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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Western States Endurance Run 2014 Experience

A little (very) slow in posting this, but with me it's always busy - this time it's welcoming a new addition to the family. So, before I start posting about lots of new and upcoming adventures, I thought it best to finish up what has passed.

Enjoy the "Experience."

Back in May I threw my name in the hat for another shot at pacing at the WSER. I had so much fun doing it in 2012, but was unable to attend in 2013.

A couple weeks later, I received an email from a relatively local runner asking if I was still interested. After a couple emails we managed to connect on the phone. I realized I was being interviewed for the job of pacer - makes a lot of sense if you're going to put your race in the hands of someone you haven't met before. One of the first questions I was asked was, "Why do you want to run 20 miles in the middle of the night with someone you have never met?" It was a question that caught me off guard, yet it is a very legitimate question. My answer was that at this time I have not qualified for WS and even if I managed a qualifier, I would still need to be drawn in the lottery. So, this is my opportunity to be "in" the race without actually being "in" the race.

This was good enough answer for my runner - Todd Law.

His goal for the race was obviously a finish, a PR, and if the opportunity presented itself a sub-24. My goal was to make sure that we accomplished as much of this as possible.

The morning of the race, I gathered my gear and began the drive up to Auburn where I was going to meet Todd's wife, Heidi, and the his other pacer, Andrew. I arrived before the Todd's wife so I headed over to Foresthill to check-in and was fortunate enough to watch the leaders come in and out of the aid station. It is amazing to see the strength and speed these runners still have after 62 miles!

 

While in Foresthill, I also ran into my new friend Tony Nguyen, AKA I am Endorphin Dude. I had seen Tony finish just behind me at AR50 in 2013 and met him at a local half marathon a few months before WS.

I caught up with one other crew member of Todd's, Nancy, who had been crewing for Todd and another runner, Ken, from the start of the race. We transferred some of the gear to my truck that needed to get to Heidi for the evening/night shift.

Back at Placer High School, I transferred all of the runners' gear and my stash into Heidi's car and we headed out to meet Todd at Michigan Bluff. This would be our first chance to see Todd in the race and my chance to actually meet him (briefly) before our run later that night. We made the drive back through Foresthill and down the windy road to Michigan Bluff. We lucked out and found a spot barely big enough for the car and not too far of a hike down to the shuttle bus stop. Even after the trip down, we still had about an hour before Todd was due. It was late afternoon and I figured it would be best to at least attempt to get in a few winks. I managed a short, semi-comfy nap on a beach towel on the dirt shoulder, waking in time to see Heidi and Todd walking down the road toward our station.

 

After swapping out supplies for Todd, we headed back over to Foresthill to wait again and meet up with Todd's other pacer and the rest of the crew.

 

As a crew it is always a "hurry up and wait" experience. We arrived back in Foresthill with some time to kill, but not too much. We met up with the rest of the crew, now including pacers Andrew and Phillip. Todd came through about an hour and a half after we left him at Michigan Bluff. After we sent Todd on his way with Andrew, his first pacer, we stayed around to await one other runner to send his pacer along.

 

While the sun was setting, I decided I should take the opportunity to rest up a little. I planted myself on a sleeping pad, covered my face with my hat and dozed off. I awoke a bit later in the darkness to the sound of the crew talking to the other runner. Someone had thrown a sleeping bag over me while I had slept, thankfully, since it had begun to chill a bit.

 

After sending the second runner along with his pacer, Phillip, Heidi and I realized that we didn't have too much time to get down to Green Gate. We hastily packed the cars and consulted hand drawn maps in the Crew Guide. I lead the way driving Phillip's car and following the GPS. There is nothing quite like trying to find tiny roads while driving on winding mountain roads in the middle of nowhere, in the dark, even while following a map on a GPS (oh, and no address to input into the computer). Throw in that we were on a strict time table and you get the idea of the pressure I was feeling. It reminded me of pacing WS in 2012 when I was waiting for the Green Gate shuttle and the bus driver decided he needed a break and shut off his bus for a half an hour while pacers and crews scrambled about for a way to get down to the isolated aid station.

We finally made it down to Hwy 49 and passed through the aid station at the Hwy 49 crossing. Then it was off to find the small road to Green Gate aid station. I had been this way a couple of times before, but never in the dark. I kept thinking that we must have passed the turn off as more time passed since we had gone through the Hwy 49 aid station. I correctly assumed that I was following another crew car and when they made the turn I was looking for, I felt a bit of relief. We wound our way down the one lane road down to Green Gate trying to go as fast as the darkness and twisty road allowed. When we finally reached the bottom, there wasa bottleneck of cars trying to make the U-turn so that they could park on the uphill side of the road. Heidi and I were both fortunate enough to find parking spots not far from the dirt road leading to Green Gate. I quickly grabbed all the gear I would need and joined hied by her car.

As we were hiking down the dirt road, the radio crackled. Andrew informed us that they had crossed the river and were changing shoes. Heidi and I started to hustle out of fear that we would not arrive at Green Gate before they came up the hill from the river. Our fears went went away as we arrived and Todd had not yet arrived. About a half hour later, Todd and Andrew showed up. They were running on a target finish of about 25:30.

I chatted with Andrew to find out if we were still hoping for a sub-24 finish, but he informed me that the run from Foresthill had not allowed them to close the gap.

As Todd and I headed out, Heidi shouted out, "Sub-24!"

The first four miles or so went smoothly. After the aid station at Auburn Lake Trails, my worst fear began to hit - stomach issues.

Over the years I have had issues on and off with various sports drinks. I've pretty much nailed it down to keeping the mixtures at half strength to reduce the impact on my stomach. However, I recalled that earlier in the day I had mixed a full tablet with my water bottle to maintain hydration while hanging around in the hot sun. Payback had begun.

I figured that I could make it to the next aid station. As the trail through the night wound on, my stomach began to get worse. I started scanning the sides of the trail to look for a place to ... take care of some business. The problem is that the trail between Auburn Lakes and Browns Bar is along the side of the mountain along the windy American River - there are no flat areas along the trail. As we got closer to Browns Bar, I informed Todd of my issue and told him I was scouting for a pit stop. Finally, I couldn't take it anymore and climbed up the side of there hill and found a relatively suitable spot to ... It helped some. I felt better, but only for a little while. I ended up hitting a porta-potty at every aid station for the rest of the night. Basically, it sucked.

Back to the main story...

After Browns Bar, there is a very long climb that winds it's way up and around the quarry before you hit Highway 49. I remembered this seemingly never ending climb from my previous pacing experience. Todd had begun to slow a bit and was trailing me by about 25 to 30 yards, which was fine for me because for the first time I began to fall asleep while trekking up the hill. I would take a step, doze, and then shake awake as I began to tip over. It was probably about 4:00 a.m. Finally, when I realized that this would no longer work, I stepped to the side of the trail and told Todd I needed to pull a 5 Hour Energy from my pack. He asked if it worked and I told him that I had no idea, but I needed to try something to wake up.

Ten minutes later, I was wide awake and powering up the hill. We crested the top and wound our way down to the Highway 49 aid station. A quick trip to the bathroom and we were back on the trail. Todd opted to take the lead now. The sky had begun to brighten and the sun was coming up. Todd began a relatively blistering pace with me chasing him for the next few miles up, over and down to No Hands Bridge.

When I asked him where he was getting all of the energy, he said that he gets a burst of energy when the sun comes up. Todd wasn't kidding. He just about killed me with his pace. By the time we reached the aid station at No Hands Bridge, Todd was still running like a machine and I had burned all remaining energy from my body. It was a strange experience. Here Todd had run nearly 97 miles compared to my 17 and I was the one falling apart.

After my, now routine, trip to the port-a-potty, we trotted off across the bridge. Now, as my memory serves me from my first time pacing at WS the climb up to Robie Point in the early morning darkness felt very much uphill most of the way. Now in the sunshine of the new day, it appeared to be relatively flat switchbacks with short climbs between. With my energy gone, these short climbs were completely kicking my ass. At one point about two-thirds of the way up, I actually had to put my hands on my knees and take deep breaths. It was a very humbling moment. I didn't want to give up on my runner, yet my body was betraying me at every turn. I kept waiting for Todd to drop me and head to the finish line.

Despite my repeated apologies to Todd, he kept me on board. My guess is that we had been beyond the 24 hour finish mark all night and comfortably set to finish well under 30 hours. I promised Todd that once we made it to the top of the road just after Robie Point we would run to the finish non-stop.

We were welcomed at Robie Point where I quickly downed some soda for a last ditch caffeine boost and walked the final "hill" into the neighborhood in Auburn. We began running once we crested the hill. Todd was still running like a machine and I was still sucking wind and fighting hard to keep pace with him.

We entered the stadium to the announcer introducing Todd. We continued our way around the track until I broke off into the pacer chute and Todd headed to the finish line. Todd's crew was cheering at the base of the bleachers and I ran over to them. They congratulated me on getting Todd to the finish. I informed them how Todd had basically dragged my ass the last 7 miles. But a finish is a finish - 26:02:25 Official.

In hindsight, I know where my issues arose from - hydration/nutrition. It is funny how quickly things can go bad on something as simple as what you drink. I thought I knew what worked for me, but incorrectly mixing my drink seems to have been my downfall. Also, I now know to bring my own TP for those unexpected stomach issues.

Thank you, Todd Law, for the opportunity to be your pacer at Western States 2014. We got to the finish line because of your sheer determination and will. It was a privledge watching you power through the night and most especially as you kicked my butt at the end. Congratulations on a second WS finish! I hope we get another chance to run together again with better results.

 

 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

International Barefoot Running Day 2014

The morning was cool, but not cold. I took a drive out toward the San Francisco Bay Area. There were tentatively 5 of us meeting for the roughly 10K run. I had chosen Redwood Regional Park in Oakland because of the soft single-track trails that are covered with decomposing redwood needles. It is a fantastic surface to run on barefoot. I had run some of the trails in this park during my first ultra, the Skyline 50K. As I approached the park, I quickly recognized that I was indeed in the region that I had raced through a couple of years ago.

I pulled into the parking lot and recognized NorCal Will sitting in his car. I hopped out and noticed that he was already barefoot. Not long after, Barefoot Bone Rod pulled up. And last but not least, while we were chatting it up, JJHenry came running up the road.

We talked for a bit about our backgrounds and quickly determined that the 10K distance would be good for everyone. JJHenry was the only one not experienced on trails, but the distance would not be an issue.

We headed back down the road to one of the trailheads that would allow us to start on single-track trails rather than the paved path leaving the parking lot. The trails in Redwood Regional were every bit as awesome as I had remembered. We all took off down the trail in a loose grouping chatting and joking along the way.

I was actually concerned that my lack of recent training was going to hurt me later, but I've found that, for me, running barefoot is efficient enough that I can handle higher mileage than I've trained for. The only challenge that day would be the hills - and there were more than a few long, steep hills to challenge me that day.

Somewhere near the middle of our run as we peaked one of the hills, Barefoot Bone Rod and JJHenry had stopped to chat with a couple hiking the trail. They were quite intrigued by our "barefootedness" and had the usual list of questions. Bone Rod even offered a foot to be felt by the gentleman. He commented that it "was as smooth as a baby's bottom" - common comment from people touching barefoot runner's feet.

The second half of the run was challenging for a different reason - it was mostly downhill and not as soft and covered with needles as the first half. Instead the trail was a bit drier and rocky. We barreled down the hill and eventually wound our way back onto the original trail we had entered the loop on.

Once back at the cars, we grabbed our snacks and found an empty picnic table to chow down and chat some more. We talked about how little we see fellow barefoot runners, how great it would be to run together more often, and also the awesome the trails were in Redwood Regional Park.

A little after lunch, we wrapped up our little event and headed back to our lives.  Once again, IBRD was a success for our San Francisco Chapter. It may not have been a large gathering this year, but it was definitely one of the most fun!

From Left to Right - NorCal Will, Barefoot Bone Rod, and JJHenry

From L to R - NorCal Will, Barefoot Bone Rod, and ME - BarefootTerry (sporting the IBRD 2014 shirt)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Step Back to See Forward

If you've been reading my blog, you've probably noticed that the past year has been pretty silent. After last year's American River 50 Mile Endurance Run, I inadvertently stepped back from running and racing. I was busy training a nephew (hoping to get him healthy). I coached my son's cross-country team to the championship for boys and girls senior divisions, a 2nd place win for junior division boys and a 3rd place win for junior girls. And oddly enough work stresses got the better of me as well.

I did manage to squeeze in a 5K PR at the local Thanksgiving run (my son bested his PR as well) and ran with some friends and family for 10+ mile runs.

However, for the most part, running and racing took a back seat. This sometimes happens with people who change interests or maybe incur a running injury. Fortunately, this is not the case with me. I think I needed some time to step back and reassess what I wanted to do with barefoot running "career."

In stepping back I have discovered that not only do I miss running but I miss racing. I also miss the relief from stress that comes from running, what I call, crazy miles.

Well, after my long "step back" I am ready to look forward! I have new running goals and projects in the works. I am filling up my spring/summer race schedule and am looking forward to running some "crazy" miles! I hope to share with you soon one of my big projects. It promises to be quite an adventure!

In the meantime, look forward to seeing some posts regarding my new training schedule and upcoming race reports!

Looking ahead to new and exciting adventures!

Monday, April 14, 2014

International Barefoot Running Day 2014 is coming!!!

It's that wonderful time of year again when the Barefoot Runners Society puts on International Barefoot Running Day at events all over the world!!!

This year IBRD will be held on Sunday, May 4, 2014. There are many events taking place all around the world. For a complete list check out the BRS website at:http://www.thebarefootrunners.org/pages/ibrd_local_events_listing/

Events are being added each day! So, check back or create your own event on the site.

For those of you in Northern California - particularly in the San Francisco/Sacramento region - the San Francisco Area Chapter is hosting a trail run at Redwood Regional Park in Oakland, CA. It is truly a gorgeous place to run. The trails are fantastic and the landscape is amazing. We welcome barefoot, minimalist and even shod runners (who are curious or just like to run).

Check out the San Francisco Chapter's event page at one of the following links:

BRS Main Website:
http://www.thebarefootrunners.org/threads/may-4-2014-international-barefoot-running-day-2014-san-francisco-area-chapter-oakland-ca.15875/

BRS - California: San Francisco Area Chapter Facebook Page
https://www.facebook.com/events/757141247630484/

Now get out there and run barefoot!!!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Age is just a number...

A couple months ago I turned 40. Yup, officially getting the, "Wow, you're getting old," comments. However, when I look back at my running career to this point, I can honestly say that I'm not feeling "old." I began running/racing when I was 33. But, I am faster now than I was 7 years ago. I am also able to run farther without complaint - in fact, I prefer longer runs now over shorter training runs.

So, in honor of finally being the youngest in my age bracket, I have set the goal to break into the top 5 of my bracket in the 5K, 10K, and half marathon distances. Marathons...well, there are so many great marathoners out there running sub-3 hour marathons. I think I will have to shoot for sub-4 hour in the marathon distance. On that note, I'm also looking to finally check off a barefoot road marathon this year. For some reason I've raced barefoot at all distances from 5K to 50 miles but have skipped the marathon. Perhaps it is my nemesis. I have struggled in all 3 of my shod marathons - blisters, nausea, and dry heaving. This year that ends!

I haven't put any specific races on the calendar just yet. I've been busy coaching CYO Cross Country for my son's school. It's so much fun teaching younger runners about our great sport and the running community! It's even better to have a top notch team and winning meets! More blogs on coaching to come!

40. Well, it may seem old to some, but to me it's just a number. . . see ya on the course, if you can catch me!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Never Listen to the Naysayer

Since running my first 50-mile race, I have been pondering what races and distances I will do next. I have some personal goals to reach in the realm of running. Some of which I will eventually share on this blog.

However, I recently received comments from several people that basically said that running ultra distances barefoot was unrealistic or ridiculous.

It got me to thinking about the "naysayer."

A naysayer is a person who likely hasn't accomplished much, if anything, in their lives. In addition, they try and tell you that your dreams, goals, and aspirations are ridiculous, impossible or just cannot be done. It could be your business idea, a job, a college you wish to attend, or a marathon.

It made me think of all of the great people throughout history who have achieved some momentous goal despite what others told them. Examples can be found with Columbus attempting to sail around the world, Sir Edmund Hillary climbing Mount Everest, or in running with Roger Bannister breaking the 4-minute mile barrier.

People may say that running an ultramarathon is ridiculous, insane, or flat out stupid. I used to think ultra runners were a bit crazy. Perhaps they (we) are. That was before I became curious about how far I could push myself. How far could I run? Oddly, these questions came to me only after I began running barefoot.

It is the same question that is asked of every person who wants to attempt something seemingly unattainable - Why would you want to do that?

To sail around the world - To see if it can be done.
Climb Mount Everest - Because it's there.
Break the 4-minute mile - To push beyond apparent human limits.

There as many answers as there are challenges.

A runner I know, who does a lot of barefoot running, is attempting the SD100 mile race in a week. I don't think he is doing it barefoot, but that is besides the point. He wants to know if he can achieve the seemingly "impossible dream" of running 100 miles in a single day. I believe that he can. Why? Simple. Because HE believes it. Best wishes for a safe and successful race, Andrew!!!

Back to my original premise of the "ridiculousness" of barefoot ultrarunning...

When I was chatting with the guys at Trail Runner Nation, one of my favorite parts of that interview is when Don Freeman says something like "here we are, 3 men sitting in a room saying, 'This man runs with no shoes? How is this possible?'" Followed by Scott Warr's comment that "in all of human history, people running in shoes is like a blip."

Will I stop running barefoot?

No.

Will I attempt longer distances barefoot?

Yes.

Will I find an upper limit to the endurance of the human "bare" foot?

Maybe.

I say to all of you that have a dream, goal, or aspiration (especially all for of you ultrarunners out there, barefoot or shod) - focus, work hard, strive to achieve it! Perhaps you will fail and hopefully you will succeed, but NEVER, EVER LISTEN TO THE NAYSAYER!




Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Trail Runner Nation Podcast

Hey all!

As I mentioned in my AR50 race report, I had the great opportunity to meet Don Freeman of Trail Runner Nation podcast.  A few weeks after the race, I was invited up to do an interview with TRN. If you have never listened to TRN, you really should! Their list of guests is amazing - Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, Warren Pole, Dr. Tim Noakes, Sock Doc and so many more! The podcasts offer many insights into the world of trail running, training, and general health. So, when Don approached me to do an interview I was very honored to be counted among the group of previous guests.

I went up to the Sacramento area after work one day last month to meet with Don Freeman and Scott Warr. Although I was very nervous, they quickly put me at ease with their humor. We sipped on some Tailwind Nutrition sports drink and chatted a little before getting started. I had a blast recording the podcast with them and getting a behind the scenes look at how this great show is produced. Although, I never did find out where they recorded the footfalls for the opening of their shows. A secret that remains to be discovered. . .

So here is the link to the podcast.

Trail Runner Nation - Barefoot 50 Mile Podcast

Perhaps if you're bored at night and need something to put you to sleep... haha...no really... I hope you enjoy my interview as much as I had doing it!

And one last thing. The podcast should be posted through the Podcast App on iTunes soon. For now you can listen to it on their website.

Thanks TRN!!! You guys are awesome...Run Más!!!

ENJOY!!!