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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!!!

Friday, April 26, 2013

IBRD 2013!

Barefoot Runners Society - International Barefoot Running Day 2013 is almost upon us! This 3rd Annual International Event will be held on Sunday, May 5, 2013 all around the world!

If you are in the greater San Francisco/Sacramento/Stockton region, come check out our event in Oakland at the Joaquin Miller Park. It's a gorgeous park in the hills above Oakland, CA. There are lots of great dirt trails to run on and the view can be spectacular.

Where:
Joaquin Miller Park
3600 Joaquin Miller Road
Oakland, CA 94602

When: Sunday, May 5, 2013 at 10:00 a.m.

What to expect: I will be holding a short barefoot running clinic at the beginning of the event. Following the clinic, the group will be able to run various distances from 1K to 5K (or more for the experienced runners).

Bring some food to share if you like and hang out after the run to chat and meet all of the barefooters in the area!

For more information on the BRS San Francisco Area Chapter event, check out the BRS chapter page here. We are also on Facebook here.

 For events around the world check out www.thebarefootrunners.org IBRD page

 If you are interested in purchasing a shirt for the event, see the right column of my blog or click here to purchase a shirt from Zazzle. Proceeds go to support the Barefoot Runners Society.

Hope all of you can join in the fun and festivities here in California or wherever you are around the world!


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Barefoot (mostly) American River 50-Mile Endurance Run

Ok, I know, I know. I've been kinda AWOL lately. I've spent some time with my family, coaching cross-country, and training. And it's finally paid off.  Enjoy this post...there are more stories to come!


April  6, 2013 – Sacramento, CA
The day had I had waited a year for had finally arrived - Redemption Day. It was the morning of the American River 50-Mile Endurance Run once again. Last year, I had trained numerous miles only to wind up injured at the start line resulting in my first DNF ever.

THIS year was going to be different. This was MY year. It was time to run to Auburn to get MY AR50 Finisher’s Jacket.

I kissed and hugged my wife and kids – my “crew” for the race. I stripped off my Sockwas, handed them to my wife, and joined the growing crowd of runners as they meandered toward the starting line. My family headed to watch the start from the Guy West Bridge. The runners would race west away from the bridge for a couple miles and circle back underneath the bridge now heading east toward the finish 50 miles away in the little town of Auburn. As the saying goes, “All Trails Lead to Auburn.”

There were a few announcements at the start, some jokes, lots of cheering, and finally, the air horn signaling the start of the race. IT WAS ON!

The sun had yet to rise, but every step brought a little more light. It was cool, but not cold. It was a perfect morning (or should I say day) for a race!

On the opening mile or so, no one seemed to notice that I was barefoot. Then the first joker made his presence known behind me – there’s always one…

“Hey, bro! What do you do when you step in shit?”
 
“I wash my feet.” Pause. Roll my eyes. “What do YOU do when YOU step in shit?”

I never turned back. I just kept on running. I didn’t even dignify his response to my question.

The group circled back toward the bridge. Now the sun was starting to rise. As I approached the bridge, I could see my wife and kids waving from above. It was such a great boost to my spirit to see them as I ran under the bridge.

Since this is about the point where my achilles started to ache last year, I was superstitiously nervous in these opening miles of the race.

Somewhere along the path on the way to William Pond (Mile 8), I ran into Don Freeman from Trail Runner Nation. I have to admit, I didn’t know who he was. Some of my running friends were fans of the podcast, but I had not gotten into the habit yet. (BTW – I’m now addicted to the podcast.) We talked a bit about the race and about my barefoot running. He said he was running to Beals Point (Mile 26) and hopping in a car to announce the race finish. About that time, the two of us came upon a guy running in Hokas. Don commented on the contrast in our choice of foot apparel (or lack thereof). He mentioned how great it would be to have a picture of the two of us – barefoot and Hokas.
Here ya go, Don… turns out my wife caught a picture of us coming through Sunrise Aid Station (Mile 14.61).

Hokas Mike & I at Sunrise Aid Station

Hokas Mike, as I will call him ended up running with me all the way through mile 18. Interesting guy. He ran in Hokas, but does some training barefoot. Mike told me he was planning to go to the Born To Run Ultras race. We chatted about kids, running, and races.

Between the time that Don had run with me and joining up with Mike, I noticed that I had upped my pace to under a 10-minute mile. Not a hard pace to keep, just not in my race strategy. So, around mile 10 or so, I felt like I was getting a hot spot on my left foot around the ball of my foot. When I stopped off for a quick peek, I noticed nothing out of the ordinary. I wrote it off as maybe having stepped on a pebble that may have given me a slight bruise.

When we hit Sunrise (Mile 14), while my wife was mixing up my Iskiate drink, I checked my foot again. No sign of a blister/hot spot. Hokas Mike and I took off down the bike trail running at about a 10-minute/mile pace. 

This pace was slightly faster than I had planned, but within my overall goal of between a 10 and 12 minute/mile pace. My race strategy was to get to Beals Point by 11:18 a.m., which is a 12 minute/mile pace. This strategy would give me an hour and 20-minute cushion from the cut-off at Beals as well as just over 6 hours to complete the last 23.5 miles.

About the time Mike and I hit mile 17/18 at the Hazel Street Bridge over Highway 50, I checked my foot again and to my horror had a quarter sized blister on the ball of my left foot. I bid farewell to Mike and told him I was going to back down a little on my pace to protect my blister (which had to be from pushing off). I needed to run my race and keep control of my form.

(edit 4/20/13 - I caught up with Hokas Mike on Facebook - Congrats on your finish!

I made the first real climb of the race up the overpass, and onto the ridge overlooking the highway. It wasn’t a difficult climb, but it was the first significant climb thus far – about 200 feet.

At the top of the hill, we turned onto a road and then into Main Bar Aid Station (19.2 miles). At this point, the trail/road becomes a gravel path. Generally, I am not afraid to run a of a couple miles barefoot on gravel. However, while nursing a growing half-dollar sized blister and 31 miles of trail ahead, I decided that my huarache sandals from Invisible Shoe were the right thing to throw on. So, after stuffing my face at Main Bar, I pulled the sandals out of my pack and slipped them over my feet.
This was the perfect solution. The sandals provided just enough coverage to take the edge off of the gravel and protect the swollen blister. After about a mile of gravel running, the path turned onto dirt single track. But just as I was hitting mile 20 and before I made the turn onto the dirt, I felt a strange “pop.” I looked down at my left foot and saw blood and watery liquid quickly coating my entire left huarache. 

For a moment I panicked.  I needed to rinse this off. My water bottle was full of Heed – probably not the best idea. My camelback! I grabbed the tube and squeezed on the bite nozzle. Nothing came out. Duh! You have to suck the water out.

I decided at that moment that it was fine and took off onto the single-track dirt path. I quickly realized that my left foot did not feel any pain. All the pressure of the blister had been immediately and effectively relieved with the pop. I took off down the trail feeling light as a feather.

Fortunately, Mike had seen my crew/family at two aid stations now and notified them of my blister situation. He told them that I “might need shoes.” 

I don’t need no stinkin’ shoes!

As I made my way into the aid station at Negro Bar (22.4 miles), my son was eagerly awaiting my arrival with my padded tape (something like moleskin) in hand. I grabbed it and asked where they set up. As he led me over to where my wife and daughter had my spread set up, I grabbed some food off the aid station table and headed for my gear.

I instructed my wife to break open the athletic tape as I tore strips of padded tape off the roll my son had given me. I quickly laid two strips of padded tape down the ball of my foot across the now deflated blister and dime-sized hole in my foot. Next I wrapped tape around the front and back of my foot – securing both ends of the padded tape. I made sure that the tape was secure on the skin, but not tightly wrapped. The last thing I needed was to “bind” my foot from moving freely.

Once I got the tape secured. I grabbed the bloody huarache and stuffed it over my foot. My wife asked if I wanted my shoes.

“Nope. I’m good with these!” I said, as I hopped up. “See ya at Beals Point!”

The next four miles went fairly uneventfully as I meandered along the gravel path with gorgeous views of the American River approaching Folsom Lake.

As we reached the western edge of the lake, a couple of us started running together. We were approaching the 26.2-mile mark. One lady commented that this was the loneliest mile. Here we were running along side the road in Folsom with cars and businesses all around us. Yet it felt like we were not really part of anything – no race, no trail, no spectators, just roads, cars and sidewalks.
Our stint in the “city” didn’t last very long (about 1/3 of a mile) as we turned back onto the American River Bike Trail. I think we were passing Hunkle Reservoir when we saw the two bunches of balloons and signs on each side of the path marking the marathon distance of 26.2 miles. The small group of us noted the lack of any real celebration that we had just run a marathon to this point. We checked our watches and noted our marathon time. Mine turned out to be about 5 hours and 5 minutes. Not my worst time, but not my best.

Just under a mile out, I could hear the music at Beals Point blasting across the lake. This was a huge relief. This was considered the “half-way” mark at 26.53 miles. It also has the first real “cut-off” time. As I came to the end of the dam, I could see the huge party spread out in the park and parking lot. There was a huge inflatable archway marking the entry into Beals Point. 

My son guiding me to our spot at Beals Point


My official entry time into Beals was 11:18 a.m. What I didn’t realize this until I started writing this story is that 11:18 is the exact time that I had written on my pace chart for a 12-minute pace at Beals Point.

My son met me just inside the archway and ran me to our area. I was so happy when I saw my family. If you ask my wife, she says I seemed a bit “out of it”. 

I spent some time replenishing my stash of pretzel sticks (which were keeping a slight bout of nausea at bay), switching out water bottles, tossing my Garmin into my bin (the battery had died about a mile or so back) and talking with my wife about how great I was feeling. She told me that I was doing great on time. There was something truly awesome about having my wife crew for me. Her words really lifted my spirits and kept me motivated.

My wife informed me that my parents were arguing about when to come out to see me on the course. I don’t think they had even left home at this point. More on my parents later.

I gave my wife a kiss and headed over to the aid station to fill my hydration pack and eat some boiled potatoes and chips. I think I even popped a couple of S-Caps. I had barely even touched my Shot Bloks – maybe finishing one pack thus far in the race. It actually ended up being the only pack I ate that day.

I made the circuit around the point and up onto the dam. Now I was into the part of the course I had seen before in training last year. I remembered the gravel fire roads and dirt trails that were coming up. This is what I had been longing for all day – the dirt! Unfortunately, it starts out with some more gravel-ish fire roads or wide trail. But I knew that the dirt was coming.

Thinking back now to the race, the trip from Beals to Granite Bay (Mile 31.67), while only about 5 miles, is kinda fuzzy in my mind. I think most of the 20s miles were. I don’t remember feeling particularly bad, but just clouded in the head.

I can’t remember exactly what it was like coming up on Granite Bay. But I do remember confirming with a volunteer at the aid station if it was all dirt trails from Granite Bay to Last Gasp (Mile 47.5). I was getting sick of my huaraches. I felt like I was stomping around harder than I would do straight barefoot. The protection of the sandals made it more bearable to do so. It’s not that I don’t like running in my sandals, but I was slacking on form as I was beginning to tire.

Ah, now I remember hitting Granite Bay. My wife had to describe the aid station to me (or maybe I’m just getting old). 

Entering Granite Bay Aid Station (Mile 31.67)


So, at the aid station, I was perusing the food choices. I snatched up some potato chips and a salted potato. I overheard a volunteer offer someone some chicken soup. Then a memory of pacing at Western States came back to me. When I paced Dave Boudreau at WS100, he told me that nothing tastes better than chicken soup at 1 a.m. Now it wasn’t 1 a.m. (yet), but it sounded damn good. I asked for a cup and guzzled down the warm broth and ate some of the noodles and chicken at the bottom. SO GOOD! I chased it down with a Dixie cup of Coke. Finally, I headed over to my family and stripped off my sandals and added a little more tape to my foot and bounded down the trail.
This was the best! I felt so light on my feet with the dirt between my toes. I had a new energy. Then about ten or fifteen minutes down the trail, my head was totally clear. The salty soup, potatoes, and maybe even the caffeine from the Coke lit my brain up. The fog around my head was gone. My legs felt renewed. It was hard to believe that I had just run a 50K and was still moving strong.

The next 3 miles seemed to fly by. I was feeling strong and clear headed. I was now running further than I had ever run – EVER – shod or barefoot.

The next aid station was Buzzard’s Cove (Mile 34.67). It was said to be a “water only” station. I came around the bend and up onto a hill overlooking the lake. 

I stripped off my pack to have it filled with water when someone asked, “Would you like some ice cream?”

ICE CREAM! I thought. 

“I’ve heard about you guys!” I told them.

“So word is getting out?” he laughed.

Actually, some friends of mine who had raced last year told me about the “ice cream station” and I was so happy it was true! I did have a very brief moment of – hmmm… I wonder if this will screw up my stomach? Then decided, the hell with it! I want some ice cream!

It was so surreal. Here we were on the side of a hill, no road in sight, just the lake, a single-track trail and ice chests full of ice cream. 

I must give a shout-out to the aid station crew at Buzzard’s Cove- THANK YOU!!! The ice cream was AWESOME! 

I devoured the ice cream and most of the cone, thanked the volunteers, and turned to leave. As I was turning, one of the volunteers noted that there was a growing pile of runners sprawled out on the hillside enjoying ice cream and not looking like they were going anywhere anytime soon. He jokingly shooed them with his hands. No one moved.

I laughed and headed out of the area.

Since my Garmin had died at mile 25ish, I had been relying on my Nike Plus Sportband for time. I hadn’t really gotten it calibrated correctly and the pace/distance information was skewed horribly. So, I used it like a watch keeping overall race time and actual time of day. I was trying to estimate distance by 15-20 minutes per mile. I figured if I did that, then everything would be either on target or I might get pleasantly surprised with an early arrival at an aid station if I was making better time.

(Edited section added on 4//19/13:
I was talking to a friend today and she reminded me of a part of the course that I had forgotten to write about:

Somewhere between Granite Bay and Horsehoe Bar, there was a second race happening - a trail marathon. I started noticing these little signs on stakes with red arrows. I came up on a fork in the trail. There was a guy standing there.

"Don't go this way," he said, pointing up the fork that had the signs. 


I had no idea what he was talking about.

"You're joking right?" I asked.

"No, there is another race going on. They have the signs with the red arrows. You need to follow the orange ribbons."

I looked at him in disbelief. I couldn't really think very well having run over 30+ miles at this point. 

"Seriously?" I asked again.

"Yes. You go to the right."

I trotted on, still wondering and looking back to make sure he wasn't joking with me. Thankfully, he was correct and I didn't get lost. And as it turns out, just down the trail was another volunteer from that race directing runner traffic turned out to be a former teaching colleague of mine - Thanks, Kathy, for easing my fear that I wasn't going the wrong way!

(End edited section)

The next stop was another non-crew aid station at Horseshoe Bar (Mile 38.14) – roughly 3.5 miles ahead. I had run what I thought had been at least 2 miles or more. I asked someone if they had an idea how far it was to the next aid station. 

“About 2 miles.”

What?! I thought. Something was going wrong. I kept running.

A little while later I saw a trail sign for Rattlesnake Bar stating 3 miles. Well, It was 2.8 miles from Horseshoe to Rattlesnake. That should’ve meant an aid station at any moment. No such luck. I kept running. 

I was beginning to think that they had cut an aid station from the course when I recognized a wide dirt hill that I had seen over a year ago on the training run. FINALLY! Horseshoe Bar! I made a quick pit stop and then made my way up the hill. I was starting to feel a little beat down. I think a volunteer took a picture of my feet and I chatted it up a little with the others. Again, I was getting a little fuzzy in the head. I ate some food, filled up my hydration pack and bottle and headed out. 

The trail from Horseshoe Bar to Rattlesnake Bar had some pretty nasty rocky sections. I had to slow down a lot to maneuver my way down hills. This was frustrating because my strategy was run the downs and flats as fast as I could so I could walk the hills. However, I didn’t give up. I just kept moving the best I could. Whenever there was decent trail, I ran as fast as I could (which wasn’t terribly fast at this point). 

After another hour, I finally arrived at Rattlesnake Bar (Mile 40.94). I was falling back on my pace. I had planned to be at Rattlesnake about 2:15 p.m., but I think it was more like 3:30.

My parents had finally made it up to the course and were waiting as I started to eat up the food at the aid station. Here is the funny thing about my parents. My wife had mentioned that whenever I’m racing and am expected to show up somewhere at a certain time and my parents come, I always end up about an hour later than expected. It happened at my first 50K ultra too. Funny, huh?

Leaving Rattlesnake Bar (Mile 40.94)

The next 3 miles to Manhattan Bar were fairly uneventful. I was getting tired, but my spirits were still strong. I was still going to Auburn to get MY jacket. I knew I was getting close on time. I kept telling myself to run whenever possible. I did have to stop once to add tape to my foot.

At one point, when I had stepped to the side of the trail to let some runners pass, someone said, “You’re not going to get any shoe contracts doing it like that.” We both laughed and I fell into running behind them.

When I arrived at Manhattan Bar, I was getting pretty foggy in the head again. I popped some more S-caps, drank some soda, and tried to eat some food. It was the last aid station with food. The problem was, I wasn’t very hungry any more. I knew this was not good, but couldn’t really get around it.

While standing around nibbling, a runner asked me if this was the last aid before Last Gasp. I told her there was one more station then Last Gasp.

“No,” said one of the volunteers. “This is the last aid before Last Gasp. You only have 6 more miles to go.”

I pulled out my water bottle and checked my chart. She was right! In my tired state, I had misread my chart and thought I had 2 more stations before the finish. I held up my hands in victory and said, “That is fantastic news!” She smiled and laughed.

I trotted away with a little bit of a lift in my spirit. While I was thrilled that I had only 6 more miles to go and one more aid station, I knew that the dreaded 3-mile climb was coming up. I trudged on. Time was running short. It was now close to 5 pm. The cut-off at Last Gasp (Mile 47.56) was 6:20 and the 13-hour end at 7:00.

I pushed and pushed. I ran (or shuffled really) as much as I could stand. I needed to close the gap in time. I kept looking down the river toward the end of the canyon. I knew that the climb was there somewhere. However, every time I thought I was getting closer, the trail would wind away from the river following the curves of the canyon wall. No matter, just keep running I told myself.

Finally, the trail came to an end. The trail turned to gravel and headed to the left and up, up, up out of the canyon. I got my Invisible Shoes out of my pack and strapped them on. Another runner had joined me as we started the climb up the hill. It was approaching 6 p.m. 

Gotta keep pushing. I told myself. 

I knew that I would not be able to run any of the hill. It was just too steep and my legs were spent. 

Just keep walking…Fast.

The gravel turned to road, but it was still steep. Keep walking.

There was the first of 3 signs – 3 miles to go!

Keep walking!

After what seemed like forever, the crazy guys at Last Gasp who run your bottles to the aid station came into view. I told them mine were good, thanked them, and kept walking.

Time: 6:07 p.m.

Keep powering up that hill! I told myself. It’s not over yet. 2.44 miles to go! GET THAT JACKET!
I started to feel nauseous. I hadn’t eaten in a while. I didn’t really want to drink anything and the thought of another pretzel stick made me sick. Again, I knew it wasn’t a good thing, but I didn’t care. 

Just keep walking.

I passed a runner and his pacer. This guy was in bad shape. He wanted to vomit. He was burping loudly. I kept pushing my way ahead. I didn’t want to be in earshot if he lost it or I might too.

The signs for 2 miles and finally 1 mile came into view. I could hear the announcer booming over the speakers at the top of the hill somewhere in the trees. Just keep walking.

A short turn in the road and I could see the top! My wife and kids were there screaming wildly!!!

Time 6:45 p.m.

“Come on, Dad! Hurry!!!!” They screamed.

“I’m coming.” I shouted back.

I climbed the final hill and walked to the road. I stripped off my sandals, tucked them in my water belt and started running. Only a few hundred feet to go. My kids ran along side me - one on each side. We rounded the corner and the chute and finish line came into view. I was smiling ear to ear. 


My kids guide me into the chute.

I crossed a timing mat. Then Don Freeman, the announcer, started shouting wildly about the “barefoot runner” he had met earlier that morning now coming into the finish line. 

I crossed the finish line with my arms raised in victory and a huge smile on my face. 


THE FINISH LINE


I had done it – a barefoot (mostly) 50-mile run!

Official time 12:49:22.

I put my hands on my knees. My son laid the medal over my neck and someone handed me MY finisher’s jacket! I stood up and pointed to Don who was still shouting wildly – I think he told my kids to tell me to get some shoes on. 



When it was all said and done my family and I took pictures (while I tried not to throw up). Thanks to Jesse Jimenez and his wife Jenni from NorCal Trailheads for taking some great finish line shots.


The Family
My Kiddos and I

It was truly an amazing experience running AR50. I am still, two weeks later, processing all that has transpired. 

A special thank you to Julie Fingar and the staff and volunteers at NorCal Ultras for putting on a fantastic race. I could not have asked for a better first 50-mile race!



UPDATE: I forgot to add post-race pictures of my foot. Here ya go.

Right heel - blood blister wraps under the heel.
Left foot - still bandaged - wet from grass not blood ;)
Bottom of left foot (blister on ball)

Top of left foot -blister from tape behind big toe.




Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Western States 100 - 2012 Experience Part III

Probably one of the scariest rides I have ever been on was that school bus going down Sliger Mine Road.  The sun had already set, so it was dark.  I was sitting in the back of the packed bus which was standing room only.  All I could make out was the slight illumination of trees whipping by as we rounded what seemed like hairpin turns at 35 to 40 miles per hour.  It appeared that oncoming cars were veering quickly to the side of the road to let the bus scream past in the dark.  Finally, we arrived at the bottom of the road.    There was a giant sign in front of someone's property here making it obvious to anyone that they don't want people parking here. 

Bottom of Sliger Mine Road

From the drop off point, it would be another 15 to 20 minute walk down a rutted dirt road.  As you can see, it was already pretty dark.  I pulled out one of my flashlights and headed down with the group of crews and pacers.

Once at the bottom, it became clear why they call this aid station "Green Gate."  You can't really see much in the picture, but this is the "brown" gate I mentioned in Part I.  To the left of the gate was the "check out" part of Green Gate Aid Station.

"Green Gate" Aid Station


The time was about 9:40 p.m.  Dave was due in a little after 10 p.m.  I milled around near the gate, used the porta-potty (I don't know why, but I'm going to mention the bathroom a lot in this post), and chatted with a couple crew members.  Just before 10 p.m., a race official informed me that I could head down the road (indicating the road toward Rucky Chucky) and meet my runner.  I declined, stating that I could wait here (I had been down and up that road and didn't particularly feel like adding an extra 4 miles - 2 up a fairly steep hill).  Then she stated that the "real" aid station was about 100 yards down the road around the bend.  She also added that as a pacer I could eat the food there.  For those who are not familiar, the food at trail races is especially good and plentiful - soups, sandwiches, chips, and every kind of candy you can imagine (more on food later).  Since it had been a good 3 to 4 hours since I had eaten dinner (2 PB&J sandwiches), I decided a little food was in order.  I made the short trip down the road and decided on some hot chicken broth and chips.

Shortly after 10 p.m., Dave came up the hill into the aid station.  I almost didn't recognize him because of the darkness and the fact I forgot what color shirt he was wearing when he left Foresthill.  I welcomed him into Green Gate (79.8 mi.) where he grabbed a bite and we headed up the hill to the actual "Green Gate."  We checked out with the officials at the tent about 10:25 p.m. and headed down the trail.

This is the moment that I had been waiting a year and all day for - running in the Western States 100!

We headed down the first long hill side by side.  As we reached the bottom and the trail split away from the fire road, I took the lead.  The plan was to power walk the hills and run everything else.  The planned pace was somewhere around 13 - 15 minutes per mile.  I kept a close watch on my Garmin to make sure we were staying on a decent pace.  A couple of times Dave called up to me and said we were going too fast.  I was kind of glad for this.  While I didn't want to push Dave too hard, I didn't want to be someone who held him back either. 

A couple miles into the course, I informed Dave that I found something that I liked better than trail running - nighttime trail running!  It is amazingly cool to do.  Granted you tend to kick more rocks and roots than you do running trails in daylight and I probably wouldn't do it barefoot, but it's a totally surreal experience.  We had clear skies, so the stars were out.  All you could hear were crickets.  All you could see was blackness, shadowed ridgelines and whatever else you could make out with your headlamp and flashlights.

We took our first "pit-stop" of the night before we arrived at Auburn Lake Trails Aid Station.  It's amazing how much faster you can run when your bladder isn't full.  A little while later I noticed a fairly strong skunk smell.  This worried me a bit since there weren't exactly a lot of roads in the area for a skunk to get hit by a car. 

Over the first 5.5 miles to Auburn Lake Trails, we averaged about a 15 minute mile.  The first mile was in the 12-min range, which explains why Dave was saying I was pushing too hard.

One of the coolest things that I found at WS was coming into aid stations.  We would be running in the dark for an hour or so and then two things would catch your attention - the faint sound of generators humming and the glow of hundreds of Christmas lights strung about in the middle of the forest.  It's amazingly cool how the sight of all those brightly colored lights gives you a little lift in the middle of the night.

We arrived in Auburn Lake Trails (85.2 mi.) at about 11:25 p.m. where Dave had to undergo a medical check.  He weighed in a little lighter than the docs would have liked.  They asked him a bunch of questions to make sure he was lucid.  They told him to make sure he was drinking enough fluids and using the restroom (I made a mental note of this as well).  The docs even asked me how I was doing.  I told them I had just joined at Green Gate, so I was fine.  Dave and I had a bit to eat and refilled his bottles and we were off and running again.

Next stop - Brown's Bar (89.9 miles).
 
This section of the course is fairly flat.  As described in my first post, this is where Zap, RR and I had experienced FIYAH!  It was also the location where I thought we had gone wrong on the trail.

Dave decided that he would lead out this section of the trail to keep my "fresh legs" in check.  Sorry, Dave.  :)  Despite Dave not wanting me to lead at a "relatively" blistering pace, he still managed to keep us on a good steady pace.

Every mile my Garmin would chirp.

"Was that a mile?" Dave would ask.

"Yep." was my reply.
 
We continued to walk the hills, but quickly jumped into a run as soon as we peaked the tops.  I had to keep checking my spacing behind him, because when he thumped his toe on a rock or root, I tended to do the same.  On one particularly flat section of trail, we were moving along nicely when Dave suddenly stopped dead in his tracks.  I nearly slammed into his back.

"Did you see that?" he asked.

"See what?"

"Eyes."

"Where?"

"Down there (indicating the brush below the trail).  I thought they were headlights and then I realized they were eyes."  Dave clarified.

"What was it?"  I asked.

"I think it was a skunk.  I saw a white tail."

"Well, let's not stand here then," I said, as we started out again.

Keeping in mind that Dave had been underweight at the last aid station, I kept a close eye on how often he was drinking.  I also kept track of the time since our last pit-stop.  I mentioned to him that we should be due soon for a stop.  Sometime before we hit Brown's Bar, I decided to lead by example and told him at the bottom of the next hill I was going to stop.  Funny how one person having to go pee sparks the urge in another.  Ahh, the job of a pacer. :)

Coming out of Auburn Lake, we continued a 14 - 15 minute/mile pace, but the last mile into Brown's Bar we had dropped back into the 12s.  Amazing, Dave!

When we arrived at Browns Bar, I recognized the "T" in the trail.  In my mind I thought, this is where we were supposed to turn left.  However, as we were grazing at the food table, I realized the supply trucks were blocking the trail to the left and that we would have to go to the right.  Now I was curious where the 3 of us had previously gone wrong.

Anyway, we had our fill of quesadillas, chips, and candy (I think Dave had some more broth and sandwiches) and we were off down the trail again.

Next stop - Highway 49 crossing (93.5 miles).

So, now my mind was wondering where I had gone wrong on my pre-race run.  What turn did we miss that day?  Soon Dave and I approached another "T" in the trail.  It was at this sign (this picture was taken during pre-race run).  During the run with Zap and RR, we had turned to the left.  Surely, we needed to go right (nevermind that the sign clearly states Hwy 49 crossing to the left).  Nope.  When we reached this point the trail was clearly marked with glow sticks and reflective ribbons to the left.






The first two miles out of Brown's Bar were nice - mostly downhill or flat.  We approached the river - you couldn't see it, only hear it.  However, based on my memory of the area, I knew exactly where we were.  We were just about to the fire road that leads to the Auburn Recreation Area parking lot where Hwy 49 crosses the American River and where my trio had hitched a ride two weeks ago.  Now I was truly confused.  Where was that turn we missed!  Then suddenly, about 2 miles out from the Hwy 49 Crossing, a large paint mark and glow sticks marked a small trail veering up steeply and to the left of the fire road.  I finally discovered where we had gone wrong!  I even remember seeing this little "NO Mountain Bikes" sign where the trail begins (not that you could ride a bike up this thing if you wanted to).

One of the cool things about running a race at night is that they mark the trail with glow sticks.  Sometimes they seem plentiful, other times not so much.  Dave commented several times during the night how we hadn't seen a glow stick in a while - wondering if we had missed a turn somewhere.

There is a downside to this method of marking the trail in this way.  While climbing this hill, I would take my eyes off the trail in front of me for a moment to see if I could make out the peak of the hill.  I could not make out the peak, but I would see the faint glow of one of these glow sticks above me.  Then we would reach that glow stick and then we would see another glow stick above us on the trail. We would continue uphill and I would either spot another glow stick or the flash of light of someone's headlamp.  Then we would reach that glow stick and I'd spot another one higher up still.  It seemed to never end!  At least during daylight if there is a hill you can see how far you have to go.  Running in the dark taking in only 20 feet at a time makes it a long drawn out process of reaching a peak.  As it turned out, the point where this little trail veered off to the left was the beginning of a long, 2-mile, uphill climb. 

It took us a bit of huffing and puffing, but we finally made it to the top!  After reaching the summit of the hill followed by a short down hill run, we could see the lights of CHP cars and the aid station at the Highway 49 crossing.  As we ran down the hill into the aid station, an official called our arrival over a radio followed quickly by Dave's name over the speakers.  It was now 1:45 a.m.


Hwy 49 Crossing Aid Station

Dave is the faint shadow figure in the center of the picture.

As we arrived at the crossing, we heard Dave's wife and sister cheering.  Dave had to do another medical check here.  The good news was that he had put on a few pounds since Auburn Lake and was back in the acceptable range.  After his check-up, we walked over to say hi and chat a bit with Samantha and Deb.  I told them that Dave was doing awesome.  You would never guess he had run 93.5 miles at this point.   

We went over to browse the food table.  I was picking at some chips and M&Ms.  Then I spotted some Jello cubes.  Before the race Dave had told me that nothing tastes better than chicken soup at 1 a.m.  I thought, hmm, I wonder how Jello tastes at 1 a.m.?

IT TASTES AMAZING!

I wandered over to tell Dave about the Jello.  As we were walking back toward the food table, I noticed a pacer who was eyeballing the Gummi Worms and Gummi Bears.

"Look!  Gummi worms!"  he said.

"They have Jello over there," I told him.

"It's like, what do you want - crack or cocaine?"  he said.

We had a laugh and then I wandered back over to Dave who was saying good-bye to his family.  They were hoping to see us one more time at No Hands Bridge before they headed to the finish line.

As we were heading out, I noticed that after we had arrived at Hwy 49 that my Garmin battery had died.  No longer would we get the nice little chirp as every mile was checked off.
  
No matter we only had 6.7 miles to go!!!

There was a bit of a climb coming out of Hwy 49, but not like the hill we had just come up.  Next we had a nice dusty cruise along the top of the ridge above the highway with the giant Foresthill Bridge above us.  Finally a short descent to No Hands Bridge. 

Foresthill Bridge in daylight - Source:  WS100 website

Dave's family had managed to make it to No Hands Bridge before we arrived.  Dave took time to eat and visit while I visited the...ummm, nevermind.  Upon my return, one of the race officials joked that Dave was getting too comfortable here.  So, I told him that I'd get him out of here.  We were now 3.4 miles from the finish! 

Dave's sister with No Hands Bridge lit to the left
No Hands Bridge at night is pretty cool.  It is a gravel-covered bridge a little more than a car lane wide.  They have the entire span lit with white Christmas lights, which gives it a surreal look as you are crossing at two in the morning.

Once across the bridge, there is another nearly 2 mile climb up to Robie Point.  So, once again, we were reduced to walking as fast as we could.  About 3:20 a.m., we arrived at Robie Point.  This is where the trail running ends and you enter the city of Auburn.  We were welcomed to the Point by a race official who stated that the finish line was 1.3 miles from the lightpost at the top of the trail.

"Any more hills?" asked Dave.

"The first half mile," replied the official.  "Just follow the orange footprints."

I don't recall if Dave said anything about the hill, but I know what I was thinking.

Once on the asphalt, we realized the official wasn't kidding.  The road was as steep as any hill in San Francisco.  And after running 98.9 miles, I'm sure Dave was not pleased with another hill - I know I was done with them.  But sure enough there were orange footprints every 20 feet or so on the asphalt.

As we peaked the hill, there was a group of people camped out on their driveways.  They had strung Christmas lights across the street and were shouting, "Welcome to Auburn!!!"  So awesome!

Dave and I were back to running now with only about .7 miles left to go.  I was on the lookout for the stadium lights, but the heavy tree cover made them difficult to spot.

The roadway was flat to downhill for almost a half mile when Dave said, "Is that another hill?  That guy said no more hills!" 

Granted, it wasn't a steep hill, but it was a hill nonetheless.  At this point, Dave was unstoppable.  He didn't slow his pace he kept on running, so I did too.  We were running side by side as we reached the top of the hill.  My calves were on fire.  I can only imagine how Dave's felt.

Someone shouted, "Down this hill, across the bridge, and you're at the entrance to the stadium."

We entered the stadium and made the lap around.  I split off into the pacers chute as Dave crossed the finish line.

Dave about to cross the finish line.
Me looking on as Dave is awarded his medal


Dave with wife, Samantha, and sister, Deb

Dave and I after the finish

THE SILVER BUCKLE

Dave at the Awards Ceremony later that morning

Official time - 22:38:07!  SILVER BUCKLE, BABY!


Dave, THANK YOU for allowing me the honor of being your pacer at the Western States 100-mile Endurance Run 2012.  You were incredible and inspiring!  I was just along for the ride.