Monday, November 05, 2007

2007 Silicon Valley Marathon

Date: November 04, 2007
Race: Silicon Valley Marathon
Location: San Jose, CA
Time: 3:52:13

Gosh! What a difference a year and 15 lbs. less makes!! This "fast" marathon felt a lot easier than some in recent memory.

Saturday, Nov 3
I had decided to skip the Helen Klein 50M run this year. It was my first 50M 2 years ago and I went back last year because it still remains a wonderful race to run. All of Norm Klein's races are great experiences. This year I wanted to attend my friend Mohan's first Hindustani vocal concert. It was in his sister, Anu's, home and there was no way I was going to miss it. Anu and I went to the Silicon Valley expo earlier in the day and picked up our bib numbers.

I was the only one running the full marathon. Anu's son, Nishad, was running his first official half marathon. His dad and Anu were to be his companions on the journey.

Lily and Lila planned to run together once again in another half marathon 3 weeks after the San Jose Rock'N'Roll Half.

My plan for this race was simple: use 3 hand bottles filed with Salt Stick and Coke. I would start with one bottle and exchange it for the next one in the 10-mile Team Asha race aid station. Sunil Shah had graciously offered to hand me the bottles on my way through.

Sunday, November 4
I showed up at the Start line at 5:30 a.m. Since 2004, I had been helping Doug Epstein and his Evolve Sports start off the walkers at 6:00 a.m. I showed up with turn instructions for the first 6 miles and the runners and walkers snapped them up in a hurry. I was very surprised at the number of early starters. I would not be wrong in guessing that there were more than 50 of them. I say this because I had to note their bib numbers on behalf of the organizers.

Anu, Nishad and Raj soon showed up along with Lily and Lila. Before I knew it, the gun went off and the race was on its way.

What a beautiful day it promised to be. The 7 a.m. start was actually 8 a.m. (DST in play here) and it had warmed up a bit since the 6 a.m. walkers/runners had taken off.

I found myself running soon with Anand. His Garmin showed us to be running at 8:05 min/mile pace. A bit too fast for my liking. I slowed down and asked him to carry on. I had bombed out around mile 8 last year on my way to a labored 4:19 finish and I was wondering if this year would be an encore performance.

The nice thing was that there was no discomfort in my left arch. My breathing too had settled into a nice rhythm and I could feel my muscles loosening up. The 2 mile marker went by in 16:47. Just the pace I had intended to settle into. The next mile marker my eyes spotted was the one at mile 7. It went by 58:44 into the race. Still on pace. In the interim miles, I had caught up with Anand who had wisely slowed down. I came upon him around mile 4. We ran the rest of the race together.

The Coke+salt mixture was working beautifully. I took a total of 3 gels in this race - at mile 6, mile 11 and the last one at mile 16. Sunil Shah dutifully handed me a new bottle of Coke and I sped through the mile 10 Aid Station after high fiving some of the familiar Asha runners. I was still on pace and, unlike last year, I had not blown up yet. A sign of good things to come?

My pre-race goal had been to try and go under 4 hours. My body was feeling great and if I could keep up the pace for as long as possible maybe an under-4 race was not improbable. The halfway point went by in 1:51. Perfect timing once again. I had reckoned on something between 1:50 and 1:55 before the race.

Anand kept pace beautifully and it was fun running together. We talked when we could and kept encouraging each other.

The mile 16 Asha aid station (mile 10 and mile 16 were the same aid station) in Vasona Park came up very fast and I took the last bottle of Coke from Shekhar Hemnani. I decided to run with both bottles in hand. I intended to save some Coke in one of the bottles for Anand for the last few miles.

The 20 mile marker went by in 2:53. We had 67 more minutes to cover 6.2 mile in if we were to go under 4 hours. Anand and I decided to hold our pace for as long as possible. The next few miles were spent in running with focus and sheer intent. We soon found ourselves past the 21 mile marker, into the neighborhood, running towards the finish in downtown San Jose. Anand and I walked 20-30 seconds in each of the last few aid stations to let our legs get a small breather.

The last mile went by in a flash. We took the final left turn from Vine St. onto Woz way and all we had was a right turn into Discovery Park. Anand and I sprinted onto and past the finish mat.

We had run the last 6.2 miles in just under 60 minutes. Not bad at all.

Nishad, a chip off the old block, finished his first Half in a superb 2:37. Way to go my young warrior!!

Lila finished in 2:26, shaving off 6 minutes from her previous best Half time from the Rock'N'Roll Half.

I felt immense satisfaction. The past 2 years of ultra running have given me unlimited confidence in my ability to go out and achieve a goal. I knew deep down inside me that a sub-4 was not unreasonable and that my year of cycling (for my first long distance triathlon back in June 2007) and fast ultra runs had given me enough leg speed to be able to run a road marathon reasonably fast.

One of my immediate goals is to try and qualify for Boston next year. My qualifying time is 3:30 and I know that I can do it with a few months of dedicated speed work.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all. Run safe wherever you are.

Monday, September 24, 2007

2007 Rio Del Lago 100M

'Twas naught but a journey into the mind:
Sights ugly and vistas magnificent.
Resolute steps leaving long miles behind:
A gift from a heart so very gallant.
Came first the pain in the early going,
Then a drooping of the happy spirits;
Will this race end because of this aching?
Thus roamed the mind in negative circuits.
And then the Rock within whispered "I WILL",
And then the faltering steps gained new life,
And then the race was now just a molehill,
And then came fun and games, gone was the strife.
This mind is a wondrous thing I confess:
It is most refulgent under duress!

Date: Sep 23-24, 2007
Race: Rio Del Lago 100M
Location: Granite Bay, CA
Time: 29:24

I went into this race with an injury I had suffered in the Lean Horse 100M. Two weeks after that race and the pain in my arch, under the navicular bone, had still not gone away. It did not hurt when walking, just when running. It had healed to the extent that the pain was not as sharp when running and, with every passing day, happened later on in a run.

Nevertheless, the pain had not gone completely. After a lot of research, I had come to the conclusion that it was not Plantar Fasciitis but a case of Posterior Tibialis tendonitis. This tendon originates behind the 2 calf muscles and attaches, after passing around the bony projection of the ankle, to the cuneiform, the navicular and a few other bones in the big arch of the foot. Tightness in this tendon was causing pain in the area where it attaches to the navicular.

I went to SMI (http://www. the Tuesday before the race and Gary worked me over so bad that I was screaming in pain! I stood in their cryogenic tank (water at 53 degres F) after the massage. The masochist that I am, I went back for another session on Thursday.

Friday, Sep 22
Anu had offered not only to drive me to the race but to crew during the day on Saturday in the Auburn Overlook AS (miles 22 & 45) and pace me the last 10 miles (assuming I got to mile 90).
We picked up Nattu Natraj from his hotel in Emeryville and reached Cavitt Middle School, race HQ, around 4:45 p.m.

Norm had just started his briefing. I had myself weighed after the briefing as did Nattu. A whole bunch of us, part of a Yahoo group called the Ultraholics, were running the next day. Michael Kanning, a 15-year old Ultraholic, was running his first 100-miler! Alan Geraldi, Chihping Fu, Anil Rao, Nattu Natraj, Rashmi, Michael and his Dad and Anu and I went for dinner to Pasta Pomodoro and then retired to our respective rooms to try and get enough sleep for the long day and night ahead.

Saturday, Sep 23

(With Anil, Chihping, Nattu and Alan in the hotel parking lot at 5:30 a.m.)

Anu and Rashmi dropped us off to the start at 5:40 a.m. It was still dark but not very cold and we entered the school gym to hear Norm repeat his instructions from the evening before. I met Jennifer Griste here as well as a bunch of other friends. Scott Dunlap looked ready to roll in spite of his injury from the Tahoe 100. Pete Lubbers looked in great shape too. They were both running the Sierra Nevada 53.2 mile endurance run. This race turns around at the No Hands Bridge AS and returns to the school.

The race started in darkness. I trusted my normally poor eyesight to guide me up the incline leading to the levee and it did not fail me. The first 67 miles of the course mostly follow the last 18 miles of the AR50 race and then head towards Cool where the 100 milers run 7 miles on the Olmstead loop. This loop was the course for Nancy Warren's 12-Hours at Cool race earlier in the year (August).

My left arch was feeling good but I stuck to a slow pace. Anil disappeared from view, running with a friend named Todd. I enjoyed myself almost in the back of the pack taking pictures of the course (once the sun came up).

(Smiling John Rhodes, Terry Rhodes and Carol Cuminale)

The Twin Rocks AS came and went as did Horseshoe Bar. I caught up with Anil (he actually slowed down for me!) just after Horseshoe Bar. We made quick work of the 1.9 miles to Rattlesnake before heading out on the long 9 miles to Maidu. This stretch had just one AS (water bottles in the Power Plant, 2 miles from Rattlesnake) and the first of the 2 major climbs in this race - Cardiac Hill as Norm likes to call it.

I twisted my left ankle stepping on a hidden rock and suddenly there was the familiar pain that had haunted me since Lean Horse! All along until then I had been entertaining visions of a pain free race and those visions fled my mind as fast as rats deserting a sinking ship. My normally high spirits wilted. Here was the mother of tests in this race. What should I do? Quit? Walk? Could I walk 70+ miles and still manage not to exacerbate the injury?

The first thing that I felt after those depressing thoughts was the fact that I was going to slow down Anil. I first informed him about my pain and then repeatedly asked him to leave me and continue to run his race at his faster pace.

The amazing friend that he is, he refused. He refused to listen to my logic and insisted that we would do the race together even if it meant that he had to walk with me. I was so moved by his support that I stopped pressing him to run his own race.

The next few miles were spent (a) digging deep, (b) slightly changing my foot strike to minimize the pain and (c) sending positive energy to my ankle.

Approaching the Auburn AS we met Pete Lubbers going back to the school. He was in second place and looking strong.

Anu, in the Auburn Dam AS, learned of my pain and promptly promised to send me all her positive energy from there on out as did Sam (she had called just after the pain started to inquire about my race). Looking back I am sure that it was their love and caring, coupled with Anil's support and kindness, that helped the pain disappear. It did so a few miles out of the Auburn Dam AS going towards Cool.

We met Scott on our way to No Hands. After seeing Pete Lubbers outside the Auburn Dam AS, Anil and I had wondered about how Scott was doing. We soon found out. He was in first place coming into No Hands and had been directed to continue up K-2 and onto Cool by a volunteer. Instead of turning around poor Scott climbed the steep slope and went all the way to Cool before being turned back. Better luck next time Scott.

We did not linger long in the No Hands Bridge AS. We soon found ourselves climbing the dreaded K-2. This is one of the steepest climbs I have ever done in any race I have run in. It is 1.25 miles long and has 6-7 false flats. The flats do, though, give you some respite before the next steep section. Anil and I went up K-2 in the company of Carol Cuminale.

We met Alan about a mile before the Cool AS. He told us about his stomach problems in the first 15 miles of the race! We wished him good luck.

Rashmi, Arul and Abhijit had gotten us pizza from Mountain Mike's that we ate with relish and gusto when we came into the Cool AS at mile 29.

The Olmstead loop was so different this year. It had been hot and dusty last year. Much cooler weather made it a beautiful loop to traverse. It was very runnable and I did a lot of running in that section (mile 29-36). I spent the next 100 minutes with visions of more of the same tasty pizza at mile 36. Sure enough that pizza went down wonderfully well too!

We were back in the Auburn AS (mile 45) around 5:15 p.m. (45 minutes faster than I had reached there last year) and Anu, Sunil Shah and Shekhar Hemnani were their usual loving and helpful selves. We left from there after donning jackets and pciking up flashlight and gloves for the night part of the run.

We would have missed the descent down Cardiac had it not been for Christina Bronson and Diane Vlach who shouted out Anil's name when we overshot the turn. Thank you ladies.

The descent was uneventful. It was in the section towards the Power Plant that we passed Carol Cuminale and her pacer, Karen Hanke. We hugged each other and then continued past them. Anil used the port-a-john in the Power Plant AS and I refilled my water bottle. I had decided to stop drinking the Perpetuem+Heed mixture that I had been drinking all day and start on gels+water.

We could hear the Rattlesnake Bar AS approaching from 400 yards away. Cowbells? It was none other than the 2006-2007 Asha runners who had come out, all 9-10 of them, to crew in Rattlesnake and Cavitt. They too had brought pizza with them and those 3 slices I ate were some of the sweetest tasting slices ever. Thank you CK, Mouli, Chakri, Arpana, Anurag, Gayathri, Vivek, Veena, Divya and Raman. I apologize if I missed someone. You are in my heart and I am eternally grateful for your support and kindness.

We left the AS to find ourselves in Horsehoe Bar not soon afterwards. The next 6 miles had been very tough for me last year. They were no different this time around. It took a lot out of both Anil and me. Vinod, our friend and pacer from TRT, had joined us in the Rattlesnake Bar AS and he too found the going tough.

We finally made it out of there and into Twin Rocks. We did not linger long in Twin Rocks. The road back to the school was all rolling hills. About 0.25 miles from the turnoff leading down to the school, we met Gary Friedle and Rajeev Char heading in the direction we had come from! They were supposed to go south (in the opposite direction) but had missed seeing the signs pointing them that way. We had them on their right way promptly. Apparently Gary had been lost FOR 4 HOURS after the Rattlesnake Bar AS and had come into the school only 30 minutes before us!

The Asha party continued in the Cavitt School AS (mile 67). There were pizza slices galore. I changed into warmer clothing and tights and picked up my first pacer for the rest of the run. Chandramouli who ran his first marathon with Team Asha in 2006. Like Vinod, Chakri and Anu after him, he was an amazing pacer. Ever helpful and concerned about our needs.

(The ever smiling Chandramouli escorting me into the Cavitt Middle School AS, mile 67)

We left the school at 12:15 a.m. 33 miles to go. How long could they take? 10-11 hours tops. They were way flatter than the first 67. They took us another 12 hours and 9 minutes!

Sunday, Sep 24
The section from the school to the Folsom Dam AS and then to Negro Bar was fun. Mouli had run 20 miles earlier (he is running the Marine Corps marathon a month from now) and was now going to cover 10 mile scant 12 hours later. That prompted Anil to urge him to give a 50K race a shot!

We ran some and walked more. The Hazel Bluff AS (mile 77) came surprisingly later than we had counted on. We left it at 3:45 a.m. The Asha crew was there too with the ubiquitous pizza! Mouli handed the pacing duties to Chakri, a 2005 Asha runner. Chakri looked out for all of us. He would make sure that we were together and would slow down for me and wait for me to catch up. We met Alan about a mile after the AS. He had missed checking into Hazel Bluff on his way out to the turnaround. Besides that, his stomach had gone south again and he could not keep anything down. We learned later that he walked the rest of the way to the Finish. Tough, tough man.

The turnaround at Mountain Lion Knoll took an interminably long time to arrive. Along the way there we met Gary and Rajeev Char going back to Hazel Bluff as well as Michael Kanning (he finished a minute behind Alan) and Chihping who looked the worst of the lot. I have never seen him in such a bad state in some of the other races we have run. He was very tired, very sleepy and very hurt. Apparently the new day brought him renewed energy and determination and he finished a few minutes ahead of us.

We crawled our way back to Willow Creek (mile 86) and then in sight of Hazel Bluff. This is where I decided that I had had enough of walking. I ran all the way up the bridge, down the other side and then up the trail that leads into Hazel Bluff. Anil Vaidya, the giving soul that he is, had finished his crewing duties in Cavitt and had come to Hazel Bluff to drop Anu and take pictures of us.

(Running up the incline leading to Hazel Bluff, mile 89)

Anu and the 3 of us (Vinod, Anil and I) left the AS after Anil and I had handed over our night running stuff to Anil Vidya to take back to the Finish. After walking a half mile, we started running. I ran really fast (7:00-7:30 min/mile) the next 1.2 miles just so I could reach the port-a-john and use it as soon as possible. That's how bad my condition was!

The last 8 miles were spent walking slowly from one AS to the next. Our only running was done during the last 0.4 miles leading down to the Finish.

Norm's races are wonderful parties. The volunteers are superb and he and Helen make everyone feel special. Thank you all for this wonderful race.

Congratulations to Carol Cuminale, Alan Geraldi, Michael Kanning, Anil Rao, Chihping Fu, Gary Friedle, Nattu Natraj, Jennifer Griste, Nancy Warren, Wini Jebian, Scott Dunlap and Pete Lubbers for finishing their respective races.

Anil and I are ever grateful to Vinod Vishwanath, Chakri and Chandramouli for pacing us.

What can I say about our crew? They were the most fantastic crew in the world.

Our heartfelt thanks to Anu, Sunil Shah, Shekhar, Rashmi, Arul, Abhijit, CK, Arpana, Anurag, Mouli, Chakri, Gayathri, Vivek, Veena, Raman, Divya, Renuka and Anil Vaidya for their unstinting and ever generous help.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Lean Horse 100

Then Nike frowned. Running was done.
Pain came to end the steady run.
Ares, though, refused to give up.
On my side he fought, past sunup,
Until the race was nearly done.

Cold hands warmed by a rising sun,
So the heart by views on the run.
So 'twas all day - walk then speed up.
Then Nike frowned.

Ah! She's mean, this capricious one!
First her strident call to action,
Then glimpses of the Victory cup.
Could I have seen 'twas a setup?
My mind's eye sought the play's curtain.
Then Nike frowned.

Date: Aug 25-26, 2007
Race: Lean Horse 100M
Location: Hot Springs, SD
Time: 25:39

What a fantastic race this was. I had one of the best races of my life, the last 22 miles notwithstanding. I got to meet a lot of amazing people and ran a race out of my comfort zone i.e. without friends, pacers or crew.

Thursday, Aug 23
I flew out of Oakland airport on the 2:00 p.m. flight. I had a connection to make in Denver, to Rapid City (South Dakota), at 9:45 p.m. and so had a few hours to kill in the airport there. I ate dinner (veggie burger) and had a tall beer that went down really well.

The 9:45 United Express flight did not board till 10:45 (they had over fueled the plane!). Don Lundell ( was on the same flight. As soon as we had buckled up, the pilot announced that we would be spending time on the tarmac since the landing lights in Rapid City had failed. One could hear the collective groan that went through the small plane.

The flight eventually took off at 11:30 p.m. and landed, without any further problems, at 12:15 a.m. The Hertz agent offered me a choice between a Suburban and a Toyota Sienna van. I chose the latter. I hit the road promptly and got on the phone to talk to my Mom in India. Hardly had the conversation started that the connection dropped. No signal. I found out later in Hot Springs that the only provider in that area is Verizon. Other cell phone users were out of luck.

I stopped a few miles outside Rapid City to buy some chocolate milk and potato chips (baked, naturally!) to quell the hunger pangs. I reached the Best Western Sundowner Inn in Hot Springs around 1:30 a.m. I saw 5 vehicles only during that 55 mile journey from Rapid City to Hot Springs. Some would call it the boonies. I call it wide open beautiful country.

I fell asleep at 2:15 a.m. after taking a quick shower and setting the alarm for 9:00 a.m.

Friday, Aug 24
I woke up promptly at 9 a.m. and went and ate a quick breakfast in the hotel. After that it was time to make the drop bags. Unfortunately I had forgotten to note the salt content of Heed and Perpetuem that I use these days for my races. Fortunately there was a computer in the lobby for public use that I promptly logged into.

After getting the information I wanted, I sent out an e-mail to my friends about the lack of cell phone coverage. Instead, I asked them to call the hotel room in case they wanted to wish me luck.

I deposited the drop bags in the Mueller Center (next door to the hotel) around noon and then went across the street to Pizza Hut. I ate a small veggie pizza and drank 2 small beers (needed to hydrate!!). I had them pack me, in foil, a small cheese pizza that I promptly went and deposited in my 50 mile drop bag.

After that it was back to the hotel for some more rest and then back to the Mueller Center for the RD, Jerry Dunn's, briefing. The 100 mile course was a new one this year. Instead of starting and ending at the George Mickelson trail head, the race was to start and end in town, right there behind the Mueller Center.

I sat with Don during this briefing. It was back to the room for more rest before heading to downtown Hot Springs to a restaurant called Flat Iron for the pasta feed. The food was good, especially the chocolate chip cookies. Don had come to Lean Horse to run with Lynn Newton and help him finish a 100 miler. Lynn, who wound up suffering debilitating back pain between miles 70 and 80 in previous attempts, was giving it another go. Such courage!!

I got back to the hotel soon after dinner and decided to hit the sack as soon as I could. I had spoken to Anu earlier in the day. The hotel phone rang for only the second time that day. It was Pallavi calling me to wish me good luck. Such wonderful friends I have!!

Saturday, Aug 25
Race day dawned nice and clear. There was a bit of a fog around but it was not cold. I started the race in a sleeveless orange running top with gray piping and gray shorts. A Cool Off bandana around the neck, an orange visor atop my head, Julbo sun glasses, orange Dirty Girl gaiters and 2 Amphipod bottles completed the picture. The "best dressed runner on the course today" was the remark by a passing runner 5 minutes into the race!

I spent the first 12 minutes walking. I wound up striking up a conversation with Lisa Weiss who spoke of her pelvic pain that might hamper her running that day. We had met in the Miwok 100K earlier this year in May. I wished her good luck and started running.

I espied a familiar figure ahead. Nattu Natraj, the only Indian to finish Badwater, two years in a row that too, had come up to me just before the start and introduced himself. He was in his trademark outfit - cap with cloth in the back that covered his neck, long sleeved shirt underneath a short sleeved one, double bottle waist pack and loose shorts. We struck up a conversation about his Badwater runs and wound our way to the first aid station. We soon made a left turn onto Argyle Road soon after the AS and it was a climb after that for the next many miles. Rolling hills, some with a decent grade, that caught most runners by surprise (I think). I had stopped to answer Nature's call and met a runner named Joe, from Salida (near Denver), who stated that I had sent him some information about ITB on the Ultra mailing list. We ran/walked for the next couple of miles in companionable conversation. He was doing his first 50 miler that day.

The views along this road were magnificent! Rolling hills going off into the distance. Small farmhouses, some yellow, some red, here and there with cattle dominating the landscape. It was a sight to warm the heart.

(Photo courtesy Don Lundell)

I passed Nattu on one of the climbs and he caught up with me on the next one. We rolled into the Argyle at Mickelson Trail AS (mile 16) together. I had been experiencing some irritation under my right foot for some miles now and Nattu was kind enough to give me some of his Hydropel cream. We continued running together after the AS.

The trail was flat and the surface just amazing. Crushed limestone made for wonderful footing. The trail was a result of the Rails To Trails project - unused railroad beds converted to trails.

We were in the Black Hills. This is where gold had been discovered more than a hundred and twenty years ago.The countryside was green wherever we looked. Nattu was using a 3 min run followed by a 2 min walk strategy. Not having any strategy of my own, I decided to go with him. He has run many more 100s than I have and if he was using it, it must work! It sure did as I found out later.

We breezed through the Pringle AS (mile 24), where I drank some more Ensure from my drop bag, and then on towards the Harbach one (mile 35.5).

(Approaching the Pringle AS. Photo courtesy Don Lundell)

I asked him to go ahead right after this AS as I wanted to walk 6 minutes straight to give my legs a break. I took the opportunity during that walk to set my own watch to a 3 min run+2 min walk timer.

The Harbach AS was another place where I availed of Ensure. I had been replenishing my hand bottle with the Heed+Perpetuem mixture in the aid stations with drop bags and that mixture proved to be the best thing for my nutrition, along with the Ensures.

The section after Harbach was really hot. It was nearing 3 p.m. and there was no shade along the route. I changed my timer to a slightly longer walk, i.e. 2.5 minutes, and used this to power my way to the 40 mile AS. I met 2 runners here. TJ and Stephanie. Stephanie looked worse for the wear. I gave her a few of my salt tablets since her face and shoulders had salt crystals aplenty. We soon came upon the part of the trail that winds its way past the Crazy Horse monument. That was one of the best sights in this beautiful race.

The trail, except for the slight climb to the 43 mile mark, the highest point in the race at 5800 feet, was quite flat. The run+walk strategy was still paying off so I decided to ride it for as long as I could.

The 50 mile turnaround came up at 11:31. I had planned for not more than 12 hours so I was making good time. I met TJ and Stephanie again at this AS. Nattu had left the AS. He was a mile or so ahead of me (I met him just before the turnaround). I spent 20 minutes at the aid station changing into warmer clothes and eating pizza.

I left at 12:06 into the race and promptly walked for 9 minutes. I had been meticulously following a 6-9 minutes walk every hour. I continued to use it. It seemed to help my legs recover and made the run+walk part much more enjoyable and easier.

I met Gene and Fahmida going the other way (towards the turnaround) and then Don and Lynn a little later. By now I had picked up my pace during the run part. I was flying! The race was beautifully marked with large mileage signs every 5 miles. 55 miles went by in a flash. As did mile markers 60 and 65. At the Harbach AS I used a kind volunteer's phone to call Anu and give her an update on my race. She was overjoyed and promptly sent out an e-mail to all our friends (I saw the e-mail later). I changed into slightly warmer clothing and left the AS as soon as I could.

Mile 70 was near an aid station and I did not linger long there.

I finally caught up with Nattu around mile 75. He was doing OK (as he stated). I wished him good luck and continued to run on into the Pringle AS at mile 76. The Ensure I downed there tasted a bit funny and I started feeling queasy a mile out of the AS. My left arch suddenly started hurting around mile 78 and I was forced to abandon the timer and resort to walking the rest of the way.

All along the race I had been trying to estimate a finish time for the race. The fast pace between 50 and 75 had given me visions of 24:30 or 24:40. The walking now changed the equation. I had somehow settled on 25:43. That figure had been repeatedly popping into my mind throughout the day. This was 3 hours faster than my previous best of 28:43, achieved in my first 100 miler, the 2006 Rio Del Lago race.

Ask the Universe for something and it delivers - my eventual finish time was 25:39!

The walking was now being done, despite the pain, at 16-17 minutes per mile pace. The mile markers were still rolling by albeit slower. I had not been able to eat anything since mile 76 owing to the queasiness.

Mile 80 went by in 19:18.

(Photo courtesy Don Lundell)

The 85 mile marker, after the Argyle Road at Mickelson Trail aid station (mile 84), took the longest in coming. I had taken a couple of No Doz pills by now in addition to a couple of Tylenols. I finally rolled into the 92 mile AS at 4:50 a.m. feeling a bit sleepy. I decided to take a 15 minute nap and asked the AS volunteer to wake me up. I could not sleep at all.

I decided to get off the lounge chair at 5:06 a.m. which is when Nattu came into the AS. He was down to walking too and we decided to walk it home together. Nattu is a fantastic runner. I am in awe of his achievements. In spite of all of his accomplishments, he is an extremely humble person. He rarely talks about himself. I, on the other hand, did nothing but talk about me! [ :) ].

We made it past the 96 mile AS and then into the last part through town. The only part we ran was the last 50 feet. We finished together in 25:39.

The volunteers were as good as any I've met in other races. They were always willing to go the extra yards to help the runners. Kudos to Jerry and his crew for putting up such a superb race. I hope this race becomes ever more popular.

I promptly went back to the hotel to sleep a few hours. Got up at noon, went back to the Pizza Hut for a quick beer and pizza before making my way back to the Mueller Center for the awards ceremony.

The belt buckle was superb!

It was back to the hotel for more sleep. Dinner was in the only Chinese restaurant in Hot Springs. I came back and packed my suitcases before hitting the sack.

I left Hot Springs at 7:30 a.m. to make it to the 10:00 a.m. flight out of Rapid City. The journey back was uneventful.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Tahoe Rim Trail 100M

Fifty long miles and then again,
Struggling with sleep and intense pain.
This is the story of a run:
A Taste of Hell, Glimpse of Heaven!
Many months for it we did train.

Labored breathing, lungs under strain,
The distance preying on the brain.
From Sun to Night and again Sun:
Fifty long miles.

We are tough, we cannot complain
If this goal we are to attain!
Determined, incessant action,
Living from station to station.
Doing them twice, that was the game.
Fifty long miles.

Date: Jul 21-22, 2007
Race: Tahoe Rim Trail 100M
Location: Spooner Lake State Park, Carson City, NV
Time: 34:11:30
Photos of this race:

What a tough, tough race this one was. The lowest point in this course was 6800' and the highest was 9214'. Anil and I took almost all of the allotted time of 35 hours.

Thursday, July 19
Anil, Rashmi and I left the South Bay around 2 p.m. Rashmi drove and we had a great time listening to music or just talking. We stopped for some food in Placerville. Pizza and beer!!

We reached the race hotel (Plaza Hotel) after 7 p.m. The 2 adjacent suites were great. Each suite had a living room with a pullout bed and a bedroom with a King bed.

Anil and I went to a few places to pick up fruits and other last minute things. We then decided to finish the drop bags since we had to turn them in before 2 p.m. the next day. Anil even helped bandage up my big toes in order to prevent blisters from forming on the underside. The skin there had become kind of sensitive the past few weeks.

We hit the sack early though I spent the next hour or so watching TV.

Friday, July 20
We woke up after 8 a.m. and first went to eat breakfast in the hotel. We met up with Alan Geraldi who, like Anil, was attempting his first 100-miler. We went over to his room to help him with his drop bags.

After I showered, Anil and I made a quick trip to Lowe's for a few lithium batteries and strips of Velcro to attach our gaiters with.

Rashmi, Anil and I ate in a Subway before heading to the grounds of the Capitol where the weighing in and the 2:15 p.m. race briefing were to be held.

The first thing we did was to get weighed and get our bib numbers. We deposited the drop bags and then waited for the briefing to start.

(Race central)

(Alan Geraldi weighing in)

(Clowning around during my weighing in)

The race briefing by RDs David Cotter and Kevin Bigley was preceded by short speeches by people from various groups affiliated to Carson City, RRCA etc.

(Attentive audience)

(Pete Lubbers & Scott Dunlap)

David and Kevin briefed us so thoroughly that there were no questions at the end. At least not in public!

Pete, Anil, Alan and I had signed up for the pasta dinner. We went back to the hotel to rest for a bit before heading out to the dinner around 5 p.m.

(The pasta dinner)

Finally it was time to go back and contemplate on the nature of the Universe before the 5 a.m. start! I contemplated until 11 p.m. before closing my eyes for a few hours of shuteye.

Saturday, July 21
The alarm went off at 2:15 a.m. I could not bear to get up right away so stole another 15 minutes of much needed sleep. I finally swung my legs off the bed for the start of a long day, a long night and an even longer day after the night!

After a quick shower and a breakfast of a bottle of Ensure and a large bagel, Anil and I were ready to have Rashmi drop us to the Start. Alan rode with us. It was not very cold. That was good news. Maybe the night would not be cold either.

We found Chihping and Pete in the start area. Anil and I got our bibs and pinned them on. I also had a cup of much needed coffee while waiting for the race to start. I was carrying 2 hand bottles filled with Heed+Perpetuem+Salt Stick. Around my waist was a bag containing my phone, my camera, a few gels, some salt tablets and a cutoff chart.

(From L: Anil, Chihping, Pete, Geraldi and I)

All that stuff caused a backache that persisted for almost the entire race. I will have to find another way to carry the camera during next month's Lean Horse 100M in South Dakota.

5 a.m. and we were off! The first few miles were a climb and Anil and I were determined to walk all the way to the top. The both of us stopped almost every 15-20 minutes to pee. The climb soon turned into a descent all the down to lake level - small Lake Marlette with its giant cousin just over the mountains on its west shore.

(On the climb up from the Start)

(A happy Anil. He was happy throughout)

(Marlette Lake)

(Hobart AS at 6:50 a.m.)

The trail started a gradual rolling climb all the way to the Hobart Aid Station. In the Aid Station, I quickly downed a bottle of Ensure and topped up my hand bottles. Anil and I were soon on our way. The trail wound its way up to Marlette Peak.

The views were starting to get more and more stunning. Marlette Peak tops out at 8780'. What a way to start a race and the day!

(Marlette Lake with Lake Tahoe behind it)

We quickly found ourselves in the Tunnel Creek AS. This was the most important AS in the race. We would pass through it 6 times, 3 times per loop. Anil and I had our bottle of Ensure and refilled our bottles before heading down the Red House loop. People seem to dread this loop. I personally believe that it is overrated. Similar to the climb up to Hurricane Point in the Big Sur marathon.

We saw a lot of some of the middle of the pack runners come up the slope while we were starting out.

(Pete Lubbers at the end of the Red House loop)

(The ever smiling Scott Dunlap)

We ran the downhill and then power walked our way up the slope all the way back to the Tunnel Creek AS. We had a bottle of Ensure again and did not linger long here. It was on to the long 9 mile trudge to Mt. Rose. Anil had asked for Subway sandwiches for the both of us. It would be nice to see Rashmi, Arul and Gayathri there.

We met Eric Blumenau, a friend of Nicole Whiting, just after Diamond Peak. He looked in good shape.

(Eric Blumenau on his way back to Tunnel Creek from Mt. Rose)

We made it to Mt. Rose around 12:40 p.m. i.e. 7:40 into the race. We were happy with the time. Nicole Whiting was there. She, along with Arul, Gayathri and Rashmi, helped us with whetever we needed. Thank you Nicole.

I quickly wolfed down part of the sandwich, had another bottle of Ensure and headed back out on the trail for the return trip to the Start.

We reached Tunnel Creek after the pit stop in Diamond Peak.

Norm and Helen were part of the Tunnel Creek band of volunteers and it was wonderful to see their smiling faces. Helen was amazingly helpful.

(Norm & Helen Klein in the Tunnel Creek AS)

We met so many of the 50M/100M front runners along the course. Garrett Graubins and Tim Twietmeyer to name a few in the 50M. Jasper Halekas, the eventual 100M winner, passed us, going the other way, just after the Tunnel Creek AS. He finished in 18:16. Our second 50-mile loop took us 18:11!!!

We were on our way up the climb from Tunnel Creek to Hobart when the eventual 2nd place runner, Mark Gilligan, blew by accompanied by his pacer Michael Hayden. These lads are fast!!

We stopped Wendell Doman, part of Jasper Halekas' crew, and talked with him for about 3-4 minutes.

(Wendell Doman)

Keith Blom passed us too. He was following up his sub-24 finish in Western States with another 100.

(Keith Blom)

We grabbed some water in the Diamond Creek AS and then ran at a steady clip down the descent from there. Once the trail leveled out, Anil and I ran a bit and mostly walked back to Tunnel Creek. It was more Ensure again for us.

The climb out of Tunnel Creek was long and we eventually made it into Hobart. Anil and I picked up our thin running jackets in case it was windy up by the Snow Valley AS. We started the 2.6 mile trek up to that AS. That climb went by quite fast and uneventfully. My weight, like Anil's had not fluctuated by more than 0.6 lbs. during those 40+ miles. AS was no exception. Since we did not have drop bags there, we were out quickly.

The last 7 miles down to the Start/Finish felt really long last year during our 50M. The same this year too!

We rolled into the 50M point at 8:30 p.m. (15:30 for the 50M). The entire crew was there to greet and help us - Anu, Bharti, Deepu, Aruna, Rashmi, Arul & Gayathri. Vinod Vishwanath was waiting to pace us.

Anil and I spent 30 minues eating pizza and changing into warmer clothes fro the night section.

We left at 9:00 p.m., 16:00 on the race clock.

The 3 of us soon settled into a good rhythm. The initial climb seemed interminably long the second time around. Anil took his first NoDoz tablet on this climb. I followed soon after. Vinod was running a 50M (the last 50M of our race) a week after running an unsupported 50M in Montana!

We reached the Hobart AS soon enough and were grateful for the bottles of Ensure waiting for us there. My new Fenix seemed to relish the batteries I was feeding it - it went through them like a hot knife through butter!! I then resorted to using only the headlamp and turining on the Fenix only when the headlamp fell a bit short.

Tunnel Creek came along soon too. I chugged down a bottle of Ensure and it tasted a bit weird. I felt like throwing up almost as soon as I left the AS and had to quell the urge. I did not know it then but that would be the last bit of nutrition (except for the mix in my hand bottles) that I would have for the next 24 miles!

Anil had struggled with sleep almost all night long. He had napped for 5 minutes in the wee hours of the night before taking a full blown 10-minute nap around 5:15 a.m. Nancy Warren, on her way back to Tunnel Creek, looked at him and remarked "He looks so cute sleeping there!".

We met Chuck Wilson soon after (5:45 a.m.) and he impressed upon us the need to pick it up and make it to the Mt. Rose AS as soon as we could. That lit a fire under our butts and we covered the next 3 miles or so in real good time. We reached the AS at 6:30 a.m.! We were out, after coffee and a quick change of clothes, at 6:48 a.m. We had built up a buffer of 1 hour.

The last 24 miles went by slowly. Anil slept for another 10 minutes in Tunnel Creek. I used that break to hit the toilet. We left Tunnel Creek at 9:55 a.m. determined to not stop anymore. The climb out of Tunnel Creek seemed much longer this time around. Hobart finally swam into view and we were out of there in less than a minute - we just refilled our bottles with the Coke we had switched to in Tunnel Creek.

The 2.6 miles up to Snow Valley Creek were long, hot, sweaty and full of large flies that seemed to have a predilection for my face and neck. My weight at that AS was down to 131 lbs. (from a starting weight of 135 lbs.) but the volunteer remarked that I would be OK once I finished and started hydrating and eating.

Those last 7 miles were some of the longest 7 miles that Anil and I have ever run. The last aid station, 1.7 miles from the Finish, never seemed to come. We reached it finally at 2:43 p.m. I promptly called Anu and told her that we would be rolling into the Finish around 3:15 p.m.

Anil, Vinod and I ran the last 100 yards and crossed the Finish line 34:11 into the race.

We were quickly whisked off to the hotel for a shower and then to the award ceremony that commenced promptly at 5:30 p.m.

Bharti, driving Anu's van, was tireless. She drove all the way back. She not only made a detour to drop off Chihping in Fremont but drove Michael Hayden all the way to his sister's place in Santa Cruz. I finally fell asleep, after eating delicious food that Raj (Anu's husband) had made for us, at 2:00 a.m.

My heartfelt thanks to our fantastic crew: Deepak, Aruna, Arul, Gayathri, Rashmi, Bharti and Anu. Anu juggled a bunch of things, including a 50 mile bike ride on Saturday, just so she and Bharti could make it to the race.

The race volunteers were absolutely fantastic! This race was made all the better because of their ever helping nature and cheerful attitudes.

Congratulations to all of you who finished. Scott, Pete, Alan, Eric, Chihping, Anil, Chuck, Tom Kaisersatt (50M), Christine (50M), Karen (50m), Marissa (50M), Norbert, Fred, Keith & Kay Blom ... The list goes on.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Pacifica 50K

Date: June 30, 2007
Race: PC Trail Runs Pacifica 50K
Location: Pacifica, CA
Time: 7:43

It was the Monday after returning from the Western States 100M Safety Patrol and Pacing when I decided that I wanted to do a 50K 5 days later. PCTR has races almost every other weekend and this one was almost in my backyard so to speak. In Pacifica - over the mountains from Hillsborough. I signed up online and Anil did the same the day after. He was looking at 31 miles after a long 62 miles in WS!

Saturday, June 30
I picked him up from his place around 6:45 a.m. and we quickly got onto 280N. The ride was uneventful and we were in the parking lot, just outside the San Pedro Valley Park entrance, by 8:00 a.m. We quickly got our stuff together. Anil had been smart enough to bring one of my long sleeved shirts I had forgotten in his bag during our WS run and that was a heaven sent! It was a tad chilly and I had, rather unwisely, opted to leave home dressed in a singlet. The shirt was swiftly donned and the singlet went over it. That's how I ran the entire race!

The course was unusual, even by PCTR standards. Sarah and Wendell like loops rather than out and back courses. This race had us go through the Start/Finish no less than 4 times! I'm becoming a fan of such courses. The reason is that they allow me to get to my drop bag quite often. My drop bag usually contains spare bottles filled with my sports drink of choice plus the ubiquitous bottle of Ensure.

The loops went in the following manner: 12K, 9K, 9K loop in reverse, 12K and then our choice of the 9K direction.

The 12K loop was a constant climb all the way to 1800 feet and a descent down to the start along a slightly different route the last 2 miles. The last middle 2 miles of the climb were very rocky. I deemed this good training for the TRT 100M on July 21.

The 9K loop, in my humble opinion, was a lot better. I felt it had more variation in terrain and trail than the 12K one.

Since this race had a 9K, a 21K and a 30K in addition to the 50K, the trails were crowded in the beginning. The 9K runners went off a few minutes early. The 21K, 30K and 50K runners shared the trail.

The climb up to 1800' in the 12K was crowded. The narrow trail and treacherous footing made for a slow pace. It opened out a bit during the descent and we were back to the Start for our first dip into the drop bags. Anil and I quickly replaced our bottles with fresh ones, chugged down a bottle of Ensure each and started on the 9K loop.

Again this loop was uneventful. We met up with a runner name Kimberly who had moved to San Francisco from St. Louis. She, Anil and I ran together for about a mile before she took off to finish, eventually, in 7:01.

Anil and I had decided to go easy and enjoy ourselves. Our aim was to get 6+ hours on a trail as a last really long run before TRT. Chuck Wilson was also doing the 50K as was Tom Kaisersatt.

This loop ended soon enough and we filled up our bottles with our respective powders. I was trying Heed+Perpetuem along with Salt Stick. I have found that Succeed gives me way more salt than I need and it tends to make me feel nauseous. Salt Stick is perfect for me. The Heed+Perpetuem combo was extremely tasty and this was the first race in a long time that I ran without even a sip of Coke!

Stan Jensen was helping out at the Start aid station. He is one amazing person. I love how much he gives back to the ultra community. He is there in so many races. Ruth Anderson, Quicksilver etc. Thank you Stan.

The thing that Anil and I noticed about the 2 loops was that the 12K one felt way different from the 9K one in terms of weather. The 12K one was definitely a bit cooler.

The reverse 9K loop was wonderful too. We met up with a dehydrated 30K runner about 1.5 miles from the end and quickly gave him some of our water. Further up we met a girl whose stomach was hurting. Anil promptly gave her ginger chews and that seemed to help her. Another runner further up was out of water too! I let him have a few swigs from my bottle.

The 12K loop was a bit slower than the first one. It seemed like the climb went on forever. We were both glad when the summit came into sight. Knowing that all that was left in the race was a 3.5 mile descent followed by the nice 9K loop made it easier.

We decided to do the 9K loop in reverse i.e. the direction we had taken for the 2nd 9K loop. Most of the other runners had chosen the opposite direction. I believe Anil and I were right in our opinion that our direction had less climbing than the one the others took.

The Finish finally came 7:43 into the race. This was a deceptive race. It was hilly with just under 7100' of elevation gain.

We hung around and chatted with Sarah and Wendell for 10-15 minutes before heading back to the South Bay. They are wonderful RDs and this race was perfectly managed as usual. Thank to both of them.

Monday, June 25, 2007

2007 Western States 100 Mile Run - Safety Patrol & Pacing

Date: June 23-24, 2007
Location: Squaw Valley to Auburn
Race: Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run (Safety Patrol & Pacing)

(Picture courtesy of Larry Gassan)

I had been looking forward to this weekend ever since I had signed up for Safety Patrol for the first 30 miles. Anil had participated in the memorial Day WS Training Camp so he was familiar with the middle sections of the WS course. This was our chance to see what the first 30 miles looked like.

We drove up Friday afternoon with Christine Miller, another ultra runner. She was also part of the Safety Patrol for the first 30 miles.

We found our way to our motel a few miles from Squaw Valley after dropping Christine in Squaw Valley. We went and checked out the Start area before doing this though. It was very inspiring.

Anil and I woke up around 2:30 a.m. and quickly ate breakfast and got our hand bottles and waist pouches organized with gels etc. before heading to the Start. It was chilly and I was glad to be wearing 2 layers.

We met a whole host of friends in the Start area. Most of them were runners and a few, like us, were in the Safety Patrol red shirts.

The lot of us in the Patrol started the 3 mile climb up to the escarpment at 4:30 a.m., 30 minutes before the start of the race. The trail was very dusty and steep. A mile or so before the top we could see camera flashes down below to our right and we knew that the race had begun.

The elite group of runners included Lon Freeman (course record in the 2007 Miwok 100K), 2006 WS winner Graham Cooper, Hal Koerner, Guillermo Medina and Brian Morrison among others. The first of the elites passed us about a quarter mile from the top. It was astonishing to see how they were making their way up the steep slope!

Anil and I waited at the top to get to the back of the pack. We were off!

The escarpment was almost at 9000 feet. The first few miles were downhill - fast with decent footing. Altitude affects my breathing but the downhill section was fine. We descended more than 1500 feet and then ran along for the remaining miles mostly around 7000 feet.

The next 10 miles or so we were running among friends - Carol Cuminale, Barbara Elia and Karen Hanke. I was to pace Karen later in the day (from the mile 62 mark in Foresthill). Anil was scheduled to pace Chris Marolf from the same point.

The trail was extremely dusty. The lack of rainfall was evident in the total absence of snow. The only white we could see was on distant mountain tops.

Anil was in fine form. Altitude does not seem to bother him at all. He is going to have a blast in the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 miler in July!!

My breathing was starting to become labored. We reached the 10 mile aid station and I quickly ate a few cookies and some PBJ squares. The next big cutoff was at Dusty Corners (11:30 a.m.).

By now Karen, Anil and I were running together as were a few other runners just ahead of Karen. They were all anxious about making the cutoff. They finally trooped in at 11:20 a.m. with Carol and Barbara not far behind. They had hardly any time to grab stuff to eat and fill their bottles before they had to leave. Western States is very particular about enforcing cutoff times and no runner wants to be caught napping when the cutoff bell goes off!

Since Anil and I had only another 7 or so miles to go from there on, we decided to back off on the pace. We reasoned that we needed to save something in our legs for the 38 miles of pacing at night.

We walked and ran the next 3-4 miles until we caught up with a runner named Cyrus (from Detroit). The altitude seemed to be affecting him even more than me. He was very tall and he would bend over every so often trying to suck in air. I noticed that his cap was not venting enough of the heat he was generating, causing him to sweat copiously. I asked him to take it off and I gave him my visor. Anil and I also shared our slices of mango & ginger and our sports drinks and salt tablets with him. He made it to the Robinson Flat AS with 5 minutes to spare!

He promptly went out of the AS and sat down just outside. I quickly piled a plate with food and took it to him. His son had his bottles filled up by AS staff. He sat there for another 10 minutes and finally left around 1:50 p.m. His next cutoff was 3:05 p.m. and we later learned that he did not make it. Maybe he will have better luck the next time he start this race. Good luck to him.

I was very surprised to see Karen Hanke still in the AS. She was sitting in a chair and when I asked her when she intended to leave, she announced that she had decided to quit. Poor baby! As she found out later, she had suffered from altitude sickness and just could not maintain a good pace. Even though she rolled into Robinson Flat at 1:10 p.m., i.e. 30 minutes before the cutoff, she knew that she could not sustain it much longer. Being the savvy and experienced athtlete she is, she decided to quit. Smart decision!

Bob, her husband, had offered to drive Anil and me back to Squaw Valley to pick up our car. Since Karen was also with us we decided to grab lunch. We ate in a pizza place near the Foresthill AS. This is where we met Pete Lubbers. Like Anil, he will be starting his first 100 miler in Tahoe on July 21.

By the time we made it to our car in Squaw Valley it was almost 5 p.m. I drove down to Auburn while Anil dozed. We checked into our motel around 7 p.m. after grabbing a bite to eat in a Chinese restaurant.

Anil barely got an hour of shuteye. We left the room at 9:15 p.m. in order to make it to the Foresthill AS. Chris rolled in there just after 10:00 p.m. He was just under the 30-hr finish pace.

Anil took off with him and I drove back to the motel. Since I no longer had to pace Karen, Anil and I had decided to share his pacing load. I was to take over pacing from Green Gate (mile 80).

I figured that Chris, even if he were to lift himself to a 29-hr pace, would get there around 4:15 a.m. (I was going by a detailed spreadsheet he had made prior to the race). It took me almost an hour to find Green Gate. I reached there only to find that Chris had gone through at 3:45 a.m.! He had lifted himself to a 28-hr pace!!

For a few minutes I felt very, very guilty for letting Anil down. I then shrugged it off. It was done. I could do nothing about it. I wished him and Chris luck in my mind and made my way to the next place where I could meet them. This was at the 93.5 mile mark - the Hwy 49 AS.

This time I made sure I did not dally. I reached at 5:30 a.m. and waited along with a whole lot of family members of other runners. I had a fun time talking to Molly Pelton (womens' winner in the 2006 RDL 100 miler). She was part of Gary Bennett's crew.

I went through 3-4 cups of instant coffee and spent some time with Shige (Yuki's friend) and Miho, Yuki's wife. Yuki came in around 7:50 a.m. with Chihping pacing him. He looked tired but I knew that nothing in the world would stop him from his second consecutive WS finish!

Chris came in just past 8 a.m. with no Anil! I asked him and he said that Anil was behind and would arrive soon. Since Anil had the pacer bib number I could not leave with Chris. Chris spent not more than 3 minutes there.

Anil rolled in about 5 minutes later. I quickly took the bib number from him and darted up the trail. I passed Yuki and Chihping and found Chris not far ahead. The trail then descended for the next mile or more down to the No Hands Bridge. Chris was flying! He must have been doing sub-7:30!! I was so impressed. We made it to the No Hands AS and were out of there in no time at all. The next mile or so was flat and then we started the small climb up to Robie Point.

Chris then started running and walking as soon as we hit the pavement section at the top. We knew that we were a mile and a half from the Finish. He looked strong all the way to a 28:36 finish. What a fantastic run he had!! Congratulations my friend. The way you ran those last 6 miles was very inspiring.

Anil was very tired. We went back to the motel where he showered. We then grabbed Subway sandwiches and coffee from Starbucks before heading back to the Bay area. I drove while Anil dozed. He is such a tough runner. He never complains and is always ready to go the extra mile to help a fellow runner.

I hope he and I get in next year.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Tri OneOOne

In Clearlake I met this man
Of whom I am now a big fan:
A true Hero, he was called Me.

He was as valiant as can be.

On his back I swam, biked and ran.

Oh so badly this race began:

Raw panic flooded the brainpan
Then I slew the Fear beastie

In Clearlake.

Bring up the rear, not the van,
Was the tentative pre-race plan:

I was, after all, a newbie.

But five others I did out flee

As His arms broadened my wingspan

In Clearlake.

Date: June 10, 2007
Race: Tri OneOOne (1.86M Swim, 80.6M Bike, 18.6M Run)
Location: Clearlake, Lakeport, CA (Lake District)
Time : 10:48:56

The Greek god Pan inspired panic in lonely places. Hence the word panic in English (from the Greek panikon "pertaining to Pan"). I felt it for only the second time in my life.

The first time was in Muscat (Oman) sometime in the summer of 1992. Rajeev Char and another friend were trying to teach me how to snorkel. The mask I was wearing was one of those real old ones - the kind that has an oval faceplate surrounded by thick black rubber. My field of vision went from 180 degrees to less than 90 degrees the instant I put my face in the water. I felt intensely claustrophobic and panicked. It took me 45 minutes to conquer it and start snorkeling in the shallows.

My second encounter was brought about by a host of reasons - tight wet suit, too fast a pace causing me to get slightly out of breath and the sight of the other swimmers disappearing from view.

Let's rewind a bit.

Saturday, June 9
I picked up Rajeev Char from his place at 11:00 a.m. We loaded up his stuff in the car, hoisted his bike on a bike rack and hit the road after picking up water, bagels and some coffee.

We met up with Vinod Herur, another triathlon stud (like Rajeev Char), in the Vista Point parking lot on the Marin side of the Golden Gate bridge.

(The San Francisco skyline behind us)

We hit 101N and finally stopped for lunch around 2 p.m. Our next stop was just past 4 p.m. in the little town of Lakeport. Specifically 3rd & Main where the race was to start and end the next day.

There were not too many athletes when we picked up our bib numbers and racked our bikes in the transition area.

(The race registration area)

We decided to grab a few beers (carbo loading???) while we waited for the Race official's briefing at 6 p.m.

We trooped into this little restaurant called Park Place. We met the maitre d'hotel, a girl name Ashley. More about her later. We also met this wonderful 80+ year old lady whose daughter, after getting divorced, had re-invented herself. Mellonie Irvine has her own CD now. You can read about her on Such an inspiring story.

The race briefing went by fast and we then headed to this wonderful hotel Vinod had found. The balcony was in line with the swim turnaround. What a view of Clearlake with Mt. Konocti a bit to the right on the far shore!

The picture below shows the swim course.

(The buoys on the swim course)

(Listening to the official briefing)

After getting our transition bags and other stuff together we finally hit the sack.

Sunday, June 10
We were up at 4:30 a.m.. Did the rounds of the bathroom and hit the road to get to the race. We found parking a few hundred yards from the Start/Finish area.

We inflated our bike tires and got into our wet suits after having body marking done and picking up our chip.

With 15 minutes to go I realized, when using the toilet, that I had put my wet suit on inside out! Kelly (picture below) McKean, who went on to win her Age group, and Rajeev Char helped me set things right. I had generously applied Body Glide to my ankles, my knees, my wrists, my elbows and around my arm pits. The rookie I was, I forgot to apply it around my neck.

(Lovely Kelly and handsome Vinod during the pre-race briefing dinner from the evening before)

A few pictures from before the start below.

(Helping a fellow athlete inflate her tires)

(Getting ready to don the wet suit)

SWIM (2x0.93 miles; 1:30:27)

The start of the swim was a tread water start i.e. we had to wade out a bit from the pier to start. The water felt cold when it seeped into my wet suit but the temperature soon equalized and I felt just right. 7:00 a.m. the Pros had been sent on their way. I remember treading water and hearing the voice of the Race Official saying "45 seconds", "30 seconds" ... I had my watch in Chrono mode and pushed the start as soon as the "gun" went off. I made it around the first buoy and then the panic hit me like a sledgehammer.

I stopped swimming. My mind instantly decided to quit. It tried to justify that decision be stating that I'm a runner, not a triathlete. This was NOT my sport. Then my Spirit took over. It promised to see me through. It got me to start swimming again albeit slowly. It lovingly cradled me until the mind had accepted that there was no turning back.

Then I got into a groove. Swim a few strokes. Look up. Sight the next buoy. Make course corrections. Swim some more. It went on like this for another 80 minutes.

The second lap was faster because I had gotten the hang of navigation. The lack of Body Glide on the back of my neck caused a lot of chafing. I was the last one out of the water, in position 116.

The volunteers in this race were simply outstanding. The volunteer who helped me with my transition got me my transition bag, helped me out of the wet suit, laid out my helmet, bike shoes, gels etc. on the table and even folded and put away the wet suit. Thank you whoever you are. I changed into my bike shorts, stuffed my jersey pockets with Cliff bars, a spare tube and candied ginger.

BIKE (3x26.88; 5:35:38)
It took about 4 miles and a small climb before my legs got into biking mode. The first person I saw was Vinod. I was at about mile 9 while he must have been at mile 22. Char came into view soon about 2 miles later. They both looked in fine form. I ate a Cliff bar just before the turnaround. I was passed by numerous Pros and fast Age Groupers and it was inspiring to see them pedalling away at breakneck speed, as though I was standing still instead of biking at 15 mph. The lap ended with a nice 1.5 mile descent into the town of Lakeport.

That first lap was done at an average speed of 15 mph. The 2 cages on the bike had bottles filled with Gu2O+Clip2+Succeed. The plan was to finish both bottles over the lap and replace them with fresh ones at the end of the lap. I did that and was away on the second lap.

That lap was pretty much a copy of the first one save for the feeling of nausea about 2 miles into it. I reached into the jersey pocket behind me and found the ginger. 4 pieces and 5 minutes later the nausea had disappeared. That happened on and off through that lap and the next. Nausea followed by ginger. That queasy feeling prevented me from drinking and eating as much as I would have like and the run later showed me how much I had been affected.

I finished that second lap with an overall average still at 15 mph.

The third lap was a slow one. There were not many cyclists out there. Just 4 people behind me that I could see. I tried to eat as much as I could but it was not a lot with the nausea still rearing its head now and then.

All along this third lap I was thinking about how Anu had done the 56-mile bike ride during her Miami Half Ironman (Nov 2006) in just under 3:30. I have nothing but admiration for her. She is another amazing athlete!

I ended the bike portion around 7:10 into the race. Overall speed had dropped to 14.4 mph.

I quickly got out of the bike clothes and into running shorts and a matching singlet. Slapped a visor on my head, sunglasses in place and grabbed my hand bottle filled with Coke+Succeed. That combo has worked in all my ultras this year and it delivered here too. The Coke helped somewhat counter the lack of proper nutrition on the bike.

RUN (2x9.3 miles; 3:30:12)
I had planned to run the entire course. Of course you know the old adage about "All the plans of mice and men ...". I did though run the first 11.5 miles non-stop. This course was just an incessant barrage of hills. Short but steep ones that took their toll on the athletes. I ran the first lap at a constant pace of around 11 min/mile.

My breathing had started to unravel slightly during the last bike lap. It came apart completely right at the start of the run. The breath made a wheezing, raspy sound going in. Almost like a death rattle. That prevented me from picking up pace. I was still determined to run as much as I could so I settled into a pace that was commensurate with the amount of oxygen going in!

I ran 18.6 miles on Coke+salt. I met Vinod and Char about 1.5 miles into my first lap. They were at about mile 8 for them. They looked great and encouraged me. I met Char again almost at the same point in the second lap and he looked very strong and I knew that he was going to go under 9:35 (9:23 was his actual time). What a stud!! I doff my hat to you sir.

I met Vinod a mile behind. He was walking. He admitted to being tired. I would have been on my knees had I been in his shoes - 100 mile bike rides on 3 consecutive days over the Memorial Day weekend followed by a hard race in the Escape From Alcatraz triathlon the week after and then this ultra triathlon the week after Alcatraz! He is another super stud I'm in awe of. He went on to finish in 9:48.

My own race ended 10:48 into it as I sprinted across the Finish line. Char got off the massage table when he heard my name being called just to see me finish. What a wonderful friend.

I got a fantastic massage 30 minutes later.

The volunteers in this race were just phenomenal. Ever smiling and ever ready to len a helping hand. The race organization was superb too.

Char and Vinod - Thank you very, very much for all the tips and advice and help you gave me. This race would not have been as much fun had you not been there. Vinod - thanks for the pictures. They are wonderful.

We ate dinner in Park Place (the same place where we had had our beers the day before). We made friends with Ashley and learned about her. Her husband's cancer was discovered 3 days into their marriage! They had canceled health insurance for a couple of months in order to pay for their wedding and the illness was discovered during that period. He has been on chemo for 7 months now and they are $ 600K in debt. You could never have told from her demeanor. She was cheerful and smiling and such a wonderful person. Look her up if you are ever in Lakeport and tell her that Rajeev, Rajeev and Vinod send their love.

One word of caution too all you folks out there who are contemplating doing a triathlon - please do not take the swim as lightly as I did. All my bravado could have been disastrous. Please put in the requisite training AND adequate amount of open water swimming before you try your hand (and arms) at a tri.

Good luck to you all. Be safe.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


(May 18-26, 2007)

(During my Thursday 6.8 mile run)

I stayed in the NH Amsterdam City Center hotel. My first run was 30 minutes after depositing my bags in the room and my last one was a short 2.8 mile run the day before I left this beautiful city.

All my runs were done in the biggest park in Amsterdam. Vondelpark, a few hundred yards away from the hotel entrance, is the most famous park in Holland. Justifiably so. It has small lakes inside with lots of trees and beautiful flowers. The loop I ran is the one that most people run - a 2 mile loop that goes around the perimeter of this lovely park.

This is what I ran during the 7 days I was there:
Saturday 4.8 miles
Sunday 5.3 miles
Monday 6.8 miles
Tuesday 4.8 miles
Wednesday 4.8 miles
Thursday 6.8 miles
Friday 2.8 miles

The weather was perfect all those days. Sunny 65-70 degrees F. I could not have asked for better conditions or a better location.

A few pictures of me during my Thursday run appear below.

(Starting out. The entrance to the park just visible to the right of the bus)

(Just past the 0.7-mile mark of the loop)

(Approaching the 1.5 mile point in the 2-mile loop)

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Quicksilver 50K

This was my first ultra, two years ago
And I love coming back to it each year;
The weather Gods put up a splendid show,
Letting me enjoy a noon, post-race beer!
The early going was tough on my feet,
A week after the long but fun Miwok;
Then they felt good and the mood turned upbeat:
Only the steepest climbs making me walk.
To go under six was my mid-race goal
And to a plan of sorts I stuck all through;
Time and pace I would now have to control,
So up hills I shuffled, down them I flew.
Goal attained! The warrior spirit was pleased
At this latest victory it had seized.

Date: May 12, 2007
Race: Quicksilver 50K
Location: Almaden Quicksilver Park, San Jose
Time: 5:57:25

My aid station splits (time is the time I left the aid station):

Aid Station Mile (Race Time)
Webb Canyon 6.4 (1:11)
Dam I 9.7 (1:48)
Capehorn 14.5 (2:41)
Dam II 19.0 (3:33)
Dam III 23.7 (4:29)
Englishtown 27.0 (5:13)
Finish 31.5 (5:57:25)

I arrived at the race start at around 5:20 a.m. It was nice to (a) sleep in my own bed the night before the race and (b) to not get up until 4:15 a.m.!

(With Chihping and Yuki just before the Start)

I quickly got my bib number, got into my running shoes, filled my hand bottle with Coke+Succeed, put a few extra Succeed tablets in my waist pack, gave Alan Geraldi, running his second 50 miler his empty drop bags, handed my drop bag to the race organizers and promptly went and stood in line for the port-a-potty.

The race started on time at 6:00 a.m. The evening before I had suggested to Anil that we should both consider running the entire course. I started with that intention. A mile into the race my arms went numb from the oxygen debt I incurred pushing up the hills (this is something that happens to me on and off when I'm pushing up steep hills). I backed off and walked as much as I could. I got into a long train of runners along the New Almaden Trail. I was in 3rd place in the train for a few miles then in the lead position for another 2 miles or so. I pretty much ran all of that trail. I came into Webb Canyon 71 minutes into the race, faster than in 2005 and 2006 (I dropped at the 50K mark in 2006 after having signed up for the 50M).

The early miles on this trail were spent being in the same frame of mind that I used to be in during races last year i.e. constantly looking at the time and fixating on pace, possible finish times etc. I pulled myself into the state I love being in these days - in the moment. The race changed right away. It no longer became a fight with the course. It became a journey to be savored, regardless of the eventual result.

We were soon off this trail and made a left up Mine Hill to the Dam Overlook aid station.

This is a great aid station. It comes thrice in the 50K - at miles 9.7, 19.0 and 23.7. I had put 5 bottles of Ensure in the drop bag along with a bottle of Ibuprofen and a few gels. I had my first bottle of Ensure. Among the aid station volunteers were Chuck Wilson, Christine Wilson and Tom Kaisersatt.

Christine kindly filled up my bottle with Coke to which I added Succeed. I was off soon onto the next section, a 4.8 mile trek to the Capehorn aid station on the Randall Trail. Even though I had run this section the past 2 years, I was noticing it for the first time this year. This is what I mean by running in the Now. I enjoyed the feel of muscles pulling me up the gentle grade on a wide trail with occasional views of the valley. Before I knew it, Capehorn came into view. This is where the 25K runners veered off to the left for a 1.5 mile run to the Finish. 50K runners turned to the right, up the Mine Hill trail. This was a gentle climb again that I ran most of. We eventually made a right on the April trail and then a right on Mine Hill (around mile 17) on our way down to the Dam Overlook aid station at mile 19. The views from here are simply spectacular.

I flew down this trail and reached Dam II at 3:33 into the race. Along the way I passed Scott Dunlap on his way up. He was probably between mile 24 and 25 in his race. He was smiling and talking with another runner while maintaining a pretty good clip up the slope.

I did not linger long at Dam II and started off again after half a bottle of Ensure. The next 4.7 miles had a downhill section followed by a short flat section and then a longish climb before a downhill and then an uphill back to the Dam Overlook aid station.

I spotted Yuki on the first of the uphills. He was less than a quarter mile ahead of me. He took a few pictures of me (one of them below) climbing the slope. I caught up with him around mile 21, on the final climb back to Dam III. He was not feeling too good (hip pain) and had wisely decided to call it a day at the 50K mark (after having run 50M in 2005 & 2006). He wanted to play it safe a month before his 2nd consecutive Western States 100M.

We decided to run together from there on out. It was fun keeping pace with someone who is way faster than me. We were back at the Dam AS, for the last time, 4:29 into the race. I told Yuki then that we had an outside chance at going under 6:00 for the race. 7.8 miles to do in 90 minutes! I told him that we would have to run up the 2 mile climb out of the AS. We started shuffling up this hill. We were now joined by Terri who kept pace with us a few yards behind. Up the climb this train went. We made it to the top in good time and then ran along the flat section, enjoying the view of Mt. Umunhum to the right.

Terri, Yuki and I flew down the slope to Englishtown, reaching it at 5:13 on the race clock. This is where I made one of those fortuitous mistakes. Somehow this thought got firmly entrenched in my mind that the Englishtown AS was at mile 28. My mind thus reckoned a 3.5 mile run to the Finish in 47 minutes for a sub-6:00 run time.

The next 2 miles or so after the AS were a blessed downhill section. Yuki and I picked up the pace and flew down this nice trail with Terri not far behind. Then came the first of the last 5 climbs. I had conveniently forgotten the number of climbs from the prior 2 years and they came as a rude shock to the system. A volunteer came into view after one of those steep climbs and I asked her how much further the Finish was (as did Anil a few minutes later). She replied "1.7 miles!". That took the wind out of my sails for a few steps until I looked at my stopwatch. It read "5:48" i.e. 35 minutes since we had left the Englishtown AS. Since much of that time had been spent running fast and since my brain had made the erroneous assumption that the Finish was 3.5 miles away, that meant that we had run only 1.8 miles in 35 minutes!! That was obviously wrong. So she was wrong! The Finish was LESS than 1.7 miles. Closer to less than 0.7 miles!!!

I decided to go for it. I flew down the final descent. I soon passed the left turn we had made in the morning to start the New Almaden section of the run and knew that the Finish was literally a few hundred yards away. I heard the people in the Finish area around then and my legs sprouted wings. I flew up a small climb (10 yards) and into the Finish chute. My watch and the race clock both showed 5:57:25. Mission accomplished.

Anil Rao ran the race of his life. He rolled into the Finish 8 minutes later in 6:05. Wow is all I can say!!!

I grabbed a beer and chatted with Scott Dunlap. He then had another runner take a picture of Anil, me and him together.

Our drop bags would not come back to the Finish until after 2 p.m. Chuck Wilson and Christine Miller graciously offered to pick them up for us. Anil and I are grateful to them.

Chihping had a great outing again. He ran the 50M in a stunning 9:08. Alan Geraldi, Ironman that he is, ran the 50M in just over 10 hours in spite of throwing up quite a few times. Yuki too ran an easy race (for him) and lives to fight in the Western States.

Janice and Tom, race RDs, excelled again this year. Their team of volunteers are some of the best and the race is a superbly organized one. Thank you all for another stellar year.