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.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Western States 100 - 2012 Experience! Part II

In Part I of my WS 100 post, I had just led a couple of my BRS friends on a near 17-mile journey that put us 2 miles away from our drop car.  It was an awesome day of trail running, but it gets better!

Dave Boudreau flew out on the Wednesday before the race.  We agreed to meet up in Auburn at the Starbucks.  (Yes, the Starbucks in Auburn, again.  I don't actually drink Starbucks, but it seems to be a good location to meet if you're from out of the area.)  Dave wanted to get a look at the Rucky Chucky crossing and the Green Gate area where we would be meeting up on race day.

As he walked up to my truck, I realized that he was quite a bit taller than me.  I was mildly concerned that I might have trouble keeping up with his long-legged stride.  Then I thought again - during the race I wouldn't see him until he had run nearly 80 miles.  

Dave and I headed down to "Green Gate" and parked the car.  We headed off down the trail - a long nearly 2 mile drop to the American River.  Once at the bottom, we wandered around a large open area near the river trying to determine where the crossing would be made.  We did a little more wandering, a little bush wacking, looking at deep water, and trying to determine if there was any sign of a trail on the rugged cliff faces across the river.   Apparently, we had missed a smaller trail that branched off of the dirt fire road about quarter mile from the bottom of the hill.  Up we went, and then back down toward the river again, this time on the correct trail. We found the crossing, but the access was very overgrown with thorny blackberry bushes on our side of the river. (I don't know for sure, but I'm sure Dave was hoping that would be cleared for race day.)

Satisfied with the scouting of Rucky Chucky, we headed back up toward the car.  The temperature had risen a bit more and I was sweating profusely now.  I was glad I had brought my hydration pack instead of just my water bottle.  I was sucking the cool water down pretty steadily.  We made it back to the car and then continued down the trail from Green Gate.  We only checked out the first couple miles due to time constraints and headed back to the car again.  Even though I had just been in the area a couple weeks back, it was real now - I'd be here in a couple days running the course through the night.  SO COOL!

On the way back to my truck in Auburn, Dave and I chatted a little about race strategy.  However, we mostly just chatted about stuff other than running - kids, work, and life in general.  We parted in Auburn knowing that the next time we'd see each other would be during the race.

The night before the race, I meticulously went over my gear.  I wanted to be sure I had everything in order.  I also wanted to attempt to get some decent sleep because once I woke, it would be almost 24 hours until I slept again.

Before tucking my son in bed that night, I tried explaining what Dave was going to do and how what my part would be.  The conversation went something like this:

Me:  "Tomorrow morning, before you wake up, Dave is going to start running.  Then we will wake up, eat breakfast, and go to swim practice.  Dave will still be running.  After practice, we will come home and you will get ready to go visit your cousins.  Dave will still be running.  Then I will eat lunch.  Sometime after lunch, I will start my 2 hour drive to where I will meet Dave's crew.  And Dave will still be running.  Then after you get home, eat dinner, and get ready for bed, Dave will still be running.  After you go to bed and fall asleep, I will meet up with Dave, who has been running this whole time.  Then, Dave and I will run all night.  Hopefully, we will finish before you wake up."
My son:  "Wow!  How do you do that?"

Me:  "I have no idea, but I'm going to find out."
The next morning went pretty much as described above.  I headed out to Auburn, stopped off at an REI to grab an extra Shot Bloks and a Heed packet.  I met up with Dave's wife and sister a little after 3 p.m. at the finish line at Placer High School Stadium.  We headed out to Michigan Bluff where Dave was due in about 5:30 p.m.  We drove down the long windy road into Michigan Bluff arriving about 4:30.  We set up the chairs and hung around the busy road waiting for Dave's appearance.  There were a couple of girls running up and down the road hawking fresh lemonade and cherries - quite an industrious couple of kids with a captive audience of hundreds of hot and thirsty race crews.

Me hanging around at Michigan Bluff

While we waited, I tried to lay down on a towel and nap.  Sleep wouldn't come.  I wasn't tired and frankly I was started to get amp'ed up for my entrance into the race.  It was a good thing I didn't doze off though.  Dave came running into Michigan Bluff (55.7 miles) just after 5 p.m., nearly a half hour early.  We chatted briefly as Dave switched out some of his gear and finished eating a sandwich and chicken broth.  He was looking and feeling good.



Dave arriving at Michigan Bluff walking with Crew Boudreau.
Dave and his Sis

Changing out gear.
We bid Dave farewell as he headed out from Michigan Bluff and hiked back up the short hill to the car.  We sped off toward Foresthill to meet him in another hour and a half.

Foresthill is an amazing place.  The number of people and cars just boggles the mind.  After all, this is a foot race not the NFL, NBA, or MLB.  There are so many people and crews cheering on each and every runner coming through.  I had the privilege of volunteering as a greeter at Foresthill last year guiding runners through the aid station and getting whatever food and/or drinks they needed.

We lucked out and found a place to park right near where runners enter Foresthill Aid Station.  However, we ended up setting up camp on the other end of the aid station so we could tend to Dave after he came out of the station.  While we had the time, I thought it best to change into my running clothes.  After Foresthill, I would be dropped at the Green Gate shuttle.  So, I swapped out my clothes and headed over to our little plot of land we had staked out.

In a good mood as he arrives at Foresthill Aid Station

As we were lounging around with the other crews, we heard Dave's name being announced as he entered Foresthill.  Again, Dave had surprised us by arriving about 10 minutes early!  Dave had been shaving time off his pace all morning.  He was clearly in the 22 hour finish range now.  Dave changed out the gear he needed and picked up his headlamp.  The next time we would see him would be after dark. 

Finally, the time was drawing near for me to enter the race.  We headed out of Foresthill to head toward the town of Cool and the Green Gate shuttle.  We missed a turn or something on the way to Foresthill Bridge so we ended up back in Auburn pretty quick.  No worries, because we were not really that far from everything anyway.  We headed back out on Highway 49, past the quarry at the Highway 49 crossing/aid station (where Zap, Rob and I were supposed to come out on our scouting run).  A quick stop at the gas station in Cool (along with a pit stop for me - I was fully hydrated now for the run) and we were off to the shuttle.

We pulled into the parking lot about 7:30 p.m. and I swapped out my shirt for a compression shirt and short sleeved shirt to go on top, as it was getting a little chilly now.  The ladies wished me well and headed off to eventually meet us at the Highway 49 crossing. They also told me to call if I needed anything in the time leading up to starting off on the run.

This is where things got a little dicey for me.  When we had pulled into the parking lot there was a shuttle waiting.  By the time I got my gear situated and walked over to the shuttle stop, the bus had left on a run down to the end of Sliger Mine Road.  The race official made an announcement about the bus.  The driver had been shuttling crews for 5 hours without a break and was rightfully a bit cranky.  The second bus had never materialized to relieve the load.  He asked us to be overly polite and thankful to the driver.  No problem.  Crews with runners that had left after 6 p.m. were asked to try and allow crews from 5 p.m. runners access to the bus, since it was taking about 4 hours for runners to make the trek.  Again, no problem.

The bus pulled back into the lot about 8 p.m. and offloaded all of the returning crews from the bottom of the hill.  After the last person stepped off the bus, the doors shut and the bus drove off to the other side of the parking lot and shut off its motor.

Umm. . .  excuse me???

Apparently, the driver decided it was break time.  This caused a bit of a panic among the crews and pacers that had been waiting for about a half hour already.  Crews and pacers with runners that had come through Foresthill around 5 and were not queued up to catch the next bus became almost frantic as the possibility of their runner passing through Green Gate without their crew was fast becoming a reality.

A note of clarification about Green Gate - As I have described in my previous post, Green Gate is about 10 to 15 minutes of driving a long, narrow, windy, 1 1/2 lane road.  Once at the bottom of the paved road it is a good 15 to 20 minute walk down a dusty, rocky fire road to the actual "gate".  On race day, no crew cars are allowed at the bottom of the road - there is simply no place to park.

The race officials were at a loss.  They were not sure exactly what to do.  After about 15 minutes, the race officials started shuttling pacers only down to the bottom in their personal vehicles.  Other crews started doing similar things - driving down crew members or pacers loaded down with all the gear.  They would return to the lot with the car in hopes to catch up with the crew shortly after once the bus started running again.

After the race officials had left on their second run to the bottom, it was approaching 9 p.m.  Now crews for runners who had left Foresthill at about 6:30 p.m. were getting antsy, including me.  Not long after the bus had shut down, I noticed that my cell phone had once again lost reception leaving me with no way to contact the rest of our crew.  One other pacer and I were talking about how much time we had left to get to the aid station when the bus engine roared to life.  It pulled up to the line and I was the first to hop on.

Even though I was ON the bus, I was seriously getting nervous about missing Dave at Green Gate.


Part III coming soon...


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Western States 100 - 2012 Experience! - Part I



Here we were, in the middle of the night, running through the dark forest by the light of headlamps and small flashlights unable to see much beyond 20 feet.  The only sounds were footfalls and chirping crickets...

I wanted to write this post a couple weeks back announcing that I was running as a pacer at the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run, but I think there is something about being an athlete and having a superstitious nature.  Leading up to the AR50 I blogged extensively about my experience and wound up with my first DNF.  So, I kept my mouth shut on the blogs and only told the people around me about my upcoming event. 

So, now here's my story. . .

Prior to the AR50 run, my plan for the summer was AR50, pace at WS100 from Foresthill, and finish the summer with a repeat of the Skyline 50K for a new PR.  With the achilles injury at AR50 and the unknown recovery period, I was very skeptical and almost heartbroken at the thought of my summer racing plans being shot to pieces.  After 6 weeks of rest and recovery and a slightly more than gradual return to running, things were beginning to look up.  My achilles, while tight, was not hurting anymore.  I was quickly increasing my long runs from 2 - 3 miles to 8+ miles.  I had lost some but not too much of my endurance.

With AR50 in the past, I began looking toward the Western States 100-mile Endurance Run.  Last year I volunteered at Foresthill (mile 62) and finally got to meet Jason Robillard after chatting with him through email and the barefoot running forums.  I had hoped last year to pace a runner, but thought wiser of it.  This year, I was determined to pace someone.  However, knowing that I was no longer at the peak of my training I knew I could not do a Foresthill to Finish 38-mile pacing run.  So, I kept an eye out on the WS100 website for a runner looking for a pacer from Green Gate to the Finish (20.5 miles).

After about a week of checking in on the site, a runner from New Hampshire, David Boudreau, popped up looking for a pacer from Green Gate to the finish (20.5 miles).  After a couple of emails, Dave decided to take me on as his pacer.  Dave sent me his pacing schedule and other relevant information. (I was glad to see that I wasn't the only one who makes out detailed pacing schedules down to the exact minute and for several pace times.)

Since Dave was looking for someone with WS course experience (and I had none), I told him that I would head up to Auburn and scout out a portion of the course after Green Gate.  So, along with BRS runners Zapmamak and Running Romeo, we planned a spontaneous trip to the Western States course one Saturday morning a couple weeks ago.  (You can read Zap's version of our adventure here on her blog Running Naked on Sharp Pointy Stuff - remember you can't believe everything you read.)

We met up at a Starbucks in Auburn and headed out down highway 49 to drop Zap's car along the roadside for the ride back to the start.  Then we headed out into the middle of nowhere down Sliger Mine Road - a long windy little more than 1 1/2 lane paved road.  Once at the end of that road, we bumped our way down another mile or so of rutted dirt road to Green Gate - actually a brown gate.

Off we headed down the trail.  Rob, aka Running Romeo, was wearing his Lunas while Zap an I were in Merrells.  The first few miles were a bit hilly.  Since we were fresh, we were able to run most of the smaller hills with some walking on the steeper ones.  We made it to Auburn Lake Trails without too much difficulty.  However, one of the straps on Rob's Lunas snapped so he decided to go barefoot for a while.

Most of the trail was marked in advance of the WS race with yellow Montrail ribbons, which turned out to be a big help.  At Auburn Lake Trails we ran into a 3 road split.  We all had a different idea of which way we should go.  After consulting the map and a couple of attempts down the wrong trail/road, we decided on the furthest right path.  This is where Zap said my Boy Scout skills and sense of direction came in handy.  We were quickly rewarded with a yellow ribbon on the far side of the clearing.

From here, we moved out quickly down the trail.  This section to Brown's Bar was FAST!  The trail was relatively flat with some mild rollers.  We moved along the edge of the river canyon weaving our way in and out of the hills but basically on the same elevation.

The Beautiful American River Canyon Area


Along the way we came upon 2 deer.  The first was at the bottom of a small gorge.  I asked if anyone was up for some persistence hunting.  A little later, we came right up on a young buck walking across the trail in front of us.  He eyeballed us for a few minutes as he continued up the hill.  We walked quietly past admiring him and how close we were.  

We continued down the trail... A short while later we paused for some pictures at a nice clearing along the side of the canyon.  As we chatted, someone noticed a nice little rock bench marked with a plaque in memory of a woman killed by a mountain lion in this area.  Hmmm, nice thought - we're not really alone out here.

Running Romeo and I

Zapmamak and I

Upon arriving at Brown's Bar, Rob commented that we just saw the power of the FIYAH (for those of you who know Zap).  At this section of the trail, it comes to a "T" and we quickly moved to the right without really looking.  This would be the point that we thought we had gone wrong (more on that later in Part II - the race).

Down another section of trail put us along a wide fire road next to the American River.  As we got closer to a recreation area along the river, I realized we could see the Foresthill Bridge and the bridge on Highway 49 that parallels No Hands Bridge.  The problem is that the trail/road we were on headed almost directly towards this point.  That was not where we were supposed to be headed - considering that Zap's car was further down the 49.

We reached the recreation area and walked down a steep hill to the right at the fork.  After discussing the situation, we realized we should probably take the left fork.  Back up that steep hill.  Oh wait, the fork to the left also goes up a very, very, long, steep hill too.  We continued up several switchbacks for over a mile before coming upon a nice NO TRESPASSING sign and a fence across the road.  This probably wouldn't have mattered because beyond the fence looked like an impassable wall of rock.  Back down we went...

We made it back to the highway only to realize our car was about 2 miles up the narrow highway with cars zipping by.  Fortunately for Rob and I, Zap is a friendly looking young lady and was able to flag down a large SUV with a nice elderly couple driving.  They were able to drop us back at our car.

All in all, an awesome day of running!  Oh, yeah, if you read Zap's account...I did tell her we were running 10 - 13 miles.  Turned out to be 16.7 miles according to Rob's phone app.

Part II coming soon . . . Pacing at Western States



Monday, May 21, 2012

Back in the Game

Well, I took a few weeks off of running to let my achilles heal up.  Here's the run down of the beginning of my comeback. . .

After about three weeks, I attempted a 0.25-mile run with my kids.  I made it a whopping 87 feet.  Pain was shooting through my achilles.  I walked the 0.25-mile so that my kids (who were hyped up to run with me) would not be let down.

I waited another week before I attempted another 0.25-mile run.  This time I made it through the run with a little soreness/tightness in my achilles but no pain.  The 0.25-mile seemed like just far enough.  If I had gone much further, I might push it into "injury-status" again.  I had mixed emotions after that run.  I felt excited that I was "back" running again, but at the same time it was very depressing to be only 0.25 mile after being ready to run 50-miles just weeks earlier.  However, at that point, I was willing to take whatever I could get.

Being able to run again was extremely important as it was days away from the 2nd Annual International Barefoot Running Day (IBRD) with the Barefoot Runners Society.  I was hosting the San Francisco Area Chapter Run at Lake Chabot and felt the urgency in my ability to run. 

That Sunday arrived and I headed out to Lake Chabot with BRS member, Rob, aka Running Romeo.  Shortly after arriving, other members of the BRS and a few new runners arrived.  I held a very brief running clinic on form and cadence (my two go-to topics).  Then we headed out for what was supposed to be a mile + run.  I hung back with the main part of the group (to take it easy on my achilles) while RR went out with the lead pack.  They paused at a restroom on a turn in the lake path.  Rob mentioned that we'd gone 1.27 miles.  A bit more than I had originally bargained for, so we headed back toward the marina.  So, after 2.5 miles, my achilles was tight again, but still no pain!  YES!

At the end of that week, the school I work at had a "triathlon"- hula hooping, jump roping, and running!  I wore my Merrell's that day (since I don't think my principal would appreciate me running barefoot on campus).  I did a very easy half-mile run with some of the 3rd graders - along with some hula hooping too.

This past week marked the start of the 13 weeks to my next race - the Skyline 50K around Lake Chabot this August.  I ran this race last year as my first entry into the realm of the ultramarathon.  I loved the course - mostly barefoot friendly and great support along the course.  The goal this year is to beat my time (by training for the hills). 

I did 2 miles on Tuesday and 2.5 on Wednesday last week.  On Sunday, I met up with two of my old marathoning running buddies for a nice 8 mile run around Shima Tract Island on the delta.  I felt great!  No pain, no soreness and I still have my endurance!  WOO HOO! 

Ladies and gentlemen... I'm back!


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Journey to a Barefoot 50-mile Endurance Run: Race Report - What Went Wrong

Well, the American River 50-mile Endurance Run was on Saturday.

First of all - congratulations to Vajin Armstrong from Australia for his 5:53:14 win of the 2012 AR50.  Congratulations to the women's winner, Ellie Greenwood of Canada, at 6:18:29 (5th overall).  Also, congratulations to the local Rich Hanna of Sacramento, CA for his 2nd place overall finish and 1st place Masters win.  Congratulations to the runners from Lodi and Stockton, including Tony Vice and his employees, David and Omar, at Fleet Feet Stockton.  A complete list of the finishers can be found at http://www.ultralive.net/ar50/webcast.php.

As it turns out, this is not going to be the race report that I had envisioned writing.  At the AR50, I had my first-ever DNF.  Here's the low-down on what happened. . .

I awoke Saturday morning at 3 a.m. and began my pre-race rituals - showering, shaving, and applying ample amounts of body-glide in every imaginable location.  Next, I ate a breakfast of oatmeal and chia seeds, drank a little iskiate, and began to pack the car with my gear and food for my crew chief, Rob (a.k.a. Running Romeo).  My wife dropped me off at Rob's house and headed back home.  Her plan was to return later in the afternoon with our kids to watch me cross the finish line.

Rob and I made the final leg of the journey in record time to the starting line at Sacramento State University (Apparently traffic at 4 a.m. on a Saturday morning tends to be light).  I hit the porta-potties for my...ahem... pre-race business.  Then we took a walk up to the bike path to check out the condition of the asphalt - nice and smooth (more on that later).

Since we were still an hour away from the start, we headed back to the car where I wrapped my legs in a couple of blankets Rob had thrown in the car.  After hanging out til about 5:40, we headed back up to the starting line.  Rob snapped a couple of photos of me pre-race and heading out.  The first shot I'm in my Sockwas, which I handed over to Rob along with my coat before heading out.



The asphalt at the actual starting line was a bit more chip-seal than the smooth asphalt near the bridge.  Fortunately it was only for about the first quarter-mile with a couple patches here and there in the first mile or two.

I don't recall actually hearing anyone or anything calling out the official "start," but everyone started moving in that general direction and loud music started blaring out of the speakers.  So, I assumed the race had begun!

Blue shirt, black hat with red sunglasses hanging of the back.


Heading out. . .
Just to the right of the guy in yellow you can see my bare feet and my blue shirt.

It was still dark as you can see and I was a little concerned that I might step on something stupid right off the bat and be sidelined.  Well, I managed to survive stepping on anything horrible in the dark.  Sunrise came about 20 minutes after the start.

I was running about an 11:30 mile, fluctuating between a 11 and 12.  I was trying to stay as close to the 12 minute mile mark as possible (especially with all the adrenaline coursing through my veins at the start of the race.  I was fully in the moment.  The river was very full and flowing.  The sunrise was coming up over the Sierras right in front of us.  It was a beautiful, cool spring morning.  A perfect day for a run (albeit a very long run).

I could hear various conversations about Born to Run behind me and an occasional, "that guy's barefoot."  One of the first people to chat with me was a woman who asked me if I had heard about Micah True.  We talked about how sad it was, but how beautiful it was that he passed doing something he loved.  She had been to the Born to Run event last year in So Cal and asked if I had been there.  After we had been talking for a few minutes, I realized my pace had picked up a bit, so I let our conversation die off and wished her luck.

One of the funniest things that I noticed was that people repeatedly asked me, "You're putting on shoes once we get to the trail section, right?"

My reply was always given with a big smile and a slight chuckle, "I'm looking forward to being barefoot on the trail section!"

Only one woman said, "I bet you can't wait for the trail section."

Things were moving along fantastically.  I was enjoying the scenery and the temperatures were perfect.  My pace was comfortable. 

Until mile 3. . .

What??? Mile 3???  Surely that was a typo, right?  You think I mean mile 30, right?  Nope.  Not a typo.  Mile 3.

My right achilles started to ache slightly on the outside.  I thought, no, no, no.

I tried to relax.  Shortened up my stride a bit and upped my cadence.  A little better.

Mile 4 - The pain increasing now.  I played with my form a little as I was telling myself, "This can't be happening."

Mile 5 - I stopped off to ... ummm . . .take care of a little business that happens when you're fully hydrated.  As I rounded the bushes, my feet felt something prickly.   I looked down and realized I had parked myself right on top of a nice thistle bush.  "Oh, shit." I thought.  Just do your business and back away slowly, I thought.

As I got back on the path, my achilles had tightened up a bit.  It took about 20 or so painful steps to get back into a running motion.  I was still able to hold a 12 minute pace, so I was happy.  Well, at least I was happy about something.

By mile 8, the pain was becoming almost unbearable and had spread to the entire back of the heel.  The first aid station was coming up.  I stopped off, grabbed a few shot bloks and a couple salt stick pills.  In my mind, I was still going to go 50 miles.  I needed fuel and to stay sharp.

It took a good 20 to 50 yards before I could get moving at a decent 12 minute pace again.  I pulled off to the side of the trail and pulled out my cell phone.  I called Rob and told him to get to the store and buy some Advil.  We had planned to meet at the Sunrise aid station at 14.6 miles anyway, but the idea was for me to dump my hat and gloves.

I started running again.  I kept checking my watch to keep an eye on my pace.  I was still clearly under the cut-offs.  Good.  I noticed when I looked at my shadow that I had started to hunch my back due to the pain.  I relaxed again, stood up tall, picked up my cadence and shortened my stride.  Ok, back in the game, but not really.  My left quad had begun to ache now.  I was seriously compensating for the lack of my right foot to bear my weight.  It was now starting to spread.

After I stopped off to do more business at mile 11, I could no longer get running again.  Each time I tried, my right leg would buckle under the pain.  It was as if someone was ramming a knife through my heel.  I thought, this is what Achilles must have felt as the arrow pierced his heel.  Just great!

I started walking, trying to maintain some kind of pace.  In the back of my mind, I knew it was the end. 

All morning, groups of women from a local running group had been running up and down the course with bunny ears on (it was the day before Easter).  Several of these groups paused to ask if I was ok and to offer me their socks.

The first couple of times, I laughed and said, "No thanks.  It's not my feet, it's my achilles."

By the fourth time, I managed to stay polite, but said, "My feet are ready to go 50 miles, but my achilles is shot."

The last woman to offer assistance asked if I needed a band-aid.  I know she was sincere, but it was kinda humorous.

Yeah, that's me the dumb barefoot runner.  I decided to run a 50-mile race barefoot and was sidelined because I cut my foot and forgot a band-aid. 

I declined the band-aid, told her it was my achilles.

She quickly responded with, "I have tape."

Wow!  This woman had a well prepared running vest!  I asked if she knew how to tape an achilles.  She didn't so I politely declined again with a big smile.

At about mile 12, I was beginning to accept that I was probably not going to make it past the Sunrise Aid Station at 14.67 miles.  I called Rob and asked him what the cut-off time was for that station.

"9:15"

It was 8:55 a.m.  No chance.  If I was healthy, no problem.  Injured - damn near impossible.

Finally about 13 miles in, the race official sweeping the back of the course caught up to me.  The race official, Rajeev, was quite the colorful character.  I think he was as pissed as I was that my achilles had given out.  He offered me some great words of encouragement and some information about strengthening my achilles.  We walked the final 1.5 miles to the Sunrise aid station together.  Rajeev told me about some of the ultras he had run.

As we approached Sunrise, he handed me off to some of the officials in the parking lot.  One official took my D-tag (a new experience for me).  It was almost painful for me to hand it over.  They told me to have a seat on a post since Rob was driving over and I would not need to walk any more.

Rob pulled up and hopped out of his car.  I shrugged my shoulders and said something like, "Well, that's it."  And as quickly as the race had begun, it had ended for me. 

Just then his phone rang and it was my wife, Cheryl.  He handed me the phone.  She was surprised when I answered.  She had been worried because NorCal ultras had not posted any times for me at the aid stations.  (As it turns out, they only posted Beals and the Finish).  I told her that my achilles had given out and I was dropping at Sunrise.

Sad to say, but my Journey to a Barefoot 50-mile Endurance Run ended in my first-ever DNF. 

I went to my doctor on Monday afternoon.  My x-ray was clear - no tears, no real damage done.  I just have swelling, stiffness and soreness.  It is Wednesday now and I am able to bear weight most of the time without the assistance of crutches.  I still get twinges of pain if I step down wrong.  Even that has reduced some since Saturday.

After visiting the doctor, I stopped by the Stockton Fleet Feet to congratulate their finishers of the AR50.  David told me how "sweet" the finisher's jacket was.  As much as I wanted to see it, I really couldn't bear to see it.

Inside I know I gave it my all.  I tried to push through it, but was unable.  I did not quit.  Injury took precedence.  I know I had to drop from the race or risk serious or permanent damage.

As Rajeev put it, "Racing is for the day.  Running is for life."

Thank you, Rajeev.

Thank you to everyone who supported me, cheered me on, and encouraged me on this path.  This journey has ended for now, but I'll be back very soon.  I am already planning my comeback for next year.  The 50K will be my new "regular" race over the next 12 months.  The American River 50 will not defeat me.  I will be back next year.





Friday, April 6, 2012

The Journey to a Barefoot 50-mile Endurance Run: Week 18 of 18

Well, the race is tomorrow!  I've been a bundle of nerves and energy all day (ok, probably for a few days).  I'm ready to get this thing DONE!

Yesterday, I zipped out of work to head up to Fleet Feet in Fair Oaks to get my packet and hoped to get one of the 50 free AR50 technical running hats.  Unfortunately, this was the sight when I arrived at the store.



Yeah, so, no hat.  Bummer!  But I got my number and I'm ready as I'm gonna be to race.  I'm getting my gear organized, crew food situated, and hopefully will get to bed at a decent hour.  Gonna be up around 3 am to try and get some breakfast in and head up to my crew chief's house and then to the starting line around 5 a.m..  Race starts at 6 a.m.!



HUGE THANKS to Rob, a.k.a Running Romeo, for crewing for me tomorrow!!!  Thanks to all my family, friends, and running buddies for your words of encouragement.  See ya in Auburn!!!

For anyone interested in tracking the race. They have live postings on Ultralive.net.  And as you can see from the pic above I'm #598.





Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Journey to a Barefoot 50-mile Endurance Run: Weeks 16 and 17 of 18

Ok, this is it... the final countdown is t-minus 3 days to the American River 50 Mile Endurance Run.

These past two weeks have been busy and interesting.  Two weekends ago, I ran an easy 13 miles (while they ran 12) with the group of friends and colleagues that I've been training for their first half marathon.  The run was pretty uneventful - I wore Sockwas because I was trying to protect the new skin that had been under the large blister I got after the AR50 training run. 

The shoes did the trick for protecting the blister.  However, after that run, I had picked up a pain behind my second toe on my left foot.  I supposed that at some point on the run I managed to step on a rock and possibly bruised the bone.  After a week of no easing on the minor discomfort, I checked to see if I had embedded something in my foot.  I did manage to find a tiny splinter of something, but even after removing it, the discomfort was still there.  So, either I managed to get a bone bruise or there is something small in my foot.

This past weekend, I went out to watch my team run their first half marathon and take pictures of all of them.  It's very different being on the sidelines of a race.  I've only done it a couple of times since I started running, but it's fun to cheer on people you've trained.  They all finished and they all did GREAT!!!

The gang with their medals for their FIRST half marathon!  Congrats everyone!
Last week I finally went out an bought my first pair of Merrell Trail Gloves.  I've been drooling over these for probably a year or more.  The timing was right with gift cards and sales that I bit the bullet and got a pair.


So, Sunday night after the half marathon, still concerned about my healing blister, I taped my foot, threw on my Merrells, and headed out for an easy 6 mile run.  At the end of the run, my right achilles was feeling very tender.  I've never had any issues with my achilles so I was immediately concerned.  Looking back at my run, I think I've narrowed the issue down to a form problem.  For the first 3 miles of my run I was very tense.  I was completely stressing out about my pace for Saturday's race.  

A little background - I had been unable to secure a pacer for the race.  However, I did manage to find a group from the neighboring town who has 5 runners in the race.  Also, the manager of the local Fleet Feet and a couple of his employees were also running the race.  I began worrying about if I'd be able to hang with one or more of these people. 

So, while obsessing over pace and running very tensed up in new shoes I managed to strain my achillies.  First of all running tensed is not good.  Secondly, I think I was overcompensating my landing (I have a tendency to heel strike in "normal" running shoes) and not letting my heel touch down as much as I should have.  As a result I ran almost 6 miles mostly on the balls of my feet. 

I've been resting, icing and massaging my heel now for 3 days.  It's feeling better.  I'm just hoping and praying that it does not become an issue this Saturday.

A note about visualization...  Until last week, I was having difficulty visualizing the race completion in my mind's eye.  I have managed to get that solved which has reduced the amount of stress and calmed my nerves somewhat.  However, I'm still a bit more nervous than I usually feel - something my wife has noticed.  She says I'm "freaking out" and she's never seen me do that before a race.  I think I'm over the "freaking out" and ready to go out there and get this done!!!

I'm going to try and post one more time Friday before the race. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Journey to a Barefoot 50-mile Endurance Run: Weeks 14 and 15 of 18

Apologies for being behind in my postings.  I think I'm busier when I'm on "vacation" than I am when I'm working.  I need to review what has been happening for the past 3 weeks.  I'm going to do Week 16 as a separate post so I can catch up :)

So, let's see...

When last I wrote, I had just completed a 50K run from my town to the next - 31 miles.  After that run, I took it easy for the remainder of the week with a 5 mile run on Thursday (after the Monday 50K).  The following weekend, I ran 12 miles with my half marathon training group.

The following week (week of March 11-17) I started took it fairly easy as well because that Saturday I was planning to do a training run on the AR50 trail section put on by James Barstad.  I was also hoping to meet up with Jason and Shelly Robillard that day.  However, they took the opportunity to head over to the Rodeo Beach 50K a day early to prep for the race (in costume no less) with Shacky, Krista Cavender and Vanessa Runs.

There were a lot of runners from the Folsom Trail Runners.

Here's a recap of the trail run.

I got up early to make the hour plus drive up to the Auburn Overlook where people were meeting to carpool to one of two starting points Beals Point (22.5 miles) or the Nimbus Fish Hatchery (31 miles).  My directions were terrible and got me to Auburn, which I already knew how to get to.  Thank God for smart phones.  I managed to find directions and arrived as everyone was taking off.

A HUGE THANK YOU to Veronica (I think that was your name) for allowing me to ride with your group from the Overlook to Beals Point.  Also thank you to your small group for helping me pull out the last few miles of that run - especially the Dam Wall!

Beals Point is at a little over 26 miles into the AR50 course.  The first 3 miles out of Beals is gravel levee tops.  Since my feet were fresh, this was not too terribly bad.  The cold did make my feet a bit more sensitive to the rocks.

Once the gravel ended and the single-track trails began, that's when the real fun began!  It had been raining for most of the week and rain was predicted that day.  However, the skies were beautiful and it was a perfect morning for a run.  The best part was a big storm had blown through the night before and left the trails wonderfully muddy in places.  By mile 5 I had really started to find a groove.  Most of my miles were averaging in the 11-min range with mile 5 down in the 9s. 

I was feeling pretty good after the first hour, which is when I kind of made my first mistake.  What I should have done was pause to eat a shot blok and maybe even a couple of salt pills.  I felt pretty good and didn't want to take the time to stop.  I actually had to stop several times in the first 7 miles because my water belt kept falling off (the velcro is shot).  So, I pushed on until about mile 9 before pausing to eat and take some salt pills.  Still, I was feeling great.

At about mile 10, I began to hear the ringing of a cowbell.  At the top of a small hill was the one aid station that the organizers had set up.  The small crew there was awesome!  They had a great spread of food (one of my favorite parts of ultra running) and were very friendly. 

The first question I got was, "How long have you been doing that?" (referring to my bare feet) 

"Do you mean today or how long have I been doing the barefoot thing?" I replied.

"Today," he clarified.

I informed him that I had come in from Beals Point and that I was planning to go the whole 22.5 miles that day.  The group was quite impressed and we chatted about the course and how I got into barefoot running.  The lady at the aid station took a couple pictures of me and my feet.  After hanging around for 5 minutes or so, I figured that I should be moving on.  I thanked them for being out there and headed off down the trail.

Things continued well for the next few miles.  My pace was slowing down a bit due to the hills and having to climb across a few fallen trees.  Climbing over fallen trees while barefoot was a new one for me.  Most weren't too bad, however, one section had a nice sharp manzanita tree that was a bit tricky to get across. 

The best part of the day - MUD!  There were puddles everywhere.  I splashed through nearly every single one.  Gooey mud, red dirt mud, and even slippy mud.  All of it was FANTASTIC!!!  After crossing a small bridge there was a fair sized puddle of mud.  At that point the trail took a hard right turn.  I planted my right foot in the middle of the mud and turned my body to the right.  My foot began to slide and had I not been quick to put my left hand out I would've smashed into the side of the mountain. 

After I left the aid station, I began fueling a little more regularly now.  But when I approached mile 17 my head started to get a little fuzzy.  At one point, I was crossing a small log bridge and it appeared as though the bridge was floating/moving a bit.  I decided that I needed to eat something and take a few extra electrolyte pills.  I stepped off to the side of the trail for some approaching runners while I ate.  As it turned out, it was several of the people who I had hitched a ride with down to Beals Point.  They paused a for a few minutes to fuel up too.  It was a pretty nice location to look down over the American River Canyon and enjoy a snack.

Their arrival turned out to be a good thing for me.  Although I am used to running alone and enjoy it, it can be nice to have company.  I let them take the lead for the next 3 miles.  It was kind of like having a pacer, I guess.  Just some people to stay focused on and chat with from time to time.

They informed me that the Dam Wall was rapidly approaching and that it was not going to be an easy climb.  They reached the base of the hill a few minutes before I did and were admiring the view.  As I came up to the bluff, I could see the hill climbing to the left.  The trail or fire road was very steep and  was covered with some pretty rough looking gravel.  I paused for a minute or two and chatted with a few other runners procrastinating the upcoming climb.

I started out in a brisk walk.  No sense in killing what little energy I had left on such a steep hill.  After cresting the first rise, the gravel was somewhat more manageable.  I started to take the next hill at a slow jog.  The next section was paved chip-seal asphalt.  It would have been easy to run this section except there was tiny sharp gravel spilled across most of the roadway.  I began to run/walk this section trying to avoid as much of the loose gravel as possible.  The chipseal gave way to another section of gravel fire road.  By now, my feet were virtually on fire and super sensitive to every rock.  At about 21 miles I finally threw in the towel and slipped on my Sockwas. 

Not long after throwing on my Sockwas, I realized that I was stark-raving hungry.  All I could think about was food - more specifically a Carls Jr Western Bacon Double Cheeseburger.  Since none was to be found, I devoured an entire pack of shot bloks and kept on moving. 

One of the guys I rode with was now run/walking with me as we approached the main road to the Auburn Overlook.  With the road being smoother asphalt, I tore off the Sockwas which had started to blister my toes and completed the last stretch to the "finish line" in the parking lot.  It was a great relief to be done.  My right foot had developed a half dollar size blister between the ball and arch.  The tips of the first three toes had also blistered due to the Sockwas combined with softer skin due to running through all that water.
 
At the aid station, I wolfed down a bowl of nice hot chili followed by a couple of large M&M cookies.  I chatted with the group I had met.  It was then that I noticed that the weather had changed and the next storm was moving in.  The wind was picking up and the temperature had dropped.  I realized that I had begun shivering pretty bad.

I said my good-byes and headed over to my truck, threw on some pants over my running tights and stripped my wet shirts off and replaced it with a dry shirt and my jacket.  I shivered for a good 20 minutes as the my truck's heater warmed up.  On the drive home, I stopped in at an In N Out for a juicy Double Double.  It wasn't the bacon cheeseburger I had been craving, but it was satisfying just the same.
My right foot - post run

My left foot - post run

The next morning I met with my running group for their 11-mile training run.  I had taped my blisters and decided to run in my SKORAs to protect my feet a bit more.  My quads were very sore, but I knew that the 12 miles I was planning to run that day were going to help more than hurt. 

So for that weekend, I ran a total of 34 miles and a total of about 8 hours. 

Stay tuned for my next post (I'm still catching up)...




Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Journey to a Barefoot 50-mile Endurance Run: Week 13 of 18

The countdown to race day is looming.  Nerves are starting to kick in.

This past week was a mixed bag for training.  Tuesday went as usual, but school obligations for the kiddos took priority on Wednesday and Thursday.  (Also, my training schedule told me to take the latter half of the week off because of the 31 mile training run for Sunday).

On Saturday my half marathon trainees were scheduled for a 9-mile run.  It was going to be their first significant mileage point since beginning training.  I debated whether I was going to run with them or set up an aid station around the midpoint.  The time came and I decided to run with them.

I started out with my pack of 12/13-min milers with the plan to catch the front group after a few miles.  Well, they are starting to get pretty fast up in the front.  I left the rear pack just after 2 miles.  It took me nearly 3 miles to catch my front runners.  I think next time I'll start in front and drop back :)

Everyone did a great job and made it back in under 2 hours!  I'm so proud of my runners!

I ended up with 11 miles for that morning.

Sunday I rested with the thought of a 31-mile run looming.  I still wasn't sure when I was going to do the run or where.  I live in a town called Stockton which is south of the capital, Sacramento.  It is just about exactly 31 miles from Stockton to Elk Grove.  I've toyed with the idea of running the distance between the two cities for a while now.  So, it seemed like the right time.

My town is too small to run 31 miles without running loops or zig zagging all over town.  I dislike loops and zig zagging even more.  It makes it too easy to stop or short-cut it back home.  I've always found that running is 98% mental (provided that you are trained up on the distance).  So, the best way for me to run 31 miles was in one long stretch.

Yesterday morning, I ate a packet of oatmeal with chia seeds mixed in, loaded up my hydration pack with some salt pills and shot bloks.  The plan was to use the county back roads leading up to Elk Grove and hit 2 mini-marts on the way for additional food.

The first few miles were smooth and easy along a very busy road.  I stayed to the sidewalks for these first few miles.  Once I turned onto the main county road, I was subjected to the very small paved shoulder and weed ridden dirt shoulder.

I had originally planned to run the majority of the trip barefoot.  However, I had carried along my Sockwa G2s for back up.  It turned out to be a good thing.  The county road was (as I had predicted) very harsh chip seal.  The thought of shredding my feet over miles and miles of this stuff only to fail at making the entire run was not an option.  So, I paused, slipped on my Sockwas and kept running.  Perfect!

It's amazing to me how little regard drivers have for pedestrians along the side of the road.  Very few cars moved over to give me a slight cushion of space between myself and their car.  More often than  not, I had to duck onto the dirt shoulder and knee high weeds for safety.

A little over an hour into my run I had hit the 7 mile mark at a truck stop area on Highway 12.  I wandered into the Chevron minimart and grabbed a gatorade to mix down in my hip bottle.  I took the opportunity to eat a few shot bloks and a couple salt tabs for good measure.  While going through these motions, a guy in a truck pulled up after dropping someone off at the minimart entrance.  He asked if I was a long distance runner.

He mistakenly asked if my hydration pack was oxygen.  Then quickly realized his error and asked if it was water.  We chatted for a few minutes about my pace and mileage.  He commented that he couldn't run a quarter-mile without having a heart attack.  He mentioned that this was his year to take control.  I wished him well and headed out down the road.

The next 8 or 9 miles went very smoothly as I ticked off the roads and freeway off-ramps that I normally speed by in my truck to work.  I finally arrived in the little town of Thornton.  I stopped off at "aid station #2", otherwise known as another minimart.  I wandered in and grabbed a gatorade and a bag of chips.  I sat down on the small lawn outside the store and proceeded to devour the chips and guzzle the gatorade.  I was worried that the gatorade might make my stomach ill since I was not watering it down.  I really didn't care at this point because I was hungry.

As I got ready to head down the road, I thought I'd pop in my ear buds for my iPhone and listen to the last part of my audiobook.  I had so much trouble with the ear bud and the audio files getting scrambled that I gave up and stuffed the whole mess back in my camelback.  (Now I know why I don't run with music anymore.)

From here it was a good 13 miles to the town of Franklin and the outskirts of Elk Grove.  These 13 miles proved to be the most tedious of my journey.  It was during these miles that my feet started to hurt more, my legs became a bit weary and I was questioning whether or not this was a good idea.  I dug down deep and told myself that I could do it.  I knew that I still could beat my 50K time (7:22) - the course being virtually flat. 

I began a schedule of walking for a minute or two and running a mile.  Toward the end, I was walking a quarter mile and running the remainder of the mile.  This kept my per mile pace at about 13 minutes per mile.  Also at this point, I let my wife know that she would not be able to pick me up at our planned time of 2 pm.  We told my dad to meet me at 3 pm.  

After I passed through the town of Franklin, I happened upon this odd sight and seriously considered using it for a few minutes.  It even had a pull-out bed.



But being that I was running short on time, I continued on down the road.


As I got closer to Elk Grove Blvd, I could feel my energy coming back (ever so slightly).  I managed to keep running more than I was walking.  Then came the sight that I both had been anxiously awaiting and dreading.  At mile 29, there is an overpass over the railroad tracks.  This hill is fairly long and takes a little work to get over when you're fresh.  It is one of 2 "hills" in Elk Grove.  I wasn't sure what I'd do when I got here.  I think mostly I planned to walk it.  However, as I reached the base, I took off in a run at a surprising 11-min mile pace up and over the hill.


Home stretch.  About another mile to the am/pm for some food and a car ride home.  I arrived at about 3:10 p.m.  My time a rough 6:24 (including my stop in Thornton where I forgot to stop my watch).  A full hour shorter than my Skyline 50K run (granted there is some serious elevation at Skyline).

I went through the am/pm like a man on a mission.  I grabbed 2 - Gatorade G3 Replenish drinks, a tall bottle of water (oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I ran out of water and gatorade at about mile 25), two large hot dogs, and a big bag of Doritos.  My mind was such a blank I couldn't remember my PIN number for my card.  I had $10 and change on me - my bill $12 and change.  After I apologized to the lady at the counter and explained what I had just done, she told me she'd cover the difference because "we need to get some nutrition in you."  - THANK YOU :)  I did need some nutrition.

I went outside, sat on the curb and stuffed my face until I noticed my dad had finally arrived to pick me up.

When I got home, I stripped the Sockwas off my feet.  I knew I had a blister or two coming.  I had a nice quarter size blister on the ball of my right foot and a nasty looking blood blister on my pinkie toe of the same foot.  I guess one should probably wear socks with Sockwas if you're gonna run 31 miles.

Blood blister on my right foot

I felt pretty good at the end.  And still today, I'm feeling pretty limber.  I will say that one probably should not drink two Gatorade Replenish drinks back to back.  They did not go well through my system.  However, at the time, I really didn't care.

Back to running tomorrow. . .

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Journey to a Barefoot 50-mile Endurance Run - Weeks 11 and 12 of 18

Sorry for the delay in posting.  It's been a crazy two weeks.

So, update on the illness... I ended up with the flu two weekends ago.  I've felt great for the past two weeks. 

The mileage has been a real challenge lately.  I've continued to get good speed work in, but the long runs have suffered due to my nearly month-long illness. 

On President's Day Weekend, I managed to get a good 6+ miles in on Saturday while training my group.  Sunday, I was pretty tired, so I took a day of rest.  Monday I went out for a goal of at least 20 miles (with a goal of 24, if I could manage).  I planned a nice loop run that would keep me out of "short-cutting" back home for at least 18 miles.  Well, as it turned out, at the 7.25 mile mark the road I planned to take around a delta island was a private hunting ground and private road.  So, I had to turn around.  This turned out to be a good thing at first because I had to use the restroom and needed some food.  I stopped off at my house at just under 15 miles to use the restroom and grab a quick bite to eat. 

After leaving the house, I was starting to feel severely sapped of energy.  By mile 16, I felt like heading home.  I chalked it up to the mental game that often happens.  I always tell people that distance running is 98% mental and 2% physical (if you've been training).  I forced myself past a couple of streets that would have led me home.  I calculated that I needed to get to about 17.25 miles before turning around to hit a total of 20 miles for the day.  I got to 17 and I was DONE.

I think that it was my first official "BONK" that I've ever had during a run.  On the way home, I forced myself repeatedly to try and run.  I could barely get 50 meters at a time before having to walk.  I wound up at my house with 19 miles for the day.  Overall, I am not upset by this.  I needed to get close to 20 and I did that.  Being sick and not running much for a month really takes a toll on endurance.

Last week, I tried to get back on schedule.  I had great intentions and here it is BUT ...

Tuesday's run went great with the group - 4 miles.

Wednesday night I went out for a 6 mile run - at 3+ miles I came upon these little guys... I'm going to digress for a moment . . .




I was on a dark stretch of road behind a construction site, near a park but just outside the neighborhood of houses.  I saw the dogs and stopped running (I've been chased a few times before).  The black one ran out into the street a little scared.  I looked around for someone walking them, no one to be found.  I started walking slowly.  The white one ran up to me and started licking my toes.  It was then that I realized she was only a puppy.  As soon as I knelt down, she jumped all over me very excited.  The black one came running over to join in the fun.  I felt for collars - check.  But no tags - :(

It was late, about 9 pm.  The road is a thoroughfare out of the neighborhood so cars go at least 35 mph.  I couldn't leave these guys out on the road, so I coaxed them to come along with me.  They happily ran with me for a shortened route home (just over a mile).  So.... they've been with my family for almost a week now.  They were not microchipped.  I've put signs in and around the neighborhood that I found them.  No calls.  So, we're in the process of looking for a good home for them.  I wish we could keep them, but we already have 2 large lab mixes and a small yard.  So for now, we're just enjoying their company (most of the time - puppies like to chew on expensive stuff).

Back to running...

Saturday, I had a good 7+ mile run with my group.  However, the flu hit my house again - my wife and son falling victim this time.  Sunday came and I felt a bit achy.  I can't believe it.  I get the other strain of flu within 2 weeks of the first!!!  I think the flu hit me lightly - I felt a bit better today.  I do have  a slight cough again, but I'm hoping it's part of this new allergy thing I've been having.

Exciting news - there is a training run on the American River 50 course in March covering about 23 miles.  I'm going to be meeting up with Jason Robillard and hopefully a few others to run the course.  Looking forward to it very much.

Have a great week everyone!