Archive for February, 2014

Chasing orcs up Mt. Whitney

February 28, 2014

I am rereading “The Lord of the Rings” for the first time since I became an ultra-runner, and was struck by a passage in the “Two Towers” where Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli chase Orcs down from the Emyn Muil to the borders of Fangorn. Éomir says:
“This deed of the three friends should be sung in many a hall. Forty leagues and five have you measured ere the fourth day is ended!”

Tolkien’s leagues are 3 miles, so that’s 135 miles in four days. But the 135 mile Badwater course (and a far more challenging route) has been run in under a day. Taking 4 days doesn’t sound very impressive…

The real runners, in Tolkien’s tale, are the Orcs who do the same route in only 2½ days (and carrying hobbits too); but somehow they don’t get mentioned. (“Legolas, it is thrice twelve hours, I guess, since the Orcs stood where we stand now.”)

Badwater has an elevation gain of 8,600ft, while Aragorn climbs down from the Emyn Muil. We aren’t told how tall they are, but definitely he has a net drop to contend with.

Aragorn and his friends carry lembas. Now one cake of lembas can feed “one of the tall men of Minas Tirith for a day of hard labor”, but I need to eat a GU every half hour or so. Lembas wins.

Nor does Aragorn have to face the fearsome heat (and cold) of the desert.

On the other hand Aragorn is unsupported. He must carry all his food (but that appears to be easy as they don’t need many cakes of lembas) and must carry or find all the water he needs. However, this does not seem to be as much of an issue as I think it should be and isn’t really mentioned.

Aragorn and friends are armed. He has a sword, Legolas a bow (and arrows), and Gimli an ax and chain mail.

Aragorn is tracking, though this doesn’t seem to slow them much.

Finally the will of Saruman pushes them back; I’m not sure what that entails, but there is nothing like it at Badwater.

Chasing Orcs Badwater
135 miles 135 miles
8,600feet net elevation gain net drop
lembas GU
Good running condtions Extreme heat and cold
Carry or find water Water provided
Weapons Special anti-heat suits
Route not clearly marked Route supposed to be clearly marked
Will of Saruman ?
4 days 1 day

Another thing that bugs me: on the run Legolas says he can see: “It is a great company on foot, but I cannot say more, nor see what kind of folk they may be. They are many leagues away: twelve, I would guess; but the flatness of the plane makes it hard to measure.”

Now for a person of normal height, standing on level ground, the horizon is about 3 miles (or one league) away. Legolas was standing on an escarpment, but to get a sight distance of 12 leagues the escarpment would need to be almost 1000 feet high which seems unlikely considering how quickly they descend from it. Maybe the radius of Middle Earth is considerably bigger than that of our own world.


½ Nine Trails

February 22, 2014
Spotted Hideseed
Poison Oak
Canyon Sunflower bud
Lemonade Berry
California Blackberry
White Nightshade
Pacific Pea
Sticky Snakeroot
Coastal Morning Glory
Bay Laurel
Purple Nightshade
Common Rush-Rose
Jesusita Connector
Cliff Aster
Common Manroot
Rattlesnake Connector
Common Manroot
Common Manroot
California Dodder
Greenbark Ceanothus
Bush Sunflower
Cold Spring West
Bush Poppy
Common Manroot
Purple Nightshade
Cold Spring East
Sticky Snakeroot
Hot Spring Connector
CS<->SY Fireroad
Bermuda Buttercup
Black Mustard
Tall Stephanomeria
Coastal Morning Glory
The Wall
Buena Vista Connector
Hillside gooseberry fruit (gooseberries)
Buena Vista
BV<->Romero Fireroad
Red-Stemmed Storksbill
Romero Connector
Bermuda Buttercup
Sticky Snakeroot
Canyon Sunflower
Brass Buttons

Mike told Brett he should run ½ Nine Trails (that is, from the start to the turnaround but not back) today, with the first part easy, the second part hard. The rest of the Backbone contingent decided to join him. As did Karen and Ken.

It takes me about 3½ hours when not pushing things. Going in a group would mean the first half would be slower (because I’d wait for people), but the last half faster (because I wouldn’t wait and I’d push). Ideally I want to drink a liter per hour, but my biggest camelback only holds three and I didn’t want to run with it because I’m going to do the race with the 2 liter one (and 3 liters is heavy). If I don’t pay attention to my drinking (drink when I feel like it) then 2 liters will last about that long — depending on the temperature. Anyway I chose the 2 liter one.

Two days ago it was 81 when I biked through Goleta at 4. Yesterday was cooler. I hoped today wouldn’t be too hot.

We gathered at Cater at 6:30. It was chilly. The sun hadn’t risen yet, but it was definitely thinking about it. There was light. I turned on my watch. It immediately turned itself off. Damn it! What’s wrong with those batteries? It worked fine on Thursday (and I recharged it then). Sigh. Another run without a watch.

We don’t seem anxious to start, but eventually we move toward the trailhead. Jon and I seem to be the only ones running at first and we pull ahead of the others. After a bit Mark joins us. We wait for everyone at that water fountain (and I drink a fair amount because I’m worried about water). We wait again at the top (Inspiration).

I go off in the bushes to piss, and two little birds come out to watch me. Perhaps they are thirsty and hope it is raining? Anyway they don’t seem to be afraid.

When all have assembled save Ken I wonder if he’s OK. Karen tells me that he broke his leg so she had to shoot him. But after a bit he comes back from the dead.

Then we head down towards Tunnel. Mark and Jon quickly pass me, but I catch up with them once we start going up Tunnel. And then pull away. I don’t wait for them at the Rattlesnake Connector, thinking they’ll catch me going down it, and they do — just as I am reaching the bottom. So I don’t let them pass but head up Rattlesnake, and pull away again.

I trot down Gibraltar, and pause at the little thicket of fennel near the powerlines. One of them has dodder growing on it (and blooming of course). It’s been blooming at least since December. Dodder isn’t supposed to bloom in the winter…

Jon catches up with me, and we run together to the hairpin where we wait for Mark (who has been having trouble with his shoe and keeps stopping to fiddle with it).  Then Jon and Mark take off down the trail at what looks to me a dangerous pace… But I’ve almost caught up by the bottom.

But now it is time to run hard, and I charge up Cold Spring and don’t see them again.

They don’t catch up with me on the downhill on the other side.

Charging up the Wall isn’t as easy…

And charging up Buena Vista is practically impossible.

I get to the bottom of Romero. My camelback is empty. No one is here. I consider pulling out the book I brought with me (partly as a test to see if I could carry a book with me).

Enh. I turn around and go back. After maybe ⅔ of a mile I see Mark. A bit later I see Brett and Jon. I had thought I might run back until I met everyone, but somehow it seems better to return with these two.

So we all go back.
Romero Gate

Then we wait. And wait.

Eventually we decide to leave. Ken has a car, so he can carry the others home.

And I have promises to keep.
And miles to go before I sleep.

Something to try to avoid dehydration?

February 18, 2014

I dehydrate during long races. Even during marathons. It seems to be a combination of time on my feet and effort and, to a lesser extent temperature and elevation. I usually slow down about mile 18 in a marathon, considerably later in an ultra.

I shall soon be running a ~68 mile race and I’m concerned that if I run it as I’ve run 50 mile races then I’ll end up very sick somewhere around mile 55.

The obvious solution is to drink more. Well, I really can’t in a marathon I already drink at every aid station. But I’ve been trying to do so in my ultras and that hasn’t seemed to help.

Conventional wisdom then says to take salt tablets which are supposed both to increase absorption of water and to help one retain it later. I do that in my ultras. It doesn’t seem to make any difference, except that I get a much denser layer of salt on my skin from sweating.

I’ve been stymied at this point for a while now. But I noticed the other day that just sitting in the shade after the race made me feel better. I drank a little water, but not much (I have vomited after drinking water in the past, so I am cautious), and I don’t think that was what made the difference.

Maybe I overheat and need to cool down? Maybe I’ve got enough water in my stomach but for some reason it doesn’t go into the blood unless I rest.

So I went looking on the web and found an article on problems people have doing Western States 100M. Some people have no problems, but I doubt I’d be one of them. Buried in the midst of problems is the statement:

As you know, running an ultra is stressful on the body….way more stressful than many even think they know it to be. When you place demands on your muscles to keep moving you forward, the blood in your body gets “shunted” to those muscles to fuel them with the oxygen they need to work. And if the muscles are hogging the blood, then some other parts of the body must be sacrificed at the expense of the muscles. Unfortunately, the gut is often sacrificed. And if you keep shoving precious fluids and calories into a gut that cannot absorb them…

and later

Decreasing stress at WS may seem impossible, but there are definitely things you can do. Slowing down or walking is a good place to start. Cooling down if hot is also helpful.

One year when I was in Madagascar a friend of mine was trying to figure out if dominant or subordinate animals were under more stress in a troupe. He did this by collecting feces, storing them in little vials, and taking them back to the States to test for cortisol levels. (Sadly I never got to watch him go through customs.)

So I guess I’m not going to take fecal samples in the middle of a race to test for stress hormones. But let’s presume that I might be getting stressed out and unable to absorb water efficiently.

“Slowing down or walking is a good place to start.” Humph. It was after walking for 3 miles up a steep mountainside in the blazing heat that I started to feel nausea. I was already going slowly or walking. Perhaps sitting down would be even better? (especially in the shade). I think I’ll continue to stress out over the race if I sit/walk/run slowly and see other people passing me. So I think if I truly want to destress I need to take something to distract me from the race — hence the idea of sitting down and pulling out a book for a bit.

Of course sitting down might have its own problems. My legs might stiffen up, so after sitting down for a bit I’d want to start out by walking before I went back to running.

It probably takes a while to relax. Not sure how long, but after my 5:25 run the other day I felt better when Stephanie showed up, which was 16 minutes later. Pausing at an aid station where there’s plenty of water to use for cooling and drinking while I relax is probably a good idea, but I don’t want to waste 15 minutes at every station. Maybe every three hours or so I should take a 15 minute break.

Hoping, of course, that I’d be able to run faster after the break and be able to make up some of the time I lost because of that.

If this works for an ultra, then I wonder if I could do something similar in a marathon? A 15 minute break would be too long… but maybe I could try a 5 minute break somewhere after the halfway point but before mile 18…

Galloway recommends walking during a marathon, but
a) his website doesn’t talk about people who run faster than 8min/mile,
b) he talks of running for 4 minutes and walking for 30 secs which doesn’t seem as if it would address my problems; I think I need a longer rest than that.

I wonder if I might end up taking less time in spite of the break? I wonder if I might avoid feeling nausea?

It’s worth a try.

The idea of racing with a book in my pack is rather appealing.

I feel a bit more motivated now.

(1 March) I finally had a chance to talk to Mike who seemed to feel the general idea of taking a rest was reasonable but questioned the specifics. He said the important thing was to get the heart rate below 100 — at that level blood would flow back to the gut. But he didn’t like the idea of sitting to rest; mostly because it would be hard to start back up again once I stopped. Muscles stiffen, etc. He recommends walking very slowly. Which is actually what everyone else says too, but I did so like the thought of reading a book at an aid station. Ah well.

I wonder where the heart rate of 100 comes from, I haven’t seen that elsewhere… Does that depend on my body or is that really a number that works for everyone?

Bandit 50K — Way too Hot

February 17, 2014
I’m running in the heat
Just running in the heat
What a horrible feeling
I’m crappy

Yesterday as we were doing our cooldown from the 8 mile tempo someone asked me what I was doing next. Well I was training for a 68 mile trail run through the Santa Monica Mountains. Oh yeah, and I was planning to do a 50K the next day (today) — I’d sort of forgotten — as a training run. They pointed out we’d already run 17, so why do that the day before a race? Well the point was to be racing on tired legs — to simulate the longer race.

Then Ethan asked me what motivated me. This question surprised me because I haven’t been feeling very motivated recently. It was only this week that I committed to either these races, I’ve been fence sitting. Feeling terribly unmotivated. But when I got home it occurred to me that Ethan might have meant “What motivated me to run at all.” And this thought was equally surprising. I don’t need to be motivated to run. I like to run. Why would I need motivation to do something I enjoy? It’s hard to imagine not running.

Anyway we met this morning (Jon, Stephanie, Mark, Brett and I) at 4:30 to carpool over to Simi Valley. I’m not sure that any of us had been to Simi before; it’s about 75 miles east and a little south from SB. Inland, so hotter than SB, but the weather people were predicting a high in the mid 70s (which didn’t sound bad).

We arrived. And found a locked gate where we thought we should find our parking area. Someone else drew up behind us (so we weren’t the only ones to be confused). But Brett found the right email and we set off again to another entrance, which was crowded with people (well, crowded by the standards of 6am).

It was pitch black and chilly. I decided against a long sleeve shirt over my singlet (they are too hard to take off mid-race), and opted instead for a pair of long socks with the toes cut off which I drew up over my arms. Then I turned on my watch, which told me LOW BATTERY and then turned itself off. Great. No watch. I was already annoyed at my watch because a couple of days earlier I found the HR monitor wasn’t working. So I replaced the battery (my generic fix for that problem), but the HR monitor still didn’t work and I was flummoxed. So I’d already given up on the HR monitor, and now I had to give up on the whole thing.

I don’t think I’ve ever raced an ultra without an HR monitor. It tells me when I try too hard and prevents me from going too fast at the start. And it’s been ages since I did anything without a GPS watch to tell me how far I’ve gone, how long I’ve been running and how far to the finish. But with tired legs I probably wouldn’t be able to try too hard (so I wouldn’t need to look at a HR), and it would be good for me to run by feel again.

So the watch stayed in the car.

Everyone else was discussing how to hydrate. I was planning on my two liter camelbak and had no other option so I stayed silent. Mark had two water bottles with him but decided that “It’s only a 50K, one bottle will be fine.” So I think everyone else ran with a single ~1 pint waterbottle (about a quarter of what I had). One thing I wanted to train myself on was to drink frequently in hopes that would keep me from dehydrating.

We picked up our bibs (with embedded chips!) and still had almost an hour to kill before the race start.

Slowly it grew lighter. Slowly the moon set.

Then we lined up. The Race Director gave us the two rules of the course: “1) Don’t litter. 2) If you wear earbuds only wear one (because it’s rude to cut yourself off from others by wearing two).”. They seemed like pretty good rules.

We started.

We made a big loop around a large hill in the middle of the valley, eventually climbing up the hill, and down and back to the start. I guess the race needed a little bit extra to make it 50K. We started at a pretty good clip. Faster than I thought appropriate and I slowly dropped back in the pack as more and more people went out too fast. I like to count the number of people ahead to know where I am in the race, but there were just too many.

Oh well. It was a training run. I wasn’t really supposed to be racing. And, yeah my legs did feel stiff from yesterday; I probably wasn’t going as fast as I could, nor should I.

Then we set out across the valley toward the mountains. And then we started climbing up to the ridge. The trail switchbacked up and very soon there was a line of people walking up the steep mountain side. Normally I might have been temped to try to run up, but my legs were tired and I was happy to walk behind people. Though I did end up passing a couple.

Then the trail led into a tunnel which ran underneath a freeway that crossed the park. The tunnel was level and we ran for a bit, but all too soon we were back to creeping up the hillside.

I realized we were going to have to run down this when we returned, and I didn’t like the looks of it. It was steep and technical — the kind of downhill I hate and have to slow way down for in order to feel safe. But there was no point in dreading the future.

Going at this slow pace gave me ample opportunity to remind myself to drink (I had intended to time myself and drink every 10 minutes or so, but, watchless, I simply took a mouthful when I thought about it. Which was pretty often.

On the rare occasions when I breathed through my nose the air stank. I have forgotten the joys of LA smog, but today Simi Valley seemed to be encased with a blanket. Oh, not really bad; I’ve certainly seen much worse; but I’m not used to it any more. The air stank and there was a haze coating the opposite mountains which was not mist.

Haze over the city. It never got better.

Haze over the city. It never got better.

Finally we crested the hill and turned onto a fireroad which ran along a ridgeline, and continued to climb, though not as steeply. We entered a weird countryside with great (natural) piles of rocks higgledy-piggledy on top of the peaks. The hillsides we could see across the way wear very sere. Far, far less vegetation than the SB hills have. And we’re in a bad drought, so what little there is is shrunken further.
Rock Jumbles
Sere Hills

I pass a guy from New Zealand. He and I spend a lot of time passing and repassing each other over the next ~17 miles. He’s faster than I on the uphills, and I’m faster than the downhills (well, mostly). We also spend some time running together here and there.

And then we started to descend — a stretch more technical that I like, and before long Mark has caught up and passed me. He’s a much better technical downhill runner than I.

We reach the first aid station.

The first significant endurance event I did was a 200 mile bike race, and when I was preparing the guy at the bike store gave me this warning: “You can lose a lot of time at the aid stations, slip in and slip out.” At the time I didn’t pay attention — all I really wanted to do then was finish, and I was riding with a friend who was in no hurry. But when I’m running an ultra I really do try to get through the aid stations as quickly as possible. Mark does not. So although I arrived at the station slightly behind him; I left it before him. Mostly this was because I was nowhere near done with my water so I didn’t need a refill, and I didn’t need food (I carried the GUs I needed for the race). All I needed to do was make sure they got my bib number.

The race has an out and back course— but not completely— there are several places where the out route takes a different track than the return. Then they rejoin and rebranch. The aid stations are at the junction points. So far we had been running on a section that was common to both, but now we diverged.

After the station I was ahead of a number of people now who had been ahead of me before (including the Kiwi). We started to descend fairly steeply and I offer to let people pass, but no one takes me up on it.

Then we come to a place where another trail crosses ours, and our trail appears to proceed a few tens of feet further and then stop at a cliff face. I presume it is just a dead end and turn left onto the larger of the branches of the other trail. The intersection is not marked (as all intersections are supposed to be) so I’m uncertain that this is the correct choice.

After going 100 yards, the people behind me start to worry that this is wrong, and someone further back yells “I know the way, follow me.” It turns out that the cliff I imagined is not quite a cliff, just a very steep slope down which the trail plunges. And we should follow it. I’ve gone from being in front of about 5 people to being last of them. And Mark is right behind me again.

I skitter down the hillside (steep, technical, not to my liking) expecting Mark to pass me at any moment (but he doesn’t) and watching the people ahead draw further and further away. Down below us is a large field of dead grass and then beyond that a cluster of houses.

We cross the field and run out onto a suburban street.
Trail race?

Humph. This is supposed to be a trail race. Still, this works to my advantage and I manage to pass one of the people ahead of me.

The street turns a corner and heads down quite steeply. There’s a traffic sign “Watch downhill speed.” I caution the guy beside me not to go too fast.

Then we turn left off the street and head back into the park. Of course we’re running up again. And up.

After a few miles we come to the second aid-station (and the point we the out and back routes rejoin). I once again breeze through the station. But after I’ve run another quarter mile I begin to think this was stupid. My water is pretty low. But to go back now would waste a lot of time. As I recall this station is about at mile 9 and the next is around 14 (I was wrong in that, the next is closer to 15, but I didn’t know that at the time) and the elevation map didn’t show any bad hills… I risk it.

We climb. There’s some prickly phlox blooming here. This is only the second bloom I’ve seen in about 10 miles of running. Partly this rarity is because of the drought, but I think (from looking at the hillsides) that this area is just much drier that SB (which seems very dry to me).

We climb beside a dry river (it should be wet at this time of year) and there are lots of blooming mulefat plants on the banks. A bit later I find one California Aster.

Then the route diverges again and we climb higher, and rejoins at the top of the hill. And now I start to see the first of the returning runners. I assume the first guy I see is the leader, but I quickly realize that the real leader was probably on the section of trail where the returning route was different. So I don’t bother to count people to see what place I’m in.

River RdWe are now going down a lovely road which descends to a (dry) stream bed. The stream may be dry, but it and the road are lined with oaks. So far the only shade we’ve had has come from mountains, not trees. The road is also in good shape, mildly downhill and easy to run. I find I am catching up on the two guys ahead of me (one being the perennial Kiwi).

Another trick to getting in and out of an aid-station quickly is to get there in front of other people. If you are first you get served first. If you are second you may have to wait until the first guy is done. That’s another reason for passing these two.

I’m out of water now. I ran about 14 miles on 2 liters. The aid-station had better be close.

It is. I get there ahead of the other two guys and someone takes my camelbak and fills it while I eat bananas and oranges.

And I’m out, before the other two.
River Rd

I haven’t gone far before I see Mark coming in the other direction. And then Stephanie a little behind him. They are probably less than 5 minutes behind me. Then Jon, and then Brett. Probably less than 10 minutes back.

The Kiwi passes me again as we climb up the hill which isn’t quite as nice as it was coming down it.

At the top of the hill he’s maybe 30 meters ahead, and we go down a new trail which also proves to be a good trail for me and I pass him again.
Another Valley

But at the bottom of the hill I miss a turn. This time I realize it myself, but when I get back on track the Kiwi is again ahead. And now we are climbing and he pulls away, and then descending and I start to catch up.
New Zealand Guy

(and now my camera’s battery dies. But I charged it all night. It’s not my day)

When we get to the middle aid-station I’m only a few feet behind him.

He gets to the aid station first, but there are enough volunteers that I don’t need to wait. I’ve drunk a lot more water in the last 5 miles than I did in the comparable section on the way out, so I need to refill my water. It has started to get hot.

But again I’m out of the aid station ahead of him and ahead of another guy who had been ahead of both of us.

I’m a little disconcerted as I see no route markings, but eventually I pass a woman who is running the 30K race, so I feel better.

We might both be wrong.


The trail goes uphill, but not steeply. I can still run it. I’m in another stream valley with oaks for shade and mulefat by the stream. But after a mile or so it gets abruptly steep, and I slow to a walk. I walk fast though. The road climbs out of the valley, and into the heat and the sere landscape.

There’s a goldenbush blooming by the side of the road. I think these are finished in SB this year, but here is one in a harsh landscape.

The road climbs.

It seems to go up for ever.

Every now and then I pass someone. More 30K runners. I want to be passing 50K runners, but I haven’t seen any yet.

We come round a bend and I can see switchbacks leading up into the sky, each switchback with a few human figures on it, all toiling upward.

It looks like a long way up.

It gets hotter.

The weather man said mid-70s for Simi Valley, but it’s far hotter here. The sun beats on me from above and reflects off the road below.

I’m drinking a lot of water (and salt tablets, I haven’t forgotten them).

I pass a 30K runner who asks how far we have to go. He doesn’t have a watch either. I tell him I think that after the next (final, first) aid station there will be another 6 miles, but I’ve no idea how far to it.

Finally I crest the hill. I passed one 50K runner (walker) and lots of 30K walkers. As I reach the top the trail turns right and there… is another hill, crossed with switchbacks, each switchback with a scattering of walkers toiling up.

Up I go.

It’s hot.

I’m starting to worry that I’ll run out of water.

This section is only 5~6 miles, but it is so hot and I’m moving so slowly.

Finally I reach the top of this hill. And there is an unmanned table with WATER!. I fill up my camelbak again and see that I still probably had half a liter left. Not quite the dire straights I feared.

And off in the distance I can see the last/first aid station. About a mile. I trot down the hill, but it’s too steep and technical for my liking so I’m not really moving fast. And then I realize I have another hill to climb before I reach the aid station. It’s not as long, but it’s too long.

I have enough water. I get some bananas bits and orange quarters and push on. (they tell me that I’m the 14th male, I know there’s at least one woman ahead of me so maybe 15th place)

Surprise. I’m still going uphill. I’m back in the odd country of piles of rock. There’s a 50K runner ahead of me, and I’m slowly catching him up. But when I get close the trail turns downhill, and he takes off and leaves me.

There’s a bit of breeze now, but it’s still hot.

The breeze is nice when it blows.

Eventually I reach the place where the last trail takes off from the dirt road and descends to the finish line.

It’s steep, and technical.

I don’t like it. I’m not going fast even though it is downhill. I keep passing 30K runners though. I start to worry that Mark, or even Jon will come up behind me and pass me. Both can just barrel sure-footedly down hills whilst I stumble desperately to find my way. I suppose it might be anyone really. The guy ahead of me, for instance, had no trouble…

But no one does pass me.

And eventually I pick my way to the valley floor.

Now I pick up the pace (or so it feels, I’m probably going fairly slowly), and come running toward the line. I can hear people cheering in the distance.

They seem to have chosen the curviest route they could. It does not head straight to the line, but wanders around, and eventually approaches it from the back side.

But I get there, and plow across the line, and am done.

I want to go sit in the shade under the trees, but one of race staffers insists that I go sit under the shade of a tent. Now the tent is surrounded by a lot of hot sun beating off the ground all around it. It is actually a lot warmer there than the shade under the trees, but she lets me know that they want to keep there eye on me. Sigh. I can understand being worried about runners in this heat, but do something better than insist they stay in the heat.

I must look really bad, because they don’t do that to anyone else who finishes.

Oh, I finally remember to check the clock: 5:25:46, so I finished somewhere around 5:25. (Official results say 5:24:35, 16th overall, 1st in age group)

They ask me if I want anything. Well, yeah, I’d like to go sit under the trees, but that’s not an option. Eventually they stop pestering me, and I cool down. I drink some water, and take some more electrolyte pills.

I sit there, and eventually Stephanie crosses the line (5:41), and the race staffers converge on her and carry her off to the tent too. She’s the first person they’ve done that to since did it to me. I look at her to see if I can figure out what they see in us, but she looks much as she always does, except her eyes seem a little wider and she looks a bit dazed.

I’m impressed that Stephanie is ahead of Mark. I would have expected him next. Stephanie turns out to be the second woman finisher.

We sit there and recover. After a bit we decide to make our escape. There’s food at another tent (boy, it’s really hot walking from tent to tent). I get some more fruit and a slice of pizza. Then we walk over to the shade where we can look for our friends.

Mark crosses the line at 6:01, and he seems untroubled by the heat. He comes to sit with us.

Then we wait. I start to get worried. Where are Brett and Jon? Dehydration? Broken legs?

But eventually they show up, running together at 6:43.

At the ~15 mile turnaround we were all fairly close together, I think less than 10 minutes separated me from Brett, the slowest. But here at the ~31 mile finish we’re all spread out.

On the drive back we were all coughing. I think the smog irritated our lungs…

So I feel I did a pretty good job of drinking water and taking electolytes. I’m sure I could have done more… but I tend to think something else is going on. I see two other things to try, neither of which is appealing:

  1. Slow down. Perhaps try to keep my HR below 75% and see if an easier pace will allow me to absorb water better?
  2. Stop and rest at every aid station. Take a book and force myself to sit and read for 5 minutes? Or take 20 minutes every three hours? By the time Stephanie finished I was actually feeling pretty recovered and that was only 16 minutes.

Neither of these sounds very competitive, and unfortunately. I’m not feeling very motivated.