Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Pine to Palm 100 - September 13, 2014


Summary
By far and away, Pine to Palm (P2P) 2014 was my best 100 miler. Although I had no epics highs of feeling really great, I, more importantly, had no epic lows as in previous hundreds. In the past, I had spent at least 30 - 60 minutes at single aid station due to an epic low and feeling miserable from going too hard. I managed a 37 minute PR at the distance on by far the most difficult course of my four finishes. I finished in 21:17:30, which was good enough for 7th place. I tied with my buddy Dom, who I ran the majority of the last 50 miles with. Throughout the day, we battled heat, long climbs and descents, smoke and dusty roads.

I feel like I am slowly, but surely, learning more about the distance and easing into the 100 mile race mentality. I know I am capable of a faster time, but by going faster and pushing harder, you risk blowing up, which could cost many hours and even a finish. There is so much that goes into a successful hundred from nutrition and gear to race strategy and even luck. Completing the distance is monumental, but racing it is totally different and much harder. I don't want to sound arrogant or cocky after a 7th place finish, as this is not the case at all, and I think anyone who knows me would agree. Eventually, I will race one of these things, but for P2P 2014, I was solely focused on executing my race and managing my effort without any epic lows. Doing so successfully would be one step closer to racing a 100 miles. However, I did have time goals and splits, but I had no intentions of trying to keep pace with anyone else. My A+ goal was 20 hours, while my A goal was 22 hours. Here is the strava file for those interested.

I am incredibly excited for my first Hardrock qualifier (although P2P is being phased out hereon after). And since I already have Western States qualifier, I am hoping to get lucky in one of the December lotteries.

Race Report 
My 2014 Pine to Palm adventure started the Friday before the race. My friend Nate Dunn, who was also running, and I drove up to Williams, OR from the Bay Area. The drive was super easy, and it was cool driving by Mt. Shasta knowing I had been at the summit a few weeks ago. Eventually, we rolled into Ashland, OR. We had a quick lunch and stopped at Rogue Valley Runners before we headed West to the start in Williams.

Williams is a super small town consisting of a gas station, general store and thats about it. I love these small, remote towns in the mountains. It reminded me a lot of Vermont. Friday evening we had a pasta dinner and listened to the race briefing. I saw numerous Bay Area friends who were also running, crewing or pacing. Then, we camped with many other runners just a few miles from the start.

After a good night sleep in the bed of my truck and some last minute gear preparations, I was ready for my journey from Williams to the finish in Ashland. At 6:00am sharp, we were off.

I felt pretty good at the start, and I was anxious to run. However, I was hoping to use a bathroom beforehand, but unfortunately, they were far down the road and I didn't have time. So I accepted the fact it would only be a matter of time before I ducked off the trail to take care of business. I totally forgot about my pre-race laxative, which had worked well for San Diego and Boston. Oh well.

It was dark and cool when we started up a long climb along the road. A few minutes after the start, I talked with my buddy Rudy Rutemiller, Chris Wehan and Dom Andreotti. We were all anxious and excited for an epic day in the mountains, and knowing they are all fast runners I knew I would be seeing them throughout the day.

The first 10 miles is a long, 4,500' climb up Grayback Mountain at 6,500' above sea level. The climb wasn't steep or technical, but long and this would soon become the story of the day. After a few miles, we turned off the road on to some single track as the sun was starting to rise. Off to the east was a glorious sunrise over the mountains. Heading up Grayback, we ran through a dense pine forest with a fair amount of fallen trees due the severe drought. It was also apparent some of the smoke from nearby forest fires would be a factor throughout the day. Summiting Grayback was pretty epic. The views were incredible, especially with the plumes of smoke off in the distance. The smokey, hazy air gave a unique view as the sunlight was reddish-orange color.

After the 10 mile climb was a long, 18 mile descent. The first 5 miles were on some glorious, steep, technical single track, which ended at the first major aid station at mile 15. I only stayed for enough time to quickly fill my bottles. The remaining 13 miles was a long, gradual, gravel downhill to the Seattle Bar aid station at mile 28. This part was tough because I felt I needed to run the entire downhill, and an 18 mile downhill run is really tough on the body. I felt OK afterwards, but was looking forward to start climbing again. In hindsight, I was slightly unprepared for the long climbs and descents. I am used the Marin Country trails, which are relentless up and down, but are only a couple miles long. So as the day went on, there were long periods of running downhill and long periods of hiking uphill.

My first dropbag was waiting for me at Seattle Bar. Since I had no crew or pacers, I heavily relied on dropbags. I replenished my pockets with my favorite gels and little baggies of the Tailwind. Although, it looked very suspicious, I filled small ziploc bags with a single serving of the Tailwind Electrolyte drink. The baggies were about the size of a gel, which worked out perfectly to carry in my pockets.

Next up was the notorious climb up Stein Butte. The P2P veterans all warned us of this nasty climb, mostly because it would be in the midday heat. However, the smoke filled air help shield us from direct sun exposure. Although it wasn't ideal to be breathing in smoke, it helped prevent the 95+ temperatures that were predicted, and instead, I suspect it didn't even hit 90. That said, the climb up Stein Butte wasn't bad as I ran the flatter portions and hiked the uphills.

I was running with the eventual female winner, who had a fantastic day. We were hiking the climbs together, when all of a sudden she started running, and I never saw here again... I couldn't believe it, but she held it together! Congrats!

Atop Stein Butte was an aid station, where I filled my bandana with ice. Although it was nowhere near as hot as San Diego, it felt great to have ice water trickle down my back and chest. Without wasting too much time, I moved on to a 8 - 10 mile descent to Squaw Lake. I don't remember much about this part other than running the vast majority of it.

Soon, I pulled in the Squaw Lake aid station, and I had to run a 2 mile loop around the lake. I ditched one of my bottles since I would be returning the same aid station shortly. This was a nice secluded lake nestled in the mountains. There were a few people on paddle boats and swimming, along with many campsites. I returned to the same aid station, except this time it was mile 42. I filled my bottles and bandana before embarking on a short descent before another long climb to Squaw Peak at mile 50.

Maybe it was all the smoke, but I was really thirsty. I only carried two bottles, but drank an entire bottle in short order after Squaw Lake. As I started the long climb to the Hanley Gap aid station, just below Squaw Peak, I looked at my note sheet. I was comforted by the fact there was a water-only station at mile 45. However, mile 45 came and was long gone, according to my watch. I started to panic a bit because I was nearly out of water with a 4+ mile climb to the next aid station in the midday heat. This is not a good situation, and it can be very hard to recover from an extended period without water (Rio del Lago). I started thinking I had unknowingly missed the water station because they were unmanned and only had a few jugs of water. I thought I was screwed, and began devising a way to ration my water. I remember thinking I could take a very small sip every half mile, or 8 minutes at my current uphill pace.

After 20 minutes of wondering if my race was over and if I could recover from being dehydrated, a silver pickup truck drove up the fire road behind me. It was Hal Koerner's dad brining up the water for aid station, and within 10 minutes, I was refilling my bottles. Unfortunately, the advertised mileage can be quite far off at P2P, but I didn't care and was just happy to refill my bottles.

Soon after, I made it to Hanley Gap, where we had to head up one mile to Squaw Peak and grab a flag, which signified a successful summit, and return it to the aid station. The view at the summit was really nice as one could see pine trees and smoke in every direction. I didn't stay for long, and quickly ran back down to my dropbag at the aid station.

After resupplying my pockets with plenty of gels and baggies of Tailwind, my buddy Dom came flying down from Squaw Peak. He quickly ate some of the aid station food and we headed off together working our way up to Dutchman Peak at mile 66 and the high point of the course. Although there were a couple downhills this was a long 16 mile climb. We hiked the vast majority of it and talked about how our day was going. We committed on how this was by far the most difficult 100 we had run before and how unprepared we were for the long climbs and descents.

As the sun was setting we could hear the music blasting atop Dutchman. At the peak, I had another dropbag waiting for me so I could resupply my stock of gels and Tailwind. The view was pretty epic at the summit, especially as the sun was setting to the west. Another runner caught us and left before us with his pacer. Dom left a few minutes earlier than I to pick up his pacer at the parking lot down the road. I eventually caught up and the three of us ran together moving along the Pacific Crest Trail towards the Long John aid station at mile 74. At this point, we knew we were top 10, but had no idea of our exact place.

Unfortunately, this was one of the few sections of single track on the course, which was glorious. It was mostly flat or downhill and with the help of Dom's pacer, Trace, we ran the vast majority of it. By now it was dark, and we had turned on our headlamps. I love running through the night. We keep telling ourselves only one more climb, however this made it sound a lot easier than it was.

Eventually after another long descent we made it to the bottom and the Wagner Butte aid station at mile 80. From here we had a tough 8 mile climb to Wagner Butte followed by a long 12 mile descent to the finish. The climb was steep, never ending and fairly technical. After a few miles, we had to do a two mile out and back up to Wagner Butte to grab yet another flag. At this point, we were hiking every step so it took awhile. Finally just shy of the summit, we were forced to do some technical scrambling to reach top and grab the flag.

I was hiking faster than Dom, but he was inclined to run more than I wanted to. My core was destroyed so I preferred a fast power hike to a run. That said, we bounced back and forth for a little while, and I pulled ahead on the descent down to the mile 90 aid station, Road 2060, where I had my last dropbag. This steep, technical descent was brutal at times. I anticipated the aid station around every corner, but I was greeted to more dark trails and no aid station.

I finally pulled into the aid station, and I got rid of my extra bottle and heart rate monitor, while grabbing a few gels and some water for the final 10 miles. I must have been a couple minutes ahead of Dom at this point since I left the aid station with no sight of him behind me.

From hear to Ashland was a more gentle downhill on gravel roads. Natured finally called, and I will just leave it at that. I was cautious not to push too hard as I had San Diego in the back of my mind. After all 10 miles is still pretty far and anything can happen. Therefore, I did a combination of power hiking and running. Eventually Dom caught back up, but again, what was left of our running abilities didn't match. We did our best to keep up with each other.

Finish! Photo Credit: Dominick Andreotti
Eventually we pulled into the final water-only station at mile 96. I filled my bottle while Dom didn't even stop. From here on out, I sucked it up and we ran the majority of the final 4 miles. A mile from the finish we pulled onto some paved roads to make our way to Lithia Park in downtown Ashland. The roads were steep and painful, but the thought of the finish being so close made it easy to run.

We decided it would be fitting to finish together since we spent so much time together on the trail. We both finished with smiles on our faces with only Dom's mom and a race organizer to greet us. And, that was it, good enough for 7th place overall.

Overall, I loved Pine to Palm. It is a small local race, where the local community comes out to support the runners, which was really nice. Some people complained about all the gravel roads, but I couldn't care less. I was running new trails and was excited to see what was around every corner. This was my first point-to-point 100, which was pretty cool too.

Congrats Dom, it was a pleasure to run with you!!! Thanks to Trace for keeping us honest out there! Also congrats to Rudy for finished about 15 minutes behind us! Thanks to all the volunteers and Hal Koerner for putting on a great race!!

Reflections
Taking off my shoes!! Photo Credit: Dominick Andreotti
Right now in 100 mile races, I am lacking a killer instinct, that ability to risk it all to compete or race the distance. However, since I am still new to and learning about the 100 mile distance, this is a good thing!! I noticed there were times late at P2P when I knowingly dialed things back to prevent any possible blow up. For example, at mile 66 on Dutchman Peak, there were a couple runners just ahead of me, within a couple minutes, but I decided to hold back even knowing we were top 10. After all, 34 miles is still far, especially with 66 miles already on your legs, and a lot can go wrong. Even at mile 90 (see San Diego), it is still really important to stay within yourself. One small mistake managing your effort, gear or nutrition can be the difference between an epic day and not finishing. However, now that I have four finishes, I am feeling a lot more comfortable with it. In fact, each race has felt easier and been faster than the previous one. I am learning how I need to fuel and hydrate my body to prevent nutrition related problems, and also learning a comfortable 100 mile effort.

I think I am now in a position to start thinking about racing 100 miles. In hindsight, it would be interesting to know what would have happened had I tried to keep up at Dutchman. Of course, it is still of upmost priority to run your own race. However, now that I have a established nutrition and gear strategies, I can experiment with pushing harder. In this way, I am only changing one variable at a time. In the past, the problem was that I thought I could race the distance with limited experience on fueling and hydrating for the distance. Obviously, there are just too many variables, and the odds of everything falling in line, is slim, which I learned the hard way (Rio del Lago).

I also realized when you stay within your comfort zone, which I did, the race may not have much sedimental value. I never really had to push through some epic low, which in the past, have been the most memorable experiences. So it will be interesting to see what happens as I push harder in future races, and I think these races will have more meaning attached to them. Of course, I still had a blast out there, and there is nothing else I would have rather been doing! Sometimes it is not always about soul searching, contemplating the meaning of life or competing, and instead, just have fun out there!

I am not sure of my next 100, a lot will depend on the December lotteries, but I am anxious to start thinking about racing and pushing harder.

Lessons Learned and Tips (no particular order)
1. Take care of issues immediately - May sound obvious, but any issue that comes up, take care of it immediately, which may also require carrying some extras. During P2P, I experienced some chaffing early on, however, it was not a major issue because I carried a small tube of AquaPhor at all times. For me, I will always carry a small baggy with Tums, AquaPhor and lip balm. The bottom line is don't suffer anymore than you have to and take care of anything that comes up immediately. Also, little things can be easily forgotten at an aid station only to comeback a half mile out.

2. Core - After all the long descents, my core muscles were pretty sore, which made the final 12 mile descent pretty tough. Downhills can be really taxing on your core muscles and I was feeling that long 18 mile descent from mile 10 to 28.  I need to start doing more core exercises...

3. Race Day Nutrition and Dropbags - Everyone has their favorite gels and electrolyte drinks, and unfortunately races don't always supply the brand or flavors you want. There is no sense in risking the aid stations will have what you want when you want it. For example, you may not like certain flavors or want caffeinated gels early on. So, you have to bring your own. I packed my drop bags with exactly what I wanted, which included little single-serving baggies of Tailwind. Sure it may look suspicious scooping white powder into little bags, but it made a huge difference, especially if you don't have a crew.

Specific Tips for the Pine to Palm 100
1. Long climbs and long descents - P2P starts with a long 10 miles and 18 mile descent. If you can be prepared and train on similar long gradual climbs. Make sure you have some legs left for the final 12 mile descent to the finish!!!

2. Gravel roads - P2P has a lot of gravel roads, which can be quite dusty during the day with traffic. There might not be a lot you can do about it, but be aware of it.  

Gear
Gear
Everything here performed flawlessly, and I wouldn't have changed a thing. Clearly, by the array of brands, it should be obvious I am not affiliated with or sponsored by any of them.

Shoes: Montrail Fluid Flex II with Dirty Girl Gaiters
Socks: Injini mid-weight, mini-crew socks
Shorts: North Face Long Haul Shorts
Top: Pearl Izumi M's Infinity In-R-Cool sleeveless
Headwear: Patagonia Duckbill Cap
Bottles: Ultimate Direction 20oz Handheld (two)

Thanks for reading!!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Becoming one with the long run - Final Push for Pine to Palm

Myself atop Mt. Shasta 14,179'
In my last post, I said the next three weeks would be my final push for Pine to Palm (P2P) coming up September 13. Over those 21 days, I ran more than ever before and accumulated 372 miles with 46,000' of gain in 60 hours. At times, I felt it was easier than expected, while at other times, I toughed out some really rough miles. As I explain my logic behind the high volume, bear in mind I am completely self-coached with no formal athletic training. I am simply reporting my logic and experience based on the information I have gathered.

Generally, I tried to stay around 100 mile race effort the whole time, and my goals of this training block were two fold. First, I wanted to increase my endurance and time on feet so my body could better handle long, sustained efforts. Except for the steep climbs, I want to feel like I can run the whole P2P course by always being able to fall back on a slow, but running pace. Instead of a run/walk strategy on the flats and gradual climbs late in the race, as at San Diego, I want to be able to run. Saving up to five minutes per mile would be huge late in the race. Of course, this assumes my nutrition and hydration are on target come race day.

Second and probably more important, I wanted to train my mind. I usually only go to those deep, dark places in races. I wanted to go there in training to better cope with the mental demons and build confidence. This idea also ties into my first point by being comfortable being uncomfortable. The more accustom to the discomfort I am, the better I can cope with it and maintain more running. Mentally, I want to get as comfortable as possible with a slow jog, even if there is more discomfort.

Big Training Weeks Explained
The first week, I shot for 100 miles and 20,000' in gain, which on average, would match the P2P course. The second week, I flew to Houston, TX for my brothers graduation, but that did not hold me back. Although Houston is very flat, I had to battle the high heat and humidity. My target for this week, was 120 miles. The last week was just about getting in as many miles as possible with moderate elevation gain, and I was hoping for 20 miles per day or 140 miles total. Over these three weeks, I also wanted to avoid 25+ mile runs. I feel like I can recover pretty quickly from 20 miles. Instead of a couple 30 mile days, which could take a few days to recover from, I wanted more balance, so "shorter" runs day after day.

During the first week, I climbed Mt. Shasta (14,179') with my buddy Levi (check out his blog), who made an awesome video of our climb. We went up the Clear Creek route for about 7,900' in less than six miles and a lot of scree. Compared to my Mt. Whitney (14,508') climb a few weeks ago, this was much more difficult. From the Whitney Portal, it was about 6,000' in 11 miles on nice trails. Here are the strava files: Mt. Whitney, Mt. Shasta. Honestly, I would be hesitant to recommend or do this route again this time of year. Since there was no snow, dealing with all the scree was very annoying at times, especially since it was so steep. However, the views definitely made up for it! Check out the pictures at the bottom too!!

Sunrise on Mt. Tam.
Training Week 8/4 - 8/10
101.0 miles with 21,800' gain in 17:46
Because I knew I was headed to Houston next week, I wanted to get in as much climbing as possible. I started off by heading up Mt. Tam Monday morning, which was a great treat to climb above the clouds during the sunrise. For the rest of the weekdays, I commuted to and from Berkeley aiming for 2,000' of gain each day. The Berkeley Hills offer relentless hills up and down the windy roads. Saturday, I headed up Mt. Shasta and Sunday, I went up to Vollmer Peak in Tilden. Overall, my quads were feeling all the climbing so I was actually looking forward to giving them a break in Houston. Although I never thought about it at the time, I think switching things up a bit in the middle of this buildup helped me stay motivated and avoid the same workout everyday.

Training Week 8/11 - 8/17
120.5 miles with 5,000' gain in 17:48
On Wednesday, I flew to Houston, so on Monday and Tuesday, I tried to get in some last minute climbing. Overall my goal was to run a handful of 20 mile runs, except for Friday, since I only had time for a quick five miles just before my brother's graduation. On Thursday and Saturday, I went out for 20 miles along the river from downtown Houston to some trails in Memorial Park. Since it was so hot and humid, I frequently ran into gas stations to refill my handheld bottle. This is a great strategy in an urban environment when you don't want to carry a bunch of water or run a bunch of loops. It was hot and humid, but I was determined to tough it out and get in the distance. The key is to adjust your effort and stay hydrated. By Sunday, I was at 105 miles, so I just went out for 15 miles to hit my goal. I had considered running another 20, but thought it would be better to save the energy for next week and spend more time with my family.

Training Week 8/18 - 8/24
150.6 miles with 19,500' gain in 25:12
This week was epic as I ran 20 miles each weekday and 25 miles both Saturday and Sunday. Monday was my last run in Houston in which I ran a similar route along the river to Memorial Park. The heat and humidity was wearing on me, and I was excited to run some hills in cooler temperatures. When I got back Tuesday, I immediately ran up Vollmer Peak. Wednesday and Thursday, I stuck to some easy climbs in the Berkeley Hills. These were the toughest days since I was feeling the high volume and knew there was still a lot more to come. Friday and throughout the weekend, I mentally felt a lot better since I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Saturday, I joined the SFRC for 15 miles and extended it to 25 miles with a buddy Josh. On Sunday, I ran 25 miles with Dario, and we started with a Double Dipsea, including a beautiful out and back on Steep Ravine. I concluded the epic training block the same way it started, up and down Mt. Tam, which was a fitting end. By far my biggest training week ever, and I was very surprised to see how well my body handled it all. I didn't feel overly beat up and my legs felt pretty good all things considered, but mentally, I was ready for a break.

Taper Plans
I don't think I have ever really nailed a great taper. For my past 100 milers, I think they have been too short, which usually means I start the race with some lingering fatigue. For short races and lower volume training, I have had decent results with a two week taper. For San Diego, I did a two week taper, but that did not seem to be enough after moderately high training volume. Since my volume has been much higher for P2P, I am going for three weeks. I want to feel 100% ready to go at the start. Although I didn't feel bad at the start of San Diego, I wasn't dying to run either. This time, I want to be itching to run, and I hope to use by experience to hold myself back during the early miles. I don't have each day of the next three weeks planned. Instead, I will go by feel aiming to get to the start as fresh as possible. I will be sure to report the details just before the race or in my race report.

Thanks for reading, and good luck in your fall races! Enjoy the pictures!

Mt. Shasta - 8/9/14
Our first glimpse of Mt. Shasta on the climb.
We started way down there!
Red Rock.
Levi and I at the summit!!
Glacier!
The clouds rolled in on the north side.
A few others at the summit.
More glaciers.
The registry.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

San Diego Recovery, TRT100 Pacing, Mt. Whitney and Lake Tahoe


First of all, sorry for the long delay between posts. I really hope to avoid such delays in the future. However, life as been somewhat crazy since the San Diego 100. Since then, I have had a few epic adventures! In the future, I will try to post more frequently to avoid ridiculously long posts! At least scroll through the pictures!

After a couple of easier weeks after San Diego, I have started to build up my mileage again to prepare for September. I say September because it will be an epic month. First, I will be racing the Pine to Palm 100 (P2P), which will be my most difficult 100 to date. Unlike San Diego, which for a few reasons, I think was a fairly conservative race for me, P2P will hopefully be at race effort. In the past my 100 mile races have been mostly about finishing, and now that I have three under my belt, I want to race one. Especially, after SD, I feel far more comfortable with distance, nutrition and strategy. Then, two weeks after P2P, I will be participating in a charity run for the Ronald McDonald Houses (RMH) of Bakersfield and the Central Valley. The run is 135 miles from the RMH in Bakersfield to the one in Madera, CA. I will be running solo and have the ambitious goal of 24 hours for the flat course. For those unfamiliar, the worldwide RMH's offer free housing near hospitals for the families of sick children. The RMH tries to alleviate some of the major financial stresses of caring and providing for a sick child while allowing the family to live together and in close proximity to the necessary medical care. For those interested in more information about the run or donating please click here for the fundraiser or signup sites. Any donations, no matter how small, would be greatly appreciated. If you are interested in running solo or forming a relay, I would love to see you out there!

Although, I probably didn't give it enough time, I think I recovered from San Diego pretty quickly. I was definitely moving slowly in the days after, but I never had the extreme soreness and fatigue I have experienced in the past. I run a lot of doubles commuting to and from work, which amounts to seven runs in 72 hours, and I think this helps train the body to recover quicker. Plus, I ate everything in site maximizing my nutritional needs. That said, I took about six days off after the race, and I could not resist joining the San Francisco Running Company (SFRC) for 15 miles the following Saturday on a beautiful day in Marin County. I realize long races fatigue your entire body, not just your muscles. I acknowledge that I did not  have the discipline to take more time off, which would not have hurt. Fact is, I love the trails and could not resist the temptation of a beautiful day. In the future, I hope to be more disciplined, after all, I want to be running for a long time. Since San Diego, I have had some great training weeks, couple weekends in Tahoe and a Mt. Whitney summit. Continue reading for the details and photos!

Tahoe Rim Trail 100 - Pacing (7/18 - 7/20) strava pt. 1strava pt. 2
At the beginning of the year, I offered to pace my friend Chris at the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 (TRT100), which would be his first and my first time pacing. I first met Chris at the 2013 American River 50, where he finished about a minute behind me.

The TRT100 consists of two identical 50 mile loops starting and finishing at Spooner Lake on the Nevada side of the lake. The course heads north to Lake Marlette, continues north along the Tahoe Rim Trail before descending down to the Diamond Peak Ski Resort lodge at mile 30. Next, the runners will head up the ski runs on an infamous 1,700' climb in just two miles. Once atop the ski resort, the course returns to the TRT and heads back to Spooner Lake, but instead of heading back by Lake Marlette, the course heads up Snow Peak at just over 9,000'.

The plan was for me to meet him at mile 30, Diamond Peak, and then pace the entire second loop from 50 too 100. Chris left our hotel room in Carson City very early to catch the bus to the start, which would give me a couple extra hours of sleep. I won't go through the play-by-play details, and instead, I'll just summarize.

Chris went through hell battling everything from quads and hamstrings to altitude sickness, but I was able to bring him to the finish in about 17.5 hours for the second 50 miles and 31:35 overall. I know he is capable of much faster times, but there is something to be said for grinding it out to the finish! Congrats! He seemed convinced he would drop at mile 80, but after a three hour nap, another sunrise and some convincing on my part, we continued and most importantly, finished. We battled severe thunderstorms and lightening, rain and even M&M sized hail.

My weekend miles were 90% hiking, but a lot of time on my feet and sleep deprivation, which is all good training! I started pacing at 5pm Saturday and we hit mile 80 at 3am Sunday morning. After helping Chris and 45 minutes of sleep for myself, we headed out for the last 20 at 5:30am Sunday morning to finish around 1pm. All of my pacing was at altitudes between 7,000' - 9,000', which did not seem to affect me, although it was mostly hiking at an easy effort.

I learned a few things from my pacing duties. First, I consumed an enormous amount of caffeine to stay awake for nearly 36 hours. All of the caffeine made me have to go to the bathroom numerous times, which reminded me to consume more fluids to stay hydrated. When pacing someone who is hiking, it is easy to catch up, but at a running or racing effort, it would be a huge waste of time. Also pacing and crewing is hard work and requires practice. The better you know your runner, the better. At times, I didn't know what to tell Chris when he was struggling because I felt I did not know him well enough. Some runners want tough love, while others might want to be reminded of their family. My strategy was to tell him that all of these issues are supposed to happen and this is why 100 miles is so hard. This is why we do it, to fight through so much adversity and still finish. Overall, pacing was a great experience, and I recommend others to give it a try. Sure, the runner gets all the glory, but a good pacer and crew can be the difference between an awesome finish and a DNF.

Mt. Whitney - Hike/Run (7/22 - 7/24) strava
Our first glimpse of Mt. Whitney way in the distance.
While waiting for my runner at the TRT100 start, I started talking to a friend about trying to organize a small group to climb Mt. Shasta. Another friend quickly mentioned he was climbing Mt. Whitney the following Wednesday and believed they had a couple extra spots on their permit. I couldn't resist, and two days later, I was driving down to Lone Pine and the Whitney Portal. I was very excited to climb my first 14er and see how my body would react to the high altitude.

We set off at 4am with a group of 15, which consisted of all abilities, from the Whitney Portal at 8,300'. Not knowing how important it was for the group to stay together (from a park ranger point of view), we did out best to stay together. However, I quickly realized a break for an ultra runner is hiking, while a break for a hiker is sitting down. But our slow pace didn't matter at all to me as I was incredibly excited and appreciative to have a spot on the permit.

View from the top of the lower 48!
It was obviously dark when we started, and when the sun started to rise, we were treated to the stunning alpenglow. It looked as if the mountain was on fire. Soon after the sunrise we took a quick 30 minute break at 10,000' and a longer 1.5 hour break at 12,000', which was obviously above the tree line. There was a camp and alpine lake at 12,000', which allowed us to filter water to replenish our bottles. Next, we climbed the infamous 99 switchbacks up to Trail Crest and 13,600'. At this point, the views of the campground, alpine lakes to the east and west, surrounding mountains and Lone Pine were simply awe-inspiring. The exposed rock faces, jagged mountains and shear cliffs were very intimidating and intense. This very near to the point where the John Muir Trail intersects and heads off to Yosemite.

From Trail Crest to the summit was another 900' gain and 1.9 miles of large rocks, boulders and stunning views. Right around noon and after 8 hours, we finally summited. We took another hour long break to take pictures and enjoy the scenery before heading back down.

We decided to go down at our own pace, so myself and my friend John decided to run down. With only a couple short hiking breaks and a nasty fall, I made it back to the Portal in about 3 hours. I was very please to handle the altitude very well, without any problems. However, I did notice at 14,000', my hiking heart rate was near 7 - 7:30 pace at sea level! Overall, it was an epic day that I will never forget! I would highly recommend Mt. Whitney! Enjoy the pictures at the end too!

Lake Tahoe - (7/25 - 7/27) strava pt. 1, strava pt. 2

Morning shot of Lake Tahoe.
Two consecutive weekends in Tahoe and a Mt. Whitney summit in-between?!?! Indeed, life is good! Months ago, my friend Ben and I were hoping to plan weekend running trip either in Tahoe, Yosemite or Big Sur. Since we both have altitude races coming up, Tahoe or Yosemite seemed to be best. Eventually we picked Tahoe since we were more familiar with the trails and they still had a last minute campsite available at Mt. Rose.

The first day we planned to summit Mt. Rose at 10,800' and take advantage of some of the nearby trails in the Mt. Rose Wilderness. The Mt. Rose summit offered some spectacular views of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding mountains. We ran along the Rim to Reno trail, which connects the TRT to the city of Reno. It was apparent by a little overgrowth this trail was not well travelled, but offered some great mountain views and dense tree cover all over 9,000'. We were able to filter water in a nearby creek to refill our bottles and continue. Upon returning to the Mt. Rose junction, Ben decided to turn back to camp, while I added on a few miles by summiting Relay Peak at 10,300' along the TRT. There was an awesome ridge trail up to the peak, which was favorite part of the run and offered some spectacular views.

Almost to Relay Peak in North Tahoe.
The second day we wanted to get in about 20 miles. So we parked the car at the intersection of Highway 267 and the TRT on the northern California side of the lake. We ran 4-6 miles in each direction and used our car as an aid station in the middle. This strategy works out great so you don't have to worry about carrying a ton of water and nutrition. There were a fair amount of mountain bikers on the TRT, but all were nice and courteous. As usual, more gorgeous views and dense forests. Every time I go to Tahoe I am always blown away by its beauty. By far one of my favorite places in US.

Training Weeks
Below I quickly summarize my weeks since the San Diego 100. Currently, I have three more weeks of training as I buildup to some big weeks before I start my three week taper for Pine to Palm! Crazy how fast time flies! Don't forget to scroll down to checkout more pictures!

Training Week 6/9 - 6/15
29.4 miles with 5,900ft gain in 4:54
I didn't run Monday thru Friday to recover from San Diego. Although most would argue I didn't take enough time off, I felt good and seemed to bounce back pretty quickly. I ambitiously ran 30 miles Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, I couldn't resist joining the SFRC on a blue bird day in Marin. I never intended to run the entire route, but I felt good the whole time, so I kept going. Sunday was different. Rather stupidly, I summited Vollmer Peak for 15.5 miles and 3,000' in gain. I felt pretty banged up after this run. Yikes...

Training Week 6/16 - 6/22
60.4 miles with 5,400ft gain in 9:38
During the week, I went back home to Chicago for a work commitment, and fortunately, I was able to stay at my parent's house. It was great to see them and visit for a bit. Each morning I ran a few miles, but it was ridiculously humid. The thought of Rocky Raccoon kept coming back into my head, and I started questioning whether or not I want to go back next year. Of course I do! On Saturday, my buddy Ben asked if I was up for a slow, casual long run in Marin. Of course, I accepted. At the end, we had racked up 32 miles and 4,300' of gain, but I felt pretty good the whole time. I only fueled with water and three gels. We started in Mill Valley and made our way across the Golden Gate into San Francisco to join another friend for a couple laps of the PCTR Summer Solstice 24hr run at Crissy Field. Beautiful, but a very windy day.

Training Week 6/23 - 6/29
80.4 miles with 8,700ft gain in 12:58
I started commuting again back and forth to Berkeley during the week. On Saturday, I did a quick and early 13 miles so I could geek out on Western States all day. Then on Sunday, I ran 30 miles with Chris throughout the Easy Bay Regional Parks. It was great to get in a long run with Chris before I pace him for 50 miles at TRT100.

Training Week 6/30 - 7/6
65.5 miles with 7,700ft gain in 8:58
I tried to cut back this week. I still commuted back and forth to Berkeley, but kept the weekend miles under control. I ran with the SFRC for 13 miles Saturday on a really foggy day in Marin. On Sunday, I took advantage of the all the easy days and ran up Vollmer as fast as I could. I reached the peak in 1:09, which is 7.75 miles and about 2,500' in gain, while the round trip time was 2:06 for 15.5 miles and 3000' of gain. I was wiped out at the end, but it felt great to smash my old PB's of 1:15 and 2:15. To be fair though, those were fairly weak and more of a comfortably hard effort.

Training Week 7/7 - 7/13
73.5 miles with 8,300ft gain in 10:57
Again, standard commutes during the week, but I added a couple nice climbs Wednesday and Friday. The weekend was fairly standard too as I joined the SFRC for 15 miles Saturday. On Sunday, I ran 20 miles solo throughout some of the East Bay Parks, including a Vollmer summit. My stomach was killing me nearly the whole time, not sure what it was, however, I could barely get any water down and no calories. It was a sufferfest!

Training Week 7/14 - 7/20
87.4 miles with 12,800ft gain in 18:50
Nice and easy runs during the week, no commuting, in order to gear up for 50 miles of pacing at TRT100. We headed out to Auburn Thursday to stay at a friend's place before heading out to Carson City. Friday morning we ran a nice and easy run near HWY49 and No Hands Bridge. I absolutely love that bridge and the views of the American River. Saturday and Sunday I was on pacing duty.

Myself at the Whitney Summit.
Training Week 7/21 - 7/27
102.5 miles with 18,600ft gain in 19:41
Easy and flat 10 miles on Tuesday just before we headed out to Lone Pine to climb Mt. Whitney. Wednesday I climbed Mt. Whitney, which is described in more details above and more photos below. On our way back from Lone Pine, we stopped at Tuolumne Meadow in Yosemite for a quick 10 mile run, which was a blast. We ran up to Lake Elizabeth, which was beautiful. Maybe not the most popular site to see, but definitely a hidden gem to say the least. Then after a quick 8.5 miles on Friday, I was back in the car head to Tahoe for the weekend!


Training Week 7/28 - 8/3
53.2 miles with 7,200ft gain in 8:04
Another cut back week. I took it super easy during the week with some flat 5 - 6 mile runs. On Saturday, I joined the SFRC for 14 miles in Marin. It was another foggy day so the views were limited, but it was great to catch up with all the other runners. Around mile 11, I took a detour to bomb down Fox Trail, which loses about 700' in 1.1 miles. My goal was to beak 5 minutes since I have never broken that barrier for the mile. Even though it was a steep downhill, I completed the segment in 4:56 and ran my fastest mile ever, 4:37 (according to strava anyway). I was super excited! Sunday, I slowly climbed up to Vollmer Peak for my 12th summit of the year. I was definitely feeling that fast mile from the day before! It is amazing how just one fast mile can wreak havoc on your legs!

Enjoy all the pictures below!

Mt. Whitney - 7/23/14
Alpenglow in the morning.
Looking back toward the Portal.
Alpine lake near 12,000'.
Mt. Muir I believe.
On the 99 switchbacks.
The needles and spindles.
More alpine lakes on the other side of the ridge.
Trail Crest.
Lone Pine in the distance.
On the wall. 
Almost to the summit!
First time over 14,000'.
Backside of the spindles and needles.
11,000' above Lone Pine in the distance.
Tuolumne Meadow - 7/24/14
Getting close to Lake Elizabeth.
Lake Elizabeth.
Another nice shot of Lake Elizabeth.
Beautiful stream.
Tuolumen Meadow.
Lake Tahoe - 7/26/14, 7/27/14


Looking toward Reno on the Reno to Rim trail.
View from Mt. Rose.
View of Lake Tahoe from Mt. Rose. 
More from the top of Mt. Rose.
Above the tree line!
Somewhere on the Reno to Rim Trail.
On my own as I get close to Relay Peak. 
This was an awesome ridge to run. 
Nice view from the top of Relay Peak!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

San Diego 100 - June 7, 2014

Summary
Very long story short, the San Diego 100 was an awesome race for me as I nearly put together a flawlessly executed 100 miler. I successfully managed my effort and nutrition all day making it to mile 92 feeling great and motivated to finish strong. However, I pushed the second to last climb a bit too hard, while letting my nutrition suffer a bit. This primed me for feeling quite miserable and even blacking out, which cost me about 30 minutes in the last aid station. However, I was able to regain my strength to finish strong.

I ran without any pacers or crew as it was important to me to run on my own with only aid station support. I ended up running about 85 - 90 miles alone, which gave me plenty of time to get in my own head, especially since I never listen to music, and enjoy the beautiful scenery. The weather was hot and dry with a lot of exposure, all at moderate altitude (for someone who lives at sea level anyway).

I finished in 21:54:38 for 8th place overall. It was an epic day with snakes, mountain lions, skunks, face plants and stunning mountain views. I am very excited to get my Western States and Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) lottery qualifiers, especially under the new, higher standards for each race. The race was flawlessly executed by Scott Mills and his team of organizers and volunteers. I cannot thank them enough for a great experience and something I will never forget. I would highly recommend this race to anyone considering it!

At the end of this report, I offer a lot of lessons learned and things that worked out well for me. I hope this is helpful to anyone considering running longer ultras, especially in challenging conditions. I tried a few things in training and on race day that worked out really well, which made it possible to run a great race. Over 100 miles, every little thing makes a huge difference in the end. I also offer some advice specific to the San Diego 100. Finally, I mention all of my gear, which performed flawlessly. Please note, I am in no way sponsored or affiliated by any of these companies and bought each piece with my hard-earned cash. The strava file for those curious.

I think I need to award a belt buckle to all who read this entire report!! Enjoy!

Race Report 
For the first time before a race, except for maybe my first marathon, I was very nervous in the days, hours and minutes before the San Diego 100 Mile Endurance Run (SD100). Aside from Chicago 2013, which I should not have started, the Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile Run (RR100) was my first DNF last February. At RR100, the 100 mile distance proved to be too much for me mentally and physically, which led to my first real DNF. Now that I had experienced failure, I felt I had something to prove to myself. Although, I felt in the best shape of my life, I questioned whether I could complete the distance. After all, 100 miles is really far, nearly four consecutive marathons, and anything could happen.

After a two week taper, I did not feel particularly strong on the few easy runs the days before the race. For one, my nervousness led to stomach and sleep issues, and I questioned everything I ate or drank. I also knew I needed to sleep well the days before, but nervousness about sleeping, of course, led to less sleep. However, the start of the race would start promptly at 6am Saturday morning, regardless of whether I was ready or not.

I drove down to San Diego the Thursday before the race, and I camped in the back of my Ford Explorer both nights. The race starts and finishes at Lake Cuyamaca, which is about 60 miles northeast of downtown San Diego. I camped at the Paso Picacho campground about three miles from the start. I had some essential camping gear, like a stove and pot, so I could at least boil water. As an inexperienced camper, I figured if I could boil water, I would be fine with oatmeal and some freeze dried meals for a couple days in addition to some PB&J sandwiches. I aimed for 3,200 calories each of the three days before the race, and since I was not running much, I thought this would be more than enough to ensure my energy stores were full.

Maybe this is too much information, but this might be helpful to others. I also took a laxative Thursday night to ensure movement. The last thing I wanted was to feel bloated or plugged-up on race day. I have done this in the past, and it has worked out well. I think it helps keep the digestive system moving as you decrease your activity level while slightly increasing your food intake, especially if you are traveling to a different climate/environment.

On race morning, I woke up at 3am, which was plenty of time to eat breakfast, get ready and drive to the start. For breakfast, I had about 500 calories, which consisted of four pieces of bread and some peanut butter. This would probably be too much before a shorter race, but I thought it would pay dividends later on, even if it led to some discomfort early in the race.

At the start, I saw my friends Paolo and Travis. Last year, I ran the Goldrush 100k with Paolo, which was a rough day for both of us. I occasionally run with Travis with the San Francisco Running Company. We wished each other well and looked forward to seeing each other out on the course as it was shaping up to be a beautiful day. The forecast was hot and dry, but this is typical for this race. Staying cool and hydrated would be essential to make it through the mid-day heat and into the evening.

Eventually the clock struck 6am, and we went off. The start of a 100 miler is special, especially if that is the only distance being raced. Each time, I am reminded of my favorite running quote, and it could not be more appropriate. “The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start,” by John Bingham. To me, it is very inspiring to see so many people of many different backgrounds and fitness levels accepting the daunting challenge of 100 miles in the mountains.

Going into the race, I had specific fueling and hydration goals. In my last three 100 mile starts, improper fueling has contributed to some epic bonks and a DNF. Since I did not have a crew or pacer, I would be relying on my dropbags and the aid stations for support. My goal was to average two gels an hour and supplement with a single bottle of Tailwind between each aid station. Tailwind also has electrolytes so I did not intend to take extra salt tabs. This plan would give me about 300 calories per hour, which is about what the body can easily digest. I also intended to only carry two 20oz handheld bottles (without a belt or vest), which could also hold four gels each. In addition, I could carry about six gels in my short pockets. My second bottle was filled with water to offer some extra hydration, just in case. Finally, my plan to stay cool, along with ice cold hydration, would be to fill a bandana, sewn in half, with ice to wrap around my neck.

As we left Lake Cuyamaca, the family, friends and crews of the runners cheered us on as we approached the first climb of the day. Every climb at San Diego is runnable, however in the context of 100 miles, running uphill does not make sense for most people, especially early on. But this did not stop a handful in the lead group, as they went out fairly hard. According to the results, I was in about 20th place at this point.  I did a combination of running and hiking the 2-3 mile 1000ft climb. I ran the gentle parts, but did not hesitate to hike the steeper sections, especially since my legs did not feel particularly strong. I could tell early on that I did not have much speed or turnover, and even though that could change later on, I was not worried at all. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise. Fact is, there is no need to run fast over 100 miles, and if you could maintain just 10 minute miles at the SD100, you would be flirting with a course record. As we climbed, the sun rose over the lake, which was a spectacular and inspiring sight.

Eventually we reached the summit of Middle Peak and had a nice gentle, but somewhat technical, downhill to the first aid station at mile 6.8, which was my campground Paso Picacho. I filled my Tailwind bottle, and although it was not too warm yet, put a bit of ice in my bandana. A few seconds later, I was through the first aid station and on my way to Chambers, where everyone was dressed up as pirates!

At this point, I was feeling just OK, not fast or nimble, but like I said, it does not really matter over 100 miles. My slight sluggishness might have been due to the larger than normal pre-race breakfast or too short of a taper. However, the extra calories would be far worth some slight discomfort early on. After another gentle 1000ft climb and running around Lake Cuyamaca, I strolled into the pirate themed aid station at mile 12.5, Chambers. After a quick break to refill my bottles and bandana, I was moving on. This trend carried out throughout the day as I only considered the current segment to the next aid station. When I arrived, I refilled my bottles and bandana and moved on trying not to waste too much time. I never looked at my overall mileage or time. It is very daunting knowing you have 60 or 70 miles to go, but I was comforted knowing I only had a few miles to the next aid station.

Shortly after Chambers, it was clear it was going to be a hot and dry day. During the pre-race briefing, race director Scot Mills mentioned the humidity was about 10%, which I was not quite sure how to react to. I know I do not like high humidity, but I did not have any experience in extreme dryness. In addition, the race is at altitudes ranging from 3,781ft to 6,083ft, with the majority of the race over 5,000ft. Although this is not high altitude, the thinner air was noticeable, especially since I was coming from sea level.

I really enjoyed the landscape. It was hot, dry, dusty, bare and exposed. I remember comparing it to the ending scene of the Jungle Book with Shere Kahn and the fire. Especially after last year's fire, the terrain consisted of numerous burn areas. I thought only the strong, well-adapted can survive such harsh environments. After realizing I was not well-adapted to this particular environment, I knew I would have to run a smart race. Originally, my goal was 18-20 hours, however, after 20 miles in those conditions, I knew I had to run by effort, regardless of any goal. And since I have some 100 mile experience, I also know that your finishing time is largely determined by how you do in the last 30 miles. A fast first 70 miles means nothing if you walk the last 30, which I have done (Rio Del Lago) and would prefer not to do again. Therefore, it was an obvious decision to abandon any ambitious splits and run by feel, at an effort that felt very sustainable. That said, I did not hesitate to throw in short hiking breaks on gentle climbs or technical terrain.

I ran with a couple others for very short periods during the first 20 miles. One runner was running his first hundred and we talked about previous races, advice and whatnot. However, I was running alone for the most part, and this trend continued as the race went on. After the aid station at mile 23.2, I started running with Jenny Capel, who was currently leading the women's race and also defending her win last year. We talked about all things running from how we got started running, to the ultra-running culture and future race plans. After running along some beautiful and exposed cliffs, we arrived at the mile 30.4 aid station, Pioneer Mail.

My first dropbag was at Pioneer Mail, where I would restock my gel supply in addition to refilling my bottles and bandana. Since I did not have a crew, I had to rely on my dropbags or aid stations for gels. I relied on the aid stations for water and the Tailwind electrolyte drink, which was very convenient. However, I was worried the aid stations might not have the gel flavors and more importantly, the caffeine levels, I wanted. So I used dropbags to ensure I had the right gels at the right time. Although it took some time to sort through my dropbag, it was worth it. I planned to restock my pockets with gels every 30 miles since I had enough storage capacity for about 12 gels. I think Jenny had a crew, so she was in and out of the aid station before me, and that was the last time I saw her as she stormed to her second SD100 win. Congrats Jenny!

I left the aid station, and I just remember it was getting hot, really hot. My cooling strategy of the ice bandana was working great, and without it, it would have been very difficult. The ice filled bandana was a life-saver as it trickled ice-cold water down my back and chest. Keeping your core temperature cool during hot races is incredibly important. As your body heats up, it becomes less efficient, which requires you to work harder, and over 100 miles, you never want to work harder than you have to. Little things like drinking and holding ice water and using a bandana filled with ice make a huge difference. Think of it as putting effort in the bank for later on.

Not only was it hot, but it was dry. Although it was 90+ degrees, I was not noticeably sweating. The sweat was evaporating before, I could visually see or feel it along my body. Throughout the day, I drank to thirst, which meant I was drinking about twice as much as I expected. I thought I would drink one bottle between each aid station, while the second bottle would be a backup or to splash over my head. Instead, I was emptying both bottles between aid stations. Since I felt good and knew there was a decent amount of electrolytes in Tailwind, I continued to drink to thirst. Carrying just one bottle would have been suicidal, while two seemed perfect for me. I finally learned this lesson! Always better to be safe than sorry, and carry a little extra water. Likewise, nutrition was going well, and I was more or less sticking to my plan of two gels an hour.

Although Paolo and Travis went out faster than me from the start, I caught back up with Paolo at the mile 34.4 aid station. He looked good, but said he was in the middle of a dark, low patch. I wished him well, and continued on. After talking with him at the finish, he said he nearly dropped, but instead, drank a beer and continued. Nice!

I continued to successfully manage my effort, nutrition, hydration in the dry heat and was in and out of a few aid stations just refilling bottles and my bandana. At this point, I was running pretty much completely alone, and there was no sign of others ahead or behind me. It was nice to get into my own head and enjoy the spectacular scenery. I do not remember any particular thoughts or feelings, other than just being really happy. I realized there was nothing else I would rather be doing at this point in time. I marveled at the harsh terrain with a smile from ear to ear.

In fact, I was glad I was alone. I wanted to do this 100% without help, aside from the aid stations for which I relied on for hydration. I did not want a pacer, crew or even to run with someone else for an extended period of time. In my opinion, pacers and crews are a tremendous advantage. Please do not take this the wrong way though. Everyone can have a crew or pacer, but I opted to run without either. I do not look down upon runners with a crews one bit, but for me, it was important to finish with minimal help from others. For both my previous two hundred mile finishes, I intended to run completely alone. However at Headlands 100, I met Ben, and since we had the same goal and were moving at the same pace, we ran almost 70 miles or more together. At Rio Del Lago, my buddy Paul bailed me out, when I was 100% convinced I would drop, and hiked the last 20 miles with me. Long story short, I was alone running in the mountains, and I would not have it any other way.

Shortly before halfway, I saw the race director just up ahead. He calmly informed me there was some course vandalism and although I correctly followed the ribbons, someone had switch them. Fortunately, they were able to fix the issue without requiring any additional miles or backtracking. Now that is what I call a excellent race directing!! After following some makeshift markings made of sticks and rocks and nearly stepping on a snake, I was back on course, moving toward the mile 51.1 Meadows aid station. I am nearly positive the snake was not a rattlesnake, however I did hear some very suspicious rattles throughout the day.

I was halfway in 9:25, and the first half was somewhat uneventful, which was a good thing. I was able to keep up with my nutrition, stay cool and manage my effort.  Although it was still hot, I was hoping the hottest part of the day was over. From a distance perspective, I was halfway, but I did not get too excited since I knew I was not halfway from a time or mental perspective. This tidbit is important to realize as it may help gauge effort and expectations. Some say mile 80 is halfway.

After the first two climbs, the course was mostly rolling hills with a slight upward gradient to the high point of 6,083ft around mile 45, which was followed more rolling hills with a slight descent to the mile 56.4 aid station, Penny Pines. Next, I headed down a famous trail into Noble Canyon in which we lost about 1,750ft in about six miles to the low point of the course around mile 63 and 3,781ft. This descent was fairly technical, and with marginally swollen feet 60+ miles into the race, it was tough. With every step my toes slammed into the front of my shoes, which was painful, especially since my swollen feet had less room in my shoes.

I did my best to maneuver along the technical trail, but eventually, my massive Hoka sole clipped a rock, which sent me flying forward. Dazed, I sat still on the ground assessing my wounds, and once I realized nothing was too severe, I looked out across the canyon. Everything seemed to be in slow motion, and I became vividly aware of my surroundings. I noticed the insignificant movement of the leaves from the slightest breeze and the rays of light scattering through the trees. For a short moment in time, I was under absolutely no stress and everything seemed insignificant, even the race. This feeling was special in which I briefly wondered what I was doing and why. I did not come up with any profound revelation on why someone would try to run 100 miles, and instead, I just knew it was time to get up and continue.

I sat there for about 30 seconds, and it was not until I started running again, that I realized I sprained my wrist. It was not anything major, but it was somewhat uncomfortable to carry a full bottle in that hand. Since going with one bottle was obviously not an option, I decided to drink that one first for the rest of the race.

By now, the sun was starting to set. I had just rolled into Pine Creek at mile 64, however, my headlamp was at mile 72.1 and there was a 1,500ft climb in between. Initially, I was not too worried and proceeded to hike up the longest, steepest climb of the course. About halfway up, Paolo caught back up, and we talked for a bit as we hiked. He told me about how he almost dropped earlier, but came back and was feeling strong. Soon after he caught up, we saw the race director up ahead. He told us there has been more vandalism and we would not see any course markings for the next four miles to the aid station. Fortunately, his instruction was very easy, just follow the trail two miles, turn left and it was another two miles to the aid station. We thanked him again for letting us know, but we started to get worried as daylight was very limited and neither of us had our headlamps.

Paolo was moving faster than me, so I told him to go ahead and maybe I would catch him later on. He jokingly said not to worry since this high would not last long. Eventually I made the turn and was about two miles from the aid station, but it was getting tough to see the trail, especially in the shadows. At this point, it did not matter if it was uphill or down, I had to run, otherwise, I would run out of daylight. In fact, it was already too late. This was tough, I kept looking at my watch counting every hundredth of a mile saying I just need 15, 10 and 5 minutes. About a half mile from the aid station, I saw a volunteer with a headlamp asking me if I needed a light. By now, it was dark, and the only way I could see my watch was if I used the backlight. I politely declined his offer as I wanted to do this on my own, under my own planning, and I did not want someone to bail me out due to my poor planning. My eyes adjusted to the limited light, and eventually, I made it to mile 72.1, the Pioneer Mail aid station.

I noticed Travis sitting down at the aid station, which was the first time I saw him since the start. I do not know for sure, but I think he had trouble eating. This was his first hundred, and I know how easy it is to make the same mistake. I did not talk to him as he was busy with his crew and pacer. I was in a really good mood as I came into the aid station, especially since I had a headlamp in my dropbag. One of the aid station volunteers asked me if I needed a massage or food, and I politely responded by saying "no thanks, just a headlamp and a few gels, and I'll be good to go." That said, I swapped out some old gel wrappers and turned on my headlamp. Although it was not cold, I tied a long-sleeve shirt around my waist, just in case.

From Pine Creek (mile 64) to Chambers (mile 87.9) the aid stations were at least 7.2 miles apart, with a maximum of 8.6 miles. Going into the race, I thought this would be the toughest part, especially since we got used to aid every 4 - 6 miles before. However, I was excited for the night, which ironically gave me some energy, especially as I started to take caffeinated gels. I love running in the night, which is something unique to hundred milers. I am a daily 2 - 3 cups of coffee person, but ten days before the race, I gave up all caffeine. This taper was tough because I absolutely love my morning coffee. However, it was worth it. Even the lightly caffeinated (25mg) gels gave be a nice burst of energy to keep me going through the night. Sleepiness was a major problem in my previous hundred mile attempts, but after a proper caffeine taper, it was not an issue this time.

I left the aid station at mile 72.1 with Erika Lindland and her pacer just behind me, while Travis and his pacer, Byron, were slightly ahead of me. I first met Erika at Rio del Lago (RDL) as we ran a few miles together after No Hands Bridge. However she quickly pulled ahead of me at RDL to win the women's race and smoking fast time! I talked a bit with them, but I pulled slightly ahead and out of conversation range. Now, it was completely dark, and I was alone. Running in the dark is very unique, especially as all the nocturnal animals come out. I committed to a run/hike strategy in which I hiked all the short rolling hills. Sure, they were very runnable, but I still had 25+ miles left, so it was still important to run at a sustainable effort. As I made my way to the next aid station, I saw a fair amount of mice, which worried me a bit because snakes eat mice.

Eventually, I rolled into the Sunrise aid station at mile 79.3 just ahead of Travis and Erika, and although I did not know it at the time, I had manage to work up to 9th place. I knew I had passed a handful of people throughout the day (I was 18th at the first aid station at mile 6.8), and I am sure the tough weather conditions contributed to a fair amount of drops. In fact, the overall finish rate was 62%, which is probably on the low end of average for the distance. Now, I was nearly 80% done, and I had done a marvelous job with nutrition and hydration. I felt infinitely better than my previous hundreds at this point. I consistently drank nearly two bottles (one Tailwind and one water) between each aid station and kept up with about two gels an hour. I never felt the need to take additional salt. I grabbed a second headlamp, and was on my way with a headlamp on my head and around my waist. Two headlamps is far better than one.

Next, was the longest segment of the race, 8.6 miles back to the Chambers aid station. Eventually, I caught back up to Paolo. Although he was with his pacer, he was not feeling great. He asked if I noticed his noodles splattered along the trail. I remembered them, and it was clear he was having some more issues. I did not stay with him long as I continued to run as much as possible, within reason. Within a mile of Chambers, I saw my first skunk of the night. I made some loud noises and scuffed me feet, and the skunk jumped off the trail. I continued to meander around Lake Cuyamaca and pulled into the pirate themed aid station with only two climbs and 12 miles left. I was feeling great, and after passing another runner, I was in 7th place. Chambers was the first time during the race I was aware of my place, and to my surprise, I was top ten, but I knew Travis and Paolo were close behind, while Erika was less than a minute back.

For the first time all day, my competitiveness took over. Since there was a short out-and-back to Chambers, I knew 6th place was out of the question as Ray Sanchez was at least a two miles ahead. Ray is an awesome runner and extremely mentally tough, so there was little chance I would catch him with only 12 miles to go. However, I wanted to preserve 7th place, and with a handful of people just behind me, I felt the need to push. For the first time, I looked at my overall mileage and time. From the start until now, I had just focused aid station to aid station and only looked at my current segment distance and time. However, after I left Chambers, I had a chance to finish in under 21 hours. This new time goal combined with some great runners just behind me, I made the decision to push hard up the second to last climb, which was about 1000ft in three miles.

This decision would be my first mistake all day. I did great managing my effort, nutrition and hydration all day. I dialed my effort back when it felt too hard, regardless of my goal splits, and drank twice as much as intended because I was thirsty. I adapted to the race conditions very well, until now. Just before the climb, I looked over my right shoulder and notice two eyes looking back at me. This caught me totally by surprise and scared the sh*t out of me, especially when I noticed the large cat-like figure attached to those eyes. It was a mountain lion. I made some more noise and tried to look as big as possible. Thankfully the animal had no intentions of making a meal out of me. I have a new appreciation for wildlife. I feel like the media portrays bears and mountain lions as beasts constantly making meals out of humans. In fact, this is quite rare. However, it is still very important to know what do when you encounter such animals.

Unfortunately, as I hiked hard up this climb, my nutrition suffered. Subconsciously, I was working too hard to eat, and my muscles did not want to share any blood with my stomach. However, I mistakenly thought it was OK not to eat since I had less than ten miles to go. At the Stonewall summit, I knew something was wrong, and for the first time all day, I felt miserable. I was forced to hiked down 75% of the 1000ft descent to the final aid station at mile 94.4, Paso Picacho. Of course, this more than negated my hard effort climbing to the summit. Although I was still in 7th upon arriving at the aid station, I could hear Erika close behind.

Upon arriving at the aid station, I sat down, and I told the volunteers I did not feel good at all. It was hard to pinpoint it to anything specific. They asked if it was my stomach or muscles, but I could not be anymore specific other than I felt terrible. Indeed this was a strange feeling, something I do not recall ever feeling before. The volunteers asked if I wanted some potatoes, pickles and dozens of other foods, but nothing sounded good. Then they said, I could just walk to the finish, and since I was so close, it should not be more than 90 minutes. I agreed and stood up, but before I could take a single step, my eyes shut and I went face first into the ground. My legs gave out from under me, and I went crashing into the ground. I quickly regained my strength, well at least enough to get up and sit in a chair. My collapse quickly caught the attention of the medical marshal.

Soon after my collapse, the volunteers convinced me to try to eat a banana slice. Honestly, I was dreading this, especially because I am very picky about my bananas. I absolutely love ripe bananas, but absolutely hate green or yellow bananas. Unfortunately, typical race bananas are bought from the store just before the race and are still yellow or even worse, green, which I find revolting. I like my bananas speckled with brown spots. Funny thing, this is exactly how it played out in my head while I sat there! To my surprise, the banana they gave me was ripe with some nice spots!! Now, I was motivated to at least try it. It went down very well, and I proceeded to eat an entire banana. By now, I had been at the aid station for nearly a half hour, and I needed to get moving. Erika had already zoomed past me, and I figured the others were close behind.

The medical marshal was slightly reluctant to let me go, but I felt like a new man after that banana. I walked for a minute or two with a volunteer to ensure I was OK, which I was and felt great. Now just 5.8 miles with a little 500ft climb to the finish. Obviously, I did not want to make the same mistake twice, so I hiked the final climb at a very easy effort, with every intention to run the last four miles, which was a nice gradual downhill. After making it to the top of the climb, I proceeded to run down, with no signs of anyone behind me, eventually making it to a road crossing a mile from the finish.

The volunteers helping runners safely cross the road warned me of some more skunks up ahead, but I was not too concerned. At this point, I was running fast, probably around 9 minute pace, not knowing how far anyone was behind me. Then, three skunks sitting in the middle of the trail stopped me dead in my tracks. Their tails quickly went up like they were about to spray me. I quickly made some noise with my bottles and scuffed my feet, and the skunks moved forward. So I started walking forward, after all, I was so close to the finish!! I stopped again because I did not want to get too close to the skunks, and those tails went right back up. I quickly made the realization, their tails went down when there were moving. So I made some more noise and moved forward, and the skunks started to move forward along the trail. I quickly increased my pace, and before I knew it, I was simultaneously chasing three skunks down the trail desperately hoping they could not spray me on the run. However, I quickly wondered if I was going to chase these guys all the way to the finish! Fortunately, there was a fork in the trail, and the skunks went right, while the course went left. I ran as hard as I could for the last quarter mile and was greeted by a handful of people, including Scott Mills for a high-five, at the finish just before 4am. I was absolutely thrilled to have completed run in 21:54:38 for 8th place, which is a new 100 mile PR. The next person behind me was about 15 minutes back.

I stayed awake for awhile to see Paolo and Travis finish along with many others. I even had the pleasure to speak with the legendary Ann Trason. I love hanging out at the finish watching others come in, it is very inspiring, especially at a hundred.

Reflections
Looking back on the San Diego 100, I am incredibly proud of myself. As I eluded to in my report, I wanted to run this race with minimal support. In my previous two hundreds, I had a pacer for all intensive purposes, even though I never intended to. For those races it worked out for the best, and I made some great friends. However, it was important to me to do one of these things on my own, without the help from others. I turned down friends who kindly offered to pace, and I even told the volunteer I did not want his light when I was without a headlamp in the dark at mile 72. Even if it meant finishing a second before the final cutoff, I wanted to do this on my own with minimal support from the aid stations.

I know the community is divided on this, but in my opinion, pacers and crews offer a huge advantage. Actually, advantage is the wrong word since everyone has the option to organize a crew, but you know what I mean. Having someone to talk to or motivate you when times get tough helps you lose focus on the pain, discomfort and mental demons. I wanted to confront them head on. However, I felt very good for the vast majority of the race and did not have any epic low points. For most of the day, I managed my effort really well. Maybe that came from experience, but it helped prevent those notorious low points, where all seems lost.

That said, I do not have any profound revelations from this race. Instead, I am very proud that I ran a smart race with minimal support. I only relied on the aid stations for water, Tailwind and my dropbags. I had the confidence to abandon my splits when the effort seemed too hard given the conditions. Of course, I miss-managed my effort on the second to last climb, which cost me 7th place and 30 minutes, but I consider that a minor hiccup that I will learn from. In the past, my race unraveled around mile 70, and in San Diego, I made it all the way to mile 92 without any issues feeling great. In the end, it was a great race for me, which led to a top ten performance and a personal best time in challenging conditions.

Lessons Learned and Tips (no particular order)
1. Rehearsal Runs and Gear - Make sure to get in a couple rehearsal runs in your race day gear. Sometimes I reserve certain shirts and shorts just for race day. Maybe it is superstition, but it can also be easy to get in a simple routine of wearing non race day gear. I did a few long runs of 30 miles in my exact race day gear hoping I would notice any potential problems. Maybe obvious, but even if you run a 100K in your gear, new issues can crop up late in hundred. In this case, make sure to have spares with your crew or dropbags, just in case.

2. Taper - I did a two-week taper in which my weekly mileage leading up to race week was 81.4, 91.1, 106.4 and 61.1, all with around 12,000ft of gain (except 61.1). Going into race week, and even race day, I felt somewhat beat up and not fully recovered from the training. Next time, I will go for three weeks.

3. Managing Effort - To me, this is the key for hundred mile success. At all times, I think one needs to be moving at an effort that feels sustainable for a long time. May sound obvious, but it is all too easy to go out too hard, been there done that. Sustainable effort will be different for everyone. For some, it might be running and for others, it might be hiking with occasional breaks to stop and rest. I did great until mile 92 when I got overconfident thinking there was less than ten miles to go. Personally, I would not push it until you are at mile 95, at a minimum. Remember even if you are moving well, averaging ten minute pace, you still have an hour out there and anything can happen.


4. Note Sheet - I made a personal note sheet to carry for the race, which is shown to the right. First, I added all the aid station mileage and elevation gains. I also put goal splits for my 18 - 20 hour goals along with the number of gels I intended to take between each aid station. Although my paces only lasted to the first aid station, it is still useful information. Next time, I will consider less ambitious goals. However, in my defense, this was the first time I ran in Southern California, and at least I had discipline to readjust on race day. On the other side, I posted the elevation profile and the nutritional facts for the products. I never used the nutritional facts, but I thought it could be useful. The elevation profile was incredibly useful, and it was so nice to know what was coming up. I folded it 3-way, tucked it in my waistband, and it was worth its weight in gold. In the future, I would not start a race 50 miles or more without one. All you have to do is print out the information and completely cover it with tape.

3. Nutrition and Aid Stations - Originally, I intended to rely solely on the aid stations for hydration and fuel. However, I was worried the aid stations may not have the flavors and caffeine levels I wanted when I wanted them. Since I planned to fuel solely on gels, I knew I could carry 12 gels at a time, so I was able to strategically restock my gels with dropbags appropriately. My whole point is to bear in mind that the aid stations may not have the exact gels you want, and if you have specific flavors and caffeine levels to follow, it is best to pack your own. I also relied on the aid stations for water and the Tailwind electrolyte drink. I found each aid station seemed to mix the Tailwind drink slightly different. It can be important to realize a stronger mix means more calories and electrolytes versus a weaker mix. This is also why it is important to train with the race day fluid so you notice these differences. This way, you know what proportions work best for you and you can attempt to accommodate differences on race day. For example, if one aid station mixes a strong electrolyte drink and you are also taking salt tabs, you could slightly reduce the frequency you take the tablets.

4. Watch - My goal was to only focus on the next aid station and to not worry about my overall time or mileage. So on my watch, I set the screen to only show my lap/segment distance and time. It can be very daunting and overwhelming knowing you have 50 or more miles to the finish, but if you break it down into small pieces, it is a lot easier on the mind.

5. Training at Race Effort - For me, this was very helpful. In training, I did a few 45+ mile weekends, all at my approximate hundred mile effort. By doing this, I was able to realize my goals were too ambitious on race day and adjust appropriately. Even if it is your first hundred, try to simulate the effort in training. At this effort, you should feel like you can keep going at mile 30, even if it is the day after a previous long run. If you are wiped out at mile 30, you should consider adjusting your expected race day effort. In my opinion, successfully running this distance is all about managing effort.

6. Caffeine - My ten day caffeine taper was not fun, but it payed off. I waited until mile 70 to start taking caffeine. Next time, I may start slightly earlier, but not before mile 50. Once you start caffeine, you need to continue in order to avoid the crash. If you taper your caffeine correctly, you probably will not need it until the evening. For me, the sleepiness starts when the sun sets, and in San Diego, I was able to completely prevent it with a caffeine taper. Note, if you successfully rid the body of caffeine, which I have read takes about ten days, a little caffeine goes a long way! Be careful, the double espresso gels might be too much!

7. Staying Cool - Even if you are heat acclimatized, staying cool on a hot day can only help. I was not acclimatized, but a $2 bandana was the difference between being miserably hot or reasonably comfortable. By wrapping an ice-filled bandana around my neck, I had ice cold water trickling down my back and chest all day, which allowed me to keep my core temperature in check. All you need to do is fold a bandana in half as a triangle and sew it shut, except for a corner along the fold (not the middle one). Then, when you tie it around your neck, you effectively seal the hole, which keeps the ice inside.

8. Headlamps - Two is better than one. I had one around my waist, which always shined down on the trail ahead of me. The other was on my head, which could follow my field of vision. So even if I wanted to swivel my head, I still had light on the trail, which allowed me to use my peripheral vision to spot some last minute obstacles while looking away.

9. Supplies - In addition to gels, I also carried some useful supplies in my short pockets such as antacid tablets, salt, lip balm and an anti-chaff cream. In a perfect world, I would not need any of it or grab it at an aid station. However, I have frequently forgot to apply anti-chaff cream at aid stations, only to realize I forgot and have to deal with it for another hour until the next one. I found small, sample packages, that took virtually no space, but allowed me to handle anything immediately. Fortunately, I only used the lip balm. Anything you can do to be more comfortable is worth it. Had I experience any unfortunate chaffing, I could address it immediately without relying on my memory at the next aid station. Aid stations can be hectic, especially if there are other runners and you want to get through quickly, which makes it too easy to forget.

Specific Tips for the San Diego 100
1. Weather - If you can, be prepared and train for hot and dry conditions. In 2014, it was over 90 degrees and about 10% humidity. If you cannot train accordingly, be sure to have a cooling strategy, be prepared to adjust your effort on race day and consider carrying more water. I ended up drinking twice as much as I initially thought.

2. Aid Stations - Realize there are four segments late in the race over seven miles (miles 56.3 to 87.9), where as the average segment length in the beginning is about six miles. Therefore, be sure to carry enough water and fuel, especially if you are moving slower than expected late in the race.

3. Technical Trail - The trails are not super technical, but technical enough at times to slow you down, even on the downhills. For me, the long Noble Canyon downhill was tough to run. For comparison, I thought the trails were more technical than the Marin Headlands. I love technical trails, but they can be exponentially more difficult 60 miles into a race when you are tired and your feet are swollen.

4. Dust - The trails were incredibly dusty. Everyone was covered in dirt upon finishing. I am not sure if there is anything you can do to prevent breathing in all the dust, without restricting airflow, except maybe, try to avoid running behind a pack of people for long periods of time. You could also plan on packing a toothbrush and toothpaste in a dropbag.

5. Exposure - For the vast majority of the run, especially during daylight, the trail is very exposed. Again, consider a cooling strategy to manage your core temperature. Wear a hat or sunglasses and white clothing. Remember, every little thing makes a huge difference over a hundred miles.

Gear
Shoes: Hoka Stinson Evo Tarmac with Dirty Girl Gaiters
Socks: Injini mid-weight, mini-crew socks
Shorts: Adidas Supernova short tight with Under Armour 6" Boxerjock brief
Top: Pearl Izumi M's Infinity In-R-Cool sleeveless
Neck: Ice bandana
Headwear: Race Trackers Run Dri hat
Bottles: Ultimate Direction 20oz Handheld (two)

Thanks for reading!!