Archive for the ‘footrace’ Category

Red Rock … Something

November 29, 2015

I wanted to rerun the same course that I had done two years ago, start at San Ysidro and run over to Rancho Oso. But last year the marathon (which that course was) got switched to an out and back format, so it would be 13 miles out from Rancho Oso, and then 13 back — it wouldn’t even get me to the Grotto and would miss the nicest part of the run.

So I decided to do my own thing. I’d sign up for the marathon, but run with the 50 milers and just stop at the turn around.

And then the Gibraltar Fire happened, and they had to change the route. So when I signed up I didn’t even bother to check the course because I knew it would change. If I had, I might have noticed that the race started at Red Rock this year (rather than Oso) and the marathon actually climbed up to Camino Cielo and would cover most of what I wanted to see.

Then at the pre race chat Luis announced a 50K which would run out to Rancho Oso and then back and up to Camino Cielo, and that was almost exactly what I wanted to do. But then, 2 minutes before race start, it was far too late to change my registration to the longer run, and far too late to call Nichol who was to pick me up at San Ysidro.

A new meaning of Red Rock — Rocks on Cold Spring covered with flame retardant

A new meaning of Red Rock — Rocks on Cold Spring covered with flame retardant from the Gibraltar Fire.

I bribed my friend Joe to drive me to the start (he was racing the 50) by offering to lend him my Adventure Pass so he could park legally. Not much of a bribe really, but he graciously agreed.

When I picked up my bib I told them I was not coming back, they should just mark me DNF at the start. I didn’t want anyone thinking I was lost in the back country; I didn’t want anyone looking for me when I wasn’t findable.

When the gun went off I deliberately ran around the chip mat so that it wouldn’t think I had started either. When I came to each aid station I told them I was dropping out and not to count me, nor expect me to come back.

I thought that if I knew I wasn’t racing then I might take it easy and just run for fun. It didn’t work that way. I knew I wasn’t racing, so I didn’t bother the think about pacing or running advisedly. I went out too fast.

I had speculated that when I got to the bottom of San Ysidro I might run over to Romero and back (Romero being the new turn around for the 50M). I had even thought I might trot on down the 9 Trails route and so just run home. But when I got to the bottom my legs were dead, and I had no desire to go further. So those fancies vanished.

It was cold when we got to Red Rock camping area. Joe’s car thermometer read 38°F. Cold and dark. It was about 5am and the sun wouldn’t be up until 6:45 (down in the valley, we wouldn’t see the sun until later), so it was going to stay cold for a while.

I found the porta-potties and the place to pick up my bib and then waited. As we approached race start at 6am I realized it would still too dark to run and got out my flashlight. As time passed and nothing happened I realized it was now light enough to run and put away my flashlight. The start was only 12 minutes late, but that was enough to make the difference. So I’m actually glad for the delay, even though it was cold.

We were off along Paradise Rd. I placed myself near the rear in my attempt to avoid the chip mat. I wasn’t interested in my time. But… Once I saw people ahead of me… People running slowly… Well I ran faster. Most of the runners (the half-marathoners and true marathoners) had a short out and back section to do, the 50milers (and me) had a 5.5 mile out (and 5.5 mile back) to do. So after about half a mile most people turned back.

The 50 milers went up a steep hill, on single track. There was a woman who had passed me on the road, but slowed down more than I wanted on the hill. So I passed her. And some other people. After half an hour or so I noticed sunlight on the tops of the hills. But my phone was off and my hands were in gloves and by the time I had dealt with all that we’d have turned a corner and lost the view.

Um. Remember, I wasn’t racing? I could have stopped.

I didn’t.

When we got to Arroyo Burro someone pulled up beside me but didn’t try to pass. She was Michelle from San Luis Obisbo and didn’t want to get lost. It turned out that she was signed up for the marathon, so I realized that she was lost. She should have turned back ages ago, I suggested to her that she run the 50K instead since she had just added an extra 10 miles to her marathon (the marathon isn’t exactly 26.2miles, and the 50K isn’t exactly 31.2miles. Luis doesn’t care why should we?) so now she was on track for the 50K.

Brian Toro passed us, running up hill. The first 50 miler to turn around. Then someone else did whom I didn’t recognize. Then… er… we were at the turn around. There was no way I should be in 3rd place. Clearly I’d gone out too fast. At the very least Joe should be ahead of me. (Michelle seemed pretty fast)

We turned round and ran back up Arroyo Burro. A bit more slowly than we had run down. It was now quite light and a bit warmer so I took off my gloves and turned on the phone.
Arroyo Burro morning
Not quite as nice as it would have been earlier, but not bad. I find it surprising how sere the mountains are on the other side of the valley. There’s a fair amount of vegetation on our side (though without leaves in late november), but lots of bare cliffs across the way.

Michelle noticed other marathon bibs as we ran up the hill (I wasn’t paying attention). She said she was misdirected by the volunteers at the marathon turn-around. That’s unfortunate. I guess it happened to me on my first trail race…

Not much blooming. A few weird buckwheats and some local chicories.

Michelle seems to be running about 20 feet behind me. She doesn’t seem to get much closer or much further away. I’m not aware of having said anything offensive…

Maybe she doesn’t like the idea of running 50+K or something.

Eventually we get back to Paradise Road and run along it out to its end. I don’t like running on Paradise out here, there are lots of fords and each ford is paved with concrete rather than asphalt. Concrete is not kind to my Achilles tendons, and as each ford consists of a steep down section followed by a steep up section, I end up running “fast” which is even worse for them.

But eventually we come to the end and head up the dirt road there. I glance behind to make sure that Michelle isn’t lost. She’s not. She’s about 20ft back. She runs quietly, and I can’t tell that she’s there.

Hunh. Another route change. We don’t take the little short-cut trail here, but follow the road.

Starting to see half-marathoners returning. Dan Rudd flies down the hill.
White Cliffs

I realize I’ve run about 12 miles in the last 2 hours. That’s fast or me on the trails. But then this is the section with lots of roads so maybe that explains it.

Up over the ridgeline here, and then down, down, down into the valley with the Gibraltar dam. We’re seeing lots of half marathoners.

Then up out of that valley, Michelle still twenty feet behind me.

As we approach the first aid station I unstrap my camelback to get it ready to refill. I forget that my gloves are looped over the strap. They fall to the ground. I’m unaware of this.

I fill up my pack. Michelle asks the people at the aid station what she should do to recover from her going too far the wrong way. What can they say? Luis is really the only person who could make that decision… She decides she’ll run out far enough so that she’ll have done 26.2 when she returns. (This seems wrong to me, the extra 10 miles we ran in the valley are bumpy, but they are nothing like the mountain the other marathoners will have climbed to get to Camino Cielo. And it’s not as if this marathon is 26.2 anyway. Oh well, not my decision).

We set off.

I’ve failed to seal my camelback properly. I realize my gloves are missing. I turn back.

Someone, very kindly, picked up my gloves and put them at the aid-station. I also left my phone there. I’m a klutz. I get the camelback properly sealed. I set off again.

But by now several people have passed me and Michelle is out of sight.

I’m running more slowly now. Someone catches up with me. It turns out he’s the guy who rescued my gloves. He also recognizes me “Didn’t you pace the SB marathon last year? 3:30 or 3:25?” And I realize who he is. He is the guy who had done a 100K race the week before SB, then ran SB. He started with the 3:30 pace group, decided they were too slow, caught up with me and ran with me to the bottom of the hill, then decided I was too slow, and zoomed up the hill. I couldn’t have done that a week after a 100K.

He passes me.

Of course.

Gibraltar Reservoir from my favorite viewpoint (near Mercury Mine) I can't see any water. I think that's a first.

Gibraltar Reservoir from my favorite viewpoint (near Mercury Mine) I can’t see any water. I think that’s a first.

At mile 17 Joe passes me. OK, things are getting back to normal.

Someone else comes up behind me.

Then Tyler Hansen, the first marathoner comes zooming by. I jump off the trail into a clump of (dead) star thistle to let him by. I set out again, but there is star thistle caught in my sock and I stop to get it out. The guy behind me passes me.

Shortly after than Michelle comes running back. She’s in second place for the marathon if they accept what she’s done. She’s fast, but I don’t think she’s that fast… I would be much further behind Tyler if I had run what he ran…

Now there is just me, alone in the landscape.

GrottoThe sun has not reached down into the valley of the Grotto. All the Dunn’s Lobelia which covered it are dead now, and most of the leaves of the trees have fallen, but it still has water.

It’s very steep here and I’m walking.

I’ve forgotten to eat for a couple of hours (another sign I’m not paying attention because I’m not racing)! No wonder I’m feeling tired! I eat some blocks and fairly soon I’m running again (it’s not quite so steep now, that helps too).

Lots of marathoners are returning now. The trail is narrow. Gets a bit tricky.

Last time I was here, less than 2 weeks ago, I saw some liverworts starting to grow. I see none now. Is it because I’m racing and not noticing, or have they died in the drought?

I realize I’ve now run 22 miles in about 4 hours. So first two hours were at 6mph pace, then next 2 at 5mph.

At Forbush I see the person ahead of me running off route (presumably to use the pit-toilet there). Yay! I passed someone.

A little beyond that I find two marathoners stopped on the trail. I ask if they are OK. “Just taking a rest.” I’ve run 22.5 miles, they’ve run about half that…

Finally I get to Camino Cielo. It has taken me half an hour to do the last two miles (admittedly steep miles). So now I’m down to 4mph.

I make sure Karen and Stephanie at the aid-station here know I’m not continuing. Someone runs behind me and zips through the aid station. I remind myself I’m not racing. I climb up to the watertank to look for a plant that was blooming there two weeks ago (It has a single, sad bloom today).

Then back on course along CC to San Ysidro. And downhill again. The top section is nicely runnable, and for a bit I’m doing 5~6mph again. I pass 26.2 at 4:55 or so (not my best marathon time!).

The "waterfall" on San Ysidro. A few drops if you get up close

The “waterfall” on San Ysidro. A few drops if you get up close

I pause to look at the so-called waterfall and then the trail gets tricky and I slow. The hikers all seem to know there is a race going on and happily get out of my way, which is kind of them. They ask me how far I’ve gone, and what place I’m in — I don’t know, but seems like there are an awful lot of people ahead of me.

When I get to Nancy’s aid-station I learn I’m in 5th place (or would be if I were racing). I think some of the people who passed me decided to run the 50K and turned back (and I assumed they were marathoners).

I chat a bit and watch 3 people go through the aid-station. Then I go down the final .8 miles to the road. 5:34 for ~29 miles by my watch, 5.2mph.

Nichol drives up. She wants to go see Nancy, which is fine with me, so we go back up. Um. I move very slowly. It takes forever to get there.

I see Joe on his return journey and Nash on his outward journey.

As a race I planned and executed it poorly. But I had fun.


Nine Trails at last

March 29, 2015

Luis (the race director) moved Nine Trails from August to March because of the heat. And I figured a cool March race was one I could sign up for. So I did.

Forgetting that last year my March race was infernally hot.

Of course we had sundowners and a heat wave this week. Temperatures at my house were 92 two days before the race. I thought about doing another midnight run, but the weather people said the weekend would be cooler.

Not cool, but cooler.

The day before the race I volunteered to help mark trail. Luis gave me a 4.5 mile section to mark. Once I got there I realized that meant hiking 4.5 miles of mountainous trails to do the marking, and then 4.5 miles back to get out. Or a nine mile, strenuous hike the day before a 35 mile strenuous race. That didn’t seem wise, but it was too late to back out. I hiked slowly. As I got to the end I realized I could walk back on the road (rather than trail) which would be easier, and might be shorter. So I ended up only doing an 7.5 mile hike. It took about 3 hours, which meant that I had a late supper and wouldn’t get as much sleep as I wanted. Grump.

I left home around 5am and biked up to Cater to check in.

It was dark.

It seemed a small race. Only about 50 would finish.

Luis told us he was going to start early (and if anyone wasn’t here they could lump it) — this seemed a good idea to me, being frightened of the heat — but by the time he finished giving the course briefing, etc. we started about a minute late.

He also wanted to start at the wrong place, at the top of Cater, rather than the bottom. Oh well. The nine trails route has changed far more over the years due to trail washouts and reroutings, I guess 200ft doesn’t matter much…

When we did start, I glanced at my watch and found I had not reset it from my last effort. So I had to do that, before I started the watch. So my watch was about 10 seconds late.

There was a large pack of runners in front of me, more than I would have liked. Some were running without lights. Which seemed foolish to me. It was dark and would be for another half hour, the moon had long set, and Jesusita is in a tree shaded canyon. It really is dark there.

At one of the stream crossing there was a huge cottonwood down, and in the dark it was kind of hard to see how to get around it.

I bopped along behind some slower runners for a bit, and when the trail widened out I passed a few. And then a few more. And suddenly I realized I couldn’t see anyone ahead of me. Every now and then I’d see a flash of light up the trail, but mostly there was just me and the darkness.

I kind of like running alone in the dark.

Slowly I caught up with the light ahead, and then passed it.

A dim light crept over the world as I climbed up the switchbacks.

And as I popped out onto the fireroad I turned off my light. There is a guy ahead of me whom I don’t know, and then Kevin Cody.

We take the trail over to Inspiration, and then head down toward Tunnel trail. I leap around the guy ahead and zoom downhill. Kevin, however, zooms faster and I lose sight of him again.

I’ve been trying to drink frequently from my camelback, but even so I don’t need to refill with water at the Tunnel aid drop. Then up Tunnel. I see Kevin every now and then, but mostly it’s just me.

About half way up Tunnel I see sunlight shining on the top of some of the taller mountains, but I’m still in shadow.

Near the top of Tunnel someone catches up with me, and we run together for a while. But I know I’ll go slowly down Rattlesnake Connector so I tell him to go ahead, and he does. He’s far faster than I on that downhill.

Up the other side of Rattlesnake, and here I see Charity and Annie who are out doing a little run of their own. I say hi, and zip past. Not long afterward I hear someone else greeting them, so I know there is someone not far behind.

Then barreling down Gibraltar Rd. to the aid station. 1:46. Not bad. On track for a 7 hour run. Ha. I know I’ll slow down later on.

Gibraltar is, I think, the first time I’ve been in the sun.

As I pull out of the aid station the guy behind me pulls in.

I’ve been looking at poppies. On Tunnel trail at about 7am, in the shade the poppies were all furled into buds. But here at the top West Fork in full sun (getting hot) the poppies are in full bloom. Further down the canyon the poppies are only half open.

Poppies at the top of West Fork

Poppies at the top of West Fork

Down by the Cold Spring tunnel there is another downed tree. A large bay laurel. It doesn’t look too bad at first, but there are three separate trunks down (bay laurels do that) and it just gets worse and worse. I exclaim in disgust, but eventually I am through. Then I hear the guy behind me go through the same process.

He catches up and we run together. His name is Glenn, and he is from Atascadero. He ran the race last August, in the heat. Down at the bottom of the trail Nancy is ringing a bell to cheer us on, and then up the other side. Damn it. I shouldn’t be feeling this tired. But I am. I think yesterday’s 7.5 mile hike was a bad idea. As probably was the 10K last weekend which tightened up my calves… Glenn passes me.

Then down the Hot Spring connector and onto the fire road. I’m expecting this to be hot, but it really isn’t bad yet.

Then up the Wall. There are Globe Gilia blooming here. Never seen them here before.

On Buena Vista there is one area where there are about 3 albino figworts. Never seen them anywhere else, but they’ve been here pretty much every year since 2011 (at least, that’s as long as I’ve been checking. I missed them last year, but I think that was simply that I didn’t take Buena Vista trail at the right time)

I’m walking all the uphills now.

As I come up to the fireroad I wonder when I’ll start seeing returning runners. It’s only about 2~3 miles to the turn-around. The first guy is about a mile and a quarter out from the turn, and he is running up a steep uphill. Sigh. Brian isn’t far behind (hadn’t realized he was that fast) and is also running up. The next runner is a woman. I didn’t know there were any women in front of me, and impressed that she’s in third place.

I’m keeping track. I want to know what place I’m in. Once I get to Romero fireroad I’ve only seen 5 runners. Where is everyone? There are lots of people on the fireroad, but they aren’t racers, just obstacles. Most of them are kind obstacles and get out of the way. Finally I see a clump of racers, Kevin and Glenn and some others.

Once I get to the aid station I have counted 9 people ahead, so I’m 10th place. Lisa tries to talk to me, but I’m not coherent. 3:38. If only I could keep that up.

I try to eat up all their cut up oranges.

Then I’m out, and up Romero.

I see Stephanie about half a mile from the aid station. Which means she’s about 15 minutes behind me. (and the leaders were about 40 minutes ahead of me).

After another mile I see Jon and then Karen a bit later. There aren’t very many I know out today.

In this direction it is hot. I realize, this race is mostly in the morning (for me anyway). We start out running west to east, so that on the way out all the uphills are in the shade of the slope. Coming back all the uphills are in the sun. And that makes it hotter. I’m walking the uphills too, so I’m stuck there longer. These fireroads have no shade. And, of course, it is later in the day, so it is hotter.

There are two guys behind me. Chatting. How do they have the energy to chat? I don’t.

I’m continuing to be diligent on drinking water, and it may be helping. I haven’t had any bouts of nausea yet. I also haven’t wanted to use a toilet (and as there are no port-a-potties out, I suppose that is just as well). I guess I won’t see if that makes a difference in a race. However it is becoming more difficult to eat the food I brought. My mouth is getting dry, and that doesn’t help. Today I brought some home-made cookies, cliff bars and cliff shots. The cookies turned out to be too dry. I had one right at the beginning and it was just too difficult to get down. So I switched to cliff bars, now I’m switching to shots. Unfortunately I only brought enough shots for about two hours…

When I get to Buena Vista I see Luis, neat that he can run in his own race.

The two guys are still chatting behind me. Damn it, go away.

Out beyond San Ysidro I see Simone.

As I go along the fireroad I catch occasional glimpses of the guy ahead of me. He’s got a white cap and white shirt so I assume it is Kevin. The Hot Springs Connector brings some welcome shade. As I reach the top I see that the guy in front of me is right there (and isn’t Kevin). I pass him before we get back to the fireroad. So now I’m in ninth place.

It’s quite pleasant running down to the Cold Stream.

After I’ve been running down for a while I find running uphill really hard. Basically I can’t. I have to slow to a walk for a bit, and then after a bit I can start running again (if it isn’t too steep).

Drat. The guy behind me has almost caught up again. His name is Daniel. We are both exhausted. I explain to him why he should pass me, and he explains to me why I should stay in front. An odd kind of race.

Someone has cleared away most of the smaller branches from the fallen bay laurel and it is much easier to get past from this direction.

Then I pull away from him again. And now I start to see Kevin ahead.

When I pull into the Gibraltar aid station I find the lead woman is there (hunh? She was about half an hour ahead at the turn around, what’s she doing here?), Kevin is crashed out in a chair, and some other runner is also there. And Sean is here. Oh, but he’s part of the aid crew and fills up my water for me. They ask me what they can do for me. “Do you have any electrolytes?” “Yes” (pause) “Where are they?” “Oh, right here.”

5:56. Ok, I suppose there is some chance I could still break 8 hours, but I know I’m slowing and I really doubt it. Still we’ll see.

Daniel has come in to the aid station. The lead woman has left. And the runner I don’t recognize. And then I follow. By the time I’m out the lead woman has vanished, while the other runner is clearly visible. At first I assume I can catch him, because he’s walking, but I walk more slowly and he pulls away bit by bit. I never see the lead woman again.

Behind me Kevin and Daniel have also left and are walking up together. We must present a rather odd sight. A race, in which four people are slowly walking up a hill.

Kevin catches up and passes me.

Down Rattlesnake, and ahead of me Kevin pulls up. His adductors are spasming, he says. I almost catch up with him, but they aren’t spasming that badly and he takes off again. I catch up with him again, and he again takes off.

Up the connector. Hottest it has been, I think. Ahead of me I see Kevin stuck behind the nameless runner (who doesn’t seem to be letting him pass, which seems rude), while behind me Daniel is visible. I can’t even walk fast. I’m sure Daniel will catch me. But he doesn’t.

Finally I reach Tunnel (there’s a soapplant blooming here). Some shade and lots of tricky downhill.

I’ve run out of shot blocks, so I start on my dry cookies. I need something. They are hard to get down, so I only take small bites.

I figure that if I can get to the bottom of Tunnel by 7 hours then I have a chance to get to the finish in another hour (normally that wouldn’t be a problem, but I’m tired).

I get to the bottom of Tunnel at 7:09.

There, at the aid station, I see Kevin again. I’m beginning to think this is some subtle form of torture on his part. He keeps letting me think I’m about to catch up… and then doesn’t let me.

Up to Inspiration. 7:29. OK, if I weren’t tired I could get back by 8:09, but 8:20 seems more likely.

I try to run quickly. But I’m really beat. The road goes ever on and on. Pursuing it with weary feet. As with Gloucester the even ground now seems “horrible steep.” It takes forever.

There are lots of obstacles here, but they are pretty good about getting out of the way. Still, when the obstacles are going in my direction I have to warn them, and simply shouting out “Good afternoon” leaves me very tired.

There are some steep little hills right at the end. I try to run up them but end up walking. Pride wants me to run up the last one where people will see me, but I walk up that too. People do see me. Lisa, Stuart. They all want to congratulate me. I just want to finish. Now I can run. 100ft down to the finish line.

8:12:44, 9th place. I never caught Kevin. But then Daniel never caught me.

I arrived at the finish line a happy, healthy man. I crawled away a decrepit wreck. I collapsed in a shady corner and didn’t move for another half hour. I started coughing (there was a lot of trail dust out there) and people got worried. I wasn’t worried. I just needed rest.

Daniel came in, and then Stephanie. But I didn’t move. Eventually, after sitting there for about 45 minutes I went over and congratulated Stephanie — but then I had to go and sit back down again.

Finally I felt recovered enough to roll down the hill to get a shower and some food.

It was faster than the run I did in the dark

Pros Cons
midnight Cool Can’t see well
Lost water bottle
today People to race
Good aid
Can’t get lost
fallen trees

Getting Older…

March 22, 2015

I don’t seem interested in racing any more. Not the way I used to be. But every two years I do a 10K, so I forced myself to do Orchard to Ocean again.

I had looked at the age-graded tables and at 55 (almost 56) a 40 minute 10K is 80%. Now I’ve always thought that a 10K that took more than 40 minutes meant I wasn’t trying, and such a result just wasn’t respectable. Now I would be hard put to reach that limit. And might not.

No one I had talked to seemed to be running the race, and `that bothered me too. Perhaps I wouldn’t have anyone to run against, perhaps I wouldn’t even know anyone in the race.

But I went.

There were people I knew, Kim, Maggie, Stuart. And then a brace of Tims. But the Tims are too fast for me, and the others too slow.

I warmed up, jogging the 5K course and did some strides. I felt sluggish and stiff. But I always do…

Lief was there! We used to run together. But I never saw him after the start. He didn’t help me this day.

The course had an right-angled bend in it right at the start. Not what you want. But there were some massive road-blocks closing off the normal route. No idea why. Anyway I positioned myself so that the turn was less than it might have been. The Tims seemed to have come to the same conclusion and were beside me.

On the other side was Sue who tapped me on the shoulder and said “If I start beside you then I’ll be able to run as fast as you.” Poor Sue. I was not feeling fast.

A siren wailed and we were off. The turn wasn’t bad. I passed one of the Tims, that should have told me I was going too fast, but I didn’t pay attention. Down the road, across the tracks, and into the State Park. I’m running behind Scott, where’d he come from. That seems like a good place. After about 1/4 mile I glance down and see I’m running at a 6 minute pace. Once I could do that. Not now. I slow a bit.

A number of people pass me. Including two women.

At the one mile mark I see 6:17, which means I’m probably going at the right pace now, somewhere around 6:20~6:25.

As I run, someone yells “Go Shiggy!”. Shiggy is not ahead of me. No one would mistake me for Shiggy. So I presume he’s right behind me. Well, I won’t win my age-group this year.

Shiggy passes me. Oh, well, I knew he would.

There does seem to be a clump right here of people going about my pace there are 3 just in front (and who knows how many close behind). As we run up the hill to the bluffs I pass one guy. Now just Scott and Shiggy close ahead. I pass Shiggy. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before.

But it doesn’t last and he passes me back in half a mile.

My watch didn’t register the 2 mile mark when I tried to click it. Well, this bit is probably slow, it’s an uphill mile.

The three mile mark says 13:37. So 6:49? I know these two miles are uphill, but that seems really slow. The four mile mark says 6:04. So the three mile was probably in the wrong place. But now I’m confused about my pace.

Now it’s all downhill to the finish. I pass another guy. Shiggy is far out in front, Scott is out of sight. No one to race with any more.

At the 5 mile mark I glance at my watch and I see that the minutes are right for coming in around 40 (somehow my eyes can’t capture the whole time when I’m tired). At the 6 mile mark I’m running within seconds of a 4min/km pace.

I turn the final corner.

I look up to the clock. 39:47.

Can I make it?

Run, run, as hard as I can.



I enter the shoot and the clock reads 39:59. I’ve almost certainly failed to break 40.

40:01. The end of an era.

My best 10Ks by year
Year Time AG %
2007 37:02 80.9%
2009 38:08 79.8%
2011 38:28 80.5%
2013 38:56 80.8%
2015 40:01 79.9%

Sunny with a chance of Rattlesnakes

May 18, 2014

Born to Run 50K, 2014

Two days before the race it was 102°F in Santa Barbara, breaking the record for that date. It was 108°F in Los Olivos near where the race was held. I had read that California Poison Control was warning that rattlesnakes were coming out of hibernation early because of the heat.

The weather people had been predicting that it would cool down a bit by race day, but as their predictions were usually about 5-10°F below the actual temperature I wasn’t sure that would be meaningful…

I was up at 2:30AM and the morning was lovely and cool. We headed out to Los Olivos at 4, reached the race driveway when all was pitch black. I was a little worried about not recognizing it, but there were people out there with flashlights directing traffic so that was OK. Still dark when we got to the race site where the runners who had camped were starting to wake up. I got my bib and then stood in line for the port-a-potty. There weren’t many potties and the line was long and moved slowly. By the time I reached it there was light. And when I got out they were calling us to line up.

It was actually chilly at the race start and I was wearing the long sleeve shirt I brought with me and the shirt the race gave me.

I had seen Joe DeVreese and Kevin Cody, Andrea and Simone, but not Ken, Karen, Mark, Stephanie, Brett, Jon, Heidi. Not any of the people I normally ran with. They were supposed to have camped here but I couldn’t see them in the crowd.

Luis explained the course. There were two big loops of about 10 miles each which met here at the start/finish area. He called it a figure 8. This is a gross simplification. There’s a fair amount of overlap between the two loops (and not just near the start/finish. The second loop itself even doubles back on itself so that at two miles into the loop you are running one direction on the road, and at 7 miles in you run the other. When I got home and looked at the GPS track it looked more like crochetwork than a figure 8.
Providing a course map would just be confusing. Probably best to pretend it’s a figure 8. Doesn’t really matter, the loops are well marked.

Luis organizes usLuis continued. One loop (the first) is marked with pink flags, the other loop with yellow flags. It’s important to know which loop you are on and follow the appropriate flagging. White chalk lines mean “Do not cross this line, nor take the road behind it.” Loops alternate. First pink, then yellow, then pink, then (for the 100K and 100M runs) yellow, pink, yellow… The 50K does 3 loops and then a little out and back section to make up for the fact that 3*10 miles is a little under 50K, so we need to run a little more. People doing the 10 mile race will only run the yellow loop (and they’ll start 5 minutes after the rest of us).

Then Luis made us take his oath: “If I get lost, or injured, or dead, it’s my own damn fault.”

I take off my shirts and give them to Cynthia. It’s still chilly, but I’m going to warm up soon.

Luis counts down: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2… Suddenly Nancy runs up to me to say “Hi” and to hug me. Please Nancy, now is not the time, not 2 seconds from the race start. “Oh, it doesn’t matter” says she. Luis fires the gun — only it doesn’t go off. We all hang back, unsure if the race has started or not. “Go on, go!” says he, and we’re off.

Suddenly someone starts backing an RV into the mass of oncoming runners. Why can’t he wait? This is a race damn it. All cars here should be associated with the race and should be giving priority to runners. I get past him unscathed. A little later we realize the RV is following us and seems to want to overtake us. This makes no sense. Why did this driver wait until he could cause the most disruption to the race? If he needs to be somewhere then he should start before the race, or after it. Not during. Sigh.

If I get run over by an RV driven by an idiot, is that my own damn fault too?

StartIt’s a straight, slightly downhill section on a wide dirt road here and it seems to me that we’re running at a ferocious pace. But I’m running with Kevin Cody who is usually a little faster than I, but has a potential hamstring issue (so I figure we should be running about the same pace). It’s not really that fast, it’s just I’m used to a more leisurely pace in an ultra, and, I now realize, I didn’t warm up. Didn’t have time.

There’s a woman running near who is explaining to any one who happens to be listening that she’s not speedy, but she doesn’t want to run in the dust kicked up by other runners so she’s pushing herself now. (This does not seem like a good plan to me).

After a bit she drops back.

Kevin Cody and MoonI’m not noticing any dust myself and there are plenty of people ahead of me. I haven’t bothered to count.

Then the road turns left and climbs the side of a hill. I drop back a little from Cody and the couple he’s talking to. A woman comes running up from behind and races ahead of me. Then things level off again. We climb another hill and drop down into the valley on the other side. DownUp the valley and then and abrupt right turn and back down the valley. I’m still running with the same chump of people. Kevin just a little ahead. Behind me I hear someone tell his girlfriend: “7:16 for that last mile”. Am I running at ~7:20 pace? That’s pretty fast on trails. Of course these are really dirt roads, but there are gopher holes and such; it’s not the easiest footing.

We pass the first aid station (which isn’t operating yet)

There’s fog! There’s actually light fog here! I haven’t seen fog in ages, and normally this is the time of year for fog. Whew! This suggests that it really will be cooler — at least in the morning, which is all I care about.

UpNow we come to a steep hill. Various people are debating whether we should walk, but no one seems to actually do it. We do slow down, of course, but mostly we keep running. Down the other side. We must be running basically north now in a little valley between steep hills. As we trot along the sun Dawnstarts to rise through mist and the trees on the hill to the east.

Down the valleyThe fog is fickle and soon we are running along the valley with the sun lighting up the hills on the left while we run in darkness.

I’ve been running in a little clump of runners, maybe 10 of us or so. There are perhaps 5 people just ahead of me (and no one in sight in front of them) and another 3 or 4 behind me. The composition of the group hasn’t really changed for several miles now (though the relative positions have) and I’m beginning to think that these may be the people I’m going to be running the rest of the race with.

FogWe come out of the valleys on the west side of the ranch and run along the ridge line above Figueroa Mountain Rd. We can see the fog from the sea as it reaches up the valley.

Kevin, who has been ahead of me drops back a bit and is now running behind me.

ValleyNow we run parallel to the road and have nice views of the valley.

We are approaching the second aid station (at about mile 7), and this one is working. Two people drop out of our little clump now and I never see them again.

The rest of us continue on. I don’t need to stop myself. It’s still cool, I haven’t been drinking much, no need to get more. But I should probably eat a Gu.

Skeleton HillOn the other side of the aid station we turn and climb a steep hill (beside the cattle graveyard). On this hill I pass two of the people who have been ahead of me. At the top of the hill is a skeleton hanging from its neck. Thanks Luis. Just the encouragement we need on this hill.

Far AheadThere are only two people ahead of me now (in my little clump I mean) and they seem to have gotten fairly far ahead. We are continuing to climb, though less steeply than on Skeleton Hill. It’s sunny here.

After a bit a lone runner comes barreling down the hill we are climbing. Hmm. Either he’s about 4~5 miles ahead of us, has completed loop 1 and started on loop 2 which seems unlikely to me — I really doubt my group is that far behind the leaders — or it’s one of the 10 mile runners who has gotten lost.

Far aheadWe turn left and are now heading back to the start finish area. The two guys ahead are still far ahead.

I see some of the 10 mile runners now. Their course (loop 2) matches mine for a bit. Andrea says “Hi.”

Then we come to a nice long straight downhill stretch that leads all the way to the start/finish. I’m able to speed up here and slowly gain on the two ahead of me. We cross the chip mat pretty much together. Then one guy pauses at the aid station here, and the other stops to use the port-a-potty…

And I’m on my own. The group of 10 runners that I was in the middle of has completely dissolved. There’s no one around. It turns out that I’ll be alone for the rest of the race. This is a little disturbing. Before this I didn’t have to pay attention to the course markings, I could just follow the people in front. Now there is no one in sight. No one to follow, no one behind to yell if I make a wrong turn.

Wait a minute… I ran the first loop in 1:16. That’s faster than an 8 minute mile… on a trail course? OK, it’s an easy trail race, but it’s would be a really hard road race. There have been a lot of hills… Oh, yes. The first loop isn’t a full 10 miles, it’s only 9.6. Um 1:16 divided by 9.6… No I’m not going to bother doing that in my head. It’s still probably under 8. I wonder if I can keep this pace up?

17 Start of LoopOh well, nothing for it. Loop 2 starts by doubling back on loop 1. I charge up the hillside I just ran down (well, up a road parallel to the one I came down).

Agoseris heterophylla flowerI haven’t seen many wildflowers this year. In years past there have been fields of sky lupine, but this year there are none. Drought. But another part of the reason I haven’t seen much of anything is that many flowers don’t open up until it is sunny. At the top of the hill I find some Mountain Dandelions blooming in the grass.

18 ValleyNow I head back to the second aid station and the road’s valley has brightened up. In spite of the rising sun it is still cool and pleasant for running.

Through the aid station (I still have plenty water, and GU) and now the route diverges again from the first loop and I am running down a dry creek bed. Full of crushed gravel. Which gives no traction to the foot.

Ah, but there’s some mulefat blooming. Anything to take my mind off my footing.

Fortunately I climb out of the creek, and then… Sunny TreeBack up hill! Who’d have thought it? There is someone ahead now. I’m gaining on him. He stops to walk and I catch up with him. I try to chat but he says “No speak English.” I guess I should have said “No habla Español” but I was to tired to think. So I pass him without talking.

Hmm. Luis brought in some Tarahumara runners. They wouldn’t speak English. I wonder if he might be one? But I passed him. So that seems unlikely. Maybe there are some guys from other parts of Mexico here?

There are some Clarkias by the side of the route.

I climb up a final hill and am now running into the slower 50K runners who are still on loop 1. Also some even slower 10 mile runners (whom I have now lapped, I’ve gone ~13 miles in the time they have gone 3).

Then I diverge from Loop 1 again, but now I’m on a section where loop 2 doubles back on itself. There are some faster 10 mile runners here, coming at me. And Daniel Scarberry comes gliding down the trail toward me. He’s probably in the lead (when I get back to this point I realize he was probably about 5 miles ahead of me).

I also see Heidi and her daughter. I’m glad to know she exists. I hope the others do (I hadn’t realized she was only doing 10 miles).

I’m just running down the road when suddenly I bump into white chalk lines across the route. Oops. I haven’t been paying attention, there must have been a turn. And, yup there is. I need to turn sharp right onto that bit of single track and run straight up the mountain.

21 HillsideThis is probably the area where rattlesnakes are most likely. But the views are good. I think this is the highest part of the ranch and the course. You can look down and see most of the ranch below you, while off to the left are the Santa Ynez mountains and straight ahead Sea Fog(West) there’s still sea fog. Which is doubtless why it’s still reasonably pleasant.

I pass two 10 mile runners who have stopped. I encourage them to keep moving. “Oh, it’s OK,” one tells me “There’s good cell-phone reception here.”

Santa Ynez MountainsDifferent worlds.

Why come to the middle of nowhere by 5am then hike for ~5 miles just to get cell-phone reception? You’d think there would be easier ways to accomplish that.

23 RidgelineI keep climbing and keep passing people. I assume they are 10 milers, but I suppose some might be 50K or more runners.

But all good things come to an end and the steep climb turns into a steep drop. Whee. Skidding on my heels.

Calochortus clavatus flower top-viewAnd there, off to my right is a Pale Yellow Mariposa. I think. Two minutes later I see another plant. Now I could stop and take a closer look and a photograph, but I’m running so well today. I’m almost certain… I suppose it might have been a Yellow Mariposa, but they are rare here. Er. Rarer.

Anyway neat!

I continue to slide down the hillside.

And then I’m back on the road again, merging again with Loop 1. Now I trundle down the hill to the first aid station (which is now open). After the Aid StationI turn left and leave Loop 1 and start climbing another hill 🙂

Denmark ManFor a while I run through a sunny valley, but after a bit the trees close in. There is a couple ahead of me, walking, one of whom appears to be wearing a Danish flag. Interesting choice of attire.

I’m about half way done now…

Dead Cow HillOut into the sun again as we climb up what I can’t help but think of as Dead Cow hill from a rather gruesome event 2 years ago. But there are no dead beasts this year, just a tired 10 miler who starts running again as I pass him.

OthersAt the top of the hill we turn left into the shade and into oncoming runners. I’m now about 5 miles ahead of them (just as Daniel was ahead of me 40 minutes ago). I wonder if I’ll see anyone I know — I wonder if they are even here…

And now I’m back on the nice long downhill stretch that leads to the start finish line. I’m close to the end of my second loop.

I’m through the chip mat once again (I wish they had a clock there. I keep forgetting to look at my watch). Somewhere around 2:43. Mmm. Took me 9 minutes longer to do the second lap. I think it’s a bit longer and it’s certainly more technical. And I didn’t have anyone to run with/against. No one passed me in that lap, and while I passed many people I expect that all (except for the guy who didn’t speak English) were 10 milers most of whom were just walking. Let’s see if I can do better on the next lap.

Now I had been planning to take a 15 minute break after the second lap to see if I could avoid dehydration by getting my HR down and allowing my stomach to absorb water… but I’m running too well, and I don’t want to pause. Anyway today isn’t a day I’m likely to get dehydration on, not on a 50K where the first 2/3rds were in cool temperatures…

A little later the watch clicks over to 20 miles at 2:50:??. So I’m now averaging 8:30s rather than sub-8:00s. So I ran the last lap at about a 9 minute pace… Um, that’s quite a bit slower.

Catching UpI’m back on loop 1 now. I can see two guys ahead. The three of us are all starting Loop 1. Now they can’t be 10 milers (who don’t do this loop at all), they can’t be anyone starting their first lap (the race started 3 hours ago), they can’t be anyone starting their fifth lap (no one has lapped me once, let alone twice), so these guys must be people who started with me. There’s actually someone ahead of me again!

I pass them.

There isn’t anyone ahead.

No more competition.

After a bit I come to the place where loop 2 joins loop 1 and I start seeing people again. These are 50Kers who are about 7 miles behind me.

Off to the side of the road I pass some morning glory vines. Now in the front country, morning glories are common and almost all of one species. In the back country they are uncommon and I’ve never seen the front country species here at all. But it is always good to check. As I run past I snag a bloom and look at the bracts under the flower. Yup. It’s what I expected.

ValleyAs I pound down toward the first aid station I’m thinking that I should pause here to fill up with water. I’m almost out. Or grab a bottle if they have any. That would be better. But there’s a small crowd of runners and the aid station volunteers all seem to be occupied with them. It’s going to take forever to get anything out of this station. So I run through it and out.

Ahead of me I see someone walking. He doesn’t look like someone who could have run faster than I for 20+ miles. My guess is that he took a wrong turn at the last aid station. But I’m not sure… so I don’t tell him he’s going the wrong way.

VineyardI’m running along the property line now and ahead and to the left is the neighbor’s vineyard.Some Trees It’s rather pretty here.

After a while I hit the hills again. There’s a guy ahead of me. I’m catching him, but slowly. I pass him after this set of hills is over, there’s a turn just ahead and he asks me where the 50K runners go. The route seems to me well flagged, so I point them out to him. ValleyOnly later does it occur to me that he might be another confused runner who should actually be on loop 2, and the pink flags which reassure me are not what he’s looking for. If so he should have asked a better question. I don’t know what loop he’s on. 50K runners do go the way I pointed out (I do for one). Luis told everyone to keep track of what loop he was on… (“If I get lost … it’s my own damn fault”) But I don’t realize this until he’s vanished into the distance behind me.

37 DryI’m running through dry hills now and it’s starting to get hotter than I’d like. I don’t have much water left.

Then I hear the report of a shot. Hmm. Perhaps Luis fixed the gun and that marks the winner crossing the line? It was then 3:21 from the race start (I learned later that the winner finished closer to 3:17 but I didn’t know it then).

And I’ve run 24 miles and have ~7 left to go. So if I can maintain a 9 minute pace then I should be able to break 4:30. That would be a nice 50K PR!

ValleyI do like the oaks scattered amid the grassland.

ValleyOnce again, I pull out of the western valleys and approach the paved road. As I run parallel to the road I hear more shots, but they are coming from across the road (outside the ranch) on someone’s else land. Maybe the gun shot I heard earlier did not mark the winner…

I happen to glance down at my watch and see it says I’ve run 26 miles. So now as I run I keep looking at it. It clicks over to 26.2 miles at 3:35:50. 🙂 That means that if this course were certified I’d have qualified for Boston with 4 minutes to spare. Kind of neat to do that on the trails.

And, let’s see. I’ve got about 5 miles left so at 9 minute pace that means I finish at 4:21 or so. Not bad.

As I approach the turn toward the second aid station I notice someone blundering around on the road ahead of me. At first he seems to be running as if he were on loop 2, but then he turns around and runs back to the aid station. Great. He’ll get there 5 seconds before I do and I’ll have to wait.

They don’t have any bottles I can carry off, so I resign myself to filling up my pack (which takes longer than I would like). Then I realize they have cups full of something. So I drink it. Brrr. It’s freezing cold. I did not expect that. I fill the cup up with water, drink that off too, grab an orange slice and I’m out.

SkelingtonBack up the hill with the hung skeleton.

I walk in a couple of places this time.

There are some Clarkias here.

The way just keeps going up.

Finally I reach the summit. And I run along the ridge until I join loop 2 again.

And there, are some people seated in the middle of an intersection with a box of water bottles beside them. I grab one. It’s a little harder to bend down than it should be, I’m pretty stiff, but I don’t fall and I do get a bottle.

I take a swig of water.

Now again I’m on the nice long downhill stretch that leads to the start finish. There are people around again. These are people who are just completing their second lap. In the time they have run ~20 miles I have run ~30. It’s harder to pass them than it should be, but I keep telling myself that I have to pass them. And I do.

As I near the camp site I see Liz. I divest myself of my camelback and water bottle. I won’t need them for the mile I’ve got left, and I give them to her. Lighter I proceed onward.

And so through the chip mat and down the road for the final little bit. I’m still in a crowd of people who are just starting their third lap. They don’t know I’m finishing, but they do see I’m running faster than they, so I get a few cheers. When I spin around the flag the guy behind me is impressed “Didn’t realize you were finishing,” he shouts. Someone else tells me I’m going the wrong way.

But now I’ve got half a mile of uphill running to do. Ug.

And no one to race.

There’s the finish line. I click my watch as I cross (only I click the wrong button and I don’t know when I finished). About 4:12.

Later I see that I was 4:12:18, in 11th place and first runner over 47 and second master.

Last time I ran this course I ran 5:03 (and that was my fastest 50K before today). That doesn’t really count since Mike told me to keep my HR below 75% that year, so I couldn’t really race. This year I did race and knocked 51 minutes off my time.

For once I’m not feeling badly. Oh, I’m tired, right enough, but no nausea. So if I had paused after the second lap I wouldn’t have proved anything. The day was too cool, and the race too short for me to have any problems.

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.

Who hath measured the ground?

May 11, 2013

The Lord'll Provide
The first time I ran the SB Wine Country half marathon there were no mile markers. This time there were markers but they did not appear to be accurately placed.

My GPS watch is not the most accurate device itself. It is often off by 1%, rarely by 2%, but it is not off by 8%. According to it the full course was 13.1 miles so I’m inclined to think it was fairly accurate today. However it claimed the first mile marker was at 1.08miles. It took me 7 minutes to get there when I was trying to run 6:35. That’s a huge error. If I had been equipped with nothing more than a stopwatch (as I was 5 years ago) I should have been dismayed to see myself running so slowly. I might have picked up the pace and ended up running a 6:10 or something similar on the next mile, which probably would have destroyed any chance of doing well.

I didn’t do well, but I can’t blame it on the first mile marker, much as I wish I could. I was looking at my GPS generated pace and knew I was running somewhere around 6:30 (not 7min).

The last few weeks have not gone well for me (from a running standpoint). My tempo runs have been about 5 secs/mile too slow, and I’ve been getting increasingly bad shin splints. This week the splintered shins were the worst they’ve been — it was even painful to walk yesterday. But this morning they were not bad; and although I felt a few slight twinges during the race they continued not to be bad (until I stopped. Now they are awful again). So I can’t blame my problems on them either.

Anyway, I got to Santa Ynez, cautiously optimistic. I found the race start had moved slightly from 5 years ago. Not too surprising. I lined up near the front, behind Drea and Ricky. Drea pointed out another woman in the front row (“She ran a 1:18!”, so that’s Drea’s competition sorted).

There’s a moment of silence for the Boston victims.

And we’re off. Round the corner and down the hill. We fly. I glance at my watch, but my eyes don’t focus, I think I’m running 6:40. Round another corner and up a hill. This time the watch says 5:45 pace. Whoops. I don’t need to be that excited. There are lots of small rolling hills at the beginning. I can’t always take as much advantage of the downhills as I’d like — some are so steep that I hang back a bit fearing what sprinting down would do to my shins…

View From Maveric SaloonSanta Ynez is in fog, but once we get to the outskirts (and that’s happens pretty quickly in Santa Ynez) the fog fades, vanishes and we are in full sun. As we are for the rest of the race. (The picture here, indeed all the pictures in this post were taken on earlier visits)

At about half a mile things have settled down a bit. The lead men are out of sight and I get to watch the lead women. Drea has been running right behind Maria, and continues to do so for a long as I can see them. A third woman is some distance back. I often count everyone ahead of me, but I can’t today the men are too fast and I’m too slow. But I can keep track of the women…

Around 3/4 of a mile another woman passes me, but she doesn’t last long and I pass her back after a bit.

I’m relieved to see the 1 mile mark when it shows up (Yay! it’s there! I guess the others will be too!). My watch claims my pace for the last mile was 6:30. I was supposed to go out at 6:40 to warm up; but 6:30 is a reasonable pace. If I’m optimistic I’m shooting for that pace as the average for the race as a whole. If I’m more realistic I’m expecting 6:35.

We come to the first water station, and I have a bad hand-off and most of the water ends up on my shirt rather than inside me. Oh well.

We come up to mile 3 (where was mile 2?). My watch says I’m doing 6:34s. Okay that’s basically what I was expecting. No problems.

We’re now on a long slow uphill grind to Los Olivos (with the occasionally small hill thrown in to slow us down). At mile 4 there’s another water stand (I wish they wouldn’t do that. I can’t click my watch if I’m reaching for water, so I miss the split). This time I get a couple of sips.

At mile 5 I see I’ve slowed to a 6:40 pace. That’s not so good, but I console myself with the fact that it’s uphill. There’s a long downhill section ahead to counterbalance it.

Five years ago the edge of a field here was covered with California Poppies, but this year the edge has been plowed and there’s nothing but a few foxgloves. Which aren’t native.

I was expecting trouble from my shins, but it’s my quads which are grumbling. And I’m not halfway done yet.

I pass through Los Olivos. I don’t see it. I see the guy in front. I see the chip mat. Then a flat section.

Hill ClimbAnd then the hill. Here we climb about 200 feet in half a mile. I slow. Considerably. No one passes me (they slowed too, good). I’m disappointed to see that someone has mown the verge here, and the wild flowers which were blooming three weeks ago are gone. But there are some magpies, don’t often see magpies. I know this hill, but even so I keep hoping the next bend will reveal the end. Finally it does end. The top is as close as we’ll get to a halfway point too. The view is spectacular (or it would be if I were looking at something other than the guy ahead).
Ballard Hill Panorama
There’s a vinyard to my left and a winery at the bottom of the hill to the right. The last time I was up here there was a buzzard sitting on a fence post with wings extended as if waiting for a runner to collapse.

I ran 7:30s going up the hill. Not unexpected, but not good either, and then did a 6 minute pace briefly on the downhill (not enough to cancel out the uphill though).

~ mile 8This is the last time I see the number 3 woman, she’s way down at the bottom of the hill when I crest the top.

~Mile 9The next two miles are about 6:32. That’s OK, but I’d hoped to go faster. This is a nice downhill stretch. Two people pass me.

There is a bison by the side of the road (luckily not in the road).

Just running through the fields

Just running through the fields

~Mile 10Then things start to get bad. The next mile (mile 10) is at a 6:52 pace and it’s very much a downhill mile. More people pass me. Dan Rudd passes me. ~Mile 10.5The next mile, also downhill, is even worse 6:55. The #4 woman passes me. (5 years ago the #2 woman passed me about here).

Chick LupinesBut the chick lupines are still in bloom!

Just before the second hillThen there comes the next big hill. Even though half the mile is downhill, I run it at a 7:42 pace. The final mile at a 7:03. The elevation profile shows it is mostly downhill with a small hill right at the end.

I do manage to pick up the pace slightly for the last tenth of a mile. My watch says I sprinted to the finish at a 5:34 pace for that last bit. I don’t believe it, but I do think I sped up. I was probably inspired by the clock, which I saw ticking down to 1:30:00. I would have felt terribly ashamed to be over 1:30, so I tried really hard, and finished with 1:29:51.

Which is pretty bad.

I do get a bottle of wine

Trying to figure out what went wrong… I don’t think it was the shins. I simply payed no attention to the mile splits, choosing to go by the mile paces shown on the watch; so it wasn’t mismeasured miles. Other people complained about the temperature, but I didn’t notice it. What I did notice was that my mouth was dry and gummy. I think I dehydrated again. And, yeah, my heart rate reflects that. It was pretty constant at about 89% effort from mile 3 to 10, and then it started to climb, reaching 95% for the final sprint.


Heart rate (as a percentage of max), Speed and Elevation all on one graph. Speed hovers around 9mph for most of the race, heart rate just below 90%. Both react to elevation changes for the first 10 miles or so.

I won an Avocado

March 9, 2013

I like Orchard to Ocean 10K. I’m not sure why — it does have an interesting course with lots of park running on the way out and then a straight downhill swoop to the finish line… Or maybe it’s the steep little hill right at the turnaround. I’ve passed people on that hill. Good memories…

Anyway I signed up again.

I find it a little depressing to see how my race times have slowed over the years. I still think I should be able to run 6 minute pace for a 10K if I just tried harder… but every year I go a little slower. I got out my age graded calculator and plugged in my best 10K ever, and the calculator told me I should expect to run 6:15 to get that percentage at my age. And finish in 38:52. Sigh. That seems so slow…

I woke up this morning and the wind was blowing like crazy. Normally I bike out to the start, but I figured I would arrive exhausted after battling the wind for over an hour on the bike, so (shh! don’t tell) I drove the car.

It didn’t seem windy at all in Carp, so I felt stupid once I got there.

Registered. Bib attached. Chip attached. Warmup. Pleasant little run along the course. Still no wind. I turn back after about 3 miles and suddenly I find the wind. Oh great. I’m going to have to fight the wind for the last 2+ miles of the race. Is it going to be as bad as Sacramento?

Back at the start area I do some strides, and find my friends.

Ricky’s dog will not be running with him today so he’ll win.

I see that this race is, once again, half-way chip timed. There’s a mat at the finish but none at the start. Which means it’s all gun timed.

The siren goes off, and we start. I had intended to try and keep pace with David Silverander. He ran last week’s 10K at a 6:11 average pace, and although I didn’t really think I could go that fast, I thought it would be worth trying (as did Rusty). But when we start Dave is going way too fast for me to keep up. I look at my watch: 5:40 pace. Even that is way too fast for me. So I slow even further and soon lose sight of Dave and the Jeffs.

A bunch of other people pass me. Some I look at and say to myself “You’ve gone out too hard, you won’t hold that pace for even half a mile.” Others…

Even Matt Trost is ahead of me. I didn’t think he was that fast… Or maybe I’m just slow now. Oh well.

We cross the railroad track (no train today, yay!) and come to the one mile mark. My watch says 6:09. The first mile is always fast on this course, but that’s on track for a 6:11 pace 🙂

We run up the eponymous Dump Rd. and there on the left is a whole meadow of lupines. Much lovelier than what’s on the right.

Onto Carp Avenue. I notice that many, but not all, of the street signs here in Carp use essentially the same font as the ones in Santa Barbara. Oddly these street signs have a period after abbreviations like “Rd.” or “Ave.”, whereas the street signs in SB have no period. Oh. I’m racing now. No distractions.

Up to the top of a little hill, (passing the 5K turn) and out onto the bluffs again. The guy ahead of me (Black Shirt, I’ll call him) passes Matt and someone else, and soon I do too (not quite so slow then) and they fade behind us.

We’ve passed the 2 mile mark now. 6:22. I knew I’d slow. This mile and the next 2 are uphill (and twisty).

I’m amused that every time we make a sharp turn, Black Shirt looks behind. I think looking behind is silly. It slows you, and what info do you gain? I’m already racing, it’s not like I’ll go much faster or slower if I see someone behind me… Sometimes I’m right behind him, and sometimes there’s a 50 foot gap. I seem to catch up on the downhills and he takes off on the uphills. That’s opposite from how I think of myself as running.

Mile 3 is also 6:21. As is mile 4. There’s a lovely short steep hill just before mile 4. In years past I have passed people on this hill, but not today. Black Shirt sprints up it (and looks back at the top).

Then there’s a long downhill and I actually pass him. He passes me on the next up, I pass him back on the next down. I keep expecting him to pass me when we get to the next uphill … but he doesn’t. Then down again and here’s the 5K turn from the other side. Oh drat. I failed to click my watch at the 5M mark. A minute or so later, when I realize this, I look at the pace and see 6:01. That’s pretty good.

Another black shirt passes me, but I realize it isn’t the guy I was racing. This guy is going too fast for me. Then someone else passes me. White Shirt. I can hang with him, just a little behind.

Then down into the neighborhoods (all these streets signs use the SB font). White shirt follows the edge of the road, but I take a tangent and catch up with him. Then he again pulls ahead of me, but only by a foot or so.

We cross the bridge. He warns me of the steps on the far side. (which is really kind of him, I don’t have the breath to say much myself). There’s an enormous dumpster in the middle of the road. Hunh? I go to the left, White Shirt to the right and I pull a little ahead.

Mile 6. Average pace for the last two miles 6:15. OK, I guess I didn’t run a 6 minute mile back a bit. The watch pace function (even on lap pace) seems to give the occasional wyrd result. Or maybe my eyes misread it.

Less than a quarter mile to go and White Shirt is right behind me. I try to pick up the pace. My inconstant watch tells me 5:56 as I turn the final corner and try to sprint the last 100m to the finish. White Shirt right behind.

Done. 38:56, which is a 6:16 pace. Almost exactly what the calculator said I’d do.

My best 10Ks by year
Year Time AG %
2007 37:02 80.9%
2009 38:08 79.8%
2011 38:28 80.5%
2013 38:56 80.8%

(I don’t know why I only run 10Ks on odd years, but, um, I guess I do)

Even though I’m almost 2 minutes slower than I was 6 years ago, my age-graded percentage remains pretty much unchanged. Therefore I tend to think that the tables describe my age related decline.

But on this race, White Shirt and Black Shirt follow right behind me. We congratulate each other. Well, we don’t really say much because we don’t have much breath, but we intend to congratulate each other.

Eventually the preliminary results come out. I was 8th overall, first in my age-group (this means I win an avocado this year); but not the fastest over 50 — Jim Tripplet who is two years my senior was a minute and a half faster. Whee!

The final results have me running a 38:57. Not sure where the extra second came from, but it doesn’t change things much.

Did I jinx myself by deciding I couldn’t do better than a 6:15 pace? I don’t think so. I only paid attention to my watch at the very start of the race, and slowing from a 5:40 to 6:09 pace seems like a good idea. Aside from that I never looked at my watch and said “I’m going too fast, must slow.” On the other hand, perhaps I have learned what 80% effort feels like and am just unwilling to push more…

Then I take David and Jeff out to look at the seals as a cooldown:
Carp. Seals

White River, again

July 30, 2012
You dream you are crossing,
The channel and tossing,
About in a steamer from Harwich,
Which is something between
A large bathing machine
And a very small second class carriage.
The night before the race I dreamed I had a thorn in my foot, and when I woke up the foot still ached from the memory. I dreamed I had misplaced one of my tentacles and kept trying to count them.
First your counterpane goes
And uncovers your toes
While your sheet slips demurely from under you.
I dreamed that John Loftus was about to start the race (in front of my childhood home) and I wasn’t dressed yet and couldn’t find my headband (I never even wear a headband). I dreamed that someone was lecturing me on the quality of my dreams and threatening to disqualify me from the race if they didn’t improve.
But the night has been long,
Ditto, ditto, my song,
and thank goodness they’re both of them over.
In other words, I didn’t sleep very well the night before. I got up before my alarms.

A race hotel is a strange place. Everything goes dead by about 10pm, and you start to hear people moving around at 4am. You’d think it would be easy to sleep early and get up early. But I couldn’t. Well the getting up early worked I guess.

I ran this race three years ago. I thought I’d made a couple mistakes in running strategy which I hoped to correct, and I hoped that I’d finally figured out how to eat and take electrolytes properly. That is, I hoped to do better.

On the other hand I didn’t think I was in very good shape. I didn’t feel that I’d ever fully recovered from Leona Divide back in April; I just felt tired all through training and couldn’t run very fast (not that speed is quite as important in a fifty mile trail race, still it is indicative of general fitness…). That is, I feared I’d do worse.

View of the White River, which is sort of white

The white river really is white (or at least grey).

I wrote the above before the race started, and that was about the last time I hoped to do well. Thirty seconds after the start I knew I wouldn’t.

The race starts with about three miles on the flat and people seemed to take it almost as a road race. Last time I went out too fast (my first mistake), got my heart rate up too high and had to slow down (relative to others) when we got to the first climb. This time I resolved not to make that mistake. I very deliberately kept my heart rate to ~80% — and people kept passing me. Far more people than I had expected. And then when the climb came, more people passed me.

Yes, they are probably going out too fast; yes, I will probably pass some of them later. But there are so many of them. I won’t pass enough.

Sigh. Oh well.

It’s still a beautiful course. The race starts in the valley of the white river. For about half a mile we run along a grassy airstrip (where there is plenty of room to pass people) and then dive into the forest and run on the river bank. The trees are massive and we are dancing around roots. Then we cross the river and continue on the other bank.

For some reason this side of the river is covered with wildflowers (and the other wasn’t). There are real buttercups here, willowherbs, and something that looks like a Clarkia (but which turned out to be another willowherb — though it doesn’t look like any willowherb I’ve seen before), lots of daisies (of course), some foamflowers… anyway it’s beautiful. (I went back the next day to get the picture)

Then we cross the big highway (WA 410, at this hour of the morning there’s no traffic) and head away from the river. Here in the deeper woods there are different wildflowers. Sasal, huckleberries. There’s a sweet little orchid that pops up now and then, and, there, under that bush, could that be a broomrape?

We have gentle rolling hills for another mile or so under the forest canopy, and then the first aid station, which I don’t bother with, so I pass a few people, but that’s irrelevant as they’ll pass me back all too soon. Then after another mile we begin to climb.

Last time I had to slow down and walk because I got my heart rate too high on the early part. This time I have to slow down and walk even though I kept my heartrate down. Does that mean that running fast early didn’t matter? Perhaps it wasn’t a mistake? Playing it safe doesn’t seem to have made things any better. Or maybe I’m just not in as good shape? Who knows.

As I trudge up the mountain, people keep passing me.

After a bit we come to an enormous rock face with water trickling down, and we head up beside it, then a switch-back and a real waterfall. It’s still too dark to take pictures, but I wish I could.

The hill just keeps going up.

After an hour we come to the first ridgeline. On a clearer morning (such as we had three years ago) you could see the mountains on the other side of the wilderness area, but today all I see is clouds. Rather nice clouds, but clouds.

Now we are running along the edge of this ridge, sometimes we get close enough to get a view, mostly we’re in the trees. As the race director puts it: “You are 3 feet away and 800 feet above a wilderness area.” There’s a sheer cliff to our right that drops down into a valley, and across the valley is Mt. Rainier. Only Rainier is hidden in clouds just now.

And then we run into fog ourselves.

It’s not dense enough to condense on my glasses, so I rather enjoy it. There’s something nice and — comforting? — about a blanket of fog (especially when you know there’s an 800ft drop just off to the right).

But we climb out of that and see some sunlight (not on us, but across the valley).

For the first time I pass someone. Of course this might just be one of the slower people who started early, still, it is encouraging.

Ah, but someone else passes me. A woman with a black pony tail comes up behind and I let her go ahead, but then a quarter mile later on a downhill stretch she lets me pass her. We leapfrog for a bit, and then she goes ahead. I don’t see her again until 7 miles from the finish.

And we’re back in the fog again. If you squint you can see the guy ahead of me.

We slow down to a walk on the steep climbs. And when we do that, we bunch up.

Here is the next aid station. I fill up with water (I’ve been trying to drink more water). This station has no food (and anyway I carry what I’m eating at this point); but it does have a fire. I realize my hands have gone numb and I can’t open my camelback (luckily the volunteer here can). A fire sounds nice, but I don’t have time.

Out of the aid station and then start running again when the slope levels out. We have been in and out of fog, and now we start to see bits of sunlight.

We have come into a new wildflower regime (we’re about 5000ft up now), and here are our first bunchberries. I like bunchberries. The idea of a dogwood flower on a tiny forb appeals to me. I know I can’t get a good picture of them without stopping, and I’m not willing to stop. So I take a bad picture instead.

Suddenly we are out of the fog and above the clouds. The view is spectacular.

But the guy ahead complains that he was hoping the fog would last longer so it would be cooler later. Oh. Yeah. That would be good. Still, there’s plenty of cloud cover, it’s just below us, we may get into it again.

Turning a corner we have our first view of Mt. Rainier

The woods look different in the sunlight.

And once again, different wildflowers. Hostas (Corn Lilies) and Indian Paintbrushes. The Hostas aren’t blooming yet, but their leaves are distinctive. A little further up are another species of Indian Paintbrushes, these with orange blooms.

And we start to see beargrass, a spectacular flower, on a stalk about 3 feet high.

Some cute little yellow violets, and small things I can’t make out as I go past.

Suddenly the first returning runner (this section is out and back). He’s a long way ahead of anyone else, but then we see a few more I count up to about 10, but then get back to my own concerns.

And then we move to the sunny side of the mountain again, and things get drier and the wildflowers go away.

Rainier again. It’s just spectacular, floating above the clouds like that.

I’m running behind a woman at the moment. She seems to be running slowly, but whenever I look at my watch my heartrate is about 80%. Sometimes higher. So I don’t pass her.

I guess I notice women more than men in these races, partly because there are fewer of them running at my pace, and partly because I just notice women more.

Graagh. I’ve got a small stone in my foot and it’s digging into my heel. Nothing I do seems to shift it. I’ll wait for the aid station and take my shoes off there.

Rainier again, the clouds below have mostly disappeared. I guess we won’t have much fog later.

I notice that my heartrate has calmed down a bit, and the woman ahead still seems to be running slowly. Then she mentions that she hasn’t had anything to eat since the start (why not?) and she’s running on empty. So I pass her.

Photo by Glenn Tachiyama

Finally the aid station. I hand my camelback to a volunteer to fill up while I undo my shoe and get the stone out. Drat, the heel still hurts even though the stone is gone. The volunteer comes back and tells me (sternly) that I haven’t been drinking enough. I hope she’s assuming that I haven’t filled up since the start… but… she’s right. I haven’t been paying attention to drinking since the last aid station. I should do more.

Three years ago it took me 3:09 to get here, this year 3:10. Hunh. Maybe I’m not going as slowly as I thought. Oh. but we have a slightly different course this year, and we’ve run a half mile less. This is roughly a third of the way — (at least, they say it’s 16.7 miles, my watch says 15.5).

Oh well, I’m out.

Three years ago we just turned around and went back, now we climb a small hill, do a loop and avoid about a mile of returning runners. So this bit of trail is new to me.

I’ve been seeing a bush, about 3 or 4 feet high with large white flowers. Could this be a Cascade Azalea? I don’t have time to look closely. Oh yes, and lots of lupines, I’ve been seeing them ever since we got into the drier area. And phlox, and yarrow too.

The trail is kind of bouncy here with occasional views of Rainier.

The new trail really does provide good views as it edges from looking at Rainier on the left and another valley on the right. It’s pretty bumpy as it goes along the ridgeline. I’m encouraged to see that there is still some fog off to the right… I hope that’s the valley of the white river, to which I’ll be returning in another hour or two.

Hmm. I’m basically alone now. Every now and then I can see someone ahead, and doubtless people aren’t too far behind, but no one is in talking range.

And then I trot down off the ridgeline and rejoin the old route, and meet runners coming the other way again. Only now I’m the one returning.

As someone from the south I’m obliged to get excited when I see snow in July. I remember that there were patches of snow here three years ago too.

And then back to the second aid station where I again fill up with water. Someone passes me before the station, and heads out down the trail faster than I… but after a bit I find him massaging his calf. Cramp.

Mmm. I’ve been getting minor cramps in my right abdominals, but they aren’t bad, and go away. So far.

After the aid station we head down a different route from the one we used to go up, and it also returns us to the start. It’s a shorter route back, and so steeper.

After half an hour I come to a branch in the trail. It isn’t marked. I look harder. It still isn’t marked. Being color-blind I worry that I missed something other people have seen. I run back a little way because there was a smaller trail back there and it is possible it was marked. Someone passes me. He has no doubt and goes straight down. I dither a little longer. Someone else passes me. Oh well. I follow them.

Later I stop to piss and two people catch up and pass me, so I run behind them for a bit. One of them slows, and then the other guy and I catch up with someone else who speeds up when we come up behind him. There’s a huge tree down across the trail here, and as I scramble over it I have to stretch my legs out wide and they don’t like that. Ouch.

I notice that my watch says we have run 25 miles in about 5 hours. Oh dear. That makes for a 10 hour run? I was hoping for 9 (well, I’d have loved 8, but that seemed unlikely).

We catch up with another runner, who seems to be a friend of the guy in front. They start chatting and the other guy and I pass them both.

We run beside a little stream for a bit, but then turn away from it. The stream brings its own group of wildflowers: twinflower, pipsissewa — I thought that only grew on the east coast, but when I go back the next day it really is pipsissewa.

When we pull away from the stream we start to hear the road instead (the stream was nicer). There’s more traffic now, and I worry a little about getting across it. But when we come out of the woods it turns out not to be bad. We do need to wait a few seconds, but nothing substantial.

We cross the road at the same place we did earlier, and then head back along the river. We’ve returned to the start, where there is now an aid station. I left myself some figbars here and some trail mix. First time I’ve ever used a drop bag. I get my bag while someone fills my water. And I grab a bit of cooked potato too. I found at Leona that they seemed to work well. I started the race eating gels, but after a couple of hours I switched to chewy blocks, and now I’m moving toward more solid foods. Or that’s the plan.

I move out of the aid station, eating some of my figbars, and pass several people. We come out briefly on the road again and as I look for trail markings I notice a woman ahead of me, so I follow her, and then I see the marks. The woman turns out to be Dana and she and I will pass and repass each other many times over the next 23 miles (or however far it is).

But now I don’t know who she is and she pulls away from me.

I’m climbing now. And in the sun. I remember I have no sunscreen. Damn. I decided not to bring any so that I could carry my stuff on the airplane, and assumed I could a) buy some in Eumenclaw (which I forgot to do), b) find some at the race start (which I didn’t) c) pick some up on the course (which they said would be available but which I have as yet seen no sign).

I think the trail mix is too sweet. It makes me slightly nauseous so I can only eat small bites. I probably should eat more frequently because of that, but I can’t bring myself too.

I’m walking now. Fast hiking. I ignore my heartrate when I’m walking even though it climbs above 80%. Is that ok? Anyway I pass people. Every now and then I see Dana’s back.

I saw this little flower on the other hill too, but didn’t try to photograph it. Now, I’m moving so slowly that I don’t mind pausing briefly to take its picture. I assume it’s a lily. That is, I assume it is something that was called a lily twenty years ago. But that family is in sadly reduced circumstances now, and many species have moved to other families (and even orders). A little research suggests that this one is a Queen’s Cup.

And is that a sedum? I didn’t even know they grew on this continent.

Finally we come out to the next aid station. Still no sign of sunblock. This one is 50K from the start. I fill up with water, eat a potato and leave the station before Dana.

Something is wrong. Water is pouring down my back. It stops when I stop running, and I think the problem is solved, but no— more comes out when I start up again. Have I sprung a leak in the camelback (god, I hope not)? I’ve still got another third of the course to go, and this is the sunniest bit. I need water. I pull the camelback off my back (while still walking) and discover the answer is much simpler. The volunteer simply didn’t screw the lid on tight, and whenever the water in the bladder splashed up as high as the lid it would come out. So I screw it tight and all seems fine now.

Except… my shorts are now sopping wet and they are chafing my thighs. Arrgh!

And I wonder whether I now have enough water to get to the next aid station, well it could have been worse. And after a bit my shorts dry and stop chafing.

The trail just keeps going up. Sometimes in shade, sometimes not. Finally I come out on a somewhat level ridgeline with more beargrass and some tiger lilies.

And then there is a bit of downhill and three people come thundering past me. One of whom is Dana. After they pass there isn’t much downhill left, and I catch up with them again and we all go together for a while. Then one decides let me pass, with the other goes on faster, so now I’m running behind Dana. I could pass her, but if I did I think I’d just slow down and she’d pass me back. So for now I go at her pace and we chat a bit.

Actually she may be making me move faster than I would otherwise.

A bit more up, and then the false summit. Now there is a nice shady downhill area and Dana pulls away again. And the guy who just let me pass catches up and passes me again.

And then the final climb up to Sun Top. Walking again. I pass a number of people (including Dana, I think). About four of us reach the aid station at the top together. Someone fills up my water. I eat some potatoes, and — yes! Dana is spraying herself with sunscreen. Finally. I get in line to use it. When I pick it up, it turns out to be hers, not from the aid station at all, but she graciously lets me use it. Oops.

Sun Top is three quarters of the way done, and I’ve been running for 7 hours, 45 minutes. That means I’m on track for a 10:20 race. Ug. Still, the fastest bit is up ahead, I should be able to make up some time now.

Again I am out of the aid station before Dana and onto Sun Top Rd. I like this bit. A nice level fire road. Much nicer running that any fireroad in SB.  I can just zoom down this. (That’s speaking relatively. If I push I can get an 8 minute pace:-) I’m a little tired.

Anyway, I’m off. There’s a guy just ahead. I pass him. My watch says I’m running at a 9:20 pace. A little further down there are 3 people, and I pass them. (I’m now averaging about 8:30). And then Dana comes zipping by me. I’m surprised, no one passed last time… anyway, we cheer each other on as she goes by. The road goes down steeply for about 5 and a half miles and in that time I pass 11 people, and my watch tells me I’m averaging 7:48. The last two I pass are the guy who was ahead of Dana before Sun Top, and black pony tail whom I haven’t seen since about mile 10.

Then the slope levels out a bit for another mile or so. Last time I made the mistake of trying to keep going at the same pace and my heartrate zoomed up and I had to walk for much of the last six miles. This time I slow down a bit. I can see three people spaced out on the road ahead, and it is tempting to speed up and try to pass them. But I don’t speed up, even so I manage to pass one of them.

At the final aid station I see Dana again (I suspect she was one of the two whom I saw but didn’t pass on the road). Once again I fill up my water and get out of there before she does (if she hadn’t taken so much time in aid stations she’d have beaten me, but maybe she needed that time).

The third mistake I made was to think that I could run at 80% for the last 6 miles. And the fourth was to get lost. I go out of this station intending to go at about 75% and doing my damnest not to get lost. I don’t get lost.

I pass some people and some pass me.

We are once again beside the river, running through massive trees. Every now and then there are views through the trees of the white river. It should be lovely, but mostly I’m thinking how tired I am and how much I’d like to be done. I don’t really hurt. I’m just tired. I look at my watch. I’m a mile out from the last aid station and I’m running at a 13:40 pace, I’ve been going now for 8:45 hours and I’ve got about 5 and a half miles to go. I don’t think I’m going to break 10 hours even. Bleah. That’s pathetic.

Someone comes up behind me, but decides to run with me. We chat a bit. I can’t remember what about. Then someone else joins our group. He seems to know the other guy. Then the first guy drops back and the other runs with me. I try to get him to pass me, and he just encourages me to keep going. Says we’ll break 10 hours at this pace, so don’t worry. I think he’s wrong. I keep going. I wish he’d pass me. If he passed me maybe I could slow down a bit. But he doesn’t pass. I keep going.

I look at my watch. There’s a large banner on it Battery low, press enter. If I press enter the message goes away for about 2 seconds and then pops back up (the battery is still low, you see). Unfortunately this message means I can’t see the rest of the display. I don’t know my HR now, nor what time it is, nor how far I’ve gone or anything. Stupid. I don’t care that the battery is low, I care about my heart rate and other stuff. Don’t show me irrelevant information.

I ask the cheerful guy what the time is and he tells me we’ve been going for 9:15. So another 45 minutes by his estimate, another hour or so by mine.

I’d really like to stop now. Not in an hour. Now.

Someone else comes up behind and this person does want to pass. So the cheerful guy decides he wants to stay ahead of her and passes me before she does. Now there is no one to push me, but even so I don’t slow down.

Someone else passes me.

A little later I find him working on a cramp and pass him. Then he passes me back. And 20 feet after that he turns a corner too quickly, slips, and falls. I pass him. He passes me.

I see him disappear up a hill and—

There’s the road!

Almost done. Up the bank, onto the road, turn left, left again and then 200 meters flat straightaway. I pound down it as fast as I can. The faster to the finish line, the sooner I’ll be able to rest.

A final turn, the clock reads 0:54~~. What does that mean? Maybe after 10 hours it doesn’t show hours any more? I can’t have taken 10:54 to do this; it’s somewhere around 10 hours. Maybe 10:05? Thoughts tumble through my head.

And I’m done. Whatever the time was. I click my watch off, but it’s no help, all it says is Battery low, press enter.

As usual, people seem to think I’m in bad shape and keep asking if I’m OK, but all I need is some rest.

I get some cold water to drink (I hate cold water, I think it made me vomit the last time I did this race, but I need water). And wander over to the results board. There are a lot of people ahead of me. I start looking for my age group. Not many people in their fifties though. The first is about 8:40 hours, the next is not until 9:42 (here I start to get excited, maybe, just maybe I’ll be in third place in spite of everything). But then, right before the end is the third place guy. My name gets added to the list. I see I ran in 9:54:51 and the third place guy was just 2 minutes ahead with only two people between us. Surely I could have found two minutes somewhere? When I was wandering around looking for the unmarked trail maybe? And then I count. Three people ahead of me. One is a woman. Oh. He was the guy who ran with me along the last bit by the river and kept encouraging me. Um. Yeah. He deserves to be ahead.

But how on earth could I have broken 10? When I finally got back to the hotel and convinced the watch to cooperate, I found that according to it the last 6.6 miles were only 5.97. So either the course is shorter than they claim, or my watch was underreporting distance (and my pace). Or both. Anyway either would explain the result.

Just as I finish thinking that I see Dana finish about three minutes after me. And shortly after her comes black pony tail (whose name I never learned).

I am tired. I hobble over to the port-a-potties, and then look for a place to rest, to sit. There’s not much in the way of furniture out here. But I spy some lawn chairs laid out that no one seems to be using. There’s a guy watching them but not sitting on them, so I wander over and ask if I can sit for a bit and he says sure. He also asks if I’m OK. (what on earth do people see in me? All I need is some rest). Then suggests that I lie down. Sure. Why not. Oh. It turns out this is the first aid tent, and he’s some sort of medic. No wonder he’s worried about me. The wind picks up and I start to get chilly so I grab a nearby blanket and pull it over me. A nurse wanders over and suggests I drink a little more water, so I do, but it’s difficult lying down. So I struggle to sit up again, feel nauseous, grab a plastic bag and vomit. After a bit I feel better.  The nurse takes my pulse and says it is weak and high. Gets me to take another salt tablet, and drink some more water. I see they have some bananas and ask for one. I lie there for almost an hour before deciding it is time to get up. The nurse checks to make sure that my pulse has calmed (it has, some anyway), tells me I look better, asks me a few questions to make sure I’m not a blithering idiot, and lets me go to my car.

I go back to the hotel, shower and change. I had intended to go back to the race where they were serving food, but I don’t have the energy. I had intended to go back and at least retrieve my unused drop bag from Sun Top, but I don’t have the energy. I had intended to run an extra three miles (to get up to my age in miles), but there is no way that will happen.

All in all, pretty disappointing. Half an hour slower than three years ago, and I still don’t seem to have figured out how to eat/drink on the course. Or maybe I have figured it out but just don’t do it. I wasn’t paying as much attention after Sun Top as I should have. Maybe I should have drunk more? But how can I make myself do that? My attention wanders at that point in the race, I’m just not thinking about it. That is — assuming that’s the problem.

What could I have done differently? Given myself more time to recover from Leona, obviously. But I’ve got to figure out how to eat and drink if I want to do this again. It can’t be healthy to disrupt my osmotic balance until I want to vomit. Maybe if I had a smaller camelback and knew I had to empty it between aid stations… The large one I use gives a cushion against emergencies, but I have no idea how much I drink because I never drain it. Trailmix didn’t work. What can I use instead? Potatoes seem perfect, but how to carry enough? Would bread work? or is that too dry? Biscuits?

Awake to Run

May 19, 2012

I never sleep well before a race. This time I woke up about once an hour. Finally at 2:45 I gave up and got out of bed. My ride wasn’t till 4 though, so I baked bread.

After Leona I talked to Coach Mike about what went wrong. I wondered if he thought I’d be ready to run the White River 50M at the end of July. He thought I would. And then, to my surprise, he suggested I run Born to Run 50K as a way of fixing some the mistakes I made with fueling. I was surprised because B2R was only 3 weeks after Leona and I didn’t think I’d be recovered by then. Mike told me I wouldn’t and that I’d have to keep my heart rate even lower than I usually do in an ultra — and if I didn’t feel up for it I shouldn’t do it.

Well, I felt pretty good after about a week and a half, and Luis posted that B2R was almost full and encouraged people to sign up. So I did. And then I felt really tired again.

Of course.

Anyway, this was to be a test of eating and drinking, not of racing. I hoped it wouldn’t matter much. Mike wanted me to drink a quart (a liter) an hour. He wanted me to eat more salt (so I decided to double my intake from Leona, which was about 4 times what I’d done previously — on those rare occasions when I’d taken any salt previously). And he wanted me to try to eat real food rather than just gels, so I brought along some fig bars, and some trail mix.

I’m to keep my heart rate below 75%. Considerably below on the downhills. Normally I race ultras at about 80%. I’m not sure what this will mean.

Andreas and Heidi offered to come pick me up at 4am (true friends!). Andreas was also doing the 50K and like me he had done Leona three weeks before (but he did the 50K); Heidi was recovering from an injury and was only doing the 10mile race.

It was cool and pleasant outside in SB. The sky was clear and the stars were shining. I’d hoped for fog. Didn’t want to run in the valley’s heat (though Mike considered that something else I needed to work on; I felt I should seek out cool races instead).

Luis’s race, Born to Run, is, of course, named after the book, Luis being a friend of the protagonist. His race is not set in Mexico but on the East Creek Ranch, an 8000 acre cattle ranch outside of Los Olivos.

Once we got to the top of the coastal mountains we plunged into fog, and it stayed with us all the way to the Ranch. Yay! We got there at about 5am and showed three other cars how to open the ranch gate and where the race start was. Then we checked in and picked up our bibs.

At 5:45 Luis described the course: Two ~10 mile loops each returning to the start. One is marked with pink tags and one with yellow. Blue tags are on routes you should not choose. (Gleep. Colorblind me often finds pink and blue indistinguishable. “Tough” says Luis. Succinct.

At 6 Mr. Chamberlin (the owner of the ranch) fires his shotgun, and we are off.

I start out well back and (I think) fairly slowly, but after a bit I look down at my watch. I’m running at 76% already. So I slow way down.

After another 5 minutes I look down again. 65%. Ah. Frequently when I start running my heart rate jumps and then drops back. I guess it takes it a while to get used to working harder or something. OK. I can run a little faster.

I’m running behind a gentleman wearing a shirt from the Avalon 50; I am also wearing an avalon shirt so this pleases me. As we go up a hill I pass him, but then he pulls back ahead of me on the downhill. I’m trying to run 75% on the uphills, and I seem to be doing ~69% on the down. I’m not really thinking about it that just seems to be what comes out of me.

After about half an hour we reach the first aid station. It doesn’t appear to be functioning and anyway no one needs anything. We just continue.

I’ve been consciously trying to drink more than I usually do. Unfortunately I don’t really know how much I’ve drunk. I’ve got a 2 liter bladder on my back. It’s impossible to guess if I’ve drunk a pint in the last half hour or not.

We are now coming to an edge of the property and we can look across a fence into the neighbor’s vineyard. I ran this loop back in February when Luis held a training run on it; back then the vineyard looked like a bunch of sticks stuck in the ground, now there’s a green fuzz as the sticks turn into grape vines. (this picture was taken later in the day on a second pass through this loop, earlier it was too dim with fog for the green to show in a photo).

We’re now climbing a hill, and once again I pass the other guy with a avalon shirt. We have some chat on the way up, talking about our respective avalons. Of course on the way down he overtakes me again, but I don’t let him get far ahead and reel him in. And then I never see him again.

Back in February this area was full of common fiddlenecks (a type of wildflower, not a fern) but I’m disappointed to see that all of them appear finished and uncurled. No more flowers.

We’re now close to the paved road. I’m not paying to much attention. Suddenly I see people in front of me running toward me. They tell me they went the wrong way. Then I notice that right beside me there’s a obscure trail, and, yes, it is marked. I would have missed it too. So now at least 4 people who were ahead of me are behind me. I keep expecting them to pass me.

I hear turkeys gobbling across the paved road, but I can’t see them.

As we run beside the road we get a good view up the valley, and can see the hills across the way where the fog is lifting. We’re still in shadow, but there’s sunlight ahead.

And now we come to the second aid station; it’s a little after 7 and my friend Nancy is offering me a cup of water. I don’t need any additional water (but it does remind me to drink from my own supply), so I pass on through.

I realize I’ve gone about 6 miles in about an hour. In spite of the fact that I’m keeping my HR down to 75%. That’s faster than most ultras I’ve run. This must be an easy course.

There’s a fairly steep uphill grade here and I drop back to a walk as my HR climbs. But it drops again fairly quickly, so I’m doing a sort of jog/walk/jog/walk alternation up the hill. During this process I pass and repass a woman who turns out to be the 50K female winner (I don’t know that yet, of course), but when we get to a long downhill stretch she takes off ahead and I don’t see her again until the finish line (where she finishes behind me. I still don’t know how that happened).

There are some nice beds of Clarkias here. Some elegant clarkias are open and obvious, but the others are still tightly curled up in buds. I’ll have to wait until later in the day to identify them. There also appear to be some slender tarweeds (or are they miniature? I need to look closely at the flowers to distinguish).

And now we’re coming back to the start/finish area. They need to check me off a list when I arrive (they tell me I’m done, at first, thinking I’m only running 10M), and then I go over to the aid station to get some water. No one notices me. I’ve gotten spoiled 🙂 I’m used to volunteers filling my backpack for me, clearly that isn’t happening here. Silly George. I’m perfectly capable of doing that myself — only where’s the water I should be using? I ask and no one answers. Odd. Eventually I grab a bottle and pour it into my camelback. Ump. It looks as though I’ve drunk a little more than a pint in the last hour and a half. Not good. I must do better. Of course, it has been cold and foggy so I haven’t needed to drink much.

It still is cool, but I have a feeling that’s not going to last. Time to remove my long sleeve shirt. Good-bye Avalon. I drop it on top of Andreas & Heidi’s car as I leave the area. And as I do so I see Andreas, Karen and Brett coming into the area. I’m not as far ahead of them as I thought (of course I did take an unconscionably long time in the aid station).

Now I’m following the loop marked with yellow flags. I’ve never done this one before. There’s still some fog visible off in the distance, but it’s pretty sunny here.

Hmm. That fuzzy leaf looks like a milkweed plant.

We come to the second aid station first on this loop. Again I plow right through. We leave the station by a different route that on the first loop.

Suddenly we turn a corner and we are being stared at by a bunch of cattle. They don’t look happy to see us, but they aren’t doing anything about it, just staring to express their disapproval as we run by, 20 feet away.

We are running under oak trees now and it’s shady and nice. The pack has thinned out. No one is very close to me.

After a bit we run up another hill and come out onto a bit of trail that was on the other loop, so we get to see (and pass) some of the slower runners. We cheer each other on.

And then we turn away from them onto a stretch of single track trail. This is a little different from most trails. I don’t think there’s a year round trail here, it looks as though someone has come through with a long mower and shaved the grass and left it at that.

There’s nothing wrong with this; it isn’t hard to run or anything; it just looks a little odd. The views are nice though…. There’s still a bit of fog off toward the coast…

There’s someone not far behind me on this section, and about half-way though I pass someone who seems to have slowed down. But then he and the guy behind me start chatting together and start gaining on me. We talk a little. They bemoan the fact that the fog is off toward the sea and not over us.

I find I’m pushing things a little harder (or am I more tired?). My HR on the downhill sections has climbed to 72%.

The single track ends in a steep drop down to a road that leads to the first aid station. We take a different route out of it from any we used on the first loop. Hmm. the course is rather cleverly designed that way.

About half a mile beyond the aid station there is a strange dark lump in the road ahead. As I get closer I see a turkey vulture alight and I realize there is a dead cow in the road. This is a huge shock. Closer still and I see the eye is oozing blood — I wondered if someone had shot it, but realized the vultures have been after that.

(Other people say there was a dead calf too, and the cow died giving birth. I guess I didn’t look closely enough).

The first loop was only 9½ miles rather than 10, so I’m sort of assuming this one is also short and start figuring that I’m only two miles from its end. This is a cheering thought. But the loop just goes on and on. It turns out to be 10¼ miles instead.

Finally I get to the start/finish, get checked in as having finished the second loop, and refill my water. This time I use more than a quart (but I’m not sure how much more), so I came closer to or maybe even hit the amount I should have drunk.

And I’m out again. A repeat of loop 1.

The loop looks completely different in the sunshine. It’s starting to feel hot though.

I also notice that it’s getting harder to control my heart rate. I’m walking more than I was 3½ hours ago, and I have to spend more time looking at my watch to make sure I’m not pushing too hard. Even on the downhills I’m starting to approach 75%.

There aren’t many people around. I can’t see anyone ahead, and the guys behind are quite some distance back.

Then I turn a corner and suddenly people are scrambling down the steep slope where loop 2 approaches the first aid station. I think I recognize some of them from my previous view of slower runners — but I’m not sure.

The aid station is crowded. I can’t see any pink tags leading out of it. I chaif as I wait for one of the attendants (there are only two) to have time to answer which road I take out of there. But I’m finally off.

I’m feeling very slow now. Before a pace from a 75% HR felt reasonable, but it doesn’t any more. This may be because I’m tired, and so 75% HR does give me a slower pace. But it just feels wrong. It’s way too slow. I want to go faster. I know I can go faster (but maybe I’d get injured if I do). I don’t push it. I just complain to myself.

Somewhere along here is the place where people missed a turn. I keep looking for it, but can’t find it. There are large unflagged sections if Luis deemed that there were no alternate routes… but there are alternate routes. I don’t see any flagging on them either. Am I going the right way? I look down, and in the roadbed are the prints of many feet. I’m probably in the right place.

No one ahead. No one behind. Is that trouble?

Then finally I do find it. Much further along than I had thought. And now I’m running beside the paved road again. There’s no sign of fog now.

And now I’m coming into the second aid station, and there’s Nancy. They’ve put up signs in the road “You are NOT almost done.” Mmm. Thank you. I’m assuming my race ends after 3 laps which means I’ve less than 3 miles to go. That’s sort of “almost done”. Isn’t it?

I mostly walk up the uphills out of there. I still get a little running in, but not nearly as much as I did the first time round.

I’m trying to figure out how much 8000 acres (size of the ranch) is in square miles. I don’t know an acre to mile² conversion. But there are a bit more than 2 acres to the hectare, and a hectare is 100m to the side which means an acre is about 100yards/√2 to a side, so about (17*√2)² acres in a square mile = ~550 so a bit less than 16 square miles, or a square where each side is 4 miles long. (Now that I’m home I see that 8000 acres is actually 12.5 square miles, so a rectangle 3 miles by 4 miles. It’s still big).

And then finally the downhill. It’s pretty much all downhill from here to the finish line. A mile and a half or so. There’s still no one around me.

As I come down the hill I pass a few slow runners. I assume they are people who are a lap behind rather than people I’m catching up with, so they don’t count.

About a 100yds ahead a mule deer comes down the canyon on my right, crosses the road and disappears off to the left. When I get to the place s/he crossed I look left and wish I could bound up a slope that steep.

I realize I’m going to finish in under 5 hours. That’s kind of neat. My heart rate is now at 75% and above even on the downhill but I don’t have far to go.

I see the cars. I see the finish.

About 10 feet from the finish they announce the fourth place finisher. But it isn’t me. Hunh? Maybe they misread my bib. Anyway I cross the line. And turn off my watch. They check me off the list, and then want to send me out for another loop (they think I’m doing 100k or something.) I say I’m done. They tell me I’m not. Apparently I have to run another half mile to an old stump with a skellington hanging from it, and then back. Um. OK. I set off again.

Was that announced at the beginning? I certainly didn’t hear it. I’m a bit annoyed. I know I’ll be above 5 hours. Oh well. I pass some slow people, but I don’t see anyone else ahead of me. I pay no attention to my HR monitor. After a bit I recollect that I turned off my watch when I crossed the non-finish line. Damn. I turn it back on again. But now I shan’t know when half a mile is. I’ll just have to watch for the skeleton. And there it is. And I turn and run back.

As I cross the finish line again I hear them announce me as the sixth place finisher in 5:03. But… you announced the fourth place guy when I was here last and there wasn’t anyone between… I look at the results. I am in sixth place, and the guy who was announced earlier was fifth. Did I mis-remember? Did Luis mis-announce? I guess it doesn’t matter.

Oops. I see someone has prepared the finish area for Chrystee. Only she’s not running today. Maybe someone else…

I’m feeling in pretty good shape. I’m not nauseous. I pissed during the race. I’m even hungry! I eat a spam and cheese sandwich. The first one tastes wonderful, the second… not so much.

Now… did I feel better because of the nutritional changes I made… or because I only ran for 5 hours and most of the morning was pretty cool so there really wasn’t much of a problem anyway?

I chat with Heidi, (who ran ~20 miles instead of just the 10). And then Andreas and Karen come through. They know to go off to the skeleton. Then the first place woman finishes (how did she get behind me?), and then Karen and Andreas. Luis is so excited that Karen has finished second that he doesn’t even notice (or mention) Andreas.

Then Brett comes in.

I’m feeling pretty good. I realize I haven’t run my age yet this year. I decide to head back out and take a closer look at some of the wildflowers, and in addition run another 2K to get in 52K (actually, a bit more like 3K. My watch thinks I’ve only done about 49K).


Flowers on the trail

Papaveraceae (Poppy family)
Eschscholzia californica
California poppy



Ranunculaceae (Buttercup family)
Ranunculus californicus
California Buttercup



Caryophyllaceae (Pinks family)
Silene gallica
Windmill Pink



Polygonaceae (Buckwheat family)
Eriogonum sp.

Apiaceae (Parsley family)
Torilis arvensis-purpurea
Hedge parsley



Asteraceae (Asters, sunflowers family)
Achillea millefolium
Common yarrow


Erigeron foliosus
leafy fleabane


Hypochaeris glabra
Smooth Cat’s ear


Carduus tenuiflorus
Slender thistle


Silybum marianum
milk thistle

All year

Eriophyllum confertiflorum
golden yarrow

All year

Madia gracilis
slender tarweed


Pseudognaphalium californicum
California pearly everlasting



Boraginaceae (Borage family)
Amsinckia tessellata
bristly fiddleneck



Hydrophyllaceae (waterleaf family)
Phacelia ramosissima
Rambling Phacelia



Adoxaceae (Elder family)
Sambucus nigra-caerulea
Blue Elderberry

All year


Apocynaceae (Dogbane family)
Asclepias eriocarpa
Broad-leaved Milkweed



Lamiaceae (Mint family)
Marrubium vulgare


Salvia leucophylla
purple sage


Salvia spathacea



Orobanchaceae (Broomrape family)
Castilleja brevistyla
Shortstyle Indian paintbrush



Phrymaceae (Lopseed family)
Mimulus aurantiacus
sticky monkeyflower



Plantaginaceae (Plantain family)
Collinsia heterophylla
Chinese Houses



Verbenaceae (Verbena family)
Verbena lasiostachys
Western verbena



Convolvulaceae (Morning glory family)
Calystegia purpurata-purpurata
Pacific false bindweed



Brassicaceae (Mustard family)
Brassica nigra
black mustard

All year

Sisymbrium officinale
Hedge Mustard



Fabaceae (Legume family)
Acmispon glaber

All year

Lotus corniculatus
Birdsfoot Trefoil


Lupinus nanus
sky lupine



Geraniaceae (Geraniums family)
Erodium cicutarium
Red-stemmed storksbill



Onagraceae (Evening Primrose family)
Clarkia bottae
Punchbowl godetia


Clarkia purpurea-purpurea


Clarkia purpurea-quadrivulnera


Clarkia unguiculata
Elegant Clarkia



Leona Divide

April 30, 2012

I don’t really know where the divide is. The Leona Valley with its lakes is a rift created by the San Andreas fault. The race starts to the east of Lake Hughes and runs first south-east, then doubles back on itself to go west and then returns.

The weather people claimed that it was 39° in Lake Hughes Friday morning (day before) and that the high would be 56°. But when I got there it was about 70°. The prediction for the day of the race were equally wrong. It was 51° when I arrived at 5am and reached up into the 80s during the day (that’s at the start/finish area. it was hotter in the canyons).

Very windy though, but I figured that would calm.

We started at 6, in twilight, and ran up into the hills. Two women behind me were chatting: “We can go slow for the first half hour, after all we’ll be out here for seven or so.” At first I thought they might be slow 50K runners, but they had said they were going slowly and our current pace would not yield a 7 hour 50K. Nope they had to be fast 50milers and they were behind me. I should slow down. And they passed me.

I was hoping to break 8, but didn’t really expect to. Somewhere between 8 and 9. Every course is different and I can’t tell in advance…

The countryside is drier and barer than that of the SB mountains, much more open and smaller bushes. Not a problem this early in the morning but it doesn’t look as though there will be much in the way of shade later in the day.

I’ve been troubled with nausea in most of my ultra races (and some training runs too). Mike tells me this is because I haven’t been taking enough electrolytes (salt), so this time I take 100mg of sodium every half hour (and I’ll continue to take a gel pack every half hour). Of course I have a large camelback to drink from when I need it.

We are winding up a dirt road on a ridge line with canyons opening off to the west as the sun begins to rise above the mountains. Every now and then I stop running and walk for a bit until my heart rate drops. This early in the race that happens pretty quickly.

The course is well marked, but sometimes I don’t notice the markings. At an intersection the guy just ahead turns right to piss in the bushes and to avoid him I turn sharp left. The woman behind me yells at me that the correct route goes closer to straight ahead, and then I notice the little “do not go here” sign. Now we get to go downhill for a bit and we trundle along in slightly different order.

My hands are getting warm and I take off my gloves. Stuffing them in the backpack is too difficult so I just hold them. 🙂 I end up holding them for about an hour and a half…

I don’t bother to stop at the first aid station. I’ve only been running for about an hour; it’s still cool; I haven’t drunk that much water; no need for a refill. So I’m now running with a slightly different group of people. We go uphill again for another 20 minutes and then make a very sharp turn onto the Pacific Crest Trail (the west coast equivalent of the AT) — and it’s a bit harder to pass people, but there is an etiquette involved and people are willing to move over if they know you want to pass (and, similarly, I must move over when someone wants to pass me). We coalesce into a little clump of runners (different, yet again from any I’ve run with). I count about 6 people ahead and there are maybe 4 directly behind (harder to count people behind). I slowly move up the clump.

At one point when I move to the side to allow someone to pass I twist my ankle slightly. It’s fine on level trail, but on a slope I notice a little twinge. OK for now, but I worry that it may worsen. I feel it off and on for another three hours or so, and then it fades. Good.

It’s kind of odd, there’s our little group of about 10 people but no one in sight ahead. We wind in and out of canyons. It’s very dry. The trail is white sand with little scrubby bushes, only waist high, much lower than what I’m used to in SB. It is still chilly in the shade, but starting to be warm in the sun. Every now and then we turn a corner and the wind hits and then it’s chilly in the sun too.

I’m in fourth place (in our clump) when I realize that the reason we are a clump is that the woman in front isn’t going as fast as the people behind. The guy behind her passes, and then the woman ahead of me, and then a few minutes later I do. I stick with these two, they are going at a reasonable pace (for me) until we get to the next aid station.

Again I don’t need water so I just pass through.

Now we go steeply downhill for about 3 miles to the next aid station where the trail crosses a paved road. This section goes very quickly. My water is starting to run low but the station appears well before I run out. I do stop here, and get them to refill my water while I remove my long sleeved shirt and tie it to the backpack and then stuff the gloves inside (finally I get rid of them).

Of course immediately after removing my shirt I plunge into shade again and am a little chilly, but that doesn’t last.

And now for the longest climb of the course. I cross the road and head up. First we climb 1600ft in about 3 miles. Then there is about a mile of fairly level ground and then another 600ft. I go up.

There’s a guy behind me, slowly catching up. I offer to let him pass but he seems happy not to. We chat for a bit. When 16.7 miles rolls around on my watch I mention that we’re a third done and on track to break 8 hours. However he’s doing the 50K, so he’s more than half done and on track to break 5 hours. “Of course” he says. Finally he does pass me. But then he gets a stone in his shoe and I pass him back. We climb.

We start to see returning 50K runners. One guy. 10 minutes later another 2. Then a woman. Another man. The second woman (but she’s limping, oh dear).

At the top of the steep hill is another aid station, and this is the turn-around for the 50K race. I say good-bye to my friend and he turns back while I continue. This station claims to be about 20 miles from the start, but my watch thinks I’ve gone 19. Not sure what to make of that.

I start out with a couple of other people but they start to draw ahead, and pretty soon I’m by myself. This is a bit that looks flat on the elevation profile but really consists of lots of small ups and downs, twists and turns. It’s also exposed and in the sun. The ground is very white. The sun is very bright. The sun reflects off the white ground. Not really to my taste.

Off in the distance is a hill top with some pine trees on it.

Then I begin to climb again. There’s a little shade here. I think I’m on a north facing slope so there’s less direct sun. And there are masses of baby blue-eyes. These are fairly rare (or I think so) in SB, but they are all over here. Also some larkspurs. I guess it’s a bit damper here than it has been.

At 25 miles (by my watch) the time is 4:06, so I’ve dropped a little from the 8 hour pace. On the other hand, if the distance posted at the last aid station is correct I’ve probably run more like 26 miles and so I’m still OK…

And after a bit I start to see returning runners from my race. I sort of count these. That is to say… I try to count them, but I’m not at my most analytical after running for four hours and I keep forgetting to pay attention. (Was that runner 8? or 9?). Convention is that returning runners have the right of way, but the trail is narrow here and we’re on the side of a steep hill. Leaving the trail makes my foot twinge. Still, I do it.

As I crest this hill I’m in a stand of leafless trees, with a few just starting to put out buds. They look like oaks. I don’t think I’ve seen any oaks in Ca. which lose their leaves (Heidi thinks caterpillars ate them, but she wasn’t there; I think they were deciduous).

There was supposed to be a nice view of the valley below, but the camera didn’t catch it…

And now we leave the trail and head down (steeply down) a hot dusty dirt road. I pass some people and some pass me.

Two miles down the road (or a bit more) is the turn around (and an aid station). The woman who comes in with me (slightly ahead) turns out to be bib number 320, while I am 319. This amuses me. But not her. She turns around and zooms out of there like a rabbit, while I feel more like a tortoise. The road is uphill and steep and hot. I’m basically walking. There’s another guy who left the station at about the same time. He is also a tortoise and he and I trade places a couple of times. The rabbit is long gone, I never see her again. How does she do it?

I think I’m in about 40th place now. But I know I haven’t counted well. I’d could be 45th, or 35th

Off on the side of the road is a western wallflower. I noticed it on the way down, but I was running then. Now I’m walking. I can’t photograph flowers when I’m running, but at a walking pace, I can stop and it won’t slow me much. I’ve never seen a wallflower before.

The road is hot. I feel I’m crawling up. My fellow tortoise has now disappeared ahead.

I’m starting to balk at the thought of another gel, so I eat some blocks instead. For some reason they seem more palatable.

Eventually I reach the trail again. It’s cooler and sometimes shady and I can run again.

Now I’m the guy returning and people have to get out of my way. It’s kind of nice, but I’m feeling tired.

After ~3.5 miles from the turn-around I see Nichol and cheer her on. (well, sort of. I tell her she’s looking good, which she disputes saying she feels terrible to which I reply that I’m tired). A quarter mile after that I see Jennifer and say something to her too. It’s supposed to be cheering…

Hot. Lake Hughes in the distance.

There was maybe 3 miles of gentle shady downhill, but that is behind me now. I’m out in the sun on the bumpy flat section. I’m not doing very well. Several people pass me. I do see my fellow tortoise again, but I never catch up with him.

As I approach the next aid station there are inspirational quotes on signs. The only one that grabs me is one from Winston Churchill: “If you are going through hell, keep going.” It has a twinge of wit to it which the others lack.

At the 50K turn-around aid station again. In this direction the aid-station claims to be 35miles, my watch thinks it’s only 34 miles. In either case I’m more than ⅔rds done, but still with a long way to go. I eat a bit of banana and a potato. I grab a quarter peanut-butter sandwich while they fill my water.

The peanut butter proves a mistake. My mouth is dry and the peanut butter sticks to it. It’s very difficult to swallow. Funny. I don’t feel thirsty, but my mouth is dry. I thought there’d be some jelly in it, or less peanut butter… Eventually it goes down.

There’s an older woman walking with a stick (I mean a real stick, not a fancy pole). She’s a 50K walker and is in good humor. She asks for a tow as I head out. I wish I had enough energy to tow her 🙂 After this I assume that anyone I pass is likely to be a 50K runner, and anyone who passes me a 50M.

And I stumble out. Steeply downhill now, but very sunny and hot.

People pass me. I’ve given up on trying to eat even the blocks. I’ll just wait for the food at the next aid station. Mike told me that it was easier to eat real food at this point and he seems to be right.

I’m back at the paved road. It’s hot. It’s 1:30, about the hottest part of the day. People ask me if I’m OK. Well… not really, but I’ll manage. Someone pours water down my back. “Brormbgphmshqua”. Oranges! I eat 5 orange quarters! Yummy! And some soda. Mike told me to try drinking it. Bleah.

And now, the last steepest hill. Three miles of up to the next aid station. All in the direct sun in enclosed canyons with no breeze. I’m really dragging now. All slumped over walking up the hill. People pass me. I pass a few. The ridge line seems impossibly far above me. I realize I’ll probably be slower than 9 hours. I hadn’t expected that. Ug. It’s hot.

I think that funny little thing might be a broomrape flower.

It looks as though I’ve reached a ridge. There’s a bit of shade now and it’s not so steep. I can run again. Well… jog.

But I haven’t reached the ridge. I keep going up for another mile or so.

And there is the last aid station. More oranges! — these are covered with salt. Weird. Again they ask if I’m OK.

But this isn’t the end of the climb. There’s another mile to go up exposed fire road. At least it’s slightly cooler up here than it was down in the canyons. Slightly. It’s still hot. I’m walking again.

Someone looking far too cheerful comes running up from below. Only 2.9 more miles he tells me, and it’s almost all downhill.

Maybe. But it’s still uphill now.

And then it is down. And I’m running again. Not fast. But running.

I’m a quarter mile from the finish line when someone passes me. Damn. I haven’t seen anyone for half an hour couldn’t he have waited 2 minutes? And then someone else. And then I’m done too.

At the finish line they ask if I’m OK. Strangely I feel dizzy for about 30 seconds after stopping. And then… I’ll manage…

I really must look awful, they aren’t worrying about other finishers as they are about me…

John (who did the 50K) tells me it was “just over 80 at the finish line in the afternoon” (I finished at 3pm).

Official time: 9:06:47, 52nd overall, third place in my age group.

I want an orange. Or a banana. Or an apple. But they don’t have anything like that. I have a banana and an apple down in my car, but that seems so far to walk. Instead I go sit on the front porch for about half an hour and then go inside to eat a sit-down meal. I’m rather proud of myself. This is the first 50 miler where I’ve actually been able to eat after the race. I guess the extra salt was helpful.

Then I go back outside and wait for my friends to finish.

I did not piss during the race (I never have in an ultra). Nichol points out that means I was dehydrated. Um. I never felt thirsty. Maybe I need to force myself to drink more than I want to?

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