Monday, August 29, 2011

Sequoia 30K

How (not) To Run Sequoia 30K

1. Carry a course map.
2. Don't assume the runner in front of you knows the way.
3. Carry lots of water.

I had ample time to reflect on rules 1, 2, and 3 of trail running as I broke all three. Many familiar faces at the start of the Sequoia 30K-- Brian, Greg's trainer, Misha, Karen & Coach Ken, and Marshall Ulrich and his wife Heather Ulrich.

Marshall & Heather were super friendly. I said "I admired your book and your run--I bicycled cross country, and it was hard riding, much less running." And Marshall was impressed! By my bike ride! The man is an unbelievable LEGEND. In the book I'd wished there were more photos of Heather, and she is so sweet in person. If I ever run cross country, I want her on my support team. She, however, might not want to do it ever again.

Started off through a beautiful dirt trail, weaving in and out of shadow and light under a thick canopy of redwoods. The course was a "pink loop (20K) with an orange out and back section of 10K. Melissa and I were chatting, my foot caught on an invisible root and I fell heavily into her, almost taking her down too. She pushed me back upright. Sorry Melissa!

I was surprised by how quick the first aid station was (34 minutes), and got a quick refill from Kevin Luu. Then I was surprised how far the next aid station was. The As I was thinking about how I had to go to the bathroom, my foot caught on another invisible root and I wiped out. About a mile further, thinking how I needed to not think about the bathroom, I wiped out again. I was filthy, covered from head to toe in dirt, even up my stomach.

At the next aid station at the "out" of the orange spur, the volunteer picked up the cooler and gave me a makeshift shower. I was more than half way through, and after drinking several cups of craz cliff shot, felt great. Walked back up the hill to finish the pink loop.

As I got to the end of the orange loop, a runner started down the pink loop. As I caught her, she said "I'm not sure if this is the right way.". It wasn't. We backtracked along the pink loop. When the 50K runners (doing a second loop) saw us, we knew we'd gone the wrong, longer way, and the heart went out of me. I was thirsty.

When I got FINALLY to the aid station again, Catra Corbett lectured me for "not carrying a map" AND "don't follow the runner in front of you blindly". Thanks, Catra.

At the end, Scott Dunlap said I'd probably run closer to 35K or 37K. Doh! So Karen finished ahead of me.

Getting bonus miles in aside, it was a beautiful course.

Lesson's learned:
Carry my hydration pack on hot days
Carry a map
Don't follow the runner in front of me blindly
The 10K spur out and back is not as scenic as the 20K course

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Pre Sequoia 30k

After licking my wounds post Headlands 100 for two weeks, I put together a fairly solid week of training

Monday: 4 miles around Buena Vista Hill and back on Page St, just testing out my fitness
Tuesday: 8 miles Ran to Ocean Beach, had supper at Outerlands, walked up Judah till the N streetcar came, then ran up from Cole Valley to Twin Peaks
Wed: 4 miles on Dolores: ran to 30th and back, ran the whole way
Thur: 3 miles easy, around Buena Vista Hill
Fri: off.
Saturday: 6 miles gentle up Rodeo Valley to SCA, down Coastal. Thick fog the whole way. I felt great and wanted to go further, but Sequoia 30K was on Sunday and wanted plenty in the tank. My friend Karen is running and I don't want to be cougared.

The week has given me more confidence--my IT band hasn't flared up, my ankle is decent. I put on weight while I wasn't running that I'm not too happy about--I hope it will evaporate once I get more consistent.

My goal for Sequoia 30K: under 4 hours, and seeing Marshall Ulrich!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sweated it out in Austin, next race Sequoia 30K

After taking 10 days off to see if my IT band would ease up, I'm back running, and it feels good, in a "I can't believe I got out of shape so quickly, but I love running" way. I procrastinated on Wednesday, fearing the worst. Did a gentle run on Dolores to Clipper and back. On Thursday I ran the Buena Vista Loop. Never pushed the pace, just wanted to get confidence back. Friday I flew to Austin and sat by the pool until it was almost too late, as I was meeting friends at 7 pm. Slammed out a quick 25 minutes around Town Lake down Lamar and back across Congress. The running trail was my old buddy, and the Austin heat couldn't beat me.

Then on Saturday I decided I'd run down to MoPac bridge and back, roughly 4.5 miles. The first 10 minutes was okay. Then I found myself wishing I'd stopped at the last water fountain. I went as slow as possible to conserve energy Then the wheels fell off, and I kinda staggered back into the hotel, 50 minutes of sunny heat later. I drank water from the hotel cooler, greatly concerning the desk lady who said it was 108 degrees and I looked like I was dying. I came down 10 minutes later after standing in a cold shower, and she said I looked less dead.

I got to be good friends with the cooler lady as I stopped by every time I entered or left the lobby to try to hydrate myself. I found out later that it had (only) been 105 when I was running. But it was a dry heat :) I only wish I'd jumped into Town Lake, it looked so cool and refreshing.

I'd planned to run Headlands 50K, but was waiting to enter till I felt more confident about my leg. The $95 race fee was also a turn off. Then Coach Ken wrote to say that Karen was running Sequoia this weekend AND Marshall Ulrich will be there! I think I'll run the 30K as a confidence builder and time check. Uh-oh, what if Karen beats me! I'll be cougared!

Seeing friends is always great. They think I'm crazy for ENTERING a 100 Mile race, and it's nice to feel comfy being me. I loved running in Austin--but it's only after moving to SF I've moved up into ultras. The cool weather? Or Greg as a running buddy?

Goals for 2011:
Finish JFK in 11 hours (10 would be nice)
um…I guess that's it. I'll run some opportunistic races. I'm pondering 100 possibilities.

Plans for week:
4-5 miles Monday
Tues- run to beach (?)
Wed run with Endurables
Thurs 4-5 miles

Thursday, August 11, 2011

More thoughts on Headlands 100 DNF and personal worst performances

It's five days after Headlands 100 DNF, and I'm still a bit sad. I was sick for a few days after, and managed to get Greg sick too (sorry!) When I was sick and barely able to walk, it was easy to understand why I'd dropped. Now, as I get better, I ponder "could I have pushed harder?" But in my heart I knew I didn't hae it.

This goes on the list of my worst recent races:
St Louis Marathon: 90+ degree weather, 20+ mile winds, extremely heavy pollen. My angel, Aunt Carol, who surprised me at mile 17, bought me Claritin and paced me in. Without her, I don't know if I would have finished.

Ohlone 50K. Started DFL, barely made the first cutoff, and had Chuck Wilson pass me in a pouf. Lost a toenail from wearing La Sportiva Fireblades, and decided to go back to my trusty Air Pegasus.

My cold malaise is almost over, and I'm eyeing Headlands 50K. I haven't run all week, and I'm feeling antsy.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Headlands 100 DNF

I thought it would hurt a lot more to DNF, but I had a bad cold and just didn't have it in me. Planned right for my first 100, had the gear, the training, the drop bags, the pace chart--but I had a cold and was energyless.

Prerace was stunningly lowkey. CoachKen, Karen and I arrived around 6:30 for a 7 AM start. The check-in lady knew me, and I felt bad I didn't know her. "You finished Miwok, you'll do great!" I got my long sleeve race shirt and a baggie with three Clif samples. At the last minute they'd added drop bags at Vista Point, but I didn't know. Mike gathered the small crowd for the pre-race instructions. The most relevant was on Coastal by Golden Gate, the downhill runner ALWAYS had the right of way.

Right from the start I didn't feel great. I continued, as I often don't feel good and then start feeling better. Never felt better--started feeling extremely drowsy and had a hard time keeping my eyes open. Carol & Larry were at Tennessee Valley, along with Karen. Carol said "I saw you on the front of UltraRunning Magazine". "No, you saw my BACK on Ultrarunning". Through the mist, I saw a bobcat on Coyote Ridge! I walked up Marincello with a non-racer who told me all about UTMB last year. Talking to her distracted me from my right IT band hurting with every step. I told myself I would finish 25 miles (a loop) and then call Greg from my phone in my drop bag and talk about "dropping".

I felt really bummed to look at my time 5:30 at mile 19--at Headlands Marathon I had FINISHED at 5:45. Then I saw Coach Ken as he came up SCA--he said don't drop, just slow my pace down and see if I felt better. Plodded down Rodeo Valley, and then I saw Greg! He'd driven from SF to bring my pack. I'd accidentally packed my extremely grody bladder instead of my brand new bladder. I'd used my backup bottle instead. Greg gave me a much needed big hug. I was happy to see him!

We met up again at mile 25, and Greg helped me fill my new pack. I wanted soup but the aid station wasn't doing it that early in the race. Then we sat for about 6 minutes looking at the birds on Rodeo Lagoon. I decided I wasn't ready to give up yet. I just felt so energy-less and blah. All I wanted to do was lie down and sleep.

Walked over the 8 miles to Golden Gate (mile 33), feeling lifeless but slightly better. A fog covered the trail, along with a chill wind. I cracked a joke to the runners in reverse "you forgot your sunglasses". The sun never broke the clouds on a surprisingly cool August day. I could see the aid station and the sun beyond it in the bay. No soup at the aid but extremely yummy cran-razz Clif shot. I'd never had it before, and it was delicious!

I talked myself into continuing to TV (mile 38) and dropping there with my drop bag with shoes and clean clothes. As I started up the road to the bridge (famous from Saucony ads) two hikers asked the way to the trailhead. I grunted "that way". I felt bad about being rude, and chatted a bit. They were staying at Cavallo Point, and stunned when I said we were running a 100 mile race.

I couldn't even run down Marincello. Usually I KILL it on the downhills. Now I barely mustered a walk. I saw another bobcat, this time a bobcub so small and cute, but not enough time to get a picture.

I plodded into TV, and it was bustling with a cheer squad with an AWESOME sign, and a big family all wearing "Run 50 miles Christopher!". The 50 was taped over with 100 on some of the shirts-recycling from a shorter race! I sat down in a chair and ate yummy chicken noodle soup. In the chair opposite me was a faster runner getting his feet taped up. People would poke their head in and look at his feet and wince. I never got a good look, and the runner never said anything, just stoically sat while he was duct taped.

It was 6:30, and I didn't think I could do another 13 hard miles to make the 10 pm cutoff at Rodeo Beach. Even fresh, this section takes me 3+ hours. I called Greg to say I was dropping, but it rolled to voice mail. Randy (another endurable) was volunteering at the aid station, and he came to check on me. "Just drinking my soup, thinking about dropping." "Just remember, when the night comes, it's a whole new day". I started up Miwok, but the hill just seemed impossible in my state. Greg called me right then. I wasn't ready to quit yet, was I? I turned around and went back to the bathroom. Then I texted him "continuing…not ready to quit".

I looked at my watch. I'd left TV at ~6:30 and the sun set at 8:15.. If I got to Muir Beach by 7:40, I could make it over technical Pirate Cove before it got too dark, then I could make it to Rodeo Beach by 10 PM, the 15 hour 50 mile cutoff. Then it would be MY decision to quit.

Suddenly, at the top of Coyote Ridge, I was in the hunt. I ran down to Muir Beach, scampering quickly. Earlier, it had really irked me that the course got re-routed around Muir Beach, adding ~1.2 miles. This time, I just knew I had to run faster. I didn't even refill my pack, just grabbed pretzels and showed my bib.

I ran Pirates Cove! There was no sunset in the foggy gloom, but I made it to TV right as it got too dark to see. It was 7:45. An awesome volunteer helped me with my pack, then I took off. Old Springs was quick, but then Wolf Ridge was foggy. Once I got to the top, I knew 10 PM was out of reach.

I've taken wrong turns on Hill 88 in broad daylight--it's littered with use trails that end suddenly on steep cliff dropoffs. I took it slow in the thick fog. The steps agonized my tight IT band, unused to walking dowhill. I knew my race was over. I'd thought about dropping for the past 30 miles, and it was finally time. Greg met me near the bottom and we walked in together.

Things I did well:
I was super well prepared in course knowledge. Every turn I knew. I barely looked at the ribbons at all.
I packed a backup light & hat at TV, and I needed them!
Tried to thank volunteers, not sure how well I did at grumpy times.
Kept going even when race not going well.

Sometimes, your mind might be ready for a race, but your body has a cold. I still feel sick two days later. I know I have a 100 in me--just not this one.

I'm trying to not feel like a failure. I failed at 100 miles, but I succeeded at 50 miles. 5 years ago, I WANTED to do 50 miles, but it seemed impossible. Now, I'm bummed I got a PW of 15+ hours. However, I would have been devastated if I'd DNF'd at Comrades--I had so much invested (travel, effort, emotion). Headlands 100 will be there next year (I hope). And I'm so proud Coach Ken finished his third try at HH!