Friday, July 6, 2012

The Journey Within.... my 2012 running of the Western States 100

Siting down to write about my recent Western States 100 has (is) a very difficult endeavor. In the days since the race I have sat at my Mac to write and come up short. The problem is not my recollection of the race. Surprisingly most of race is burned into my mind quite well. The difficultly comes with putting into words what impacted me the most on race day. A lot of what occurred prior to race day shaped the event more than my execution of the race. But to cover it all would make this a longer read than it already is.  Here we go.......


I knew to complete my goal of finishing the event and finishing better than before would take a change in training. My good friend Eric Toschi had an excellent WS100 in 2011. He shared his training log with me which was very helpful. We think alike with regards to Ultra training, it's not always long and slow running. Quality running and training all aspects of your body need to be covered. My mind set has changed over the past few years. I'm a runner, not just an “Ultrarunner”. I believe many people separate the two to the determent of their training.

I started slowly building my mileage up from December on. Early on with the help of the training group I coach I was hitting 70mpw without trying. My weeks looked more like a typical runners week. Long run, threshold run, easy and or recovery runs. The training was fun with the occasional un-planned hard effort to change things up and make it fun. During this time I did some polymetric and core work.

I planned to race Way to Cool 50K as a gauge for my fitness and go after my time from last year. I was pleased with my result at the race, but felt I had more to give. Regardless this put me in a good mindset to start the race specific training, i.e: hills and quad seasoning, since I planned not to ”race” until WS100

I developed a training plan with big weeks (90-100 miles) in April and May. During the biggest weeks I would run the Miwok 100K (as a training run). During the WS100 Memorial weekend I would run 50 miles on the course on Saturday.

In April I found a new convenient hill to do my shorter mid-week hill repeats on, the Hazel Ave bridge. I found that an up/down loop is just shy of a mile (.8). Its pavement, but with good form it wasn't too hard on my body. The incline is such that its runnable. I was able to easily lock in a pace that had me in the pain cave without blowing up. I worked up to an hour plus of repeats which made for one sweet mid-week workout.

Saturday long runs were either the Canyons or something similar in the Confluence area, (30+) miles. Like my personal favorite, repeats on the Dam Hill followed by an out and back to Cool. Followed up by a shorter (15-22mile) quality Sunday run. The Sunday runs really taught me pacing and made me a stronger runner. When I was running well on a Sunday run it was great. When I was suffering more it reinforced the mental game and made me run smart to get the workout done without a melt down.

During this time I began to work on my running shoes. I was having doubts that my tried and true Nike Pegasus were the shoe for me. I'm a bigger runner and they were just wearing out too quickly and I was sore a lot when I should not have been. I switched to the firmer Saucony Triumph 9, which is an awesome shoe.

Later I ate my criticism about the Hoka OneOne shoes and began wearing them also. For long trail running the Hoka's are it. Example: Fresh legs for marathon paced running the day after a quality 32 mile day in the Canyons. I could give you more examples, but basically I ran higher average weekly mileage with less pain and zero injury which I think the Hoka's played a large part of.

I monitored what I ate, but by May I slacked up a bit since my weight was hovering in the low to mid 170's (I'm about 6'3”). The comfort food helped me mentally with the busy days.

I knew my training had paid off because unlike past races when I started my taper I was calm and looking forward to getting the race done. Pacing Eric at SD100 also helped put me in the right mind set for a 100 miler.

Race Day

With the weather reports showing mild weather I was very motivated to get running. No heat in the canyons, bring it on. I would later comment that I will never again wish for mild weather at WS100.

Just prior to the Escarpment we hit the type of wind I only get when mountaineering on Mt Shasta or Mt. Whitney. It was gale force winds pushing you backwards, then came the hail and rain. Thank god I was over dressed in fleece gloves, t-shirt, fleece arm warmers and a North Face shell.

Escarpment to Robinson Flat I stuck to my plan and kept my HR low and my running relaxed. I walked ALL the ups, no matter how small. This was the key to saving my legs and body for later in the race. I saw a lot of interesting pacing going on prior to Robinson Flat.

Just after Red Star Ridge I closed the door on the bad karma that has haunted me since my 2009 DNF. I stopped near the large tree I had to hold onto while simultaneously voiding both ends of my body in 2009as runners went by, (you get the idea).

The rain, hail and cold temps continued to the point I was soaked and cold. But otherwise I was feeling OK, but my hands were very stiff. My Reynauds Syndrome had been in full effect for hours. This made opening a gel quite funny.

Just prior to Duncan Canyon I fell in line with Scott Mills and John Trent and another runner. The unknown runner ahead of me was stumbling and quasi- rolling his ankle a lot. Just prior to Duncan Canyon aid station I notified the runner I wanted to pass, he was freaking me out. He started when I called out and stumbled a bit. As I watched him I was not watching the trail and BAM!! I rolled my left ankle with a nice audible pop and then did a nice face plant. I heard someone say, “was that a pop?? ”. My internal reply was “yes you douche bag it was thanks for stopping to help as you went by me”.

I immediately tried out my weight on it and after a little hobbling/walking and cursing I got going again so it wouldn't swell. Soon after I came into Duncan Canyon. The aid station worker asked what I needed. I told him to tie my shoe laces as tight as possible. He said really, I said yes please just do it. There is a great shot of him doing on the Ws100 site.

With my foot strapped in I continued on since I had what I needed to get me to Robinson Flat. I was able to run to Robinson Flat mostly on my own which was nice. The rougher trail told me I would have to watch the ankle the remainder of the day. I would later take some NSAID because it freaking hurt.

Robinson Flat came and went, I had a quick refueling with my awesome crew. I look forward to the section after Robinson Flat to start some great running. Alas the rain and wind were still with us until Miller Defeat, not so much fun.

Once I was through Dusty Corners I was in very familiar territory. From here on I had various projected split times from past races burned in my head for the remaining sections. For some reason I was not rolling through this part of the trail like I had planned. By Pucker Point I realized I was low on calories. In hindsight this was probably my only low point of the race. I was alone and had been that way for a while and low on calories. By the time I started the descent from Last Chance I was feeling much better.

Canyons to Foresthill

On my best day I'm not a big fan of the descent to the Swinging Bridge. With a sore ankle I was dreading it. As I descended Matt Keyes came up to me and it was great to chat with him for a bit. He has this race dialed from multiple sub-24hr finishes.

I planned to put in a little extra effort on the two Canyon climbs. With the mellow weather I thought it would be a good place to push a little. My improved hill legs also had me wanting to give it a go also. Once on the climb up Devil's Thumb I pushed a little, but decided my idea was not a smart one. I started thinking about what I wanted to run on Cal St. and the last 20 miles of the race and I chilled out.

Once at the top I continued moving though aid stations quickly. I think I was at my lowest weight at Devils Thumb, 3-4lbs down.

I had an OK descent to El Dorado Canyon and an OK climb out to Michigan Bluff. This close to Foresthill I just kept thinking about what was to come and kept it mellow. Looking back maybe it was something else also. Because even on my worst Canyon training day I had more pep than I had during the race.

Once I was into Michigan Bluff I was ready to race a bit. Strangely enough my body agreed and I got to it. While geeking out on splits before the race I told myself a good spilt from Michigan Bluff to Foresthill would be 1:20-1:25. A great spilt would be 1:10 – 1:15. the trick was to run this without running myself into the ground, lots of racing still to do. I ran a 1:15 to Foresthill while walking all of Bath Rd. I knew then I had something going.

As planned my crew met me at Bath Rd so I could start eating before I got to Foresthill. It was great to see Eric, Kuni and Melisa and talk a bit. Another quick in and out at Foresthill due to my great crew and Kuni and I were on our way.

California Street

My plan for Cal St. was to run fast and smooth, but not lose the quads. Up to this point it was scary how good my legs felt this late in the race. I was bombing descents like it was a training run. Regardless I kept my head about me and just let the trail pull me along.

By the Dardanelles aid station I knew things were going to get interesting. Kuni was great as a pacer, he calmly monitored my intake of calories and kept me laughing. His story about his missing tooth was too funny.

Somewhere out there I mentioned to Kuni how I could not pee and run as many other runners around us were doing. I found out later that Kuni himself was giving it a try as we ran. When I found out I snapped at him that I would do physical harm to him if he pee'd on me. Another light hearted moment that helped get me through the evening.

During the run to Peachstone I had to hold myself back while I ran. It was at this time I knew I had the legs to make things happen. I won't lie it's a scary thing to feel good in a 100 miler 65+ miles in.

I had planned on a 3:15-3:20 Cal St if I was having a good day and running smart. At Rucky Chucky I did the math and saw I had run a little over 3hrs (3:08). I tried not to go crazy about it, but at this point I told myself it was time to race. On the climb to Green Gate I stuck to my plan and hiked it while eating. By the time Kuni and I met Eric I was ready to get on some smooth trail and roll.

Green Gate to the Finish

After switching pacers the race began. I was feeling good enough that I began to think that I had laid up early in the race. As we started to run I realized I had not laid up, I had saved my legs so I could run, not walk the next 20 miles. A weird focus or rather a clarity that started on Cal St blossomed as we headed out. Sure I was tired but everything clicked and felt like smooth. No real anxiety, It was run, hike, drink, eat and talk about the section coming up.

Soon after leaving Green Gate we began to pass people. I can honestly say that passing people is a HUGE boost this late in a 100 miler. I feel bad for the runners I pass, especially the runners that you can tell are in bad shape. I give a kind word, but the competition of what your trying to do helps to move you along just that little bit faster, even if it's only in your head.

Eric and I took the 20 miles apart aid station to aid station. Like Kuni, Eric was the calm voice of reason when I began to get out of control. He also monitored me so I could focus on my running. The calm voice asking if I ate would make me do just that, no whining on my part and no pressure or prodding by him to get me to do it. It was like we had rehearsed it. For my next 100 I can tell who I want for my pacers, Eric and Kuni.

I was pleased that the section to ALT went by very quickly. Pre-race I knew this twisty section and climb by Third Gate could be an issue for me. I wanted to get past ALT and onto the single track to Browns Bar that I love to run.

Strangely everything was clicking and I had a weird calm as we moved through this section. I was running as I had hoped to, but I still could not believe it. Soon enough we were at ALT, I told Eric I didn't believe it. Thus far in the race I had not asked for splits nor did I carry a list with me. At thing time Eric mentioned something about our pace through the last section. I don't recall what it was exactly, but I know the pace per mile was well ahead of what I thought I would be running.

Browns Bar came and went, I took my time on the descent to Quarry Rd which sucks even on the best legs. The body was a bit sore now, but my quads and legs were still with me.

Before I knew it we were climbing Quarry Trail from the road. Quarry Trail came quickly due in large part to Eric who had me run a lot more than I thought I would on Quarry Rd.

At Hwy 49 I saw Lily and heard a group of people yelling for me, it was a huge energy boost. I was in and out of the aid station quickly and back on the clock in no time flat. The energy of the aid station boosted me up and over Waterfall Trail into Pointed Rocks Meadow. I saw runners across the meadow and went for them. I think Eric let me go a bit but then got in front and reined me in as we began to descend. I can say by now I could smell nothing but the barn, even over the extreme rank that was issuing from my own body.

I knew the decent to No Hands Bridge would be tough both mentally and physically. It didn't disappoint, having Eric run ahead of me helped pull me along. Before I knew it we were at the bridge. If I recall it correctly I hit a big cup of Coke as I had since Green Gate and headed out. I remember running and wanting to run all that I could to Robie Point. What I actually ran only Eric knows, I recall some walking, but I felt like I ran a lot. I recall becoming a bit angry at this point. The “I'm going to break this trail in half” kind of anger. Very refreshing after a long day.

As we started the final climb I recall bitching a lot about the final push to the Fleet Feet aid station. I really don't like the Robie Point climb.

At the Fleet Feet aid station I was met by Melisa and a lot of friends. I recall hearing the voices, but I had only one thought, get to Izzy and Lily at the track. The road section to the track hurt SO bad. My hips decided they had enough.

I hit the track where Lily and Izzy waited for me and we ran it in. At the finish were my family and friends. About as perfect as it gets.

What worked and what would I change for next time

Training wise I think improving my overall running form and fitness over the past year helped the most. I had no injuries in the past six month and I felt more comfortable and efficient on all areas of my running.

Specificity of training was obviously a big part. It's WS100 so seasoning the quads is something you have to do. Besides Canyon runs I think my Damn Hill repeats helped my leg strength a lot. Mentally I think these repeats helped me also, hours of up and down on a hill by yourself will do that. Quality Sunday runs on tired legs was also very helpful.

Food wise I still believe liquid food is the way to go in ultras. I had zero stomach issues. I use a little known product called Spiz ( I know, the name is horrible). It's cheaper than most other products and has everything in it, fat, carbs, and protein. I can drink it warm or cold and it mixes easily. A serving size in a 20 oz bottle is 517 calories, but you can mix it higher with no ill effects. I did eat gels and regular food early on, but after 35 miles this was all I ate with an occasional gel until it was time to add Coke time.

I use music a lot in training and I really enjoy it. But for racing I think I've made too many mistakes not paying attention to my body when I have my iPod on. Racing without my iPod at the race was a smart move.

Clothing wise Drymax socks and Hoka shoes are the way to go. Gear wise my Salomon S-lab pack continues to be the best pack ever, well worth the price tag. I had to sew up one of the front pockets I torn out before the race but it held up just fine during the race.

The fit of the Hoka's is not great for me so I lost some toe nails, but otherwise I had good feet with only a few blisters.

A big thanks to my wife Lily and daughter for allowing me the time to train and putting up with me the past few months. Thanks to Kuni and Eric for great pacing and support. Thank you to Melisa, Dasie and Kathy for crewing and support. To everyone out on the trail Lisa, Glenda, Jane, and everyone else I know I'm forgetting, thank you, your cheers and support helped me more than you know.    


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Rio Del Lago 100K

Last Saturday I braved the heat at the inaugural Rio Del Lago 100k (RDL). As expected race day was HOT! Forget the mild summer we’ve been experiencing. Race day was hot and humid, (97deg was the high I was told). To add to the fun the day before the race was the hottest day of the year for the Sacramento area.

I initially planned to run the 100 miler. I needed a local long race this year due to family obligations. Early in the year it was a toss between a planned 100K by PCTR in Tahoe, Headlands Hundred and RDL 100 mile. RDL won due to its later date and location.

Two weeks out I had a huge final week planned, the weeks mileage would be 80+. The weekend would include a night run followed by a final long run and then a speedy long run. The long run would include all the major climbs with some heat thrown in.

While on the night run I twisted my right ankle. When I got home I had the typical swelling and pain. My plan was to start the long run planned for 7am, (7hrs away) and see how it was. The next day I hobbled to start the run. About the time I realized I should stop, I twisted the same ankle again.

With my newly formed cankle I went home to enjoy a weekend of ice, elevation and anger.

After a week of no running and a lot of therapy I ran on it. Not a 100% I decided to step down to the 100K on Sunday. Besides the worry of the ankle I lost my mental game. Running 20+ hours at less than 100% did not appeal to me at all.


RDL 100 is not a flat 100 miler, but it’s not what I would call hilly. Most of the 9,000 feet of climbing is in the first 40-50 miles. To me what defines this event is the heat. My training plan called for serious heat acclimation.

Training time in the 3 months right before the event was at a premium. Except for TRT 50 mile in July most long runs were 5hrs max. To compensate I did more doubles (25/20, 30/20) than usual. I also ran more long hills and kept up my mid-week quality run.

Besides having more fun training I was defiantly stronger. My new favorite long workout is this: one repeat of the “Damn Hill”, which is Auburn Dam Overlook (ADO) to the river and back. Then ADO to the Cool Fire Station using K2, then back to ADO. Then do another repeat of Damn Hill. The run is 28ish miles and 4000ish feet of gain. The 2nd repeat is TOUGH mentally. For my next 100 miler I want to try this run but do two repeats each time.

Early heat training consisted of running my mid-week quality run at 4-5pm. It’s a 10-12 miler with 30-40 mins at tempo pace. Once the summer came my pace slows a lot. I knew I was adapting to the heat when I could do tempo pace again for this workout in 95+ heat.

One month out the RD sends out a message that the course has been changed. The new course repeats the Folsom Lake trail sections twice. A much tougher race, but a true trail race now. I thought the timing was pretty lame on the RD’s part, but my training had it covered. This became a moot point later for me. In talking to other RDL 100 runners the change one month out was not welcomed.


From training I thought an 11-12hr finish for the 100K was possible. I planned to use the cooler morning temps to bank a little time on the way up if all went well. Race morning was warm and humid.

At 5:30am the 20 or so of us lined up and off we went. I settled in with Mike from Santa Cruz for a while and just let my body dictate the pace. After an hour or so the sun came out and I ditched my light. My legs felt dead but fresh, I knew my lack of running the past two weeks would make me feel flat.

After the Rattlesnake aid station it felt like my legs were becoming twitchy, what the F*^&. OK time to increase salt and put the iPod on.

By the time I got to the base of K2 I was doing at least three salts at a time. It seemed that after the twigs would go away they would return with 30 or so minutes. So for the next few hours I probably did 5-6 an hour. By the time I got to ADO again I was feeling great. I kept the heavy salt use up until the end of the race.

At Cool I had my first crew meeting. My lovely wife Lily and daughter Izabella met me.  Pacer and teammate Melisa was also in attendance.

To be honest right now my aid station memories are a bit blurred. I had a lot of rehearsal going on in my mind, so everything else is a blur.  But I do recall these folks: Eric, Kathy, Paula, Melisa, Stan and Dasie. Thank you so much for the encouragement it really helped.

I always hate the climb to ADO from No Hands Bridge. Training a lot on the climb this summer helped me find my rhythm on it. It also showed me that when it’s hot this climb will put me in a hole if I let it. I ran/walked the whole hill without pushing it. This would help me for later. A 1.5 miles out I ran out of water but I felt good.

At ADO #2 the ice cold Coke and dunking in the canal was like starting the race over, I felt great.

Melisa was there to pace me and off we went. It was nice to have someone to talk to.

The flat terrain along the canal to the top of Cardiac was a welcome change also. Melisa got me into the canal one more time; I had dried out in the two miles since my last dunking. I was feeling better than I had in hours.

After clearing the aid station at the base of Cardiac we began the run to Rattlesnake Bar. Running down stream on this section of trail is fast once you find your rhythm. I found my rhythm and the body responded. I ran this 8-10 mile section feeling better than I had all day. Sadly I dropped Melisa along the way. She got me to where I was currently running, thank you Melisa you helped more than you know.

At Rattlesnake Bar #2 I came in still feeling good ready to finish that way. After hearing that Melisa was not with me Eric told me Gerell was ready to pace. Gerell is a great runner.  He is a fellow member of Fleet Feet's Ultra Trail Racing Team.  Gerell paced Eric to a great finish at Western States 100 this year.

Everything was working great at this point. I had pain in my foot, but otherwise I was happy with how I felt. This soon changed; if I were to put my finger on it I would say I exceeded my endurance a bit.  Surprisingly I found a good rhythm with walking the ups and running everything else. Towards the end I had some cramping and I got low on calories again.

Gerell kept me occupied and moving forward. The best part at the end was when we dropped onto the levee.  A wind was blowing so he got in front of me and pulled me to the finish.

Izabella met me near the finish and we ran it in together, always the best part.  11:44 and I was done, 1st place.

After crossing the line I laid down which I know better. Sure enough my blood pressure dropped. It was a toss up between throwing up and passing out. I’m sure I passed out, but Lily said I was talking the whole time. Some indeterminate time later I was up and felt better after a Coke.

Post Race

The standard of ice bath and a trip to Wendy’s followed.  Soon after the race my ankle swelled up to its former glory. My heel hurts; I think I've developed planar fasciitis.  No blisters and all my toe nails intact.

My excess salt intake during the race was not an issue, (40+).  No brown pee after the race was over.  I would say my water and salt intake was correct.

What Worked

Heat training: Thank god for the sauna at my gym. The time I spend in it took what I thought was good heat acclimation to a new level.

Gear: My Salmon S-Lab pack is beat up from use this year.  But the insulated bladder and sleeve in the pack kept me in cold water all day. It’s still the best pack out there.

Training: A lot of things helped, but it's the HILLS! that made the difference.

Food: Spiz, 2000+ calories from it during the race with no stomach problems. The only issues was when it gone hot. I could drink it, but warm vanilla milk is not my thing.

Carbo-Pro: Two scoops with a scope of Gatorade and who got your self 225+ calories of carbs and salts.

More pictures and a pacer's report here.

Thanks to Lily, Melisa, Dasie, Gerell, Eric and Kathy for helping me and cheering me on. 


Monday, July 18, 2011

2011 Tahoe Rim Trail 50 mile race report

I came into this race with the intention to enjoy the day and get some training in for Rio Del Lago 100. Since May illness, injury and a busy life has made consistent training difficult. I wanted to know where I was as the final weeks approach the race.

The Tahoe Rim courses are TOUGH. So I spent some time researching where I thought I was fitness wise. I developed a “guess” of what I thought I could run with my current fitness and without breaking myself down. I didn’t want to have to interrupt training for RDL, but enhance it. My best guess was the 10-11hrs range with a 10:30 looking to be the best guess.

As I have for the many years I have run this event I car camped at Casa De La Remote Parking Lot. Melisa showed up like last year and after hanging out a bit we went to bed early. Unlike last year it was a lot colder, which bode well for race day.

Race morning I was surprised to see so many familiar faces running the 50K and 50 mile. Usually I don’t see too many locals at this race.  The 100 miler runners had left at 5am. I knew Jake Rydman and Tony Overbay were already on their way.

The Fleet Feet Ultra Team was representing in a BIG way with Melisa Mahon, Bill Carr, Trish Godtfredsen, Monica Moore and Brian Miller racing. In support of us were Chuck Godtfredsen and Stan Kososki.

Also racing was Andrew Schooley, Jamie Frink, Jack Meyer and Tim Twietmyer.

I have to give a big shout out to Kuni and Dasie Yamagata who came out to watch us start. They ended up crewing me all day which really made the difference in my race. The climb to access the Tunnel Creel Aid Station is not an easy hike to do.

Soon after the gun I saw the familiar face of Jenny Capel, a top female runner I had run with a bit at Way to Cool 50K. Jenny told me she was training for Leadville 100 and would not be pushing today. Since we were in a similar boat I told her I would be hanging around with her.

I stuck to my plan and hiked all the ups, which was hard to do since it’s a race, but I had a plan. The run unfolded this way all the way to Tunnel Creek. The cooler weather and wind on the ridges made me wish for my arm warmers. I kept my gloves on for the first 30 miles. My Reynard’s was in full effect thanks to the cold wind. But the cool temps helped my race so I tried not to think about my frozen corpse white hands.

Coming into Tunnel Creek I saw Kuni and Dasie. A quick in and I headed out feeling good. The Red House Loop came and went without much say other than the creeks were the deepest I’ve seen. I still don’t understand why the red House Loop is seen as so bad. The climbs to Marlette Peak and Snow Valley Peak have a lot more impact on the race. The Diamond Peak climb even more so (if your doing the 50 or 100 mile).

I returned to Tunnel Creek a bit down on calories. Dasie gave me my bottle of Spiz which quickly got me back rolling. I have gone back to this little known product to help me get more calories while running. At 517 calories a bottle and no issues drinking it, I’m going to be staying with it again.

It took a while for the Spiz to kick in, but once it did I was feeling better. This part of the course I had not seen years, I forgot how much it rolled. But like the whole course the views are second to none.

The descent to Diamond Peak Aid Station was a nice change. I’m glad I did not bomb it like I wanted to because my quads still had a lot of work to do later.

I hit Diamond Peak at about 5:30hrs. I thought I would be here anywhere from 5:40 to 6hr. The large crowd was a welcome sight. Dasie and Kuni got me set. While I got set to climb I saw J.R Ross and Stan Kososki

So I’d seen the Youtube videos for the Bull Wheel climb and heard the talk about it since they switched to this course. In person I have to say it the steepest climb I’ve ever “run”. The pitch of the grade at the top reminded me of climbing Mt. Shasta, (I’m not kidding). I think they should go back to the old course or cut out this climb. It just breaks the race up too much; the old course had a much better flow.

After topping out on the climb I felt good and got back into a good rhythm. After Tunnel Creek X3 I took some time getting to Hobart Aid Station. I was staring to reject food so it was Coke time. I did choke some gels, but I do so hate that feeling. A third bag of Spiz would have saved me here.

At Hobart I decided to check on my pace. Up to this point I was only looking at my HR and overall time. I saw that a sub 10hr was possibly, but at what cost? Soon after the food issues reminded me to calm down and follow my plan; I had running to do tomorrow and the next week. No room for a broken down body.

I hiked a lot up to Snow Valley Aid Station and really felt the altitude (9,000) once I was there. I drank about a liter of Coke at the aid station and figured I was set for the remaining miles. I know this descent well; I knew it can pull you home if you’re up for it.

Sadly I was under fueled for the seven miles and got a bonk with a side order of nausea about 4 miles out. Regardless I just took it in stride and got through it. I saw pat Mackin on the descent; he looked to be enjoying himself. I had to walk some of the flats by Spooner Lake, but man my guts were cramping.

Melisa, Dasie and Kuni were there to greet me at the finish, which was great.  A 10:15 finish and a Coke helped to wake me up.

Spooner Lake is known for having leeches; they have signs and everything for it. Regardless I have my ritual free cold/ice water soak to perform. I must say I was disappointed by Spooner Lake’s temperature for my soak. I would have to wait and drive home for a proper ice bath.

(And if you’re wondering, no I had no leeches stuck to any of my hidden parts)


My favorite gear continues to work well for me:

Salomon pack, she’s a little beat up but continues to be the best hydration pack I’ve used. Fully loaded I barely know it’s there. The snug fit continues to be really helpful on the twisty single track.

Roctane gels continue to be my favorite. I had an issue with them clogging up in my flask. I didn’t add as much water as I usually do, which might have something to do with it. Dasie Yamagata pointed out that it might have been the cold, something to watch for next season.

Nike Trail Pegasus 27, no complaints during the race, rugged and cushioned. I did notice recently that I like them more after they have about 60+ miles on them. Before that they are really stiff.

Spiz drink mix, 517 calories or more depending on how many scoops. Carbs, Fat and Protein in a bottle what more could an ultra runner want. Why did I stop using this stuff?


Monday, June 27, 2011

2011 Western States 100 mile, Pacer’s Report

As I previously posted Kuni Yamagata asked me to pace him at this year’s “Big Dance”. Kuni, also known as “The Beast” is a tough as nails ultra runner.  Here is how it went down:


Melisa Mahon, my designated driver delivered us to Foresthill around 3pm. Lily had arrived hours earlier to do massage at the aid station. Melisa and I were sporting our Fleet Feet Ultra Team kit ready to support our racing peeps.

I quickly located Dasie Yamagata, Kuni’s wife. Dasie and her posse of friends crew for Kuni at his races. Dasie is this most prepared, person I have met when it comes to ultra. She had everything covered, with backup. Dasie and the rest of the crew give off the good vibes a runner needs to feel when they see their crew.

After a few hours of watching the race and catching up with friends, I went down Bath Road to meet Kirk. He told me he had some issues earlier, regardless he looked great and appeared to be on his way to a great finish.

I later returned to Bath Road to meet Kuni and get us on our way. When I met him he looked great. I got a quick update from him and except for some quad fatigue, he was feeling good.

We met Dasie at the car and got on our way, onto the Cal-Loop.

Cal Loop

After a short pee break at the top of the climb we got into a rhythm and headed for the first aid station. During the break I go off two photos, my camera promptly crapped out after this, so much for photos. As we ran I was amazed at how relaxed Kuni was on the trail after 62+ miles. This was a good sign that he had saved himself for the more runnable part of the race.

By Peachstone we were consistently passing people. I began to notice that no one we pasted stayed with us or even near us. With the darkness you can see people’s lights, even when they are not so near. I later joked with Kuni that they were either too scared of him or we smelled too bad to stay with us. This got me a few laughs form Kuni.

Kuni kept taking in food and held a consistent pace all the way to Rucky Chuck (mile 78). We completed the section in about 3:30. By now I could see that Kuni’s focus during a race is second to none.

A few howls by me let the aid station (and world) know we were coming. Dasie and the girls were waiting for us. A few hellos’ and we were in and out.

River Crossing to Auburn Lakes Trail (ALT)

After a very quick river crossing in the raft we took a short break on the Far Side. Kuni took a meeting in the Portalet. Kuni was still able to get food down without issue. But his downing of an Ensure and V8 juice in quick succession worried me. I told him we needed to take our time walking the hill to Green Gate to let his stomach process. I was worried that much food and the odd mix would sit in his gut.

On the climb Kuni began to get nauseous. He told me he was also hitting his first low point or “bad patch”. We took it nice and easy on the climb to Green Gate. I tried to distract Kuni at this point. I think I blabbered on quite a bit about how much I like the night and stars. A girl in hot pants went by at one point; I might have mentioned that to Kuni. Regardless of his nausea we hit the Green Gate aid station without stopping and no meltdown. Kuni got right back into a run as we left the aid station.

Prior to the race and during it Kuni told me, “I hate ALT”. I never understood this since I know that ALT is very runnable rolling single track trail. It was on the run from Green Gate that I realized his ALT section was different than mine, oops. Kuni was talking about the section from Green Gate to ALT. I always thought of “ALT” as ALT to Brown’s Bar.

After realizing this I told Kuni he was right that this section with the climb at Third Gate sucked. But I quickly pointed out that he was running strong. Since we always walk climbs he was moving through the section quicker than he was giving himself credit for. At one point I told him I didn’t want to hear anymore negative talk from him about ALT. He was running it strong and, he had to take my word for it.

As we started the climb to the Schoener Memorial Kuni had some mild vomiting and other bodily issues. To my amazement this hardly slowed him down. He would stop briefly to bend over and vomit a little. As soon as he was standing upright we were running again.

Up to this point in the race Kuni had mentioned more than once that his quads were shot. He told me he soaked them in El Dorado Creek earlier with good results. With the way he would go downhill you would not have known he was having quad issues. At the creek near Dead Truck trail Kuni again climbed in and soaked his feet. Again to my amazement he was able to sit down and get up with very little stiffness and no cramping.

At the ALT aid station Kuni took another meeting in the Portalet. I went on ahead to change out my batteries. At the aid station Kuni weighted in only half a pound over, NICE!!! The medical guy was there and asked Kuni how he was doing. I mentioned the issues he was having and that he recently took one Imodium. I pointed out that his fluid and food intake was good and that he was peeing.

Regardless Med Guy held us up and started in about Imodium stopping him from sweating and blah, blah, blah. I appreciated his concern, but he was holding us up. In my opinion compared to many others on the trail, (like the guy quivering in a chair a few feet away) Kuni was golden. One Imodium wasn’t going to end his day. Suffice to say I moved Kuni onto the broth while I deflected Med Guy. Don’t mess with a Pacer on the edge!

ALT to Brown’s Bar

Kuni was having some up’s and down’s through this section. But as always he was running the flats and downs like we were out on training run. His leg strength and fitness this late in the race continued to impress me.

I was now checking my cell phone and saw I had service. I gave Dasie a quick call with a brief update.

Brown’s Bar came quick. Kuni was still nauseous so we kept up the crackers and soda. The broth thus far was too condensed and salty for him. We left quickly and started down the hill to the Quarry Road.

By this point I had lost track of how many people we had passed. But I repeatedly pointed this out to Kuni to boost his confidence.

Brown’s Bar to Cool

We continued to hike all ups and run everything else. Kuni was tired of hills from the way he was talking about them. To combat the negative talk I continually pointed out that he was running more than anyone we had come across. I also told him that he was hiking the hills faster than anyone else, which was a true statement.

The climb to Hwy 49 came quickly and Kuni appeared to have got back some pep. I saw Lily at Hwy 49 and told her we were doing great. After some more soda and crackers we were moving up the hill.

After Hwy 49 I began to talk to Kuni more and outline the trail as we came to different sections, “Hill, start walking”, “loose rocks”, etc.

As we crossed the meadow near Cool I told Kuni we were running the descent to No Hands Bridge. In hind sight it was probably not the best thing to do. I could have ended up pushing him too hard and risked a meltdown. But this was the Beast and I knew he was game, and boy was he.

As we started the descent I drifted ahead of Kuni. Until now I was always behind him on the trail. I lingered just out of reach and kept up my talking, “steep decent starting, or loose rocks, short steps”. Mostly it was “stay relaxed, breath, and let the hill pull you”.

Kuni ran the whole 3 miles down to the bridge without one trip or misstep.

A few howls by me to wake the dead and signal our arrival and we were at the bridge. We found Dasie and Crew awaiting our arrival.

No Hands Bridge to the FINISH

After a brief stop and energy boost by Dasie and Crew we were took off running again.

We continued on towards Robie Point without issues. Kuni was running some of the moderate uphill’s now so I knew he could smell the barn.

Just prior to Robie Point Aid Station I asked Kuni if he would like to take the spur trail to the Overlook. I told him we had the time and it would show everyone just how tough he was. The look I got was priceless, but to his credit he politely declined. 24+ hours of running and he is polite, he is a better man than I. I think I would have dropped an F-bomb.

At the Fleet Feet (Robie Point) Aid Station I knew we would be greeted by a large group of friends. The crowd was huge and did not disappoint. This final boost of energy pushed us onto a glorious finish on the Track in 25:36.

After thoughts

If you have never paced a runner, I would highly recommend it. Especially if you are new to the sport of ultra running. The experience is like nothing else, it gives you an idea as to why we do this thing called ultra running and what it take to succeed. It also shows you the best in people.

Now that the race is over I have a few more nicknames for Kuni. “The Machine” and “Man of Steel” come to mind.

A priceless experience, thank you Kuni for allowing me to share in your Western States journey.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Western States 100 mile Endurance Run

Big Dance, Track Meet, or just “States”, whatever you call it the race that gave birth to a sport is this Saturday. Like many others I can’t wait for the weekend to get here.

I am not competing this year, but doing something that is equally rewarding, pacing.  Kuni Yamagata, (Bib#399) known as The Beast asked me to pace him from Foresthill to the Finish.

(Thank you Kuni for asking me to pace you, you won’t regret it).

Kuni is a tough as nails runner and all around nice guy. My plan is to keep Kuni on track and get him to the Placer High as fast a possible.

I have enjoyed crewing/pacing people at events in the past. In a sense you’re competing in the event, but all of your energy is for someone else’s race. If you can give yourself over to the perspective change it is a very rewarding experience

As always the race is a top notch event. There is a webcast, mobile webcast, Twitter. Not to mention fully stocked and unique aid stations backed up with an army of volunteers.

Some useful links:

Mobile Webcast:

Event Webcast:

Kuni’s page:

Since this is a race, a new toe color is in order. Sparkling Silver appears to be the color choice. But I have to check with Izabella, since she usually chooses the color for me.

See you on the other side.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Rolling to a stop

For many months I’ve been on a roll with my training. My training group was great fun with lots of long runs with great people. Way to Cool 50K went very well. It’s only May and I’ve had some great workouts and epic runs on the trails. My trip to the Grand Canyon was an epic. It showed me my fitness was continuing to improve. It looked like Bishop 100K and the coming season was going to be as fun as I had hoped.

The week after Grand Canyon I rolled to a stop. Even though I was able to get back into running the week after I was really tight, more than usual. I was dumb and ended up straining my back in the yard the Friday after Grand Canyon. Being a newly minted 40 year old I can safely say I’m living up to the cliché. Having never had a back issue, I can now relate to what my friends with bad backs have gone through over the years, F&%$ing hurts!!!!

Around the time this injury occurred I realized I would miss my daughters first swim meet of the year if I attended Bishop 100K. As a dad I can’t do that so I pulled out. Since I haven’t healed as quickly I planned, I wouldn’t have made the race anyhow. As I type this I’m still not running much, with much of it on the treadmill.

My forced sabbatical for the past few weeks has given me the chance to slow down a bit. I enjoy these monuments in life, but I wish they just didn’t have to hurt so much to get to them. 

Things I’ve learned recently:

Since I wasn’t doing the usual weekend long run, I went to coffee instead. People watching at a Peet’s coffee house on a Saturday morning is great. I now firmly believe there is an obesity problem with America’s 20 and under set. I saw more healthy and active 40+ year olds than 20 and under. How is that possible?

I got a pair of New Balance Minimus shoes for my birthday. (No, I will not be running in them.) Know what these shoes are great for, water shoes and kick around shoes. Running around the beach, climbing rocks, cliff diving at the local lake, these are the shoe you want. They remind me of the Nike Aqua Sock from the 90’s.

I eat A LOT when I’m stressed. If I ever get a really bad injury I’m going to get FAT!

Now that I can make homemade miso soup, I eat it almost everyday. (Is that bad??)

I am now VERY motivated to be healthy and train for TRT 50 mile and Rio Del Lago 100. I’m even feeling a need to go back to CIM to erase last years run.

Time to go do my Yoga poses.


Friday, May 6, 2011

2011 Grand Canyon R2R2R adventure

Last weekend I had the pleasure of returning to the Grand Canyon for another year. Unlike last year when I was solo, I had my best girl and wife Lily with me. Also along for the fun were my long time friend Nick Bingham and his wife Christy.

Last years trip was great, but not a R2R2R. This year I planned to complete the whole enchilada. Last year injury and lack of training had me do a shorter but just as rewarding trip to Ribbon Falls and back out.

Nick who I’ve known since high school was the person who first exposed me to trail running. Nick has always been a great runner. He has run top five at Western States 100 as well as sub-2:30 marathons. I looked forward to spending some time with him the trails. It had been along time since we had run any distance together.

Lily’s plan was to run down South Kaibab as we planned to. She would then visit Phantom ranch and then head back up Bright Angel Trail. Even with her recent performance at Way to Cool 50K I was worried about her running alone. The Grand Canyon can be unforgiving if you make a mistake. Her lack of experience with food and salt intake during a long outing worried me, but I keep reviewing with her what to do so I trusted she would be OK.

Like last year we elected to fly all the way to Flagstaff and then take a rental car the last hour+ to Grand Canyon. 13hr car rides really don’t sound fun to me any longer. We also got a room at the Yavapai Lodge instead of camping.

Nick and Christy live in Reno. After meeting in Phoenix, the plan was to fly together on the turbo prop to Flagstaff. When we met at the gate we were greeted with a sign that said FLIGHT CANCELED, uh oh not good.

We were told it was for maintenance and we would have to catch a later flight. This smelled fishy so Lily went to work and got us squared a way with some $$$$ courtesy of US Airways. We contemplated driving up from Phoenix, but a long drive did not sound fun to anyone.

We eventually flew out at 7:30pm. Once in Flagstaff we found out the plane we were supposed to take had some mechanical issues trying to leave Flagstaff to get to Phoenix. It made three aborted take off’s before the problem was found. Uh OK I’ll take the delayed flight. US Airways obviously lied to us, but we got some $$$ back so I’ll take it. We all later talked about what would have happened if it had made it back to Phoenix and then broke down with us on it.

Friday we did the tourist thing, rested up and visited with the group that was camping. Unlike last year there was no snow, but it was still very cold. The forecast for the following day showed very cool temps, even in the canyon NICE!!!!

I felt better looking out from the rim, unlike last year’s vertigo the minute I looked out over Bright Angel Trail. I did have problems being near people as we looked down or stood on a precipice.

Nick at one point ventured out onto a ledge while we were at Yaki Point. I had to step back from the wall completely and couldn’t watch much. An odd reaction, but for some reason watching other people on ledges was freaking me out.

Saturday morning we awoke at 4am to cold temps, but clear sky. Nick and I decided to not wait too long if the main group was running late.

At 5:05am were off. My anxiety with leaving Lily surfaced at the trail head. I snapped at her when discussing something about her running pack, (I later apologized to her). She told me she knows I do this when I worry about her. She reminded me later that I can’t do it all.

Nick and I descended slowly at first due to the cold. Unlike last year it was a lot darker most of the way to the river. The lack of picture breaks this year was the reason. I left the camera with Lily so any trail picture you see are from her. I took a few iPhone shots, but not much.

We hit Phantom Ranch in 1:17 and filled are packs for the push up the valley. A few miles after dropping my gloves and beanie I regretted my decision. The sun had not yet hit the valley floor. A stiff cold wind was also present, (all day). My hands suffered most of the trip up to the Ranger station at the base of the North Rim climb. My Reynard Syndrome was in effect for WAY to long. Had it not warmed up I would have had to turn around.

I think we hit the Ranger’s cabin in 3:30 +, I was feeling good and ready to get to some solid efforts in. I did a hard 30 miles in the WS100 Canyons the Saturday before. I was curious to see it I would be tired or not once the climbing started for really.

Soon after starting Adam Barstad caught us. He looked fresh and kept moving he later ran a 9:20ish for the whole R2R2R, WOW! Soon after Roaring Springs we got into the climb proper. I was fueled and feeling great. My fitness so far this year has continued to shock me so I must be doing something right in training.

As we started up into the steep stuff I began to feel the weight of trails height on me. Knowing this feeling I slotted into the third man slot to ascend at my own pace. As we headed up switch backs that were cut into the red rock my stomach dropped. Its tough not to see down at this point and the drop off of the trail we had just come up hit me when I looked.

Nick saw I was in trouble and stopped. As he got closer I stopped him because I felt like I had the day before. I explained my issues to him and how I knew I could get through it. I told him to go on, I would either trail behind or I would see him later at the bottom. After he left I took a few minute and pushed on, but I noticed a shake to my hands and knew I was toast. I’ve never had that before in these situations.

My goal on these trips is fun, not the R2R2R goal; it’s a by-product of my fun. So I turned and headed down. The steepness of the canyon wall you’re on stares you in the face as you go down. Knowing I was toast I took a second and looked out from the trail.

The canyon with all it steepness and grim finality had a beautiful energy to it that I wanted to experience more. But my physical fear of it was just too much for me to take in. It’s odd how fear can give you clarity and focus to see this beauty.

As I made my way down I was amazed how much scarier it was to go down the trail.

I soon ran into a few folks from the group starting their way up. I told them of my failure and wished them well. After a food break near the Ranger’s cabin I reassessed my plans for the day. It was too cold to hang where I was. I also did not want to waste time sitting. I also did not want to be the guy who not only didn’t finish the R2R2R, but ran less and had less climbing.

The climb up the valley from Phantom ranch does climb, but not steep like a Rim Trail. So I figured get what I can, but go for more miles and quality at that. I needed to be toast like everyone else for the climb up Bright Angel Trail.

So I channeled my inner 50K runner and ran like hell (sub 8mpm) down to Phantom Ranch. After loading back up a bit on water I turned around and headed back up the valley. Somewhere along the way I tweaked my left ankle which was hurting but runnable.

On my ascent back up I ran into Adam Barstad again at the 7hr mark. Ten minutes later I met back up with Nick and another day runner he was running with. We proceeded to run low sevens back to Phantom Ranch which was interesting to do after 7hrs of activity. My ankle was killing me during this time so I had to break down and suck down some Motrin.

We took our time in re-fueling and hydrating before pushing on. So far my Salomon pack had held up well. I was able to hold enough food that I didn’t need to buy anything at the Ranch.

We crossed the Colorado River and started the Bright Angel Climb slowly as the food digested and I let the Motrin kick in. I finally felt warm which was a nice change. Just before the Devils Corkscrew I soaked my ankle in the creek which helped a lot.

I set pace up front and got us to Indian Gardens feeling OK. I think I was more behind on food than I thought, but ate a bar hoping to keep my energy up. Gels at this point were making me gag. The great thing was that my legs still had snap to them. I could run when I wanted to with no cramping or the possibility of it showing up.

Just past the 2.5 mile toilet we both hit a low energy point. Gels were out of the question and I was out of solid food. Nick pulled out a giant Snickers bar that we spilt. It was Heaven, the caffeine in the chocolate had an instant effect and we pushed on better than ever.

We saw the wives at the last tunnel and tagged in at the top for an 11hrs finish.

Lily looked great. She told me she had a great day and only had an issue on the way up Bright Angel Trail. It sounded like she had a really bad bonk. Christy took great shots in the morning at South Kaibab Trail. She later went to Indian Gardens and back on her own. So everyone got a piece of the Canyon.

Once back home an ice bath and compression socks got me on the road to recovery. I had no blisters or feet issues of any type. Thank you Drymax socks.

We later went out and did a protein overload dinner. The Bright Angel Restaurant has a sampler platter with ribs, chicken and steak. Lily and I spilt it and ate it all, Yum.

The following day I felt great, the ankle pain was gone, but I could feel tenderness in one spot.

Sunday I showed everyone where I had bummed around last year in Flagstaff. The bar was there, but they no longer offered the cheese and bread tray. The club sandwich, fries and craft beer made up for it.

I offered to treat Lily to anything she wanted at the numerous outfitter stores in old town. She deserved it after the trail she tamed on her own. She proceeded to make the Patagonia store in town very happy.

Once home I downloaded the Garmin to see the damage. I’ve always been told the run is 10,000 ft of climbing and 46 miles long for the route we took, this always seemed too low to me.

Granted I did not hit the North Rim. I questimated I ran the same distance or farther in the valley. My Sport Tracks log said my run was 52 miles with 22,000ft of gain. Garmin Connect said it was 50 miles with 25,600ft of gain. The Garmin route had a lot of gaps and weird tracks. The Sport Tracks route was solid. Regardless of distance/elevation it was a good day, no R2R2R, but a long fun day with great people.