weekend carefully. I had this idea of flying to Fiji for 2 days. I might still do that :)

Oh! Almost forgot. Asked for a room with a harbor view and they are giving me one tomorrow! Same price (NZD 190/night). Me happy camper.

Just got back from my run. It felt good. I had charged my Garmin Forerunner 301 last night and used it on the run. It took almost 20 minutes before the silly thing picked up a satellite signal. I'm planning to use it on my long run this weekend.

I'll eat light tonight. My plan is to go watch "Mission Impossible III" tonight. Have not watched a movie in a theatre in almost 6 months (the last one was in Mumbai in January - the premiere of Zinda).

No movie tonight. Showered and went to Queen's Street again. Finally found myself in a bookstore chain called Whitcoull's. Bought a book by Ian Botham. Ate dinner in the restaurant I ate in on Thursday night. Same food. My nose is running so much that I'm sneezing 2-3 times every 15-20 minutes. Tonight is going to be tough.

Saturday, June 3
The night was not as bad as I had expected it to be. I woke up around 8 am and ate breakfast. I then packed my bags and had the bellboy take them to the Tower where I had been promised a room with a Harbor view. The only problem was that the room was not ready at 10 am so I deposited the bags with the concierge and went out exploring. I got on to a Link bus (NZ $1.50) and got off in a place called Ponsonby about a mile and a half from the hotel. I had an espresso and explored a used bookstore. Some of the buildings in this area of town were a hundred years old.

I then got on to another Link bus (this is a circular service) and went further down the route. I saw a couple of places go by (Sathya, a South Indian restaurant, and Rasoi). On an impulse I got off and wandered into a store called Shringar. I spent 20 minutes or so here after which I found myself in Rasoi. This was a restaurant serving Gujarati food. One guess what the last name of the lady behind the counter was!!! I ordered a Deluxe Thali (3 Rotis, Kadhi, Tur Daal, Dudhi Chana or, as the Punjabis call it, Ghia Chhole and a Cauliflower sabzi). I ate like a pig.

Soon after I found myself in a little side alley with a few shops. I bought a few things from this little store that had interesting earrings etc. I even convinced the girl (shy Irene from Hong Kong) to let me take a picture of her.

I then got on another Link bus again and made my way back to the hotel where I checked into the new room and took a few pictures. I was feeling a bit under the weather so I spent a couple of hours resting. Of course I took a picture of the Harbor before doing so.

I left the hotel again at around 2:30 pm and made my way, using a Link bus again, to a place called Newmarket. This was a street lines with all kinds of shops. I spent the next 2 hours there. Being a Saturday, most of the shops started closing after 4:30 p.m.

I decided to call it a day since I wanted to eat dinner and try and make it for the 6:15 pm show of "Mission Imossible III" near my hotel. Deposited my stuff in the hotel room before heading out for dinner. Before doing so I took a picture of the Harbor with the setting sun behind.

I ate gnocchi with vegetables in a new restaurant this time around. Unfortunately the 6:15 pm show was sold out so I trooped back to the hotel and spent the evening surfing the few TV channels.

Soon after I found a film starring Tom Hanks in which he is the person in charge of Death Row inmates and their eventual execution on an electric chair. I figured out that this was the one movie, "Green Mile", I had been meaning to watch for a long time so I settled down and watched it all the way to the end (11:45 pm).

Before hitting the sack, I watched Daniela Hantuchova beat Nathalie Bechy 10-8 in the 3rd set in the French Open.

Sunday, June 4
I woke up at 8 am to find the streets outside wet with rain and the city blanketed by a pall of gray clouds. I've eaten breakfast and am waiting for a few hours before heading out for a run.

What a run it was. I circled downtown Auckland, a distance of about 10 miles. During the run I experienced drizzle, sunshine, pouring rain and cloudy skies. I started around noon and finished up around 2:15 pm. I came back and eschewed lunch for a half bottle of chocolate milk (protein + carbohydrate - just the thing I need post workout).

I sat and watched a movie called "Alfie" starring Jude Law, Marisa Tomei and Susan Sarandon. Jude Law's face reminds me of Amir Khan.

After the movie, Sky Sports One was showing the Paris Marathon so finished watching that. By then it was close to 4:30 pm so I decided to shower and head out for "Mission Impossible III".

The theatre was quite. empty. I thoroughly enjoyed the non stop action and violence and Tom Cruise's extremely almost expressionless face. I've just come back after eating in an Indian restaurant called Raviz that's very close to the hotel. Good North Indian food.

Will watch TV for an hour or so before hitting the sack.

Monday, June 5
The day turned out to be a beautiful one. The sun was out and the temperature was in the low 40s. A gorgeous late Fall day in Auckland. I showered in a hurry and left the hotel with my camera in hand. The first stop was the imposing Sky Tower. I bought a combo ticket for the Observation Deck (194m, 636 feet) and the deck 9 floors higher (220m, 722 feet). The Sky Tower, at 328m or 1076 feet, is the tallest structure in the Southern Hemisphere. The views from up there were simply fantastic. I had the pleasure of watching 2 young girls, aged not more than 12, bungee jump from about 700 feet.

After 40 minutes or so up there, I hopped onto a Link bus and got off to go eat lunch in Sathya's. To my disappointment, the restaurant was closed as was the neighboring Rasoi (where I had eaten on Saturday).

I wandered back in the direction of Ponsonby and took some pictures along the way.

I soon found myself eating lunch in a restaurant called Bolliwood. I opted for a table on the sidewalk and enjoyed the meal while watching holidaygoers walking past. There were even 2 teams playing some kind of a Treasure Hunt game.

I hopped onto another Link bus (I had purchased a Day Tripper pass for $7, good for unlimited rides) and hopped off in Newmarket. By now it was almost 4 pm and shops were starting to close. I walked into L'Occitane en Provence. The salesperson was a lady from Quito (Ecuador) and she was extremely knowledgeable about her products. I bought a cologne for myself and walked out happy about the purchase.

My next stop was a place called Auckland Domain. This was a large, large field with a few people playing rugby out in the distance. I took a few pictures before heading back to the hotel.

I decided to go for a swim in the lap pool. The pool was about 15m long and I swam 20 lengths (300m) before sitting in the steam room for 10 minutes and then into the jacuzzi. This is where I met a New Zealander/Australian (he has both passports) and we talked for almost 40 minutes about everything under the sun. Finally it was time to get up and go eat dinner. I went back to La Porchetta (behind my hotel), the restaurant where I had eaten dinner Saturday night.

I was soon back in my room and about to go to bed at around 9:45 pm when I stumbled upon coverage of the 4th day of the England-Sri Lanka test. I watched for another 30 minutes before finally falling asleep at 10:15 pm.

Tuesday, June 6
I woke up at 6 am and decided to sleep another hour.

This week promises to be a bit busier and am hoping I can get some good work done before heading back on Friday. I signed up yesterday for the Mt. Diablo 50K on Saturday. This brute of a course has 8900 feet of climbing (2 trips up the mountain which is 3849 feet high). It's going to be an interesting Saturday!

The day went by quickly. Got some work done. Aneez and I left the client site around 4:30 pm and he dropped me back to my hotel as usual.

I went down to Queen's Street again and this time around I bought myself a pair of semi-formal shoes. Came back to the hotel room and changed into my running clothes and went down to the Health Club and ran 4 miles on the treadmill. I did some weights after that, came up and ate dinner. I used the washing machine in the bathroom to wash a few clothes and am now preparing to go to bed as soon as I finish typing this.

Wednesday, June 7
The day was no different from earlier work days. Was at client site until 5:15 pm. Came back to the hotel and decided to go for a run. Boy was this one great run! Went up College Hill (very steep 0.3-0.4 miles), down Ponsonby Road, left on Krangahape Road and then a left down Queen Street. This section was as steep downhill as was College Hill going up. Some sections were even steeper!

I stretched in the hotel room and showered so that I could head back down to K'Road to Sathya's. The food was OK. I ate Rava idlis and a Rava Cashew Masala dosa with a glass of red wine. Went to bed at 10 pm.

Thursday, June 8
Penultimate day at client site. The most productive day yet. Made great progress on on of our programs that was running slow. Tuned it and sent off the proof to the DBA along with a Request For Change to some Oracle parameters in the database. Earlier in the day I found out that I will be heading to the south of France (Aix-en-Provence) in early July. THAT promises to be a fantastic trip!

Came back at 5 pm and went to Rasoi for Gujju food. Returned to the hotel at about 7:15 pm and finished packing by 7:45 pm. I will go to bed after this post.

Friday, June 9
Woke up early and checked out and was in the office by 8:15 am. Roger and I were soon at client site, working on last minute stuff before I left. We ate lunch in an Asian food court close to the office. I finally called for a cab at around 3:30 pm. The cab driver, a Korean, estimated that I would be at the airport in about 50 minutes. He was right! I got out of the cab at 4:20 pm!!

After checking in my big suitcase, I was soon through NZ Immigration and into the duty free shops right after. I bought chocolates for friends and colleagues and a cologne for myself.

The flight back to LA was uneventful. I managed to get some sleep. I landed in LA at around 1:00 pm. Lunch was a muffin and coffee. My flight to San Jose took off a bit late, at around 4:45 pm. I landed at around 5:45 pm. Anu was waiting just outside and she sweetly dropped me off at home. She had got me dinner (rice and rasam) which I gladly ate and I was sound asleep, after laying out my clothes for the Mt. Diablo 50K the next morning, at 10:00 pm.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Quicksilver 50K (May 13, 2006)

Date : May 13, 2006
Location : Almaden Quicksilver Park, San Jose
Race : Quicksilver 50K/50M
Finish Time : 7:29:33 (50K)

And so they came to the start that morning,
Some for 50K, some for 50 miles.
A hot day it was; they were uncaring,
For there stood Tom and Janice, all big smiles.
A yearly pilgrimage for all that day.
Up steep hills and down even steeper ones,
As directed by race crew on the way,
They went, led by their nimble speed barons.
Among them were Wini, Gillian and Don,
And a host of others: some old, some new.
From the start to the finish, on and on,
As now and then a gentle, cool breeze blew.
An event it was that all will treasure
And remember fondly with much pleasure.

Got up with the alarm. All through my early morning activities, I had this faint feeling of “something not good is going to happen today”. Maybe my mind was listening to my body, an entity I had alternately ignored or coerced into action for the week since Miwok.

I left home at about 4:30 am and reached the Start area at 4:45 am. Got my things ready in the car while waiting for Anil and Arun Simha to show up. The two of them went off to drop their drop bags while I chatted with Yuki, Shige and Chihping.

Met a whole lot of runners from previous races, including Carol Cuminale (RD, Forest of Nisene Marks marathon in Aptos, CA). Got the first picture of the day with Carol, Anil and Arun Simha who was doing his first ultra, in hilly Quicksilver no less!

Janice gave us last minute instructions about trail markings for the 50K and the 50 miler. We were soon off. An initial downhill was followed by the first climb of the day. Anil and I had both told Arun that we would be walking the hills. I believe he understood that we (him, Anil and I) would be the ONLY ones doing so. J He was thus pleasantly surprised to see all the people around us doing the same.

Anil parted ways with us about 1.5 miles into the run. Arun and I kept exchanging places with a couple of tail enders for the next couple of miles. I too took off at about 5.5 miles (just before the first aid station at Webb Canyon at mile 6.4). Initially I felt guilty but I had to make the cutoff for the 50-mile race (50K in 7:50 or 1:50 pm). I wished him good luck mentally and took off after Wini Jebian. She had run Miwok with me the weekend before (she finished a few seconds after me) and she was going at an amazingly steady and fast pace. We ran together to the next aid station (mile 9.7, Dam Overlook). Here I caught up with Anil. I ate the usual stuff I do and took off with Anil. We ran/walked for the next many miles. Walked all the climbs. Anil was looking strong all through. For once he received more phone calls than I did!

We soon reached the Capehorn aid station at mile 14.5 where I schmoozed with Doug, Doug and Kelly (she remembered me from last year). I jokingly called her the “Sugoi” lady (she was wearing a Sugoi top).

We were soon off climbing again. We passed a bunch of interesting structures along this section - an old, ramshackle structure and a building called the “Powder House”. Guess they stored gunpowder there during those long gone mining days.

We crested at about mile 17 and then made our way back down to the Dam Overlook station, this time at mile 19.0. We met Chihping Fu here. This man ran the 50-miler in 8:54! A PR for him over that distance.

The views from here were some of the greatest ever. The pictures below do scant justice.

We met Yuki here (mile 23.7 for him). He was looking good at this stage and would go on to finish the 50-mile race in 9:34.

This is where I got separated from Anil for the next 4 miles. I wound up running/walking with Wini and we had a great time talking about her friends and fellow 60+ year olds. I finally espied Anil when I neared the Dam Overlook aid station (mile 23.7 this time around). He asked me if he should wait for me. Knowing that I was slowing down and knowing that he wanted to go under 12 hours for the race, I asked him to continue.

I started the trudge back up to the top (just over 2 miles). That walk soon had me convinced that doing a 50-miler in my rapidly deteriorating condition (no aches or pains, just general lassitude) would indeed be foolish and it would be prudent to stop at 50K. I called Anil and left him a message to this effect. I called Anu, who was hoping to pace me for the first few miles of the 50-miler from the Start/Finish area, and told her about my decision and asked her to get me a cold beer J

Having made the decision, all I had to do was move my legs towards the much awaited finish. I soon found myself at the Englishtown aid station where I met Kelly and Doug again. Schmoozed some more and had them in splits with my jokes. Janice, the Race Director, was there too and I informed her about my decision. She encouraged me to reconsider after finishing the 50K but I knew that I did not want to continue.

A couple of miles from the finish, on a descent, I ran into Pres (he and Anil had run the Woodside 50K earlier in the year) who was limping because of ITB. I had him lie down and gave him a painful massage. That seemed to help him right away. Showed him how to place his ITB affected leg when landing and took off.

Soon after my legs gave up on me on the climbs. I would stop, bent over for them to recover and then proceed.

The final brutal descent certainly did not help.

I was relieved to finish in 7:29. Anu was there with the cold beer and the warmest of hugs to cheer for me!

Sowmya showed up with Vibhas as did Sarah and we sat there for another hour for Arun to roll in. He looked good and was the happiest man there.

I went home to rest for a bit before heading out in the evening for a party, all the while worried about Anil and hoping for his safety.

I finally managed to talk to him, right after he finished. I’m so proud of this young man. He has a core of steel. He finished in 12:20, just making the 45 mile cutoff!

This race is a fantastic one. The RDs are wonderful as are all the aid station volunteers. It’s not an easy course but the views are terrific and it’s in my backyard.

Happy running all of you.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Miwok 100K (May 6, 2006)

Date : May 6, 2006
Location : Marin Headlands
Race : Miwok 100K
Finish Time : 15:42:10

Bodies huddling in the dark,
Waiting for the race to start.
Within each that intense spark
To scale the race course rampart.
Braving brutally long hills;
Running against the race clock;
Gels, drinks, Fritos and salt pills
And that constant taking stock
Of the body and the mind.
The indomitable will
To leave the long miles behind
Moving the hurt body still.
Seen pain in all its faces
While running these long races.

The Miwok 100K course was most certainly one of the hardest courses I have ever traversed.

The middle miles, Pan Toll to Bolinas Ridge, were a welcome respite from the quad busting climbs. I’m getting ahead of myself here so let me rewind.

The alarm went off at 2:15 a.m. Time to get up and face the latest challenge. Went through my usual morning tasks before leaving home at 3:20 a.m. to pick up Anil Rao from his place. What can I say about this amazing individual? He insisted on pacing me from mile 42 (pacers were only allowed from this point onwards) and in order to do so, he asked the race director, Tia Bodington, to assign him there. He accompanied me to the start on Rodeo Beach and helped me with all my pre-race preparations which included putting on my gaiters and filling up my bottles with Gatorade and my fuel belt pouches with gels and candied mango/ginger.

I ran into Charlie at the start and had Anil take a picture of us. I met Charlie in the Helen Klein 50 miler back in November, 2005 and had run 4-5 miles with him then. Learned that he had been selected to run for the Western States 100 miler in June of this year. I met him again on April 1 in the American River 50 and he had lost a whole lot of weight! He had been training like a dog for WS and that showed in his 8:48 finish in the AR50.

The race started a bit late, at about 5:45 a.m. We ran across the beach for 300 yards for our first climb, a short 0.25 miles. There were so many runners that the ones at the back, including me, came to a standstill a la highways that narrow from 2-3 lanes to 1-2. Finally we got our turn to ascend the slope. A half mile in and we were soon climbing again. The sun was starting to poke its head above the horizon and we were rewarded with our first view of the beautiful Golden Gate bridge. I spent a few minutes taking pictures of this most beautiful of sights.

The next 2-3 miles were spent chatting with Flora Krivac-Tetley. I had met her in the Helen Klein 50 and then again in the Dec 17 Rodeo Beach 50K where she was the sweeper i.e. assigned the duty of picking up the trail markers behind the last runner(s). I also met Becky Johnson who was using Miwok as a springboard for the Western States. Also met a runner from Minnesota named Les who had completed 239 marathon and ultra marathon races including a staggering 24 100Ks and 24 100 milers! Flora and I finally settled into a sort of rhythm. A friend of hers, Julian, kept joining us now and then. We finally got into the Tennessee Valley aid station (11.9 miles). There was a climb again after the station. This climb took us past Pirates Cove and then down to Muir Beach. I took some more pictures of the fantastic view from the top. Had Julian, Flora and Becky pose too. The picture below is a view of Muir Beach.

By now Flora had been left behind a bit and I was in step with Julian and a runner named Cheri. She works with a lot of Indians and had been to Chennai and New Delhi and was very complimentary about Indians. She even remarked that her fellow Indian workers treated her as though she had brains!

We paced each other for the next few miles until I had to stop to answer Nature’s call. This part of the course, though flat, ran through a lot of overgrown weeds and plants. I paid the price, around mile 17, when stinging nettle/thistle brushed against my left thigh. The pain was immediate and excruciating. I struggled with it for the next mile which incidentally was the first mile of a brutal 4 mile climb up to Pan Toll. This climb was interminably long. We finally crested Pan Toll and I availed myself of some more goodies at this aid station (mile 21.7). I knew that I would meet Anil at the next aid station (Bolinas Ridge at mile 28.4). By now I had been doing number crunching in my head. The start of the Pan Toll climb had come 4:17 into the race at mile 17.4. The first cutoff was at mile 35.6 in 8:40. That meant that I had to cover the next 19.2 miles in 4:23. Felt confident that I would make it but that faint sliver of doubt refused to go away.

The 6.7 mile stretch between Pan Toll and Bolinas Ridge was one of the most beautiful trails I have ever run. I was 1400 feet above the ocean (to my left on this outbound section). I could not take my eyes off the view. The path was lined with beautiful flowers on both sides. I spent many minutes taking pictures of the view and of the lovely flowers. This stretch of the course was extremely relaxing. The climbs were neither long nor steep. It was a welcome respite from the extended climbs I had left behind me.

The spectators were lined 10 deep along this course. Cheering madly and wild with excitement, they picked up my spirits as did the strange upside down wreck of a car along the trail.

This was the section (about mile 44 on the way back) when I started seeing the lead runners on way back. Among them was Scott Jurek (http://www.scottjurek.com/), a 7-time winner of Western States. They were 18 miles ahead of me!!!

I soon ran into the Bolinas Ridge aid station (mile 28.4) where I met up with Anil. This kind soul made me drink half a bottle of Ensure. That was like manna from heaven! He had me out of that aid station soon enough asking me to come back in 3 hours. I had 7.2 miles to go to the turnaround. The first 5 miles were rolling hills. This is where Gordy Ainsleigh (picture below), the inspiration behind the Western States, caught up with me and chatted with me for 3-4 minutes. This is when I asked him about the story behind the WS race. He told me that he had run the 100 miles with his horses back in 1973. He had placed Gatorade (that’s all they had in those days) a few days earlier along the course using his motorbike. Except for one location, each point where he had placed Gatorade is a WS aid station today!

I met Chihping Fu on his way back (mile 42 for him) along this stretch. The most wonderful thing about ultra running is the constant encouragement that runners give each other, elite or not. I was encouraged by all the runners going past me in the opposite direction. I encouraged them too in turn. Met Yuki Negoro here too. He had gotten lost and was trying to make up for lost time. The last 1.5 mile descent to the turnaround (mile 35.6) was brutally steep and it took a toll on my quads, something that would hamper me in the last 10 miles. I made it to the cutoff 8:18 into the race (22 minutes to spare). I started the long climb back up in a few minutes and met Flora and then Becky, both of who looked relieved to have made it to the cutoff in time. This section of the climb was absolutely breezeless. Not a leaf stirred and it was hard going up the hill. Once at the top, a breeze picked up and helped me cool down.

The next few miles were tough for me. My blood sugar was falling and the rolling hills were hard on the mind and the body. I was behind this pair of runners, a man and a woman and would hear snatches of their conversation. I eventually passed them only to have the lady, Shannon (http://www.ultrashannon.com/), catch up with me. The next 2 miles to the Bolinas Ridge aid station (at mile 42) were spent in conversation about each of us. How we both loved to coach and about her son who is a very good water polo player. She is an amazing runner. One of few women in the world to have done a double Badwater (Death Valley – Whitney and back, 291 miles). She and I were together for the next 10 miles.

We eventually reached the Bolinas Ridge aid station and I saw Anil and Kiran waiting for me. They both helped me with my gaiters, my water bottle and also got me much needed Aspirin. The Aspirin took the sting out of the hurting quads. I was soon on my way. This time though I had the company of two of the best runners one could hope to be with. They were both full of joie de vivre. Their spirits were high as were mine and we had a blast running the 6.7 miles, along the Ridge, back to Pan Toll. A picture of Anil, Kiran and Shannon taken along this section. This section was out in the open with no cover but the day was beautiful and the views were simply gorgeous.

We spent a few minutes in the Pan Toll (mile 49.5) station topping up my water bottle. I was drinking Coke by now. The descent from Pan Toll was starting to hurt my quads so I backed off and walked a lot of it. The Aspirin had also worn off and the aid stations did not have any more. We soon made it to the Highway 1 aid station (mile 54.7). Spent a few minutes again here and then began the trek to Tennessee Valley. The volunteers at the Hwy 1 aid station had said that there was a bit of a climb followed by a descent into TV. A bit of a climb? This climb, though not steep at first, was at least 1.5-2.0 miles long. The last part was very steep.

We finally came to the descent where my complaining quads would not let me run down. So I walked. Finally the last 0.5 miles to the TV aid station (mile 58.4) was upon us. I sprinted all the way at about 8 min/mile pace to give my slow twitch muscles some rest. Ate warm vegetable soup here and then began the climb back up to the top with Anil and Kiran. We were belting out songs and having a great time. Soon it was time to switch on the headlamp that Anil was wearing. This part of the climb was very steep. We made it to the top in total darkness save for the headlamp and the flashlights of other runners. Shannon caught up with us accompanied by a friend of hers named Jorge who had run a 100-miler in 13:13. What can I say?

The descent to the finish involved a bunch of weird stairs that took an even bigger toll on my quads. I finally made it in 15:42:10.

I cannot begin to express my gratitude to Anil and Kiran for showing up and running with me the last 20 miles. They are the best and I owe them big. Such giving individuals both.

The course was fantastically scenic and the race organization and volunteers at the aid stations were top notch.