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.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab Hydration Pack Review

So I have been running with pack since February. I have completed a lot of runs with the pack, both on the road and trail. The distances have varied from short (6 miles) to long (30+). I have completed one race, the Way to Cool 50K wearing the pack. I figured I could finally give the pack a review. Here we go:


Salomon is a European company, so for us Yanks, the fit runs on the small size. I have the largest sized pack they offer the M/L. The pack fits snug, but it’s supposed to. Even though the pack is snug I have yet to be chafed or been rubbed raw by it. If I were larger in the chest and shoulders the fit could be an issue. I’m just shy of 6”3”, 176-180lbs for reference. If they ever made a size large I would try it out to compare the fit.

The “pack” is actually more of a vest. The body is made of a reinforced padded and breathable mesh. The pack rides higher on the body than other packs I’ve worn. For comparison I’ve run in Nathan, Gregory and Camelback’s. I like this aspect because I feel freer around my waist. So on technical trails I don’t notice the pack like I have with others that ride low.

The beauty of the fit is that you slip it on, clip two front straps and you’re good to go. Since the body of the pack is one piece there is no other adjusting needed after an initial fitting. With a full bladder and stuffed pockets you might have to adjust the straps a little.

With the snug design of the pack there is minimal to no bounce even with a full bladder. I have run two tempo runs with the pack at sub 7mpm pace without it bouncing all over the place.


The two front draw string pockets can be stuffed with a ton of gels, etc and closed on the fly with ease. Even stuffed the pockets don’t bounce or shift while loaded. I liked the wide mouth design of the pockets which made access while running a breeze. I haven’t tried it, but from Internet photos the pockets can hold small water bottles. I have not tried this, but as it warms up I’m going to.

There are two removable zipper pockets that Velcro on above the draw string pockets. I have yet to use them or need them. The pack also comes with a space blanket and whistle.

The rear main pocket and side waist pockets are a tight mesh weave with a zipper closure. The side pockets are on the small side, but stretch well if you want to stuff them.

The drinking tube is routed into the pack body so it is not as exposed as other drinking tubes. It also has a reinforced sleeve around the plastic tube. This also prevents the tube from flopping around or being in the way. The drink tube links in to the Source bladder by a clip. When you unhook it the bladder will not empty.


The water bladder is 1.5L and made by Source, it is the best bladder I’ve ever used. It is square in shape. It opens at the top and uses a fold over clip design so opening and filling is easy. When you open it you can pinch the flap into a funnel. This makes drinking from it easy when you want to top yourself off before you top off the bladder. Cleaning and drying is easy since it opens the width of the bladder at the top. I can stick my whole hand into it to wash it out.

The bladder rests in a removable sleeve that has a “tin foil” liner to help keep things cool. I don’t know if it works, but it looks high-tech and appeals to the nerd in me.


I tend to know what I’ll need on a long trail day. As such I never seem to use all the space given in running packs. Winter long runs and 30+ mile backcountry runs are when I fully use pack space. For the runner who likes to take a lot of gear, the S-Labs pack space could be a bit limiting.

The lack of straps makes the pack fit more like a piece of clothing than a pack. Some people might not like this; I see it as a strong point. You put the pack on like you would your shoes or shirt and just go. The lack of straps also reduces the pinching I’ve gotten from other running packs when I try to snug them up better.

I have run a little while using just one or none of the front straps. While not as snug a fit, you can run with it this way if something broke on the trail.

To me this pack is made for racing with its snug minimal design. But it is just as good on my weekly long run. You can take what you want and not feel bogged down. Taking the pack off to re-fill and put back on mid-race is quicker and easier than any other pack I’ve used.

Its true test will come in a few weeks when I run the Grand Canyon R2R2R. If the pack can take what I need to get through that run I’ll never want another running pack.


If you hate packs, this could be the pack that changes your mind about them.  This is the first pack that I've run in that dosen't make me feel like I'm running with a pack on.

The bad news,

This baby will set you back $180.

I also just saw a posting at that a higher capacity model is being tested overseas. Here are some photos:



Tuesday, March 15, 2011

2011 Way too Cool 50K

It’s been a LONG time since I posted anything. Sadly it’s not for a lack of running related things to post. I’ve just been really busy with work and home life.

To summarize a few things, this years Training Group has been killing it in training. The Wednesday night hill repeats have been epic. Lily has been doing great training for her first ultra. She has also been working with Julie Fingar as a volunteer coordinator for her events.

Last Saturday was the Way too Cool 50K, my first race of the year. It was also the first Ultra for most of the runner in my training group. Since last August I’ve been focusing on changing my training. I was dissatisfied with my results, my fitness and my health, (read weight), I was in a rut.

So I listened to what a few elites do and went back to what I know from my old running days. Basically you got to run hard some times and sometimes you just got to run how you want. A long run doesn’t always have to be slow and easy. Tempos runs are the Holy Grail in my opinion.

My winter build up after CIM went well. I had planned to be at a higher average weekly mileage before WTC, but I only have so much time to run. That and my big races are later in the year so I’m not in too much of a rush.

Kirk and I had some great training runs on and off the course. A recent hilly 26 miler with Tom Flahaven, Dave Goodin, and others showed me the body was coming along.

Based on my training and fitness I felt a 4:30 4:40 on the new course was possible. I figured the new course to be approximately 10 minutes faster. (Some running mathematicians who obsess on this stuff now believe it to be 15ish minutes faster).

As always the two week taper before the race found me unable to run much due to job and life. It’s stressful, but better at this time then during a heavy training week. I hate to “over taper” before a race. I end up with dead legs on race morning, but what are you going to do.

The day before the race Lily and I worked packet pick-up. It was great to meet new friends and better get to know people I only knew in passing. John Blue, Rory Bosio, Amy Schmich, all good people.

Way too Cool 50K

So race morning came, Lily, Izabella (Cheetah), Melisa and I made the trek up to the race. The Cheetah was on a long leash while we raced. A friend working the event watched her as she and a large group of other kids roamed the start/finish area. Exciting for her, scary for dad.  The training group peeps were ready to go:

The Group ready to ROCK!!
So the guns goes off, mile one is sub 7 for a bit, OK, that’s out of the way. I settled in after that content to follow/hang with Jenny Capel and Tim Twietmyer. At mile 8 as we go thru the start/finish I was ready to hit the long downhill and find a rhythm on Quarry Road. I knew the race would truly be made closer to mile 20 at the Auburn Lakes Trails aid station.

Everything went well, until the downhill. Even after going potty before the race I had to go again, Damn you Colon!!!! When it hit me I thought I could wait until the porta potty at Quarry Road, uh nope downhill’s make things speed up a bit.

As I emerged from the bushes I saw Kirk, who knew what was up after running with me so much, (thanks for kind words later buddy).

A little bit of jockeying occurred on Quarry Road with other runners. I let whoever wanted to go by pass me. My bro Jesse Barragan went by looking fresh. Jesse has great speed, so looking fresh I knew I would not see him again.

Otherwise most of the other runners who passed me came back to me later after ALT. The hills were going better than planned. I only did a few short walks on the really steep stuff by Dead Truck Trail.

As I past the Barbara Schoener memorial at the top of the long climb we do from the creek, I knew it was time to get the race going. My race plan was to rock this section to Goat Hill as fast as possible since it is great running terrain. I also know a lot of runners start to crater in this section.

Things went well, but I was stiff and lacking some top end. I was moving well, but the legs were a bit tight. I was happy with the effort I was putting out and just kept it going. I picked off more than few guys which is a nice morale boost late in a race. Especially when the guy is bare chested with black Sharpie writing on his chest. Just before Browns Bar the legs felt better so I picked it up a bit ran to the base of Goat Hill.

Goat Hill was a new experience it still hurt, but I ran about half of it. After you start the climb you make a hard right turn. I ran from here to right before the aid station. It helped that there was a runner moving well just ahead of me. Some Coke at Goat Hill and I hit the next section feeling better than before.

I soon saw a familiar runner up a head, Jesse! As we started up one of the ever present rollers I tried to bridge to him. Sadly the legs twitched, which means “slow down dumbass”. So the remainder of the race I watched Jesse dance in front of me until the finish, Nice Run Jesse!

Just before the finish I was treated to a finish with my best girl:
4:22 for a finish, feeling good.

As I planned the post race fun was as good as or better than the race. We had beer, chips, Jell-O shots (Thank you Michelle). New friends were made and I caught up with old friends, it was a great time.

The training group impressed me, everyone finished looking GREAT!! Lily overcame some issues to finish her 1st Ultra looking great:

(My moment of Zen)

I look forward to upping the training a bit for the Bishop 100K in May. But before that I plan to be the crew de jour for the entire training group at AR50. I also have to plan out how to top the post race festivities.

Some great photos I found online, thank you to Chuck, G, Jean Pommier, Kathy Fairbanks and Rachelle Borris for the photos:

Jean's Photo's

Check my Face Book for more great photo link's.

Jake, Kirk, Scott, Scott #2, Jesse, Ken, Terry, and my whole training group.  It was a great day, congrats!! see you all at the next one.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Climbing Mountains, an interview with Jacob Rydman

If you run in the Auburn Confluence area chances are you’ve seen Jacob Rydman running.  Jacob enjoys trail running and going up mountains, FAST.

Jacob who is new to ultra racing won the 2010 Sierra Nevada Double Marathon in convincing fashion.
It was his first ultra race. After meeting Jacob at Sierra Nevada I’ve followed him on his blog, Climbing Mountains. Jacob recently tasked himself with running 100 ascents of K2 in 100 days. If you know the “Training Hill” you know it is not an easy thing to do.

Jacob recently agreed to let me talk to him about his running.

How did you get into the ultra/trail running scene? I know you ran before you did ultras.

I ran for two years at Yuba College. I was recruited by William Jessup University and ran Cross Country for them. After a lay off from running I decided to run the 2009 California International Marathon. During my training I went to Lake Tahoe a lot to train. While training on the trails there I found I really enjoyed it. It’s very free and challenging to run trails.

I follow your blog; unlike many other runners you’re very open about your training. How did you come up with the idea to run K2 a 100 times in 100 days?

The trail running community is all about camaraderie. You can train with people and its fun but you still push each other, I enjoy that a lot.

The K2 ascents came about because I didn’t have any races lined up for a while and I wanted to push myself. I wanted the challenge.

How did the ascents go once you got started?

It was very hard at the start, especially during the holidays. It also took my body a while to find its rhythm on the hill. It was very demanding both mentally and physically. I am a stronger runner both physically and mentally after completing the 100 ascents. I also finished early; it took 95 days to do 100 ascents.

I saw you ran with Anton Krupicka, Scott Jurek and a lot of other ultra heavy weights at the Ponderous Posterior 50K. How did this come about and what was it like running with them?

Anton posted about the run months before. I connected with Anton about coming to the run. It just so happened that a friend of mine was heading that way at the same time. It all worked out so I went. About 90 people came out and ran. I learned a lot about trail running from the event, I took a lot away from that experience.

What are your racing plans for 2011?

Way to Cool 50K is my next event, but the American River 50 is my next goal race. I will mini-taper for Way to Cool, but American River is my goal race.

After that I will run my first 100 mile race at Tahoe Rim 100 in July. That will be an interesting race. I have no idea what to expect at that distance. For the rest of the year I know I will be racing The North Face Endurance Challenge in San Francisco.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to me Jacob. I help coach a group of new Ultra runners with Fleet Feet Ultra Training. Anything you want to pass on about training?

Yes, I think you should train on terrain or conditions harder than you expect on race day. On race day you will be better prepared both physically and mentally for the race.

Excellent advice Jacob and thanks for a great interview.

Jacob is also an outdoor ambassador for New Balance.  Jacob's blog: Climbing Mountains


Monday, January 3, 2011

New Years cabin trip and 2011 event plans

So I spent the past week at my Echo Lake cabin. So much happened it’s tough to recount it all. Snow shoe hikes, night hikes, EPIC sledding and some snow running. The trip was all accentuated by one thing SNOW a whole lot of it. The previous storms left more snow than I have seen in a long time at the cabin, much less the sierras. We later received even more.

As luck would have it my long time snow shoes cracked apart the week before. I had thought of buying new boots months ago, but put it off because I’m too much of a tight wad. Luckily my wonderful wife bought me a pair of Salomon snow boots for Christmas. She saw I had circled them in an REI catalog. These are the best snow shoes I’ve ever had. The fit like over sized running shoes, not clunky Sorel’s. If you’re looking for new snow boots check them out. Running and snow shoeing in them was great.
Here is a summary of the trip:

We drove up Monday morning on clear roads to a cabin snow encased from the recent storms. The cabin had more snow than I have seen on it before. The front window was completely encased as was the front door. With us was the Brown family, who were staying for the night. Just like last years New Years trip my friend Thor and his daughter Sienna were with us for the week. All total we had five adults and six children the first night, (ouch).

After digging out the cabin we headed to our normal sledding hill along the Echo Lake Road/Trail. The fresh powder made it a bit more work, but it was great sledding after smashing it down.

The expected blizzard came in late Tuesday just after the Browns left. Tuesday was snowy and fun. We awoke Wednesday to no power and 3+ feet of fresh snow. The power came back on for an hour then was out again until 5pm.

We spent the day digging out the cabin again, hiking, and making water from snow and cutting wood. Daytime high temps were in the 20's so we drained the cabin’s water system to be safe. We kept a good fire going all day.

Johnson Pass Road which is the access road to the cabin had 3+ feet of fresh snow and was impassable till it was plowed on Thursday. I helped dig a few people out that thought they could make it out.

We made an epic snow cave for the kids during the week using the stairs and porch as a roof. When the skies cleared later in the week (Thursday) we dug out a bobsled run from the front of the house.

Thor and I did a lot of hiking over the week. We did a couple of hikes that ended in the dark. Great stuff when the snow is coming down. Snow running and snow shoes running is a great way to get in shape. I’d swear I’m in better shape than when I left.

To put the play and work on the trip in perspective, I ate HORRIBLY the whole trip. I ate candy, chips, salami and cheese, (daily), pizza and a LOT of sodas and beer, (a lot of soda). Somehow I came back 2lbs down. This was after a trip to Mel’s Diner on the way home.  Snow shoveling is the best workout ever.

All in all a lot of snow, hiking, snow play and FUN.  Here are a few pictures, I posted some video and more pictures on Facebook.

Crawling into cave from other entrance

Inside of snow cave

Looking out of snow cave

2011 Event Schedule

I had a lot of time to think about my 2011 event plans. After thinking about it and talking to Lily I changed a few things I had been planning. Here is a list of the races and notable events I have planned for 2011:

March:        Way to Cool 50K

April:           AR50 (pacing and supporting my training group)
                   ***40th Birthday Party***
                   Grand Canyon R2R2R

May:            Bishop High Sierra 100K

June:            Western States 100 (Pacing Kuni Yamagata)

July:              Tahoe Rim Trail 50 mile

August:         Squaw to Donner 50K

September:   Rio Del Lago 100
                    Sierra Nevada Endurance Runs (work the race)

November:   Lithia Loop Marathon
                    Last Chance 50 mile (pace Lily at her 1st 50 miler)

So I bailed on TRT100 for a variety of reasons. In planning it out it was becoming too much of a strain on the family for that time of year. RDL100 will be interesting and HOT! I’ve wanted to try it for some time. It’s local which is always appealing and I know the course. The heat will make the training prep interesting at the end.

I’m looking forward to pacing Kuni at WS100. He is an amazing runner and I was honored to be asked to help him. I look forward to training with him and being a part of his Big Dance in June.

I hope to add a few more things as the year progresses. My big Sierra hike/run plans never came together in 2010, so I want to do that at some time.

Lily and I would also like to do Mt. Whitney again. Mostly I just want to get out more and have a solid season of training and adventures. I turn 40 in April so I have to live it up in 2011, I’ll be officially old according to my family.