Sunday, June 30, 2013

Volunteer Report: 2013 Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run

Welcome to Michigan Bluff
The 2013 Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run (aka The Super Bowl of 100 milers) was held this past weekend in extremely inhospitable conditions. The runners competed not only against the course and themselves, but also the weather as well, as it was the second hottest year since the race's inception in 1974. The Sierra Trailblazers host the Michigan Bluff aid station, and for the second year, Twirly and I spent the day at the timing table checking the runners into the sleepy remnant of a mining town. We really enjoy participating in this epic event, and at 55.7 miles, Michigan Bluff is a great place to handicap the race. In addition, the station closes at 9:45 pm, so we aren't expected to stay up all night, as do some of the stations farther down course. A 30 hour cut-off means many people will be up all night supporting the participants.

Despite addled minds, every ultra runner can associate
David got his EMT certification recently, and joined us this year as a medical volunteer. We arrived Saturday morning to already sizzling temperatures, and began setting up the station. Tables and EZ-up shade tents went up quickly, and by 11 am we were ready for the first runners, who were expected to begin arriving after 1 pm. The Trailblazers have a number of WS100 finishers in their ranks, and I enjoyed talking with a couple of them while we waited. As with most ultras, the range of participants varies from the sponsored elite competitors to the weekend warriors who hold down day jobs and raise families. The fact that Western States holds such a prestigious place in the trail running community makes it that much more impressive that the field still contains so many examples of the "everyman". Many of the volunteers were active ultra-runners, and we passed the time comparing performances and bucket-lists.

In my book, the most impressive ultra runner ever
I got a little star struck when I recognized Ann Trason, 14 time women's champion, in the crowd. I spent a moment vacillating before succumbing to my inner groupie and asking her for a picture. She graciously allowed me to snap a quick photo before continuing with preparing to pace her runner.

As the day progressed, speculation about finishing times and attrition rates occupied the airwaves, and I monitored Twitter and the web for standings and updates. Some were predicting a 20-hour winning time, which would have been unfathomable, despite the heat of the day. Commentators on the iRunFar page were going on about Karl Meltzer's request for the number 420. It seems the "Speedgoat" may be renamed the "Weedgoat", lol.

Olson in control (that's me in the green shirt),
photo by Meghan Hicks/iRunFar
Unsurprisingly, Timothy Olson was the first to arrive at Michigan Bluff. Surprisingly, he arrived at 1:28 PM. Only five minutes off his record breaking pace from 2012, we were all a bit stunned when he crested the climb out of El Dorado Creek. Eight minutes back was Hal Koerner, and it looked like the two were going to egg each other on for the rest of the day.

Only seven minutes behind were Dylan Bowman and Rob Krar, followed by Ian Sharman and Mike Morton. These top six men looked strong and comfortable. None spent much time at the station, stopping for a brief sponge bath and re-supply before trucking off towards Foresthill. 

Hal Koerner in pursuit

Rob Krar continuing to make a name

The Weedgoat doing his thing
Pam Smith was fast into Michigan Bluff
The top women were a little more spread out, and the middle of the top ten looked like they were struggling. Pam Smith was in the midst of building a sizable lead, and Nikki Kimball was beginning to chase down Amy Sproston for second place. Aliza Lapierre and Rory Bosio held off Emily Harrison, and Denise Bourassa, Cassie Scallon and Leila Degrave rounded out the top ten women to arrive in Michigan Bluff. 

Amy Sproston into MB in second place

Kimball giving chase

LaPierre and Bosio holding on
Runners steadily flowed through the station for the rest of the day, the bulk coming through after the 24 hour runner time of 5:20 PM.  Watching the condition of the racers arc from the comfortable elites to the hobbled weekend warriors racing the cut-off is one of my favorite aspects of volunteering. Like a good plot, the momentum of the field builds to a climax, and then attrition takes hold, and the medical tent swells with patients as the carnage begins. It was a case study in heat strategies: power through or let it overwhelm you.

John Vonhof performed miracles on this guy's feet

I did not want to know...
In the end, Olson and Smith would hold on to win in extremely impressive times given the conditions, and Twirly, David and I made it to the Placer Hills High School track in time to witness Pam win the women's division. Always inspirational, the Western States 100 was another learning experience. I have a qualifying race in my pocket and a signed service requirement form. I will be throwing my name in the hat for the 2014 edition.
Pam Smith wins by over 40 minutes

The Weedgoat snares a top ten

Friday, June 28, 2013

Western States 100 Tweets

I'll be volunteering at Michigan Bluff aid station for tomorrow's Super Bowl of ultra running! Follow my twitter account for first hand updates and pix @wanderplace.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tamalpa Headlands 50K Training Week Nine: More Injury, Less Cowbell

Another gorgeous night on the bay
While I intended to return to training with a vengeance this week, by Thursday I gave up and wrote off the weekend. No matter how I look at it, my groin is still too vulnerable for a real run. So I hit the chiropractor on Thursday and enjoyed the solstice weekend with Twirly. We sailed the Bay Saturday night, watching the sunset and the rise of the super moon. Sunday we checked out the wooden boat show at the Corinthian Yacht Club and saw some absolutely beautiful old ships. Pretty to look at, but way too much maintenance for us!

Solsitce sun setting

Super moon rising

The week:
Tuesday: 70 minutes at 10:00 pace
Wednesday: 45 minutes of trail running

Saturday: Easy bike ride with Twirly
Total: 11 miles
I hope to get a few decent runs in before next weekend, when we will be hosting the Michigan Bluff aid station at the Western States 100 Miler. This event always gets me motivated to log some miles. Hopefully I will emerge with a rejuvenated spirit. We're hitting another hash with the Cougars on Sunday.
Until then, anyone got a good story about struggling with an injury? Share your pain below.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Tamalpa Headlands 50K Training Week Eight: Beginning Again

My injury continues to improve; I'd estimate that I am at 75% right now, and running every other day, ish. My fitness has suffered from two months of non-training. I had hoped to be building a rock solid aerobic base, but find myself starting anew eight weeks into my training plan. Easy jogging and strength exercises are my staples at the moment, but I look forward to getting back to trail running and some elevation!

Here's the week:

Tuesday: 30 minutes on the treadmill

Thursday: 30 minutes on the treadmill

Sunday: 90 minutes on the Coastal Trail with Twirly

Totals: 11 miles, avg HR 119

Keeping it easy enabled Twirly to join me on Sunday, when we ran to Pirates Cove on the Coastal Trail. We left from the Tennessee Valley trail head and had gorgeous weather for the short stint over the hill. I always run past the spur trail to the beach, so it was cool to make the beach our destination for the day. It feels more like a pirate's cove when you're down on the beach.

As my pulled groin muscle slowly regains its composure, I am trying to internalize the training changes I have made: hip and core strengthening, reduced carbohydrates and more sleep! Tahoe Rim Trail 50 miler is in five weeks, and I'll have to be able to power hike/jog 20 miles of mountainous trail at altitude with David. Upon returning from a training run on the race course last weekend, he told me he would not wish the trail on anyone. However, he did not provide me an opportunity to back out of my pacing duties...


Yet another gem brought to my attention by Eric Schranz and Full of introspective prose and video worth watching in HD. Some of my favorite bits:

" The repeat offender likely has a pre-disposition to binging. Or addiction. While by no means an inviolate law, there's no question that a large number of our fellow ultra runners have felt the symptoms of withdrawal and agitation after a big event. I find it unlikely that 10 to 20 hours of hormones coursing through our body leaves us with only DOMS to show for our efforts."

"The exhaustion lingering from the event washes away our self-defences and this conscious scraping-back of the Soul further erodes our reserves allowing unbidden thoughts and feelings to threaten the already threadbare fabric of our sanity."

And my favorite: "As Kahlil Gibran wrote in The Prophet, The deeper that Sorrow carves into your being, the More Joy you can contain."


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Tamalpa Headlands 50K Training Week Seven: The Week That Wasn't

My groin injury took priority this week, and running was cancelled. Repeated manipulations by various doctors ruled out the possibility of a hernia, but left me feeling more sore than the week before. So I took a long walk and managed to eek out a day commuting by bike.

Fighting the depression that comes with an injury has been the most difficult part. I cannot argue with my body; rest is required. At least my Two Week Test Diet is ending soon. I miss carbohydrates fiercely!

You Tube Gem: The Skipper

Eric Schranz over at has dredged up another gem at You Tube:

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Heard of Dirty Running?

Check out this blog post at Dirty Running. It might make me blush the next time I'm on the trail.

Be sure to read the comments.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Sunlight Diet

Found this unbelievable snippet on this morning. This woman is attempting to survive on sunlight and water alone. Four people have died trying to replicate this "yogi" path to a higher something or other.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Race Report: 2013 Harmony 10K

The Harmony Run 5K/10K was the fourth race in the 2013 Gold Country Grand Prix, hosted by the Sierra Trail Blazers Running Club. In 2010-2011, the course was 8K, the start/finish mere blocks from my house. 2013 saw the event return to the traditional 5K/10K offering, and the course was laid out on the grounds of Nevada Union High School, utilizing the track and cross country trails.

I used my voucher for a free entry to a Grand Prix race. While I had been hoping to enter the 8K to have a run at my PR (8K's are hard to find!), the 10K course followed the usual trails around NU High School, but in the opposite direction than other Grand Prix races. I entered with hopes of setting a new 10K PR, but injury prevented me from giving the race my full effort.

As it was my first Grand Prix event of the year, I spent the morning catching up with the local elites, fellow runners and my age group competition. Familiar faces abounded as I did lunges to warm up and stretch out my groin, which was still suffering from the Zombie Run. I told Twirly that I should take about an hour to complete the course, hoping to negative split.

The best intentions, etc...

A rush of race morning registration delayed the race start for about ten minutes, and then we were off. I fell into a steady gait, trying to stay symmetrical and tall as we wound around the school, gaining elevation. The course was a mix of pavement, asphalt, single track and gravel, with three mellow climbs for about 250 feet of elevation gain over the 5K loop.

I held my position amongst the runners for the first loop, gaining on some, passed by others. The clock-wise direction of the course really smoothed out the climbs, and I felt stronger than I had in weeks. Because of the MAF TWT diet, I was trying to keep my heart rate below 150, which was difficult because I wanted to run the hills. Twirly joined me on her bike as I ran by the stadium, completing the first lap in about 25 minutes. As the 5K runners peeled off onto the track to finish, I continued on, breaking into a walk to drink some water from Twirlys bike bottle. The 10K runners in front of me disappeared, and I began to wonder if I was going to be DFL.

I walked the inclines on the second lap, and actually caught up to a man who had been run/walking in front of me. We chatted for a couple of miles, talking about my injury, and his injury (broken ribs in January). He was a Californian living in Boston, and was in town for a wedding. His aunt had signed him up for the 10K, and he had not been training. With a half mile to go, he left me in the dust.

I kept a slow slog going as I entered the track, and crossed the line in 60:32 for 24th place. I guess a personal worst was to be expected given the state of my hip, regardless, I found it difficult to find satisfaction in my performance. I realized my injury was going to derail my training more than I had hoped, and resigned myself to finding an alternative source of exercise to let my body heal.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Tamalpa Headlands 50K Training Week Six: Slow and Steady

Week six already?!? Only twelve weeks left to prepare, and I am still hesitant, cautious, and generally timid about running. Like a fledgling bird teetering at the edge of the nest, I just cannot commit. Last week was full of walk/runs and strength exercises... And a 10K (which also included some walking).
Here's the week:
Monday: casual walk
Tuesday: Easy hour jog
Thursday: Easy 45 minute jog
Saturday: Harmony Run 10K
Sunday: recovery walk/jog ~50 minutes
Totals: 22 miles, avg HR 144, weight 196.3
On the plus side, my weight has begun to drop. The MAF TWT diet, while not limiting calories, has been interesting. My energy levels suck; most of the walking I have been doing is due more to lack of energy than sharp pains, although my hip/groin continues to feel vulnerable.
The Harmony Run 10K was a good test run. A two loop course, I completed the first loop with an average pace of about 9:15/mile, which is the fastest I have covered ground on foot since my injury. I could not hold the pace for the second lap, and shuffled across the line in just over an hour for my slowest 10K to date.
Visits to the chiropractor and physician next week should help get me back on track. I have to be in pacing shape in six weeks for the Tahoe Rim Trail 50 miler. David is going to need the best support I can provide, and I need to figure out how to get some  altitude training in before pacing at 7000+ feet!