Saturday, April 27, 2013

New Title

As I began the next cycle of training, I realized that I had outgrown the label "unlikely runner". For the sake of clarity, I have renamed the blog "Wanderplace - musings from the middle". I often find myself sandwiched between faster and slower friends, so it makes sense that my perspective be presented as the view from the middle of the pack. 

I am now part of that meaty center of the bell curve, an average ultrarunner (as if any of us were average), not quite fast enough to see the elites leave the finish line festival, and just fast enough to be on my third beer when the DFL runners cross the line, the middle of the pack is where I reside. No longer an unlikely runner, I have become an expectant runner. So notice has been given; I continue to evolve.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Wandering Upwards

One of my goals for the year is to grow Wanderplace, and that pursuit is going rather well! I appreciate your interest, and hope to continue providing content worth seeking out. April will be another record month for page views; Wanderplace is paying huge returns by connecting me with others in the community and motiviating the shit out of me.

Keep checking in folks, and don't be shy - drop me a line or comment on a post to help me improve this place.

Peace out.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Reset Week Two: What Happens in Vegas

Aside from 25 minutes spent Wednesday participating in a "Run for Boston", Reset Week Two contained no exercise. The end of the week was spent in Las Vegas with some old friends, and while I brought my gear, it stayed in my bag all weekend. I knew the moment I arrived that there would be no running. As for what did happen, you know the saying.

I did turn the corner on my fatigue levels and attitude though. I'm looking forward to getting a full 16 week training cycle in for my next big race, the Tamalpa Headlands 50K. And I'm also excited to volunteer at Dipsea and Western States 100. In July I'll be pacing David at the Tahoe Rim Trail 50 miler. A fresh start. Train, race, repeat.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Pacer's Report: 2013 American River 50 Mile Endurance Run

Me, David and Torrey in the Yuba River Canyon
I invited Torrey to submit a report on his experience pacing me the last nine miles at AR50, and he jumped at the opportunity. Torrey is a Nevada County runner who is dabbling with ultra distances and trail racing, having run Steep Ravine Trail Marathon, Lake Chabot 50K and American Canyon 50K so far this year. His report:
Ken has generously invited me to write the pacer's report for his blog. It'll go on my new blog too.
Here are four pertinent facts of the day regarding my duty as pacer:
  • I hadn't ever paced before.
  • I only had a rough idea of what was involved.
  • I am in my first year of running ultra distances.
  • My approach to distance running started off at the far other end of the spectrum from Ken's and there's still a chasm.
    • Bonus facts: It was a gorgeous mild spring day- and I was sober as a schoolboy.
My thought process leading up to the putting on of shoes to run that day was as follows: I'll show up early, watch some runners working hard, drink a couple of beers and BS with Ken's lovely wife and David's family, then do an easy ten mile jog with one or the other of my buddies in the race, followed by hanging out for more post race beers and food.
For better or worse, the first part didn't work out quite that way. I neglected to study the map on my phone like I should have and ended up taking a 45 minute detour through suburbia. Because I was late, I didn't stop for beers. I got to the aid station in the freakin' nick of time, two minutes ahead of Ken and then off we went. There were a few other things I didn't do. I didn't think about the psychology of motivating my runner through exhaustion, injury or unexpected difficulties. I didn't read up on the course or history of AR50. I also didn't talk to my runners pre-race about their goals, strategy, expectations, etc.
I think most of the reason I didn't do my homework was because I was pretty darn sure both my guys would do just fine. Also I assessed that having a pacer for a 50 is a nice perk, but some fifties don't even allow it. The impression I get is when you start running into the night and the following day is when a fresh pair of legs and brain running with you becomes more vitally important.
According to Ken I started things off with all the right questions and concerns. I figured I'd run just a tad bit faster than the pace he was going so he'd be motivated to catch me and see how that worked. Here is where I should explain just how different our styles are with distance running. I don't have a GPS watch. I have an old Timex Ironman and half the time I don't set the chrono at the beginning and most of the time I don't remember to stop it at the end. Side story: Our first race together, where I met Ken and Twirly, was the 'Other Half' marathon in SF. I thought whoa. This guys a pro. He's talking all sorts of words I barely understand about the race we are about to run. I didn't "get" in my pre-race over-caffeinated and excited state, the little timing chip thingie you put on your shoe. I just tossed it. I thought it was swag. So when I finished they didn't record my time, and I only glanced at the clock after a couple of minutes of being done. That's how little I gave a crap about the tech. Ken was sort of aghast when he asked me what my time was and I gave him a rough estimate. I'm competitive, but my approach is total hippie barefoot guy. I ran my first few races in minimus shoes. I don't pay attention to splits or pacing, I start strong and fast and gradually taper down toward a painful finish. This is in stark contrast to Ken. If you read his reports, you know he's in the majority camp- the data junkies. If it's measurable, it gets analyzed and considered and factored in. I'm coming around. But slowly.
So back to the pacing. It went easy. Ken seemed to have a pretty decent amount of wind in his sails. I couldn't talk pace or data with him so I stayed clear on his calorie and water intake. It was hard to measure the water because he wasn't using bottles- I guess I could have checked the weight of his water pack but it didn't occur to me. I was just out for a jog. He seemed to get faster as we came up toward the dam. faster than I probably would have been. It was fun. Pretty too. I was abashed by the cheering onlookers. It's not me, I wanted to say.
I'm pretty sure I'm running it next year. It has two things I really, really like: A point to point course and a single dedicated distance. While I'm thankful for all the multi-distance trail runs offered in Northern California I get thrown off by all the different paces and distances. I don't know who to try to beat. For a guy with no GPS racing other people becomes the fixation. Events like AR50 are my favorite.
I look forward to pacing Ken again, but only if it's a 100k or 100m. Next time I'll have my fancy Garmin watch that talks to NASA satellites, and I'll be ready to chop up the numbers like Billy Beane. Thanks to Ken for asking me for a report. I've learned a lot. And thanks to everyone thats made AR50 happen for twenty plus years. Glad to have caught on. - Torrey

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Reset Week One: Perspective, Self Esteem and the Boston Marathon Tragedy

The week following American River 50 was the first week I have not run a mile since the beginning of October, 2011. It feels weird. I thought the soreness in my muscles and my joint niggles would be gone by now, but they remain, vaguely. The rest of me is ready to lace 'em up and get back out there, but I have already renegotiated my return, and I will only make one exception: Running for Boston tomorrow, April 17th.
I suffered some post-race depression, likely a result of the hole left in my routine. Going from ten hours of running per week to zero leaves a lot of time for self-loathing. In the months leading up to AR50, I had abandoned my weight loss attempts. I did not want to handicap my training by limiting calories. And my waist paid the price. As I write this, I weigh 25 pounds more than I did a year ago, and despite my current fitness, it is having a wretched effect on my attitude. A vicious cycle of low self esteem and depression combined with apathy and severe lack of motivation. I even had to exchange my race tee for a larger size.
I found myself on the outside looking in at the lifestyle I was leading, after only one week.
A few conversations with Twirly set me straight, though, and as I began the second week of down-time, I followed the Boston Marathon on Monday to find some motivation. I don't have any designs on running Boston; I can hardly qualify as a woman. But it occupies a reverential place in the running community, and I respect it for that. Plus, I knew about dozen people participating on that beautiful Patriot's Day. 
The motivations for such maliciousness are beyond many of us. The finish line of any marathon is a triumphant place, a literal milestone in so many lives. An act of terrorism there is out-of-place; it has no reference, it makes no sense. There are no values or immoral aspects to protest. There is no political or economical voice to silence.
The running community has been hit hard by this tragedy, but ours is a resilient family. Our bond rises from shared suffering, chosen suffering. To become victims is not in our nature. Just look at all the helping hands that Monday afternoon to find the real power of our commitment. My self-loathing did not seem like such a big deal in the face of such a spectacle.
As I worked through the shock of the day, I realized, now more than ever, that running is a part of me, and I cannot take my ability to run for granted. So I will get out there tomorrow, in blue and yellow, and log some miles not for me or my log, but for those affected by this tragedy in Boston and beyond...

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Race Report: 2013 American River 50 Mile Endurance Run

The 2013 American River 50 Mile Endurance Run was my first 50 mile race. I cannot recall a moment when I actually decided to pursue the distance, but a series of small events brought me around to signing up at the end of last summer. I was attending Footfeathers running clinics on hill running, race nutrition, etc., and in back-to-back clinics I won AR50 swag: a tech t-shirt the first time, and a hat the second. It felt like the running gods were goading me into running this race, and I am glad I heard the call, especially as 2013 would be the last year the course followed the established course.

The race has a rich history going back almost 35 years. In the beginning, the race was run downhill from Auburn to Sacramento. In those initial years the race became a litmus test for Western States: in 1980, '81, '86 & '87, those who won AR50 also won WS100. In 1982, the course reversed direction and ran from Sacramento to Auburn for over 30 years. A fast course popular for those seeking a qualifier for WS100, AR50 has attracted some of the world's elite ultrarunners, such as Ellie Greenwood, Dave Mackey, Nick Clark and Max King. Despite the participation of the sport's best athletes, only two male runners have cracked the top ten performances since 2000: Anton Krupicka and Geoff Roes. On the women's side, the last ten years have a better showing with Ellie, Nikki Kimball and three others breaking a top ten list dominated by Ann Trason.

Obviously, a top ten performance was far from my mind in the weeks leading up to the race. Coming to terms with the idea of running the second largest 50 miler in the country occupied most of my thoughts. Unexpected anxiety began creeping in about two weeks out, and I found myself wondering if I could persevere in the unknown territory beyond 50 kilometers. I leaned on my coach, emailing questions almost daily. How fast should I go out? Should I change shoes? What can I do to mitigate blisters? What time should I shoot for?

Having run the American Canyon 50K, Way Too Cool 50K and the Steep Ravine Trail Marathon in the previous two and a half months, I knew I had the fitness and endurance to finish but I had no idea how to approach the race or what strategy would produce my best effort. Tim counseled me to bank some time in the easy, early sections, and then to go for it once we hit the single track around the 50K mark. Jimmy Dean Freeman, while speaking at the pre-race pasta dinner the night before, recounted the year he went through the 50K mark with a 30 minute PR and promptly blew up on the trail. So I had a few metrics to work with when race morning came, and it came early.

AR50 Course Map

Race morning I slept fitfully, waking often in a panic that I had missed the race start. By the time my alarm went off at 4:15 AM, I was eager to get out of bed and get ready. My muesli smoothie went down fast after a shower. I taped my hip and ankle and got my kit together before waking Twirly and checking the drop bags one last time. Twirly was crewing for me, and her support would play an integral role in my race.

AR50 Vertical Profile - note the "Dam Wall"

On the elevator ride down to the lobby, a fellow runner asked for a ride to the start; Cesar, from Foster City, was running his first 50 miler as well. We quipped about our nerves on the way, and got dropped off right at Guy West Bridge with 25 minutes until race start. I quickly found David amongst the throngs, spotted Gordie Ainsleigh again (that guy is everywhere lately), and we hit the starting area with 5 minutes to spare. Jimmy Dean was on the PA with RD Julie Fingar, getting the crowd energized for the race start. With three minutes to go, the realization that more than nine hours of running was about to begin hit me like a ton of bricks.

And then we began.

Start: 0:00:00

The ten mile mark, photo by Facchino Photography
The pace was easy as the herd shuffled off into the darkness. A few runners had headlamps, but I did not find myself wanting one. Daylight was already creeping into the horizon by the time we hit the turn-around for the short out-and-back beginning the race. David and I found ourselves running next to Tony Nguyen, aka Endorphin Dude, in these early miles. I congratulated him on his ambitious race scheduling. In the three weeks leading up to the race, Tony had finished a 100 miler, eight half-marathons and five marathons! He's a Titanium Level Marathon Maniac , but he admitted he was probably going out too fast. He kept his pace up for the first 5 miles, and then began to fall back as David and I picked up our pace to sub 10:00/mile. Our goal was a 9 hour finish, which meant we needed to average 10:45/mile, and banking time in the easy miles was going pretty well.

About a mile from the first aid station, William Pond, I felt a familiar rumbling in my gut. I began looking for a bathroom, and let David know that I would catch up if I found one. The only restroom I found had a line of runners waiting, so I ran on, and the urge passed before we got to the aid station. This early in the race, I did not need any gear or fuel, so Twirly got a kiss, Coach Ken wanted one too, but got a hug, and on we ran.

William Pond: 8.16 miles; Goal split 1:21; Actual split 1:21

Shortly after William Pond, the trail crossed over the American River. Despite overcast skies, the morning had brightened and birds were plentiful, as were butterflies! David and I spotted a couple swans swimming in this stretch; I even forgot I was on a bike path. Our pace was steady, and we would cut each corner of the winding path, weaving amongst our fellow runners and chatting about training, future races and life in general. The views of the river were much more scenic than I had anticipated, and time was flying - we were two hours in already and I felt like I was just getting started!

Having a great time in the early miles, photo by Facchino Photography

Enjoying the scenery
Sunrise aid station was crowded. I looked for Twirly but couldn't see her, so I hit the food table and had my water bladder refilled. I called Twirly, but got her voice mail. I was a little perturbed that I was going to miss her, but ultras are all about managing expectations and adapting when plans go awry. I was in the midst of this internal dialogue as I ran out of the aid station and into the woods. Around the next corner I came into another crowd of spectators, and there was Twirly. I grabbed a few more VFuel gels and my second Vespa, got another kiss and David and I set off on the final 35 miles.

Sunrise: 14.61 miles, Goal split 2:22; Actual split  2:21

Sunrise aid station

I am amazed at how quickly the first three hours went by; the difference between a 90 minute run and a multiple hour run are stark during training, but the beginning of this race felt like a shakeout jog for the first 20 miles. Being able to turn around the negative attitude once I found Twirly at Sunrise really helped the first half seem easy.

Hazel Avenue bridge

The bike path continued along the river towards Lake Natomas, and we kept our pace as we made new friends along the trail. A rafter of turkeys greeted us at one point, perturbed at the commotion of the morning. Eventually, we crossed back to the north side of the river on the Hazel Avenue bridge. Views of the Natomas Dam made me realize how far we had come already. David began to falter a little, but I was feeling good and charged up the Hazel Bluffs, taking some energy from a spectator with a bullhorn at the top of the hill. He had mojo to spare and was handing it out. Once over the hill, I stopped to let David catch up while I removed some pebbles from my shoes. The Main Bar aid station had children offering Kleenex (a nice touch) and high fives from the volunteers. There was no crew access, so we did not linger and continued on after grabbing some Gu Brew, enjoying the absence of pavement. Our moving pace was around 9:30/mile.

Hazel bluff ascent

Main Bar: 19.2 miles;  Goal split 3:00; Actual split 3:06

Happy to be on dirt!
David and I kept a steady pace along Lake Natomas, and temperatures crept up as the overcast began to break. I recalled a scuba diving course I took at Negro Bar to get certified as a Rescue Diver in 2008; the water was murky and cold.

Tasty single track
The lush and winding single track trail descended to the Negro Bar aid station, and we reunited with Twirly after a quick stop at the buffet table for a water refill and some Gu Brew. I dropped off my cap, replacing it with a headband to mitigate the sweat dripping from my visor. The pavement returned for the next few miles, and the variety of trail surfaces in this section kept it fresh. I was still amazed at how quickly the miles were coming and going.

Getting loaded at Negro Bar aid station, photo by Ken Michal

"What am I looking for?", photo by Ken Michal

A wet bandana felt as good as a shower, photo by Ken Michal

Time to get out of here, photo by Ken Michal

Running and eating as we hit the trail, photo by Ken Michal

Negro Bar: 22.4 miles; Goal split 3:38; Actual split 3:47

Skirting Lake Natomas

The next 4 miles to the marathon mark were the death of that fresh feeling. We ran through 26.2 in about 4:20, which was my fastest marathon since CIM. I felt like I had plenty of gas in the tank, and no niggles yet, which was a welcome realization. Our pace was comfortable and consistent, averaging under ten minute miles.

The marathon mark

After the marathon point, we arrived at Beal's Point aid station and the end of the pavement. I was looking forward to a change of shoes and finding a bathroom to relieve the GI distress Satan Spawn in my bowels which had slowly returned over the past hour. 

Adapting to circumstances as they unfold is an important part of any successful ultramarathon. I know this, and it is the unknown factors that I would be confronting which make ultra distances such a curiosity to me. Twirly left my shoes in the car with one of my drop bags, and this was the first real curve ball I faced. At first, I got frustrated and ran off in pursuit of David, who had been pulling slowly away from me over the previous half an hour and had gone straight to the food table. But I stopped, took a deep breath, and went back to Twirly to ensure we were on the same page. I realized then that I also needed to grab more gels and Vespa. I said hi to aid station captain Peggy Davidson from the Sierra Trailblazers, and set off to find David. Fortunately for me, he stopped at the restrooms in the park, and we were able to reconnect after my own blissful pit-stop, during which I pulled my shorts down so fast I ripped the KT Tape off of my hip.

Beals Point: 26.53 miles; Goal split 4:25; Actual split 4:38

A body check as we resumed running yielded the first signs of real discomfort. I had some chafing of the armpit variety, to which I applied more Body Glide. My stomach was beginning to feel bloated, like it was not emptying. The temperatures were still rising, and I knew that I had to keep fluids, salt and calories going in, even if they weren't getting far enough to do any good. David took the point and I did my best to keep up with him, occasionally asking him if he could hear my stomach sloshing...

We ran with a guy wearing an Ironman - St. George shirt for a while, comparing the triathlon and ultramarathons. I was impressed by the variety of athletes we came across over the course of the day. David and I eventually wished him luck and found ourselves running alone for the first time in the race.

Folsom Lake panoramic

We reached Granite Bay and the 50K mark, only two minutes off my 50K PR. Jimmy Dean's words rang in my head, but aside from the sloshing stomach, I felt pretty good. My energy levels were good, I had no cramping, and Twirly had my trail shoes (Hoka One Ones) and a fresh shirt. Cate, a friend from Nevada City with a ton of ultras under her belt, came in on our heels not feeling very good. I offered to run with her for a spell but she wouldn't have it, saying she needed to "do this alone".

Granite Bay: 31.67 miles; Goal split 5:03; Actual split 5:27

I drank a few slugs of Nuun and Ultra Fuel and tried to get out of the aid station before David with the hopes that I could gap him for the next leg to Buzzard's Cove; he caught me within a mile and kept going. I told him he was killing it, and let him go. I wouldn't see him again until the finish. He really looked strong, and his results have been steadily improving as he pushes his limitations. I'm proud of the guy.

Near Granite Bay

Nearing Buzzard's Cove

Token tourist shot, a welcome break in a beautiful spot

As for my own performance, my pace fell off to 11:xx + after the marathon mark, and I would not see a sub 11 minute pace again until the final mile.

My GI woes water balloon belly continued through the Buzzards Cove aid station, so I passed on the ice cream. I began drinking a couple cups of GU Brew and continued eating potato dipped in salt at each aid station. Despite my discomfort, my energy remained stable, so I must have been getting "some" calories out of my stomach. Yet it felt like I had a bucket of jello in my gut. One of the volunteers was sporting a WS100 24 hour finisher belt buckle, and I recognized him from Auburn Running Company; he helped sell Twirly her last pair of running shoes. I thought about asking his advice on my malady, but I also wanted to keep moving. Relentless forward motion, you know.

Buzzards Cove: 34.67 miles; Goal split 5:50; Actual split 6:07

Mile 35, photo by Facchino Photography
The Meatgrinder section was a welcome distraction, as the technical single track twisted and turned along the lake shore. I passed quite a few people in this stretch, and felt like I improved my technique for tight trail running; I focused on steering with my hips. Some descents really did feel like I was skiing! I am encouraged by my continued comfort on technical single track. It brings me back to my youth when I could bound with abandon.

By Horseshoe Bar aid station, my condition, and spirits, had improved somewhat. I had made up a little time through the Meatgrinder. Ironically, this aid station was a little more subdued than those with crew access. The fact that you had to climb a short but steep road to enter contributed to the anti-climactic welcome. That is not to say to the spectators lacked energy; there were simply fewer of them. Like six.


I could not hear my stomach sloshing any longer, but I still felt dehydrated, and bloated. I made an effort to continue taking small sips of water and to eat a gel whenever I felt low energy. I had fallen off schedule with my caloric intake after the marathon, so I also began to eat more solid food at the aid stations.

Horseshoe Bar: 38.14 miles; Goal split 6:52; Actual split 7:04

After leaving Horseshoe Bar, my spirits lifted even more. I was ten miles into unknown territory, and I became aware that the pain and discomfort of running had leveled off. Sure, 50K  hurts, but miles 31-47 hurt the same; it never got any worse! The trail smoothed out again, and I looked forward to swapping my pack out for handheld bottles for the final stretch to Auburn.

Torrey agreed to come out and pace David and me for the last 9 miles of the race. I had hoped we would all run together, but knew that David or I would probably fall off the pace. There was no doubt that it was me at this point. David scooted through Rattlesnake ten minutes before me, and Torrey arrived just minutes later after getting a little lost, but was ready to run. My mood soured a little when I learned that Twirly had left my bottles in the car, so I was not going to be rid of my pack as planned. Just another surprise to adapt to, in the end. I tried to contain Captain Cranky, and Twirly did offer to run to the car, but I wanted to keep my momentum. I grabbed a new cap and fueled up for the home stretch.

Rattlesnake Bar: 40.04 miles; Goal split 7:20; Actual split 7:45

I spent the next few miles catching Torrey up on the race to that point, and warned him I would be walking most of the hills to try and mitigate my stomach. He asked all the good pacer questions about fueling and water, and he set a good pace when we ran. I was still eating gels, although only one per hour. We arrived laughing at Dowdin's Post aid station, because I had just made Torrey stop so I could eat a gel 100 yards around the corner. The volunteers at this aid station claimed that this would be the last food available on the course; Last Gasp aid station was just water. Torrey had the foresight to stuff a banana into my pack pocket as I loaded up on a few extra bites of salted potato and pb &j. As we left the station I felt pretty good.

Dowdins Post: 43.92 miles; Goal split 7:39; Actual split (not quite sure)

The American River at the bottom of the "Dam Wall"
Knowing that the "Dam Wall" was waiting, I picked up my pace for the last three runnable miles. 11:00 pace felt awfully fast... I dropped Torrey when he pulled over to pee, but he caught me at the foot of the hill. We power walked the steeper parts and jogged the runnable stretches. We hit Last Gasp aid station, and its token juvenile track team volunteers in stretchy pants, with about 40 minutes left to go sub ten hours. I couldn't help but notice they had food at the aid station. I grumbled a little about the misinformation as we left, but I knew I was just being cranky, and ate another gel.

Last Gasp: 47.56 miles; Goal split 8:27; Actual split 9:18

The last three miles are counted down with with big signs and motivational phrases which I cannot recall, and as we passed the "one mile to go", Coach Ken came galloping down the hill. I got a big high five, and a kick in the ass as he told me to pick it up, the end was near. I managed to tap into the adrenaline and pulled an 8:30 pace out of my ass for the last mile. As I ran the finishing chute, I clapped for the spectators, gave high fives to the crowd, and flew in arms outstretched. The culmination of almost ten hours on the trail left me feeling a rush of exuberance. I felt like I could have kept going!

Finish: 50 miles; Goal 9:00; Actual 9:49:10

Finish line struttin', photo by Facchino Photography

I was given my medal and finisher's jacket (a nice tech windbreaker from Patagonia), and I immediately signed up for a massage as my legs and body were already reeling from the lack of movement. I slammed a coconut water and a couple bottles of water. Twirly gave me my dry clothes, which I quickly changed into, and lickety split I was on the massage table, trying to relax and avoid cramping as the massage therapist kick-started the flushing process. After ten minutes, I was ready to rock, if not a little delirious. I found Cesar hobbling through the parking lot and recommended signing up for a massage up as soon as possible.

Our crew and we hit the Auburn Alehouse for well deserved pints and pub food, and then Twirly and I stopped back at the race finish to exchange my tech shirt for a larger size (more on that in my next post). As I arrived, the clock was approaching the 13 hour cut-off. Watching those last few runners complete their journey was icing on the cake. I even got to see Tony (Endorphin Dude) finish with a scant three minutes to spare. Tony is in beast mode, and is accomplishing unreal racing volume.

Well deserved recovery beverage, with bling
David finished in a stellar 9:16:27, and ran strong in the second half. He is progressing quickly as an ultrarunner, and I am looking forward to crewing and pacing him this summer at the Tahoe Rim Trail 50 Miler, and possibly at his debut 100 miler in September, the Pine to Palm 100.

Julie Fingar and NorCal Ultras have trail racing dialed. I was impressed once again by the sheer volume of volunteers (350+) and how smoothly the race progressed. The course unfolded like a good book; the flat bike path sections developed character and a good base of running, the middle sections had varying terrain and the final miles had technical single track and the bulk of the elevation. The race reminded me of rafting the Grand Canyon, where the rapids build in difficulty and scale over the course of the trip.

In the days following the race I felt great. My energy levels were sky high for the next 48 hours and I had trouble sleeping. Once that wore off, I slipped into a post-race depression caused in part by my desire to step back from running for a few weeks. With nothing on the immediate horizon to train for, I find myself with too much time and an apathetic attitude. I promised myself I would take a long enough break for my joint niggles to heal, and I have renegotiated with myself to resume training after a two week hiatus. Maybe.

Endorphin Dude, after squeaking in under the wire
In retrospect, 50 miles was much easier than I anticipated. The hurt just never got any worse after 50K. Once I figure out how the keep my stomach working for more than 4 hours, I think I'll have even more fun at this distance. I look forward to The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Miler in December as my next "A" race, and plan to sprinkle in some interesting training races between now and then.

Thanks for reading, it's been quite a journey so far, and I feel like I'm just getting started!

Here are the Garmin details:

Sunday, April 7, 2013

AR50 Training Week Four: The Taper and the Glory

Folsom Lake from the American River Trail
Race week. I ran twice, once on a treadmill and once out Pasquale Road to shakeout the legs and expend some energy. This taper frustrated me as my legs continued to feel sore despite the extra rest. Taking a hiatus after the American River 50 Miler is sounding well-timed, and I am curious to see how long it will take my legs to return to "normal". I am vacillating about setting a planned date or simply returning to running when I awake feeling able to walk without hobbling.

Here's the week:

Wednesday: 40 minutes on the mill

Friday: 30 minute shakeout jog

Saturday: American River 50 Mile Endurance Run (9:49:10)

Totals: 57.72 miles, avg HR 138

AR50 unfolded like a good book. It reminded me of rafting the Grand Canyon; the difficulty increased with distance. As with CIM, when I hit my wall (near the 50K mark) I abandoned my time goal. The internal dialogue remains the same. The first time, the cut-off is the mark to beat. I have plenty of time to worry about beating this year's mark, and I am 50 miles wiser now.

My pics from the race are few and blurry, so I am looking forward to pics from friends and the race photogs. Those I have seen so far a far from flattering, but I went into the race with more pounds than I wanted to carry, and the next few months will be focused on finding a better race weight. I hit the gym for a few weeks before getting my kicks chasing runners at the Run for your Lives Zombie 5K in May. Two and half hours of fartleks in zombie make-up!

Stay tuned for the race report.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

American River 50 Mile Training Week Three: Redwoods and Jalama Beach

Lime Kiln State Park
Week three of my month-long ramp up to American River 50 Mile Endurance Run included camping along the Central Coast of California. It was refreshing to get out of my usual running environments and explore some new places as I began my taper. Twirly and I packed up the car on Thursday and began a leisurely drive down Highway 1 towards Big Sur. We lucked out and got the LAST campsite in Big Sur at Lime Kiln State Park. Friday we continued south to Jalama Beach in Santa Barbara County for two nights before crashing with friends in Santa Barbara and then hauling back up Highway 101 to get back to the grindstone.
Here's the week:
Monday: 60 minutes on the treadmill
Tuesday: 90 minutes, 8 x 3:00 hill repeats in the East Bay hills
Friday: 50 minutes in the redwoods
Saturday: 90 minutes from Jalama Beach to Point Conception
Totals: 23.19 miles, avg HR 128
My lightest week since recovering from the American Canyon 50K in February has me itching to go running. I have never been a big fan of the taper, but I feel like the reduced mileage will help me get to the starting line in racing shape. I have been feeling a little lethargic, and my legs have not been flushing the lactic acid very efficiently, so this time around I am embracing the taper. The last five months of training have gone by in a blur. Time flies when you run long distances, I guess!

The lime kilns
Lime Kiln Creek falls
After another treadmill workout on Monday, I managed to return to dirt (or sand) for the rest of the week. Hill repeats on Footfeather's favorite hill were satisfyingly exhausting, and marked the end of my "quality" workouts. Friday's run in the redwoods was beautiful, with the towering trees reaching up into the coastal fog. A short spur trail leading up a side canyon revealed the twin falls on Lime Kiln creek. We saw quite a bit of wildlife on the trip, including Humpback whales, porpoises, Elephant seals, California Condors, and numerous sea-birds.

Lime Kiln beach
Lime kilns

Lime Kiln Creek trail
Lime Kiln Creek trail

Hare Creek trail
The beach run on Saturday was my first time to run on sand. I followed the tide line for the footing it provided, occasionally scampering up the beach to escape the rising tide. I knew running on the sand would be difficult, but I was still surprised at the pace I got for my effort. I ran out of beach at Point Conception, about 4 miles south of the campground.
Posing Cormorants

Fishing GBH

Point Conception in the distance

Headed north towards Jalama Beach
The trip was rejuvenating, and week four will be a short work week, as Monday was Cesar Chavez Day, and I am headed home on Thursday night to prepare for the race this Saturday. I'm ready, my legs are ready, and I'm beginning to feel like a kid at Christmas, hoping the next few days go by as quickly as this training cycle flew by.