Sunday, December 21, 2008

Kauai running

I have been looking forward all year to visiting Kauai, "The Garden Isle". I love Maui (I've been there 5 times in the past 6 years) but decided to visit Kauai. There are 18 of us staying in a large (it's big!) villa right on the ocean on the West shore (check out Villa I on

We landed pretty late on Friday (Dec 19) and were tired by the time we slept around midnight. My PST biological clock woke me up at 5:30 a.m. and pretty soon all of us were eating  hearty breakfast while sitting on the lanai.

The day was spent lazing. It was 3:30 p.m. when 5 of us headed off in the direction of the Pacific Missile facility. The others turned back 1.5 miles into the run while I decided to go up Kokee road (this road leads to Waimea Canyon and beyond to Kokee). What a beautiful run it turned out to be! The road gradually started climbing and I was soon negotiating a steady 4-5% grade. 

Birds chirping of to my left accompanied by the sound of water rushing down the hill in the form of a stream. Water headed back to the ocean to evaporate and begin its run down the stream again days from now!

No mile posts went by to inform me about my progress. After having run up the road for about 33 minutes, I decided I would turn back as soon as the first car passed me. I had to run another 3 minutes to start to point my shoes down the hill.

The run down finally showed by how steep the run up was. I felt good going up and even better coming down the long way to the left turn back to the villas.

I'm excited about tackling that climb again this week. I will carry water and something to eat that day.

It's 6:45 a.m. and I want to eat breakfast while watching the sunrise from the lanai. :)

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

End of The Year Blog Tag

I was tagged by Alan Geraldi with the questions below.

1. What was your 2008 running highlight and running low?
I would have to say that the Rio Del Lago 100M was my highlight for the year. The heat was intense and runners were dropping like flies. I played it safe during the hot hours of the day (12 noon to 4 p.m.). That strategy paid off handsomely and I managed to finish with less than 5 minutes to spare.

I don't know if I had a low of any note. The closest would be the DNF, at 67 miles, in the Tahoe Rim Trail 100M.

2. What race are you secretly planning on doing (or contemplating) for 2009 but haven't made it known to the public....until now.
A few people know that I want to do the inaugural 260-mile Thames Ring (June) in the UK. It sounds intriguing to say the least. Now I guess a lot more will know.

3. Where would you like create and direct an ultra that (to your knowledge) none exists?
I would like to create a 100M run in the South Bay. This would be in the corridor between San Mateo and San Jose.

4. What is your "primary" race for 2009?
My primary race will be the 260-mile Thames Ring. If that race does not happen for some reason, I will focus once again on the Lean Horse 100M and try to go under 24 hours.

5. What is the most exciting thing about your upcoming race schedule?
A few old races, a few new ones ... Keeps me on my toes.

6. List your planned races for 2009:
100M self-supported run at the end of Jan along Hwy 1 from Pacifica to Monterey
Adam Blum's Fatass 26-mile run in Feb
Coyote Two Moon 100M in March
AR50 in April
100M self-supported run the weekend after Ruth Anderson
Quicksilver 50M in May
Ohlone 50K in May
Thames Ring 260-mile ultra in June
Tahoe Rim Trail in July (?)
Lean Horse in August
Rio Del Lago in September
Dick Collins 50M in October

Tagging Anil Rao, Rajeev Char, Mark Tanaka, Jean Pommier, Brad Niess and Rick Gaston.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Firetrails 50M, Friendship and a Ghazal

A chilly and shivery morning it was;
Of the nice day ahead no warning it was.

The first few miles were run in the pre-dawn dark;
Then came the hills up which slow ambling it was.

Stories told. Hearts opening. Caring expressed.
In Firetrails a lot of bonding it was.

Narrow paths. Two-way traffic. Breathless slow climbs.
The cutoff. A wee bit worrying it was.

Then the ridge was attained. Then the hearts were thrilled.
Sky. Mountains. Sea. Such wondrous viewing it was.

The way back through a nest of yellowjackets.
Twice stung. Ah! How excruciating it was.

Hand in hand in hand across the Finish line.
Of teamwork such a poignant showing it was.

So, Rajeev, you will be back again next year:
Your heart has deemed that sublime running it was.

Date : October 11, 2008
Race : Dick Collins Firetrails 50M
Location: Castro Valley, CA
Time : 12:16:47
Race Pictures: Click here.

Friendship we all know about. If you are an ultra runner the Firetrails 50M is a race you have either run or heard of. What is a ghazal you will ask?

More information about it on

The rules of this wonderful poetic form can be summed up as:
(a) It is formed of couplets
(b) All couplets must have the same meter
(c) The first couplet of the ghazal and the second line of every other couplet must end with the same a word/words. This is known as the radif of the ghazal.
(d) The radif must be preceded by the kaafiya or rhyme of the ghazal.
(e) Optionally the last couplet may contain the name of the poet.

My ghazal above has 11 syllables in each line. The radif is "it was" and the rhyming words are warning, ambling, bonding ...

That was your 60 second primer on the Indo-Arabic-Persian poetic form known as the ghazal.

Now onto the race itself.

(With Bonnelle and Donn)

Martin Casado, a fellow Ultraholic, parked his car outside Anu's home which is where I had been staying since Wednesday. We set off around 4:45 a.m. and soon picked up another Ultraholic, Sean Lang, from the Saratoga library parking lot.

Our drive up to Castro Valley was interrupted by a much needed stop in the Starbucks in Milpitas. We reached the race parking lot with ample time to spare. It was cold and I was regretting the thin, reflective gloves I was wearing. I had also chosen to leave my flashlight at home figuring that I would not need it. It was a good thing the the first few miles were on asphalt.

I met so many local ultra running luminaries. It was nice to be surrounded by familiar faces who were out to achieve the same goal.

Carl spoke briefly before the race and we were soon off. Martin Casado, who had proclaimed that he was under trained and would run with me, disappeared exactly after 5 minutes! I know that I had brushed my teeth, showered and applied deodorant earlier. Curiouser and curiouser. :))

I found myself running with Bonnelle Murphy, my running buddy from the August Lean Horse 100M. We were soon joined by a Southern California runner named Donn Ozaki. We were talking and having so much fun in those early miles that I daresay we were probably the last runners.

The first AS came up soon and I partook of a PB&J sandwich square. I was trying Vespa ( and had not even bothered to fill my bottle with the usual Perpetuem+Heed mixture. I had chosen to go with whatever they were serving in the Aid
Stations - GU2O in this case.

Looking back I must say that Vespa worked. I did not really eat as much - I touched not a single gel and ate a few chips+PB&J at every aid station. More power to Peter Defty and his Vespa!

Bonnelle, Donn and I traipsed along from aid station to aid station talking and taking pictures.

We left the Skyline gate AS (mile 15) a tad behind Barb Elia. She was, according to the AS volunteers, not feeling too good. I too would not have after RDL 100, the Cowtown marathon and then this 50M!!

It was fun watching the marathon runners going past in the opposite direction. I soon spotted the familiar figure of Hal Koerner flying towards us on on his way back. He was followed by Victor Ballesteros and then Jean Pommier.

We caught up with Barb a few miles later and I ran with her for a mile or so while Bonnelle and Donn moved ahead. I left her right after Rick Gaston passed us going the other way.

We were now a bit worried about the cutoff at mile 26 (6:15 race time or 12:15 p.m.). We were also eagerly looking forward to the long "downhill" section before the turnaround AS but the climbs did not seem to end!

We finally reached the ridge. The views were spectacular to put it mildly. I spent a few precious seconds snapping away pictures.

The three of us finally reached the downhill section and then eventually the turnaround at 12:02 p.m. Relief!

We did not linger long and headed back up the long climb to the ridge. Looking back, I felt that the course was mostly downhill once the ridge was reached on the way back. I pretty much ran 80-90% of it from mile 32-33 or so. In the process I was stung twice by yellowjackets - once in my left knee and the other on my left forearm. Very painful.

I left Bonnelle, who was now being paced by her husband Jeff, and Donn right after the 41 mile AS. I had switched to Coke+Succeed by now and ran the climbs and flew down the slopes all the way to Bort Meadows. I asked Stan to inform Bonnelle and Donn that I would wait near the finish for them so that we could finish together.

Now it was time to put the hammer down. I passed one runner soon after Bort Meadows and then caught up with and passed another, Mark from Redwood City. I slowed, turned around and started running with Mark. We talked and ran for the next mile or so before I left him.

I was expecting to catch up with my friend Diane Forrest who had started the race at 6:00 a.m. Sure enough I saw her ahead of me walking slowly. I asked after her and she informed me that her stomach had gone south. Out came the ginger from my waist pouch and it worked like a charm on her in 5 minutes. We soon reached the final AS, 2.9 miles from the Finish, and left it after Diane had imbibed some Coke.

We ran/walked this last bit until we reached the grass strip leading to the Finish chute. I asked her to go ahead while I waited for my two buddies. They showed up 10 minutes later and we ran across the Finish line hand in hand.

The veggie burgers were outstanding! My appetite returned and I wolfed them down in a flash before Martin and I headed back to Saratoga and eventually to a night of rest.

Ann and Carl put on a superb race. I doubt if I have ever run a better marked race. The post-race barbecue is legendary as are the 2 RDs. The volunteers were fantastic and it was a pleasure interacting with them.

I will be back next year.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Skin of my teeth survival in RDL

The RDL Villanelle
There is a story I have to tell
About a long race in Granite Bay.
It is the RDL Villanelle.

The Moon down the Heavens slowly fell;
The Sky brightened with the dawning day.
There is a story I have to tell.

Then came Heat and his armies from Hell.
His sweaty hordes fought on the Cool way.
It is the RDL Villanelle.

Dodged I did, bell after cutoff bell,
Fighting Fatigue: she had come to stay.
There is a story I have to tell.

Night pounced with spell after drowsy spell:
Fought her I did, keeping Sleep at bay.
It is the RDL Villanelle.

Nike smiled. Then came the final bell.
Ah! It had been an exacting fray.
There is a story I have to tell.
It is the RDL Villanelle.

Date : September 27-28, 2008
Race : Rio del Lago (RDL) 100M
Location: Granite Bay, CA
Time : 29:55:08

I have never run a race this close to cutoffs. Maybe the closest is the 2008 Tahoe Rim Trail 100M where I bailed out at 67 miles.

Friday, September 26
I attended Norm's pre-race briefing in the Cavitt Middle School (race HQ) after having my weight etc. taken by Norm himself. I also volunteered for a study on ultrarunners that was being conducted by UC Davis. The study involves comparing pre-race runner statistics (weight, body fat etc.) with the same post-race ones.

Norm likes to call up a few people and talk about them. I was one of the (un)lucky 6. Mark Tanaka, Georganna Quarles, Michael Kanning, Rena Schuman and another 1980s ultrarunner were the others called up besides me. He sang an Indian song for me.

It was off to dinner in Pasta Pomodoro with Karen Bonnett, Anu, Jean Pommier, Michael Kanning and his Dad and grandfather. The food was excellent as was the company.

Sleep came early that night.

Saturday, September 27
I woke up at 4:00 a.m. and feasted on a bagel with peanut butter and chocolate milk. A quick shave and shower later I was ready to leave. Anu dropped me off to the race start. Karen Bonnett was already there and she came out so that Anu could give the two of us a blessing.

(With Diane Vlach just before the start)

Norm soon lead us up the levee. I connected with Becky Johnson, Catra Corbett, Nancy Warren, Diane Vlach, Georganna Quarles among others. Norm counted down from 10 and we were off!

Karen and I spent the first few miles chatting with a few fellow runners. This is where a runner named Ralph, all 6'3" of him, joined up with us. I was leading the train that soon grew to include Nancy Warren and Georganna. We talked about a host of things. We spent a few minutes talking to Jose San Gabriel who was doing the 53.2 mile Sierra Nevada race.

We reached Twin Rocks, the first AS (mile 4.1), at 6:41. We were zooming along at 10 min/mile pace. The next section slowed us down somewhat owing to its rocky nature but we still made good time to Horseshoe Bar. We did not linger long here since Rattlesnake Bar, the first of the drop bag aid stations, was only 1.9 miles away.

I downed an Ensure there and replenished the gels in my fanny pack. Ralph, Karen and I were soon off. Nancy Warren had taken off right after Twin Rocks while Georganna left later.

It was starting to get hot now. The Power plant water only AS soon swam into view and the three of us topped off our bottles. The next section was a long one - 7.1 miles to Maidu. It included a climb, called Cardiac, that had knocked the wind out of my sails in 2006. That climb came up soon enough and it was as tough as I remembered it. Last year the temperatures had been 15 degrees cooler so that climb had not seemed hard.

The temperatures were climbing rapidly by now and the climb was made more difficult by the fact that there was no breeze on that covered trail. Ralph and I were together (he is a very, very strong climber). Karen, suffering a bit, was 30-40 yards behind us. Ralph and I caught up with and passed Marissa Licon and Christina Bronson. We soon came upon this young girl whose top and face were covered in salt and whose water bottle was bone dry.

I gave her a couple of my Succeed salt tablets and some water. A race volunteer was waiting at the top with cold bottles of water! Thank you whoever you are. The run along the canal to the Maidu AS was uneventful. We left that AS in a minute or so since the next drop bag station, Auburn Dam Overlook (mile 22.45), was only 1.5 miles away.

I met up with Anu here and she promptly refilled one of my bottles with my Perpetuem+Heed mixture and water in the other. Karen in the meantime was being tended to by her crew chief Diane Forest. We left around 11:30 a.m.

It was on the trip to No Hands that we were joined by Theresa, a Sierra Nevada (53.2 mile race) runner. By this time I was in full swing, cracking one dirty joke after another and the miles went by in a flash. No Hands is where Theresa parted company with us. It was about a mile or a mile and a half before No Hands that we saw Chikara Omine going back followed by Jean Pommier and then Mark Tanaka. Jon Olsen too passed us but he was looking spent.

K-2 was very long and hard. Midway up the climb we came to a false flat with a wonderful breeze. By now a runner named Jeff had joined us as had a friend of Karen's - John. We all sat for 5 minutes enjoying the breeze and letting our muscles recover. We started the climb again and soon passed Christina who had passed us while we were sitting.

Reaching the top was such a relief!

I met up with Anu in Cool. She is such a wonderfully calm and helpful person. She quietly took care of my needs. I drank a bottle of Ensure. The Olmstead loop was going to be brutal. I could tell. We left the AS at 2:05 p.m. with the intention of returning before 4:00 p.m. The temperature during that loop must have touched 95 degrees. There were just a few places along the loop where there was any semblance of a breeze. All three of us were glad when we were done with the loop.

The worst of the climbs and the heat were now behind us. The rise in spirits was palpable. It was in the Cool AS (mile 36 now) that I had the first solid food of the day - a delicious grilled cheese sandwich. Nothing could have tasted better right then! Jean Suyenaga was sitting in a chair looking like she was in bad shape. To my amazement, she got up and walked out to continue her fight. What a trooper!

Auburn Dam was reached at 6:15 p.m. and I was surprised to see Arul, Shishir and Deepa there. I had asked Anu to ask them to skip the Dam Overlook AS since I did not need anything. They showed up nonetheless and it was indeed heartening to see them.

Our trip back to No Hands was fast. I had my only bout of low blood sugar during that leg but that was soon remedied by a gel.

(With Becky Johnson-Sabin at mile 40)

Our train now consisted of Karen Ralph, Jeff, John and I. We kept each other company almost all the way back to Twin Rocks (mile 62.88). It was when we rolled into Rattlesnake Bar at 9:20 that I realized that there was a 10:00 p.m. cutoff there. I had been asking after Lisa Weiss all day. Her crew person was her husband Bob and he kept giving me her status. I prayed that she would make the cutoff. I met Diane Vlach here. She had dropped from the race.

I was even more surprised that Twin Rocks had a cutoff (of 12:15 a.m.). Anyway, Diane Forest offered me a beer and I had about half of it. Karen was had work done on a pretty bad heel blister so we spent a bit of time on that.

Horseshoe Bar was up the road and we skipped through, mentally getting ready for the hoary section between Horseshoe and Twin Rocks. Sure enough it was as bad as I remembered it. The rocks were covered with a film of dust making it hard to see their edges in the light of our headlamps. We all slipped on more than one occasion.

I was in a hurry to reach Twin Rocks since we could then power our way back to the school along the rollers between Twin Rocks and the school.

We reached Twin Rocks just before midnight (11:55 p.m. if I remember right). Jeff had fallen off the pace since he had had two bouts of throwing up. Dave, Karen's pacer and a guy with a great sense of humor, had offered to stay with him while we forged ahead. I later learned that Jeff dropped at Twin Rocks.

Karen was hungry and so she swallowed some food and we were soon out of there. It was about a mile after there that I stubbed my right toe very hard against the side of the road. The pain was excruciating and I screamed all manner of curses while trying to lessen the pain. The rolling section was where we first hooked up with Barbara Elia. I introduced her to the others. We played tag with her almost all the way to the turnaround (mile 83).

We passed Shannon Farar-Griefer here and she was in obvious pain. Her right hip flexor was hurting, making it almost impossible for her to run. Jorge Pacheco was pacing her. I stopped to give her some advice and words of encouragement before catching up with my team just before the final rise to the levee.

We had asked Diane to get us pizza in Cavitt. It tasted superb but I was to pay later for that treat! I decided not to change my shirt or shorts but to pick up a thin jacket, my arm warmers and gloves.

Arul was now to pace me while Karen had Brad a.k.a Beast as her bodyguard. Ralph was given one of Karen's other friends, Deanna a.k.a Turtle, while John had the services of yet another of Karen's buddies, Richard.

This was now a group of 8 people that wended its way down towards Hazel Bluff. We reached Folsom Dam soon enough. We passed Mark Tanaka going the other way.

Off it was now to get to the next cutoff - 4:40 a.m. at Hazel Bluff. Ralph, Arul and I were slightly ahead of the others and we duly reached Hazel Bluff around 4:25 a.m. We did not linger long. Dave Combs, an annual RDL fixture here, encouraged us to leave as soon as possible in order to make the 90 mile cutoff (8:35 a.m.).

We soon adopted the strategy of walking 2 minutes and running 2. Barb Elia remarked about how she liked it. My stomach had gone south on me by now. It was before the Willow Creek As (mile 80.79) that I stopped by the side of the road and dry retched. We left that AS and started the trip to Mt. Lion Knoll. By now I was starting to feel the need to go to the toilet and it had to be in a proper one since squatting was not an option given the state of my quads.

I was also fighting waves of sleep and the drowsiness was kept at bay by a couple of caffeine pills taken over 3 hours.

Ralph and I sped ahead once we got close to Mt. Lion Knoll. I quickly downed 2 cups of warm pumpkin soup (it actually did my stomach some good) and hurried into the neighboring Lake Natoma Inn to use their restroom. I left it at 6:36 a.m. and found Arul outside waiting for me. The others had left, figuring that I would catch up with them.

My right Achilles had been bothering me on and off the whole day but my left one was the one that experienced a very sharp twinge about half a mile on the trip back. I stopped, stretched and talked sweetly to my Achilles. I sent it breath and love. In 5 minutes the pain was a faint tightness and I started to run again.

Arul and I caught up with Karen and the others. That's when we found out that Ralph had taken off. He eventually finished in 29:07.

Poor Karen was in bad shape. She could not eat or drink and she had absolutely no energy left. We coaxed and cajoled her into drinking Coke and asked her to focus on the Hazel Bluff cutoff as her race goal. She slowly started to come back to life and by the time we reached the parking lot across the dam from where we could see Hazel Bluff, she was ready to take on the last 10 miles.

Since we reached right at 8:30 a.m. Dave Combs asked us to not even enter the AS but to continue on. That's exactly what we did. I was so impressed with Arul. He had made the 22 mile pacing look so effortless. We actually ran quite a bot of those 22 miles and he had no problems keeping up with us. A born athlete is what he is!

Arul had given way to Anu. She brightened up our day with her smile and her energy. Karen had been looking forward to running with Anu and it was 10 miles of fun.

We reached the climb up to the levee around 11:35 a.m. This is where all of us got lost. None of us, save John's sister, noticed the pink ribbon instructing us to go straight. I think I was to blame for this. I went off to the right just like in years past and they all followed me! Finally after a lot of scrambling around etc. we made our way back and found the correct course. I think we all lost 10 minutes or so there.

I took off with Anu in tow soon after and decided to stop just before the finish so that I could see the actual race time (my stopwatch had accidentally stopped many hours prior). I wanted to finish hand in hand with Karen who I knew was not far behind. Sure enough, she showed up a minute later and we crossed the finish line in 29:55:08. Diane Forest hugged me and asked me about John.

I decided to run back to inform him about the time he had left to finish - 3.5 minutes when I started running towards him. I soon saw him flying down the last section. He must have been doing 8 minute miles. He finished in 29:59 and change! So very impressive how he fought in those last few hundred yards.

I quickly showered and got into a Sierra Nevada T-short that Shishir bought for me right there. We went down the street to a Thai place and ate great food. On going back to the school we learned that the award ceremony had ended so we went back to the hotel, picked up our bags and started the journey back the the South Bay.

I am indebted to Shishir and Deepa who drove up with Arul on Saturday to crew through the night. All this despite having a 2.5-year old child!! Thank you both so much.

Arul is a rock. He is so very dependable. It was comforting just to have his calming presence by my side.

What can I say about Anu? She is a gem, a jewel. Rara avis is how I like to think of her.

Congratulations to Jean Pommier for his superb 2nd. place finish and to Mark Tanaka for a gutsy 4th. place one.

Gratitude to Norm and his amazing corps of volunteers for putting on a fantastic race.

Dave Combs - thank you for all that you do for the sport. You are a gift to the ultrarunning community.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

2008 Lean Horse 100M

The Lean Horse Haiku
Summer all around.
The limestone path straight ahead.
Step. Then another.

Date : August 23-24, 2008
Race : Lean Horse 100M
Location: Hot Springs, SD
Time : 26:50:26

All photos in this report courtesy of Scott who finished this race, his first 100 miler, in 25 hours!

Thursday, Aug 21
I left work around noon to head to Oakland airport for my 2:03 p.m. flight to Denver from where I had a connecting flight to Rapid City at 9:40 p.m.

I parked my car in Long Term parking and boarded the shuttle bus only to get off one stop later! All I had climbed on board the bus with was my backpack!! I had forgotten the large suitcase filled with my race stuff behind!!!!

I trudged back to the car, got the bag and duly got on the next bus. That's when the phone rang. It was a recorded message from United Airlines informing me that my 2:03 p.m. flight was now delayed until 4:45 p.m. Not one to fret unduly about things I checked in my suitcase and made my way to the gate. I ate a sandwich for lunch and had a nice Starbucks espresso. Read on and off. Dozed a bit. Finally it was time to board.

The plane landed on time in Denver and I soon found myself waiting in line to board the connecting flight. My checked in bag arrived soon enough on the carousel in Rapid City and I lugged it outside to wait for the guy from Casey's Car Rental to pick me up and take me to his rental agency which was in town. After 30 minutes or so, I was on my merry way driving the 59 miles down to Hot Springs. Last year I had felt a bit strange at around the same time. I had not been in a "rural" mid-western town for almost 20 years (I left Grand Forks, ND in 1988) and it had seemed a tad "alien". This year I felt like I was coming home so to speak.

I fell asleep, after watching a bit of the Olympics, at around 2:30 a.m.

Friday, August 22
I woke up around 9:45 a.m. on Friday, made my drop bags and went and deposited them in the Mueller Center.

I still had a few hours to kill so I found my way to a spa where I got a nice one hour massage. Just before the massage I found a local pub where I had a pretty good local brew and some simple spaghetti with marinara sauce.

The race briefing was short and it was time to eat dinner before hitting the sack. Pizza Hut it was for dinner.

Saturday, August 23
I had been so proud the day before, when making my drop bags, about how meticulously I had planned them until I realized that I had forgotten to pack enough of my Perpetuem+Heed mixture for the first 16 miles of the race! Oh well!! Que sera sera.

The race started off at 6:00 a.m. sharp.

(Listening to Jerry Dunn, the RD, before the start)

I found myself walking/running with Molly Sheridan and her husband Bill. Bill had finished his first Badwater race earlier this year and Molly had missed the 76 mile cutoff in the TRT 100M earlier in July. They are both wonderfully nice people, always smiling and in good spirits.

My two hand bottles were filled with water and my intention for the first 16 miles, until my first drop bag in the Argyle Road AS at mile 16, was to rely on gels.

(Runners up the first climb on Argyle Road, just past the 5 mile mark)

The left ankle never bothered me much throughout the race. This time around it was a tight right Achilles tendon, brought about by tight glutes & hamstrings, that bothered me for almost 90 miles.

It was around mile 9 or 10 that Bonelle caught up with me and we got around to talking. She remembered me from last year's race when she, Nattu and I had run briefly and about the same point. We were together until the Argyle AS. I quickly filled up one of the bottles with the P+H mix and quickly left the AS after downing half a bottle of Ensure. It was here that I asked Bonelle if she wanted to run with me. She asked me to go ahead but told me that she would keep my yellow shirt in sight for as long as she could.

I had set my watch timer for 5 minutes of running and 2 minutes of walking. I kept this up until the next drop bag AS, Pringle, at mile 24. Mother Nature had been calling for quite a few miles now so I gladly took the opportunity to make a pit stop in the toilet next to the AS.

Bonelle had surged ahead and I caught up with her after a mile and a half or so. I passed her again and this train now wound its merry way to the next drop bag AS (Harbach). Along the way my peeing had become more frequent - 2-3 times an hour. I was taking salt tablets now and then though not regularly. The Achilles tendon would tighten a bit and I would do appropriate stretches and the tightness would disappear for many miles until it woke up again.

I had made up my mind to not linger too long in Aid Stations. I was out of the Harbach AS in 6 minutes despite having to take care of an incipient blister in my left pinkie toe. This was now the section that had been very hot last year.

Somehow I did not feel that the race was as hot as last year so this section too went by smoothly. It was a nice treat to come upon a 2 foot garter snake slowly crossing the trail from one side to the other. I spent a minute admiring its beauty before getting on with my run.

(Beautiful vistas of the Black Hills surrounding the George S. Mickelson trail)

I reached the 40.5 mile AS only to be asked if I had started late? I was informed that since my name, on their list, was highlighted in yellow it meant that I had not started the race! Duh! I guess I was supposed to check in before the start but had forgotten to do so!!

They noted my time and I left as soon as I could. I soon passed the Crazy Horse monument on the right of the trail. It was such a beautiful sight.

(The Crazy Horse monument)

I reached the next AS, Oreville at mile 45.3, where I requested one of the volunteers to call Jerry Dunn, the RD, and inform him that I had forgotten to check in and that I was indeed running the race.

Lo and behold! I met Jerry in the turnaround AS. He was there, doing his rounds, and we shared a laugh!! I reached 50 miles 11:32 into the race, the same as last year. I left that AS at 11:49 into it, 11 minutes earlier than last year.

5 miles into the return journey, things just started to slow down. I was peeing way more often, once every 8-10 minutes or so (obviously I was drinking my P+H and water from the other bottle). I had found some salt on my ears an hour or so earlier and had taken a few salt tablets.

The frequent peeing was with me all the way back to almost mile 85. After that it slowed down but only because my intake of fluids had dropped drastically.

I reached Oreville, mile 70, and shared half a grilled cheese sandwich with another runner named Scott. It was after this sandwich that my stomach started feeling queasy. Ah! The familiar 100M friend was back.

This queasiness was not as bad as in TRT or my previous 100 mile races. It still made it difficult to get enough calories in. My pace slowed until I decided that walking was the best option. That decision came at around mile 84.

Bonelle, by this time, was kind of either a few hundred yards behind me or ahead of me (depending on whether I had spent minutes peeing by the side of the road). We were on Argyle Road and I knew that the next 11 miles were undulating hills that were going to be tough.

A few miles into it and I was weaving all across the road. Sleep was coming in waves. I swallowed a caffeine pill and that seemed to help some. I eventually rolled into the 90 mile AS a bit ahead of Bonelle. Jeff, her husband, had been with her all day. On his bike here and there on the Mickelson trail (miles 16-84) and in his car during these last 16 miles, he was one of the best crew persons I have ever seen. He was kind, considerate, caring and very, very supportive. He not only looked after her but asked after me too!!

Thank you Jeff. Congratulations on your 2008 Leadville 100M run finish and good luck with the Furnace Creek 508.

I tried to sleep for about 20 minutes in the AS and finally left its warm confines. There was no sign of Bonelle or Jeff. Right about the 90 mile marker, Jerry Dunn drove by in his Lean Horse Productions school bus. We smiled at each other. It was soon after that I spotted Bonelle and Jeff far ahead. The rolling hills meant that I would lose sight of them now and then.

I finally caught up with her around mile 94. I asked her for permission to run down the hill (I felt like running down the easy grade) to the turnoff from Argyle Road to the Coldbrook Camp AS. She willingly gave it and I forged ahead briefly before starting to walk right after the right turn.

I walked it into the AS, grabbed some water and a few chips and soon found myself on the climb up from the AS.

I knew that there were only 2-3 small climbs left before we started our descent into town. At the bottom of the descent, I stopped for my usual pee and I spotted Bonelle come running down the slope. Good for her!!

We decided to run the last 2 miles to the finish together, Hardly had I started to do so that the chafing in my groin got worse. I asked her to go ahead. I ran when I could and walked some more. Sweetheart that she is, she would stop yards ahead and look back for me. I waved her on a few time. Jeff finally caught up with her with about 0.75 miles to go and they started running together. I too started running and caught up with them with about 0.3 miles to go. We finished together in 26:50. Sweet success.

It was after the race, during the awards ceremony, that I learned that Naresh, a friend, had dropped at mile 67 owing to muscle problems. Good luck to you in your next race Naresh. Lisa Weiss too dropped at mile 70 in this race. Fighter that she is, she is taking on RDL next month!!

Thank you Jerry for a wonderful race. Your volunteers are wonderful.

Jon Olsen won the men's race. Way to go Jon!!!

Other race reports

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

2008 TRT 100M

(Catra headed back to the Start/Finish
in the first loop while I head towards Mt. Rose)

This was the first race where I gave up fighting. I quit when my stomach heaved a couple of times a few hundred yards out of the Tunnel Creek AS at mile 67.

Would I have finished had I continued? Most likely. Would it have been difficult? Definitely!!

So why did I stop? One thing that I can think of is that, having negotiated the course twice before (2006 50M and the 2007 100M), the section between Tunnel Creek and Mt. Rose had become a bete noire of sorts for me. It had taken a long time in 2006 and had forced us, Anil and I, to dig a bit deeper last year to make the 76 mile cutoff. Faced with the prospect of a queasy stomach, the fact that I was unable to put in decent amounts of food and a looming 9 mile trek to Mt. Rose, I decided that stopping was my best option.

Did I feel bad? Maybe. For a few minutes. Did I think that I failed? Certainly not! I had learned so much from the 67 miles about what I needed to do/not do for food & hydration. All through the first 50 miles I had taken in ample amounts of fluids and was peeing almost 2-3 times an hour. The 11 miles from 50 to 61 changed all of that - my pacer and I were down to one bottle each (I had forgotten to put an extra bottle in my Start/Finish drop bag). The amount of water going in decreased substantially. My energy levels, high even at mile 67, could not be relied upon to carry me through to the end.

I kind of shot myself in the foot with this race. I decided to tinker with what worked in the past 4 100M races - my nutrition. Instead of an entire bottle of Ensure, I downed only half a bottle every time I reached an AS with a drop bag. The result of this was that I ran for many long miles with hunger pangs gnawing at my stomach. I would then take in a gel and that would take care of my blood sugar for a few miles.

I want to do this race once again next year and "conquer" the Tunnel Creek to Mt. Rose section once and for all.

Congratulations to Diane Vlach (she and I ran the first 56 miles together) for finishing strong in 34:23. She rocks! Nancy Warren ran a superb 50M in 12 hours and change. Kudos to Catra and Andy who finished together in a superb 32 hours.

I reconnected with Karen Bonnett whom I had first met in the 2006 Helen Klein 50M where she ran the 30K. She finished her TRT 50M in good time and was there early Sunday morning to cheer the 100M finishers. She is an amazing athlete. Among her stellar achievements is the Paris-Breat-Paris brevet.

The volunteers in this race were as good as any. David Cotter and Kevin Bigley put on a superb race. Thank you all.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tagged - And I'm It (for now)

Andy B tagged me last week with the 5 questions below. I will try my best to be reasonably honest in answering them. I may even take the 5th on some of them and choose to prevaricate. Let's see.

Drumroll please.

1. How would I describe my running 10 years ago?
I was obsessive about my running. My knowledge about my body and the amount of stress it could/could not handle was still developing and I was prone to getting injured more often and feeling generally over trained (I would not have admitted this for a million dollars though. Well maybe for double that?) .

2. What is your best and worst race experience?
My best race experience has to be my 25:39 for the Lean Horse 100 mile run in August, 2007. I ran the first 80 miles at a consistent pace (14.5 min/mile) until an ankle injury forced me to walk the last 22 miles. I still finished in a time I am proud of.

My worst race experience? I have never had one. I learn something about my mind and my body with every race and so they all are successes, so to speak.

3. Why do you run?
See my post from a couple of years ago on this very topic.

4. What is the best or worst piece of advice you've been given about running?
Worst piece of advice - don't run for it will shake loose some internal organ inside you!

Best piece of advice - Run fast in the beginning, add minutes at the end!

5. Tell us something surprising about yourself that not many people would know.
Hmm. I guess it has to be the fact that I gag if I end up running behind someone with bad breath or BO. Some people smell like they have not encountered water and a bar of soap in eons.

Time to pass the baton.

I hereby proclaim the following people officially tagged.

Chihping Fu
Anil Rao
Mark Tanaka
Alan Geraldi
Pete Lubbers


Sunday, May 18, 2008

On Fire in the Ohlone 50K

It was glaring down at us
When I got off the bus.

The Sun was soon to have his way:
Struggling to keep his heat at bay,

I almost slowed down to a plod.
But I dug deep and clawed
Up climb after long, dusty climb.
Came and slowly went noontime:
Just past halfway into the run yet?
Gosh! I have so much more to sweat!!
Finally came the blessed descent!
With flying feet down the slopes I went.

Just after half past four I was done
With this tough, very tough run.

Race: Ohlone 50K
Date: May 18, 2008
Time: 8:38:11

(With Carol Cuminale and Barbara Elia just before the start)

My race pictures at

This was one of the toughest races I have ever done. Even my 4 100 mile races do not come close to this. Not at all. It was more physically tough than mentally.

I had spent the previous 2 months heat training as and when I could. 10 days in hot and humid Fiji at the end of March had helped as had the recent hot weather. The Quicksilver 50M the weekend before had been run in the mid-70s and had felt comfortable.

I don't believe that it was the heat that slowed me down. It was the relentless climbs in this race. I am not the fastest of uphill walkers and this fact was partly reiterated when Nancy Warren and, later, Lisa Huerta walked with me for a bit and then forged ahead as though I was standing still. Of course they are both amazing athletes but that's not the only reason they ascended faster than me.

The race started on time at the foot of Mission Peak in the parking lot at the end of Stanford Avenue. I spent the first 10 minutes taking pictures and slowly running up the gentle slope. The course would soon get steeper and I wanted to run what I could when I could.

The long line of runners wound its way up the first 1.5 mile climb, taking me along in its midst.

The course soon went off to the right and descended for about 0.25 miles before beginning the longish climb up to Mission Peak. This path wound up the mountain in a serpentine fashion and it was fun to spot a familiar face ahead every now and then. It was along this climb that I got missed a turn and a couple of ladies behind me had to yell to get me back on course. Thank you both!

It was towards the top of this climb that I hooked up with Nancy Warren. She soon surged a bit ahead of me and crested the mountain to begin the trip down the trail to Sunol. I soon caught up with her on the technical (read treacherously rocky here) descent and, as was supposed to be my fate for the day, went off course again! Nancy yelled to get me back on course and we spent the next few miles surging towards the Sunol AS.

John Medinger and the others were extremely helpful in the Laurel Loop AS that came 4 miles before the Sunol AS.

Nancy and I made it into the Sunol AS around 2:10 into the race (cutoff here was 2:45). We gladly accepted the offer of ice in our bandanas and began the long, long climb to Rose Peak. Never having done this race before, I had no idea what to expect.

The one thing I was sure of was that it was going to be an extremely hot day so I decided that I would take a Salt Stick capsule every 30 minutes and a gel every 45. I pretty much stuck with this plane for the next 4 hours or so.

The Backpacker AS came soon enough. The first thing I had noticed leaving the Sunol AS was the fact that there was not a cloud in the sky and that the course had absolutely no shade. Now I know what a slice of bread feels like in the toaster!

Rick Gaston was in the Backpacker AS as were Ann Trason and Carl Anderson. They filled up my bottles with water and had me out of there in no time at all. Nancy was a few hundred yards ahead, a gap that was gradually widening. Lisa Huerta and I walked up the climb out of the Backpacker AS together and I told her how much in awe I was of the fact that she had done the Silver State 50K the day before!

She too left me and was soon a figure that got progressively smaller up ahead. I had, by now, decided that I was going to enjoy the amazing views and the utter remoteness of the course as much as I could. So up and up I went.

About 0.25 miles before the Goat Hill Road AS disaster of sorts struck. My left Posterior Tibialis tendon, quiet until now, decided to wake up and scream for attention. What the f**k? Where the f**k did that come from???? A few acute spasms went through my left leg and I "limped" into the AS. The volunteers in this race were simply amazingly wonderful. They would come yards
out of the AS to tend to our needs.

I considered DNFing the race for fear of aggravating the injury but that thought was fleeting. "What won't kill you will make you tough". Great thought. Sometimes. I got lucky in this case. A few miles out of the AS the tightness slowly dissipated and before I knew it I was walking/running with my normal gait. This of course was brought about by my sending energy and breath to the affected area along with performing ho'oponopono on it. Look that one up if you are interested in learning more about it.

I was now looking forward to the top of the mountain. I had heard a lot, from other runners, about this long and brutal climb. Long it was. Brutal too. Also beautifully scenic. Also very remote. That alone was worth the price of admission. I felt privileged to have been given the opportunity to see a face of my beautiful Bay area that I would not have normally ventured out to see.

Just before the top waited a volunteer who, in a British accent, informed that I would have to go up the small but steep climb and pick up a band (to prove that I had reached the top) before beginning the descent to the next AS, 0.25 miles away. Being an obedient animal, I duly retrieved the bracelet (shades of Barkley) and made my way to the Maggie's Half Acre AS.

I had not been peeing much during the first 19 miles of this race. A highly unusual occurrence for me. Having noticed that, I was taking extra care to drink 2-3 cups of water at every AS. I peed for the second time a few hundred yards out of the AS. I heard voices of a couple of runners coming up towards me but then they faded once I started my own run. The next section was some rolling hills followed by a short but steep descent that had us cross a small stream.

That stream was surrounded by a cloud of ladybugs that had just hatched and were probably looking for a place to stay in for the next few days. Some of them briefly contemplated my face and arms but found the salty, Indian skin not to their liking. Gosh! All ladies are the same!! :))

It was soon after I had left the ladybugs in my wake that I met up with Phil Penna. He was bent over at the top of a small climb, looking almost out for the count.I could not just pass him so I asked him if he was doing OK. He replied that he was feeling dizzy. I asked him if he had taken any salt tablet and if he wanted any. He said he would welcome some so I filled his hand with 7-8 tablets. I asked him to pump 2 in right away and then another 2 every 30 minutes.

My presence boosted his spirits and he started running behind me. I stopped again to talk to him and that's when I decided that I could not leave him alone. I would stay with him at least until the next AS.

So off we went, walking and running as we felt like, talking about our lives. He had done 97 ultras in his 30 years of running. I was in awe of his accomplishments. What a tough man! He also informed me that he had a pacemaker! More and more wondrous I say!!!!!

We both remarked on at least 2 occasions that it was surprising that there were not any runners passing us. It was at the foot of the longish climb to the AS that he told me that we would definitely see runners now. He was so right. There came Mylinh Nguyen and Ramona Voght behind her. Joe Pham too made his way a few hundred yards behind. They passed us eventually on the first part of the climb. About 0.5 miles from the AS (about 0.25 miles from the top of the climb), Phil asked me to go ahead and that he would be fine. I felt a bit guilty leaving him but there were a few runners around him, walking at the same pace, so that made my decision to go a bit more palatable.

I passed Joe Pham and Linda Hurd on the last climb before the descent to the Schlieper Rock AS. I had them wet my bandana with ice cold water before beginning the push to the Finish.

I flew down this hill and quickly crossed the stream only to run headlong into the short, steep climb. No breeze. Hot as Hades. Painful blister under my right toe. Need more problems? Throw in difficulty breathing. My breathing had been lousy at best all through the race and it got worse up this climb. My heart rate was way up so I chose to sit down on the slope and wait for it to come down. I decided to take that opportunity to treat the blister. The bandaid would not stick so I quickly abandoned that plan and got up again.

My heart was beating at a happier pace by now so I "powered" up the hill and reached the top. A sign there stated that the next AS was 0.5 miles away. Again I flew down the hill and reached the Stromer Spring AS where I was duly informed that I was the most jovial runner to come through today.

The Finish duly arrived 8:38 into the race. I chatted with Catra and Andy, asking her about her amazing 100 mile run of which the Ohlone 50K forms the last 31 miles. That is one tough, tough lady.

I left after an hour or so and made my way back to Milpitas where I ate food in an Indian restaurant. Sleep that night was amazing.

Rob Byrne and his volunteers put on a superb race. Thank you all for carting all the supplies to those remote spots and lifting our spirits with your smiles and jokes.

Steve Shultis, a runner I had briefly chatted with on the climb up to Mission Peak, was airlifted out and rushed to the ICU where he still is.

(Steve Shultis in the Sunol AS, mile 9.11)

The latest news is that he is "safe" but they are keeping him there for the rest of the week. I wish him a speedy recovery.

Be safe.

Other reports of this race
Jean Pommier (overall winner)
Mark Tanaka (3rd overall)
Rick Gaston (he volunteered in the Backpacker AS)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

2008 Quicksilver 50M

In Quicksilver, on a long day,
With the Sun having his hot say,
I finished the 50 mile race
With a smile on my sweaty face.
Success in my second foray!

It unfolded like a screenplay:
A steady start on the raceway,
Then fast mid-miles in open space
In Quicksilver.

The villainous Heat post noonday
Yielding to Shade along Woods way.
With me was my pacer, my ace,
Allowed in this dusty footrace,
Who came along with me to play
In Quicksilver.

Race: Quicksilver 50 mile run
Date: May 10, 2008
Time: 11:35:31

I finally discovered what the last 19 miles of this race were like. I am now an official fan of the Quicksilver 50 mile race.

This was, as I have mentioned in the race reports from prior years for this race, my first ultra 3 years ago. I ran the 50K last year in 5:57, a satisfying race for me on all fronts. The only slight blemish, if that, was the fact that I had not finished the 2006 50 mile race, having opted to stop at 31 miles. My legs had given up after 3 weekends of back to back races - the Big Sur marathon followed by the Miwok 100k followed by Quicksilver.

I decided to bite the bullet this year and conquer the 50 mile demon that had bugged me since 2006. In retrospect, as I sit here typing, the Demon was, instead, an ally. Not an enemy to fear but someone to befriend.

My Posterior Tibialis tightness, first encountered in the Lean Horse 100m in August, 2007, threatened to resurface as it had done during the middle miles of the American River 50M a month ago. I quickly contacted Royal Jacobs, a friend and a superb massage therapist, who worked on me for a hour on Friday and released all the tightness in my glutes and the surrounding areas.

Race morning dawned a bit cold. I was out on the road at 5:00 a.m. and reached the Mockingbird Hill Lane entrance parking at 5:18. The lot was full! Ultra running has indeed become more popular. The past 3 years I had reached at about the same time and the lot had been, at best, half full. Next year I had better leave home at 4:30 a.m.!!

I wound up parking on the first side street just down the hill from the main parking lot. Mark Tanaka and I walked back up to the registration tent to pick up our bib numbers and hand in our drop bags. Chihping Fu and I met for the first of 3 times and exchanged a smile and wished each other good luck. He is one person who always has a smile on his face along with words of encouragement for the other. What a friend.

I greeted Scott Dunlap when he came in a few minutes later. He is almost a fixture in this race!

Just before the race started I bumped into Marissa Licon. I had first met her during the 2006 Rio Del Lago 100 mile run. She was one of 4 teens who was attempting to finish that race. She got hyponatremic and had to call it a day about 24 miles into that race. I had met her again in the American River 50M a month ago.

The race started soon enough and I found myself keeping pace with Rick Gaston who remembered my name. We talked for a few minutes before he took off running like a hare up ahead of me. He went on to finish the 50M in 8:02!

The run along the New Almaden Trail was great. That trail has no steep parts and is almost the only part of the race that can be deemed "flat".

Marissa Licon and I kept within 50 yards of each other. We finally started running together about 9 miles into the race. I had mentioned the fact that I drink Ensure during my races and I gave her one of my bottles from my Dam Overlook AS drop bag. Chuck Wilson and Christine Miller were volunteering in this AS and it is always great seeing them in races.

Before this I had run briefly with Robert Fosselman and Tom Crull. Tom talked about a couple of races that he loved to go back to every year - the Old Pueblo 50M and the Avalon 50M on Catalina Island. I will look up those races one of these years.

Marissa and I then ran the loop from mile 9 to mile 19 (through the Capehorn Pass AS) and then back to the Dam Overlook AS at 23.7. We had teamed up with a runner named David MacVittie around 20 miles into the race. He was doing his first ultra and he went on to finish the 50K in 7:26.

We were together from there on out almost to the end of the 50K. It was about 24 miles into the race, going up the long climb from the Dam Overlook AS, that Marissa began to feel the effects of the heat. I gave her my visor to help cool her down but she got progressively slower. Even the breeze on the descent down to the Englishtown AS did not seem to help her.

We reached that aid station and I promptly had the volunteers, who were superb everywhere in the race, fill up my Cool Off bandana with lots of ice so that Marissa could put it around her neck to bring her core temperature down a bit. Even that did not seem to help her much. There was another mile or so of descending after the AS followed by some climbing until the final 4-5 short but steep hills on the way down to 31 miles.

(With Marissa around mile 28 or 29. David MacVittie and
Dan Marinsik behind. Photo courtesy Chihping Fu)

It was around the second of these short climbs that she asked me to go ahead. She was planning to see how she felt once she reached 31 miles before continuing (she eventually missed the cutoff and had to drop). One tough 20 year old!

I took off up and down the hills and reached the Start/Finish area at 1:00 p.m. (7 hours into the race). Raj, Anu's husband and my pacer, was waiting there patiently for me to show up. I quickly had one of the volunteers fill one of my bottles with Coke, to which I added a tablet of Salt Stick, and the other one with cold water and we hit the trail at 1:05 p.m. The next 4 miles were right out of Hell!! It was very hot with nary a breeze and the slopes were steep here and there. To make matters worse, my breathing had started to unravel.

Having Raj by my side was a great comfort and we talked about many things including how he was interested in doing more trail races. He had done only 1 run, one of 2 miles, 2 days ago and not a single run between that day and his first marathon, the Napa Valley one, 2 months ago. He had been training for a 100 mile bike race which he duly completed in just over 7 hours in the last weekend of April. He is one amazing athlete!

We met Lee and Wini Jebian and Dave Combs, all on their way to the 50K finish. Diane Vlach also went past. Dave Combs went on to finish an hour faster than last year!

We got back to the Englishtown AS around 8:00 into the race. The next part of the course was an unknown to me. It came as a revelation! The climbs were not steep at all! Just gentle ones that I could negotiate by running as and when I felt like it. I fell in love with this section.

(With Raj, my pacer, in the Sierra Azul section of the course. Photo courtesy of Chihping Fu)

The views were wonderful and the shade very welcome. Raj and I took our train all the way to the turnaround (mile 41.5). We reached it at 3:45 p.m. Raj had his Camelbak filled up while I did the same for my bottles. After some blister work on my pinkie toes, we started back. After 10 minutes or so, I decided that I was going to run all the way back to the Finish. The cutoff we were keeping an eye on was the 5:25 p.m. one at mile 45.5.

Off I went with Raj in tow. He was doing a superb job of running the climbs with me in spite of not having run for 2 months! I was in admiration for his fitness and determination. We made it back to the 45.5 miles Aid Station (Hicks Road) at 4:45 p.m. and were out a few minutes later. It is there that we met a runner named Daniel Taub. He had fallen and hurt his right arm very badly. The tough runner that he was, he joined up with us on the way back to the Finish. The last 2.5 miles, from the Englishtown AS (mile 47.5), were 90% downhill and it was fun flying down the slopes knowing that this was the last time I would have to do it in the race.

I crossed the Finish line in 11:35:31. Daniel finished 2 minutes behind me. Raj too came in a few minutes later having wisely decided to save his legs by walking down some of the steeper slopes.

Paul Fick, the RD, took over from Janice and Tom (RDs for the last 9 years) and did as fantastic a job of running this race as they had. The volunteers in this race, mostly from the Quicksilver Running Club, are simply amazing. They brave the hot sun and go out of their way to help the runners achieve their race goals. Thank you one and all from the bottom of my heart.

Until next year. The 50K is no longer an option. I will always run the 50M!!!

Monday, April 07, 2008

2008 AR50M

Sore throat. Runny nose. Drat this pesky cold.
A fool if you run they said. Want to die?
My big question - how will the race unfold?

Bit worried I was and that's not a lie.

The sore throat went away Friday evening.

The nose emptied out in the early miles.

Finally! Time to put in some racing!!

The future looks good! I'm all grins and smiles!

Wait! It's been a while since the last milepost

That shows my progress on the narrow trail!

Did I miss it? Have I been so engrossed?

There it is! My pace is that of a snail???

Is it not the jacket that enticed me?

Then have fun! From time goals set yourself free!!!!!!!

Date: April 05, 2008
Race: American River 50M
Location: Auburn, CA
Time: 11:22

So I gave myself the greatest gift. I liberated myself from the anxiety of finishing in or under a particular time. A wonderful gift indeed. It gave me time to appreciate my body and my mind and how they worked in unison to propel me forward.

Friday, April 4
I picked up Alan Geraldi from his place and we hit the road sometime around 12:30 p.m. We made it to the Fleet Feet store in Fair Oaks around 3 p.m. to pick up our bib numbers. We did a bit of shopping there since they were having a sale of mighty proportions.

After a stop in Target to pick up a few last minute things, we made our way to Norm and Helen Klein's home in Rancho Cordova. They are the most amazing individuals. They insisted that we stay for supper. Helen rustled up some amazing salad and pasta in a red sauce. We left their beautiful home just after 6 p.m. and checked into the Comfort Inn in Auburn (a few miles from the AR50 finish). After making our drop bags etc., we were asleep by 9:30 p.m.

Saturday, April 5
I got a good 4 hours of sleep and was up with the sound of the alarm. Alan hit the bathroom first while I shaved and brewed some coffee.

We left the hotel around 3:30 a.m. and were one of the first cars to park in the Finish area. The buses arrive just around 4 a.m. and we were soon on our way around 4:20 a.m. Alan and I were sitting in the back of the bus and most of the journey was spent huddling in order to avoid this very cold draft that was coming in from some opening that I could not see.

It's only after the bus stopped near the Start that we were able to move up to the front where it was toasty! The bus drive lady was kind enough to let us stay in the warm confines almost until the start of the race.

(Nice and warm in the bus, just before the start of the race)

The race started soon after. I spent the early miles socializing with a bunch of friends. I had set my watch timer to allow me to do a 10 min run followed by a 2 min walk. Since most of the first 31 miles were "flat" I could afford to do so.

The first 3rd of the race went by uneventfully. I reached 15 miles or so in a decent time. I had a plan of sorts for the race. The plan was to put some time in the "bank" before the course hit the single track after mile 31. It was in the last few miles leading up to the Hazel Bluff AS (mile 19) that I met up with and ran with a fellow ultraholic Martin Casado. He picked up pace just before that AS and went on to finish in a sub 9:45!

(Running up the slope to Hazel Bluff, mile 19)

I reached Beals Point (mile 27 or so) in 5:27. The 50K point (mile 31.5) came in 6:31. About 35 minutes slower than my 2007 race. Maybe I could pick up speed in the last 18 miles!

My blood sugar had dropped a lot around mile 24-25 and did not come back up until (a) I had started drinking Coke, and (b) ingested a few more gels. This happened around the Buzzard's Cove AS (mile 33). After that the race went by phenomenally well.

Just after that AS I fell in behind a runner named Diane and her pacer Marissa. It was around here that I met lovely Nancy Warren who was pacing Diane Vlach.

Our train went on for the next 7 miles together (until Rattlesnake Bar, mile 40.3). We parted ways after this until about a mile after that AS when Diane passed me with her next pacer in tow. I ran alone from that point on out except for a few mile before the next AS (mile 43.5), i.e. Manhattan Bar, with Roger Jensen.

Roger stopped in the Manhattan Bar AS to take something out of his waist pack and I continued on alone. I eventually reached the first of the final climbs. Amazingly the climb seemed even less steep this year than it had seemed last year and the year before. Before I knew it I was at the Last Gasp AS (mile 47.6). I only had 2.4 miles to go. I ran all the way to the Finish, hills and all, to end up doing the race in 11:22. The jacket was well earned!!!

I learned later that Alan had been on a blazing pace (50K in 4:15!) until he came down with stomach issues. He still finished in a superb 8:50. Chihping and Yuki too managed good race times.

I met Todd Anderson after the race. He is running WS later this year and is always an inspiration for me. So is Catra who finished 30 minutes or so before I did.

Greg and his superb team of volunteers put up a fantastic show as usual. Thank you all for volunteering and making it possible for us to run. The trail conditions were perfect as was the weather. Norm Klein had lost his voice earlier in the day so I had the honor and privilege of having my name announced by Dave Combs!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

2008 Napa Valley Marathon

The Warrior
The body is like a child being led:
Doing all that it has been asked to do.
The truth is that we fight with our head,
Even more so when life starts to unglue.
The race is long, six miles after a score,
And it will take all you have to finish;
Much courage you will need, then a bit more,
For the demons of self-doubt you'll banish.
Trust in the training that got you this far,
And in that Rock that lives in all of us;
So believe in you as you go to war;
You are an Army of One: The Dauntless.
Look within you for courage and you'll find
It's limitless, much though it may be mined.

I wrote this poem a couple of years ago and it was so apropos this past weekend when the 6 people I coached through the winter either discovered the Rock within them or acquainted themselves again with their courageous Self.

Anu, Kshama, Bharti, Lily, Lila and Raj had braved rainy and chilly weekends while ramping up the miles en route to their tryst with the Napa Valley marathon. Race day had arrived and there was no place to hide. Not that they wanted to. Au contraire. A tad nervous, they champed at the bit all of race week.

Saturday, March 1
We left Saratoga around 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 1.

(Starting out from Anu's home)

On the way, the need to answer the call of nature saw us in the order line in Vik's Chaat cafe in Berkeley. After feasting on delicious Indian chai and falooda kulfi, we hit the road again and did not stop until we reached the Napa Marriott, around 3:30 p.m.

Rajeev Char, Shridhar and Madhu had reached much earlier, picked up their bib numbers and were ensconced in their hotel rooms by then.

The Expo was fun. I ran into Catra Corbett who was in the Atalanta running apparel booth. I also met Norm Klein and my ex-coach and friend Tom McGlynn (2nd place in last year's Napa marathon in a fantastic time of 2:21). I duly introduced Norm to Tom.

The original plan was to eat dinner in Pasta Prego at 6:30 p.m. I changed that reservation to 5:30 p.m. We all trooped into the pasta place and were soon imbibing (some of us) Pinot Noir and wolfing down delicious bruschettas and excellent pasta.

(Pasta dinner in Pasta Prego)

It was then back to the hotel where we checked into our rooms and then had a quick meeting before hitting the sack. Vinod Herur had come in just after I checked into my room and he and I watched TV until about 10:30 p.m. before falling asleep.

Sunday, March 2
The alarm went off at 3:50 p.m. I need almost 45-50 minutes on race morning before I am ready. Breakfast was a sesame bagel with peanut butter and jam accompanied by coffee.

I had settled on my fluorescent yellow Ohlone 50K shirt topped by a sleeveless cycling vest. I felt extremely cold until the race got underway but warmed up soon enough and the outfit proved to be just perfect.

We left the hotel at 5:15 a.m. and were in the Vintage School parking lot by 5:35 a.m. A walk of a few hundred yards brought us to the long line of runners waiting to board the shuttle. A few minutes later our own bus took off for the Start.

The ride was soporific. It felt good to doze for 30-40 minutes. The day was going to be long and every bit of rest before the race was welcome.

We all went and stood in a port-a-john line. I talked briefly with Brad Niess, a fellow ultrarunner. He is one of those cheerful runners you like instantly.

The race started soon after. I lost a glove right away while trying to take pictures of my team. I realized this almost a third of a mile into the race. I circled back to see if I could spot it but to no avail. I chucked the other glove into a pile of gloves and decided to suck it up in case my hands felt cold.

I soon caught up with the rest of the team just before the Mile 1 marker.

(The first mile)

11:20 for the first mile. A bit too fast. I had decided to run with Raj all through the race. I would run between him and the others for as long as I could and then settle down with him. He had been suffering from ITB pain brought about by tight quads and his race was the one I was most worried about.

(Anu and Bharti)

The early miles flew by in a flash. Lisa Weiss approached me around mile 2 or 3 and we talked for a few minutes. She looked good. I had last seen her in the Lean Horse 100M in August, 2007. We talked about the races we were planning to do this year. I left her to speed up in order to reach Anu and Bharti. I ran back to Raj soon after.

Bharti and Anu disappeared from view. Lily and Lila vanished soon after. Raj was going great guns by now. Consistently churning out the miles in 11:00-12:00 minutes/mile pace. I had planned for him to go through the halfway mark in around 2:40. I wanted him to start slow and then pick up later if he could.

The first third of the race went by easy enough. Every 45 minutes I made sure he took a Power Gel (the one with 200+ mg Sodium) and had him alternate Gatorade with water at the aid stations.

His left ITB soon started bothering him. He decided to send his breath and energy to the affected area. We reached Kartik and Naren just after mile 9. I handed them my vest and Raj handed them his jacket etc. We asked them to round up some Advil and hand it to us the next time they met us.

Soon after I stopped by the side of the road to help a large German/Swiss/Austrian runner with his ITB pain. Raj took that opportunity to stretch before continuing on. I had already helped a Japanese runner with his ITB issues a few miles before this. A couple of women, from the San Francisco Running Club, passed by and asked if we needed Advil. I quickly asked for one, thanked them profusely and caught up with Raj who happily gulped it down.

The halfway point was reached in 2:40! Perfect. Now time to buckle down and execute some more.

Hao, another ultra running friend, was along the course encouraging Raj and me. That felt so good!

Madhu and Bonnie caught up with us. We ran together for a mile or so until they both made a beeline for the portable toilets lining the road. Madhu had been kind enough to give Raj another Advil before that.

Raj was feeling great by now. We were doing some fast splits - sub 12:00. Around mile 18 we passed an Indian runner (Kumar) who was cramping severely. I gave him a few salt tablets and he recovered soon after to finish well (I met him after the race).

The final climb in this race comes between mile 19 and 20.3 It's flat after that all the way to the Finish.

We caught up and passed Kshama soon. She was not doing well. She almost threw up by the side of the road. She had determination writ all over her face though so I knew she would be OK.

Just before we met her I had painted a scenario for Raj. This is what it was - I told him that I could possibly get him to the Finish area in just under 5:23. He could then wait until the race clock showed 5:23 before stepping across the Finish line. Anu, his wife, had finished her first marathon (Victoria, Oct 2003) in 5:23.

That is why I was torn between staying with Kshama or going ahead with Raj when we caught up with her. I chose the latter. I reasoned that he needed me more in the last 5 miles than did Kshama. She was doing her 5th marathon.

With a mile and a half to go, we passed the indomitable Helen Klein. She went on to break her own WR, set in CIM in Dec 2007, by a whopping 13 minutes (she finished in 5:46). Raj, in the meanwhile, had befriended a runner named Fiona. They both crossed the Finish line together in 5:23. Mission accomplished.

So what happened that my team had to dig deep?

Kshama's blood sugar dropped abysmally just after the halfway point and never recovered enough. Nausea compounded her difficulties.

Bharti, in spite of taking a salt tablet every hour, cramped up quite badly in the last 8-10 miles. She walked, ran a bit, walked, ran a bit and eventually finished in a wonderful 5:09.

Lila and Lily both felt tired around mile 20 and had to dig really deep to continue.

Anu, the Queen of handling pain (she has a very high pain threshold), came down with a urinary infection (blood in her urine etc.) around mile 18. Her neuroma pain also returned. The double attack did not defeat her though. She fought and fought and finished a couple of minutes behind Lila and Lily in 5:15.

Raj battled his ITB pain and emerged victorious too.

Lisa finished just behind Raj and looked good all along the course! Way to go my friend.

(Lisa finishing strong)

Vinod Herur ran a simply electric 3:31:27 (he missed qualifying for Boston by 28 seconds), a PR by 4 minutes. Rajeev Char also knocked off 7 minutes from his previous best to finish in 3:49.

Madhu bettered her previous best of 6:02 by running strongly all through to finish in 5:46. Shridhar finished in 6:25.

Warriors all!!!

Big thanks to Kartik and Naren for helping us all so much during the race. They were simply awesome.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Woodside 50K

(Wendell starting us off. Photo courtesy of Scott Dunlap)

Date: February 02, 2008
Race: PCTR Woodside 50K
Location: Woodside, CA
Time: 6:16:06

It was only a few days before this race that I really studied the course map. That's when I realized that the course was truly a known one!

It was during the few months leading up to my third marathon (CIM, Dec 2000) that I had come to know the 2 wonderful parks in Woodside - Huddart and Wunderlich. A few friends of mine from Oracle had invited me for a few runs there, including something they called The Loop where they would ascend Wunderlich, run over to Huddart along the 6 mile long Skyline Ridge Trail and then descend Huddart to come back to the Woodside Elementary School.

It was during one of these runs that I had gotten lost (I was carrying a small cheatsheet and the last few directions had me confused). I wound up running 22-23 miles instead of the 17-18 that the friends ran.

Knowing what the course looked like was a big comfort. I think it was then that the seeds of the idea that I would attempt to run the entire course were planted.

The day dawned cold and wet. A few showers accompanied me up King Mountain Road to the entrance to Huddart park and then down to the Werder Shelter parking lot.

The first lot was full by the time I rolled down into it and I went past it to the next one. Along the way I talked to Julian, a wonderful runner I had first met in the 2006 Miwok 100K. I got into my tights, my shoes and jammed 3 gels and one small bag of Perpetuem+Heed into my thin rain jacket pocket. I was wearing a thickish long-sleeved running top and thin black gloves.

I had decided to carry 2 hand bottles. The stretch from AS#2 back to AS#2 was a long 10 miles and I did not want to be caught unprepared. I met the usual wonderful people - Scott Dunlap, looking even thinner than usual (if that's possible), Christine Miller, Chuck Wilson, Harry Walther, Carol Cuminale and a few others.

Wendell started us off at 8:30 a.m. The first miles were a blessed downhill and I loved the feeling of my body getting warmed up. Julian and I talked about the races we had planned for the rest of the year.

Pretty soon Julian and his friend, Tiffany who was doing her first ultra, disappeared from sight. I settled into a conmfortable pace. I caught up with Chuck Wilson a couple of miles into the race and we ran for a bit together. I soon passed him and continued the climb up Huddart Park. My memories of this park had made it seem steeper than it actually felt. My breathing was fine and I was regularly sipping from my hand bottles.

The climb up Huddart went by in a flash and I was soon upon the slight descent down into AS#1 (9.7K or 6 miles). I reached it in 75 minutes (12:30 min/mile pace). I emptied my left shoe of gravel, had a few boiled potatoes and took off for the 6 mile jaunt across the Skyline Ridge trail to AS#2.

This trail was narrow with a few trees blocking the path, forcing the runners to stop and ford them gingerly. The first mile marked I saw was the 2 mile one. 23 minutes to cover those 2 miles or11:30 min/mile pace. Not bad I thought. The next one I saw was the 5 mile one. No idea how I missed 3 & 4! In the interim the first 2 35K runners had gone by me like the proverbial hares.

AS#2 soon came into sight. I had the hardy volunteers, braving the cold and the rain, top up my bottles with water and off I went with a few boiled potatoes in my hand.

The 2 50K leaders went by me in the opposite direction. Not far behind them was Scott Dunlap, looking smooth and relaxed. He finished 3rd bettering his Woodside 50K PR by 10 minutes!

Bev Anderson-Abbs was just behind him looking great too. Harry Walther too looked good as did Keith Blom behind him.

It was on this descent that a runner named Bettie White caught up with me. She and I talked briefly before she took off ahead of me. She is running WS later this year.

I soon came upon Julian and Tiffany. We ran together for a bit before Julian took off after Tiffany who was setting a pretty torrid pace. I had by now caught up with Bettie since the climb back up to the top had started. We played tag all race long. I would pass her on climbs. She would catch up on the descents!

I was approaching AS#2/3 when I saw what looked like an Indian, in a bright yellow vest and a helmet, waving to me. It was only when I was 20 feet or so from the AS that I realized it was Vinod Herur, out on a bike ride. The wonderful friend that he is, he had waited for me for the better part of an hour. I was so happy to see him! he really made my day!! Thank you, Vinod.

It was here that I realized that my dream of running the entire race, something I had not really doubted would happen, was about to come true. All I had were the 6 miles over to Huddart and the last 5 miles down to the Finish.

Bettie caught up with me again 4 miles or so after AS#3. My breathing had come apart just after AS#3 and my breath was rasping in my throat. I decided to suck it up and pick up my pace. I ket Bettie company until just before AS#4. I passed her a half mile or so before we reached it.

I did not stop at that AS. I had enough fluids in my bottle and I was eager to get to the final descent. I flew down the next couple of miles.

There was a small climb before we finally made a right onto the Richards Fire road. This last part, on asphalt, was a bit of a shock to the legs after almot 48K of soft trails.

Bettie caught up with me here again and she and I finished together in 6:16:06.

I had run an entire 50K. Every step of it!!! I was so proud of myself.

Wendell and Sarah's races are always fun. They are amazing people and their volunteers are no less. Thank you all for braving the cold and the rain and making it possible for me to run the Woodside 50K.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Tagged! You're it!!

I was tagged by Alan Geraldi a few days ago. The mission was to answer 6 questions.

Here are the questions:

1. Most memorable moment on the trails in 2007.
2. Best new trail discovered in 2007.
3. My best performance of 2007.
4. I don't know how I previously survived without...
5. The person I would most like to meet on the trails in 2008.
6. The race I am most excited about for 2008.

1. Most memorable moment on the trails in 2007
The most memorable moment in 2007 occurred in the water. 50 yards into my 1.86M swim (during the inaugural Tri One-O-One) I experienced acute panic. The immediate reaction was to quit the race. I had to stop swimming and fight that urge with all my might. I finally triumphed and continued to the end of the swim and then the end of my first ultra-distance triathlon.

(The Tri One-O-One swim course)

2. Best new trail discovered in 2007
I "discovered" the George Mickelson trail and fell in love with it. This trail forms the middle 68 miles of the Lean Horse 100M and is a result of the nationwide Rails-to-Trails project where old train tracks are being converted to trails.

3. My best performance of 2007
Unquestionable this has to be my 25:39 for the Lean Horse 100M in August. Specifically it was the 19:15 time for the first 80 miles.

4. I don't know how I previously survived without...
Hammer's Heed and Perpetuem. I use a mixture of the 2 and it has worked wonders for me during my last few ultra races.

5. The person I would most like to meet on the trails in 2008
I have met or seen a lot of leading lights of the ultra world but I would dearly love to meet Krissy Moehl, the 1st female and 3rd. place overall in the 2007 Hardrock race, in one of my 2008 races. She is an amazing runner.

6. The race I am most excited about for 2008
It has to be the Lean Horse 100M. My best chance to go under 24 hours. I love the course. It is scenic and one where I can pace myself beautifully.