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.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Miwok 100K

There is no past or future, just the Now:
Mind and body fully in the moment.
No worry lines creasing the sweaty brow:
Just the warrior Spirit, ever gallant.
Above and below - I am everywhere,
As I take in the incredible views;
Up and down the slopes like a speeding hare
I run or walk, as I see fit to choose.
To do this race I will come back again
For it is how I choose to cleanse the Soul:
Through self-inflicted pleasure, not raw pain.
The fragmented Self once again a Whole.
Like Mol'luk, the Miwok's condor spirit,
I will soar each time this course I visit.

Date: May 5, 2007
Race: Miwok 100K
Location: Rodeo Beach, Marin County, CA
Time: 14:44:40

Saturday, May 5
I had to wake up at 2:45 a.m. in order to eat breakfast, shower and hit the road to pick up Anil Rao from his home at 4:00 a.m.

We stopped for coffee at a 24-hour Starbuck in the city (9th and Howard) on the way to Rodeo Beach, the start of the annual Miwok 100K. I had done this race before and looked forward to the spectacular views the course throws up all along.

We were so busy getting together our last minute stuff that we made it to the beach, a few hundred yards from the parking lot, scant minutes before Tia Bodington, the RD, set therunners off on their way. It was still dark but not so much that we needed a flashlight. Just like the year before, the runners came to a halt on the first climb of the day, at the end of the beach. 5 minutes had already elapsed on the race clock when Anil and I started our trudge up that slope.

The crowd soon thinned as we made our way up asphalt on Field Road and then Conzelman Road.

The views from here were spectacular. I walked for a bit with Julian Martinez, a runner I had befriended in the race the year before. At the top, we made a left onto McCullough Road and then an immediate left onto the Coastal Trail. This was approximately 4.5 miles into the race.

We descended on the Coastal Trail to the Bunker Road AS which was a water only aid station. Anil and I did not linger very long. My stomach had already started to protest but I knew that I could go to the toilet in the Tennessee Valley aid station, 11.9 miles into the race. There was a climb followed by a detour onto the Miwok Trail. Anil and I met and briefly ran with Molly Pelton, the 1st placed woman in the 2006 Rio Del Lago 100. She was gone soon after and the next time I saw her was coming back from the turnaround while Anil and I were heading down to it.

The views from here were wonderful and we soon reached the point where we got our first glimpse of the Tennessee Valley AS down below to our left. We could see a line of runners snaking their way along the trail beyond the aid station as we would be doing soon.

I hit the toilet as soon as we got to the aid station. Anil had meticulously planned our drop bags and I availed of the first of many Ensures of the day.

Jakob Hermann caught up with us right after the aid station and we ran with him for five minutes or so before parting company. We were soon on a climb up the Coastal Trail on our way to the Muir Beach AS. What sublime views we had of the Pacific Ocean and the coastline from the top! Anil, who was carrying the camera today, took numerous pictures. The Muir Beach aid station came up and we did not linger long again.

(Muir Beach)

Out of the aid station we ran for a bit with Gary and Peggy Davidson. Peggy had finished RDL last year 30 minutes before me and I had bumped into her in the '06 Helen Klein 50 and the American River 50 earlier this year. She, Gary, Anil and I joked about how we were playing tag with each other.

We ran along the Redwood Creek Trail for a couple of miles. We soon found ourselves on the second sustained climb of the day, the climb up the Coastal Trail to the Pan Toll AS. This is where Anil and I teamed up with Carol Cuminale, Greg and Jennifer. We walked up the hill with Greg and I regaling the others with all manner of dirty jokes. We even had to find our way around a giant tree that blocked the path.

I had my second Ensure in the Pan Toll AS. I emptied my bottle of the Clip2 I had started with and switched to Coke with Succeed.

Bolinas Ridge was as spectacular as it had been last year. The green ridge sloping off to the left into a thicket of trees and the ocean beyond with the white topped waves soundlessly crashing onto the rocks near Stinson Beach was like manna from running Heaven.

(Stinson Beach from the Bolinas Ridge Trail)

Carol, Anil and I ran most of the ridge to the Bolinas Ridge AS.

We topped off our bottles, ate a few cookies and started the trudge to the next aid station, the turnaround point at Randall Trail aid station (mile 35.6). We saw most of the frontrunners, save for the first 5-6 (including Scott Jurek and Brian Morrison) whom we saw along Bolinas Ridge, here. We met Chihping Fu here and he looked a bit low but he got stronger soon after (in his recap of the race) and finished in 12:12, a week after running the brutal Diablo 50M.

The cutoff for the Randall Trail AS was 2:20 p.m. (8:40 into the race). We were out of the aid station at 8:00 on the race clock i.e. at 1:40 p.m. and found ourselves climbing up the 1.7 miles to the top. This is where my lower back started hurting a bit.

The run back to the Bolinas Ridge AS was a bit tough for both of us.

Anil gave me some Tylenol in the Bolinas Ridge AS and the pain soon disappeared. My low had now turned into a high that lasted the rest of the 20 miles to the Finish. I flew up and down the slopes on the trail between Bolinas Ridge and the Pan Toll AS. 3 of our friends were pacing us from Pan Toll to the Finish.

I hung around in the AS for almost 10 minutes before Anil came in. He changed his socks (fresh socks stored away in the drop bag), we each had an Ensure, got our flashlights and left the AS 11:34 (5:14 p.m.) into the race. The run down the Coastal Trail was fun and we soon found ourselves taking the left turn in order to climb up to the Highway 1 AS. I passed Gary, Peggy and Christine here and found myself waiting once again in the AS for the rest of my gang to come in.

Our pacers drank and ate a bit as did Anil and I and we left to begin the climb and eventual descent down to the Tennessee Valley AS. As soon as we got onto the Miwok Fire Road, a mile and a half climb up to the junction with the Coastal Fire Road, I told my pacers that I was not going to let this climb get the better of me. I accelerated and found myself settling into a fantastic rhythm and pace.The climb was soon behind me and I waited at the top (the descent down Fox Trail) for the rest. I took off again down the Fox Trail and came into the Tennessee Valley AS. I met Kevin here (Anil and I had shared the bus ride from the Finish to the Start the morning of AR50 3 weeks ago - he went on to finish AR in 8 hours!). Kevin was the designated sweep and had been working the AS from early morning!

Anil and the rest soon caught up and we left the AS with the intention to (a) finish while there was still light left and (b) do so in under 15 hours. The initial climb up Old Springs was not steep and I ran the last part. After the right turn onto Miwok, I power walked the climb up the Wolf Ridge Trail. This trail met a paved road at the top, a right on which took us down to the Finish.

I FLEW down this last part reaching 6:00-6:30 min/mile in parts. Something inside me told me that I had an outside chance at finishing in 14:42 (an hour faster than last year). I gave it my all down that last part. I finally finished in 14:44, a satisfying 58 minutes faster.

What a fantastic race this one is. The course is breathtakingly beautiful. This year's experience was almost zen-like for me. I was always in the moment, just like I had been at the AR50 a few weeks ago. Something inside me has changed, both in my quotidian existence and my running (isn't running ALL that makes up life???). I have stopped worrying about the next moment or the next hour or the next day. I refuse to waste the Now for it is all I have to spend.

Carol came in a little bit later followed by Jennifer.

Karen Hanke, whom I saw just once in the race on the way back from the turnaround, finished in 14:07. She is an amazingly strong runner and I will have to be on my toes while pacing her in the Western States later this year.

The race volunteers were simply fantastic. They would walk yards out of the AS to take our bottles and fill them for us. All of them had large smiles writ on their faces. If the race was a Who's Who of running, the list of volunteers was one too. Dave Combs was the official "scorer". I met Nicole Whiting who was helping out in the Finish area. She and her husband John were assigned the task of sweeping the course near the Finish soon after the last runner.

Heartfelt thanks to Tia Bodington and her superb crew of volunteers.

Immense gratitude to our pacers Arun, Kiran and Bharti for driving all the way to Pan Toll from the South Bay to be with us on the way to the Finish.