Tuesday, August 11, 2009

disappointed. for now.

My tweet on Saturday night post-Mt. Disappointment 50-Mile finish read:

After today's masochistic race, am seriously thinking of retiring from ultras and spending weekends golfing and surfing instead.

And I was pretty damn serious too, especially considering how my golf game sucks and I have yet to catch a real wave.

Somewhere along the course as I was battling light-headedness, nausea, a bad knee, and the heat, I thought to myself, "Where the ƒüç˚is the fun in this?" Really now! I had one of those soul-searching questions, and I could not give myself an honest answer.

Now I may sound like I'm whining and crying like a little sissy, which I probably am, but before time erases the painful reality of this experience and sugarcoat it with a "job well done" kind of memory, I feel the need to jot this down. This race was not fun at all. Sure there were some bright spots like the beautiful trails and the spectacular views, and running with friends and seeing some of them cheering at the aid stations. But when I am contemplating doing this race again in a year, I must remind myself that this was a specially brutal day for me.

It wasn't purty, and it might've been my toughest race to date.

My first mistake came at the first 20-miles of the race. I felt I was going too fast especially on the downhills. I had pounded my knee, and now it was letting me know it wasn't happy about it.

Refueling at the Red Box aid station at Mile 20. Photo courtesy of @andrea122887

I was also having tummy issues early on and was doing a poor job of nourishing myself with my gels, aid station food and my own drop bag nutrition supplements. By the time I rolled down to mile 26 at the West Fork aid station, I was feeling pretty low that I was contemplating taking the 50K option and shortening my day.

Lori smiled all the way for a great finish to place 2nd in her AG.
Photo courtesy of Ben G.

Then I heard a little voice behind me say "E-Rod!" I turned around and it was Lori. We joked around for a bit, I took a seat, got myself some refreshments and we soon headed out. Jakob H., who I met at last year's PCT50 came up and decided to join us. He, too, was hitting a pretty low point but decided to move on with the race instead of doing the 50K. The three of us stayed together until the Newcomb aid station. There we found Thomas K. who was having some race day issues of his own.

The climb up out of West Fork to the Newcomb station. Lori and I met up with Ryan S. who I met at the SD100 training run and Jakob who ran up ahead to take our picture. ©Jakob H.

Jakob is enjoying a seat at Newcomb before tackling the next 9 miles to Shortcut Saddle. He and I always looked forward to the seats at the aid stations. ©Jakob H.

What followed must've been the one-two punch that knocked the wind out of me–a knee-tearing downhill of about 4 miles followed by the long and hot climb up to the next aid station. Lori had long since disappeared, apparently finding her wings and flying to the finish so it was just me and my compadre-in-pain. When I mentioned to Jakob that I was feeling a bit light-headed, the EMT from the Sierra Madre Search and Rescue asked if she can do a BP reading. It was low, but not low enough to DQ me for medical reasons. Dang! "Move on then, shall we?" I indicated to Jakob. The next 2.4 miles were drudgingly slow as Beiyi and Fred P. caught up with us. We arrived at Shortcut Saddle where they had a buffet which included pizza, boiled potatoes, fruits and the "original sponge baths" or something like that. I tried to eat some potatoes but they didn't stay in very long. I know, it's gross, but it happens.

Beiyi leads Fred, me and Jakob to Shortcut Saddle. ©Ben G.

Ben G. gave us each a wet sponge to cool us off. Jakob looks like he just stepped
out of the shower while I look like I could seriously use one. ©Ben G.

I got a second wind for the mostly downhill run to the last aid station at West Fork 2. We were there for several minutes until Gabor ran us out. Ahhh, I didn't want to leave yet!! I had done the final 4.5 miles before and I knew what was in store–the Kenyon Devore trail. It's the RD's idea of a sick joke. And I was doing my best to prolong the inevitable.

The worst of the worst came for me with less than a mile to go. I was reduced to the walking dead. Beiyi passed me up as I was violently trying to puke my guts out on the side of the trail. Again, I asked myself, "Where is the fun in this?" I had not been able to eat anything solid for the last several hours and now I could not even keep water down. Damn! I had not experienced anything like this before.

When I came out of the woods and into the parking lot, my friends, bless their souls, started chanting "Eric! Eric! Eric!" A couple of camera flashes disoriented me and I must've stumbled like the zombie runner.

Where am I? Oh yes, near the finish line just up that last climb.
Behind me are Jack C. and Fred in the neon green shirt. ©Jakob H.

Crossing the finish line, I didn't experience any of the post-race euphoria that normally accompanies the completion of an ultra. Relief that this was all over was probably more what I felt.

What I get for my efforts. This one will live in infamy for awhile.

Apparently, the EMTs were aware of my condition and decided that they would give me some TLC, serving me up with watermelons, soup and some good old-fashioned O2. That shot of oxygen sure did wonders.

The day after

I went to bed and I was knocked out for about 12 hours. Whew! I needed that! When I weighed myself in the morning I found out that I lost almost 10lbs. from the previous day's run. No wonder I felt so sick. So I spent the next several hours gorging myself with rice, lechon, veggies, halo-halo, taquitos, horchata, tiramisu, and whatever else I could get my hands on to put back some weight. I also went for a light swim and a little bit of pool jogging to help with my muscle recovery.

Someone asked me if I would do the race again, and I didn't hesitate to say "No!" After all, I still could not see where the fun in it was. But I know I will be back, if only to settle the score, and especially if my golf game doesn't improve and the waves continue to wipe me out.

Thanks to all who were out there lending their support, either running or helping out at the stations. There were plenty so please bear with me if I forget someone--Jakob who I ran and walked with for 25 miles, Lori S., Beiyi, Ben G. who was injured but was at almost aid station, Carmela, rePete, Andrea E. and friend, my carpool buds , Wilson and Jack who patiently waited, the DP who was there in spirit, and all my T-Headz friends, too many to mention. Big props also go to the Mt. D volunteers, to Gary for putting together a great event, and to the Montrose and Sierra Madre SAR for making sure all runners got off the trail safely.

For more photos of the race, check out Jakob's SmugMug gallery and commentary.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

seeing blue

So about a month ago, on a trip to the great white north, I was walking with my cousin on our way to the ROM when we passed by the bluest track I had ever seen. I guess it makes since this belongs to the University of Toronto, known in the collegiate circuit as the Varsity Blues.

Kinda makes you want to run around in circles, eh?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

a pr day at san juan trail 50k

This is going to be part of a series of “catch-up” posts, one of a few ultra late recaps. The race was held on March 14, 2009, but sometimes life gets in the way of blogging which partly explains the gap of entries...


When the week of the race came I was pretty excited about it. I wrote on my Facebook status that I was "looking forward to kicking off the ultra season with the SJT50K." Well wishers who knew what I was talking about sent me some cyber good luck.

I met Alexa at the Starbucks cafe on Ortega Hwy so she can follow me to the race start. We arrived in plenty of time to get our race bib, do some warmups and mingle with some of the runners we knew. We saw Lori S. who was running her first ultra with her friend, Rick. We took some pictures and after Baz's pre-race briefing, we were given the signal to start.

The first part of the course starts with the 9 miles to the Ortega Candy Store for the first aid station looping back to the campground for a total of 18. I was taking it easy for the first part of this run. By the time I reached the first aid station manned by Dawg and Annie, I caught up with rePete who was on a mission to have a "perfect" pi race, that is finish the race at 2:59pm. Race day was March 14. Of course math geeks would immediately make the connection that pi is 3.4259. Pete's just funny that way.

On the way back from the candy store, I was shadowed by another runner who I recognized to be Bud P. I was going faster than I'm normally accustomed to and in hindsight, I think this is where I may have let the race get away from me. I'd let myself forget that this was a long run and should've done a better job of pacing myself. Also I normally take an energy gel every 45 minutes of running but because I was so concerned about the runner behind me I neglected to do so. I could not keep the pace and had to let him pass me. By the time I got back to the campground for aid station 2 at mile 18, I was feeling pretty tired.

The next part of the race was essentially a repeat of the WTRS 21K. There was the climb up Main Divide, the drop down Trabuco Trail, and the hated crawl up W. Horsethief. It was nice to see T-Headz Keira, Jamison and Robert Schipsi working the aid stations cheering the runners and offering their support. During this part of the run, I also met and ran with Thomas K. who will be running Leona Divide 50M. This is also where rePete caught back up with me saying that he can make it. I said something to the effect of "He's inspired by math."

I usually save some kick for the end of the run for a strong finish, but on this day, I was pretty spent. Baz had already handed out top dog awards and was in the middle of doing his "world famous raffle" when I crossed the line.

21 y.o. Alexa told me of her 6:00 finish. Wow, she kicked my butt by almost an hour. I was impressed and wondered, what could her parents be feeding her, because I want some of that.

I did set a PR time of 6:52:32 going under 7 hours in a 50K. Then why did I place in 49th place out of only about 80 starters? I like to think that this was just a strong field which from the looks of many of the runners, it certainly was. But I also think that the course was shorter by at least a mile or so, at least according to my Garmin.

Race lesson:
Next time I really need to do a better job at sticking to my pace and my fueling schedule. Hydrate often and take my gels before I'm hungry to keep myself from bonking. Aim for a strong second half of the race–it seemed to have worked for me in the past.

Click here for my race day photos.
Click here for official RD recap.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

hills, thrills and spills

What's an ultra without a little bit of these? Put them together and you've got adventure. Matt Hart of the Montrail team created this video montage that makes me want to just lace up and head for the hills.

UltraRunning from Matt Hart on Vimeo.

Sit back and enjoy while I procrastinate a bit more in writing some recaps and updating my blog.

Thanks to Bee for turning me on to this video.

Friday, April 17, 2009

twittering on leona?

Leona weekend is finally here, and I'll be running her tomorrow – 50 miles of what could be fun in the sun or pain in the membrane (whatever!) My last 50-miler was PCT50 near San Diego last year where I finished in almost 13 hours – not a great time considering my previous 50-miler was under 11 hours. My goal for tomorrow is to finish under 12 hours.

My strategy is to enjoy the course the first 25-30 miles or so then turn it up the last 20 if I have the energy and the fortitude left to do so. To get my mind off the length of the run, I intend to twitter and post some pics also. I'm hoping that my carrier will give me some bars along the course.

Follow my run at LD50 here: http://twitter.com/e_rod

Happy trails!!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

cross-training notes

Although I knew I was going to run the SJT 50K this year, it was hard to feel very confident about it. I had to miss some runs due to recurring issues with my shin splints and tendonitis. To make up for those lost runs I put in double time at the gym, taking spinning classes immediately followed by an hour of laps at the pool. I sometimes threw in some weight and core work into the mix. On days when I've felt especially motivated I've spent up to three hours at the gym usually early in the morning before I start work.

As a result I feel that my conditioning has improved even when I had to stay off my feet to help my body recover from whatever may be ailing it.

Running is still my favorite workout, though it is nice to know that when I have to take a break from it, there are other forms of training I can use so that I'm able to maintain my fitness level.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

socal trail headz new member run

I usually don't do anything running-related on Sundays as a means of taking a break and avoiding burnout, but decided on the day after the WTRS 21K to join the SoCal Trail Headz for a new member run at Peters Canyon. It is a monthly event intended to welcome potential new members and includes a fun trail run anywhere from 2 to 7 miles or however long you wish There were 13 of them that morning, all of whom signed up to join the group. I went out for a mild 4 mile jog/walk with 11 y.o. Jake; my back was sore from my tumble the day before (sure, sure).

It was a fun Sunday morning–one that I look forward to doing again.

Visit the SoCal Trail Headz site for more info about upcoming new member runs, races and other events.

Photo courtesy of Croc Lo.

Monday, April 13, 2009

that's a wrap, folks – 2009 wtrs 21k

The last of four races from Baz's Winter Trail Series on Feb. 21 was also the longest at about 13 miles with approximately 3,470 feet of elevation gain. It started out at Blue Jay Campground, climbed up the dirt road to the Main Divide where runners descend down a steep single track down approximately two miles of the Trabuco Trail before heading up the dreaded W. Horsethief Trail to connect back with the Main Divide again. It then looped back to the campground for the finish.

Unlike the last three races where we've had less than ideal conditions–either wind, rain, or mud– this day we had a near perfect combination of sunshine and cool weather. I was anxious to do well this day since I didn't have a spectacular day at the 18K.

At the start I set an easy comfortable pace. I had to move aside to use the bathroom and was soon behind most of the pack, not where I wanted to be. While going up Main Divide to the top of Trabuco, I could tell that my hill running still needed plenty of work. While I had hoped that I could jog slowly up to ridge, I had to slow myself to a walk. I finally made it up to the top of Trabuco Trail where fellow Headz, Kirk F. was manning the aid station. I said a quick "hi"and sped down the trail to try to make up some time. As I had mentioned before, Trabuco is a steep descent and its loose rocks could prove it to be treacherous. I passed a few runners, but no less than a half-mile from the aid station, my foot hit a rock which refused to budge and down I went. Mike B. and Kristen T. witnessed my spectacular fall from grace and helped me up. I had to gather my wits about me and walked down the trail for a few minutes before I felt comfortable enough to start running down again.

I eventually made it to the bottom of the trail, then up W. Horsethief, then connecting back with the Main Divide, and finishing at the campground where most of the runners have already gathered.

My official time was 2:41:42 , finishing 99th out of 127 runners. It definitely could've been better but considering that I'd only been back from my injury for two months I gave myself a bit of slack.

Runners who complete all four races earn the "coveted" race sweatshirt. After crossing the line, I promptly made my way to the "official" race trailer and collected my swag.

Since I'd been spending every other weekend at a Baz race for the last 6 weeks, I felt a bit melancholic that the race was over. I gave Baz a hug before I left, thanked him and told him I'll see him in a month for the San Juan Trail 50K.

Read Baz's official recap of the race here.

Photos snagged from the official website.

catching up

I've fallen behind on my blogging, and I have some catching up to do. For the last two months, I have had a great time with my running thanks to fun races and training runs and great times with some of my friends.

During this week, I'll be putting up long-overdue posts about my view of the WTRS 21K, San Juan Trail 50K, Old Goats 50M among others. So stay tuned...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

running to the sinks at limestone canyon

Early morning at the "ranch"

I think myself fortunate to know that the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks is within less than a half hour drive away. Access to parts of the wilderness area is by permission only, so when I saw a posting about a docent-led trail run through Limestone Canyon, I signed up for it. It was advertised as a 9-mile intermediate-level run through parts of the county that is not always open to the public. The official website describes the area as having beautiful geological formations - including an unusual formation called "the Sinks."

Several of the Trail Headz were there including Jon, Kurt K., Sue, Jenn G., iDad Doug and Pete K. Also joining us were volunteers and guides to show us the way.

Because the run had to be rerouted to avoid an area due to "raptor nesting," we ended up doing 11.5 mellow miles instead of the estimated 9. No worries though. That was just more time I got to spend running in this seldom visited local treasure.

Group photo before the run. Eric, Jenn, Robert, Carol, Kurt, Pete, Mike, and Tom.

Nice view of the snow-covered mountains

Taking a little breather

Up, up, and up

But what goes up must also come down.

At the Sinks with part of the gang.

To experience the beauty of these less traveled trails, visit the website and sign up for one of their many outings.

Photos courtesy of Doug M.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

the wtrs mudfest 18k

Typical trail conditions.
The beauty of trail running is that no matter the weather and the conditions, the run must go on (well usually anyway). Such was the case for the Winter Trail Run Series 18K when the trails, fresh from a serious dousing of wet winter downpour just hours before, were just right for some down and dirty trail runners.

WTRS Race Director Baz Hawley

Is Mike trying to prove something here?

Gather 'round as Baz assures everyone that he had the trails groomed this morning.

On Saturday, February 7, parts of Blue Jay Campground were still partially closed and apparently so were several of the trails. The 18K was really only about 9.3 miles, so for the third race in a row, we were running approximately the same distance. But all's well since with Baz's races, the numbers don't really count as much as the fun that you can have out there. And there was fun aplenty as over 100 runners frolicked and kicked around in the mud–a completely acceptable and encouraged behavior–miles away from the rigid constraints of the civilized world.

Looks like some of the faster runners stirred up the mud for the people behind them.

"Hmm, which way do I go?"

"No, Jean, no. Just go through the middle." There was so much water that at some parts, a stream was flowing through the trail.

For the record, I finished with a time of 2:06:28. Not very impressive due to the fact that those darn shin splints came back again. But the hell with it. One foot in front of the other and despite the bogs and mud pits I eventually finished (and had fun doing it because of them). My brother, who ran his first WTRS finished just at around 1:56.

Rhodri finishing his first WTRS.

Doug M. is all smiles as he approaches the finish line.

Saturday, February 21st is the final run of the series. With the next winter storm due to arrive tonight and expected to dump lots of rain and snow, who knows what the trails are going to be like and how long the the 21K REALLY is going to be. Maybe our race director Baz does, but somehow, I doubt that.

One thing's for sure though, there will be plenty of magic in the woods for everyone. So if you haven't already, sign up now and get your fix of trail and quite possibly wet fun.

The winter/spring wildflowers are in bloom.

The speedsters and race winners, Lisa O. and Dean D.

Click here for my 2007 WTRS 21K and the 2008 WTRS 21K postings. Read the official race report from me mate, Baz.

Photos courtesy of fellow SoCal Trail Headz Jean Ho and Big Baz Trail Races.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

running surf city half

These have to be among the coolest medals runners want to covet, my dream hardware notwithstanding.

When I got the wake-up call at 5:45am from my sister-in-law, I checked the current temp. It read 45º F. Oooh, it was a going to be a chilly race start Sunday morning for the running of the Surf City Half (formerly known as the Pacific Shoreline). Fortunately though, it wasn't going to be a washout like it was the year before. The forecast this morning called for sunny skies.

This was going to be the 7th year in a row my brother and I have signed up for this race although I didn't run it last year because of an injury. My brother, Rhodri was shooting for a sub 2-hour time, something that has eluded him in the past. I was hoping to better my PR of 1:59:39 set in the 2007 edition of this race.

Team Duke represented at Surf City.

What's always fun about these road races is the expo which is a runner's shopping paradise. We visited it on Saturday and picked up our race bibs with Karen, my sister-in-law who was running the 5K, and cruised around checking out some of the running stuff and wares. A booth was selling the Digital Therapy Massager and my brother and I ended up getting one each. We spent a bit of time chatting it up with Greg at the Team Duke booth. He generously gave us each a long-sleeve Team Duke technical shirt which we promised we'll wear on race day.

Runners huddle for the chilly start.

Since Karen's start time was at 7:15, we dropped her off as close as we can to the start line and parked the car about a mile and a half away. We were jogging to the start but opted to get on the shuttle bus to escape the frigid cold. At 7:40, we got dropped off, the Star Spangled Banner was being sung, and the half marathon started soon after. Eight minutes after the gun, our wave was set free.

For the first three miles, Rhodri and I ran together. Pretty soon he started to pull away and before too long I couldn't see him ahead of me anymore. I was trying to find my rhythm and the same time keeping a close eye on my Garmin. I wanted to maintain a 9:15min/mile pace or better if I wanted to better my PR. I was right on target running at about 9:11. My heart rate was a bit high, but I was feeling pretty good.

I ran with a hand-held water bottle with Cytomax so I can save time through the water stations. I found this very helpful and a sound race tactic. I can keep myself hydrated throughout the race without having to drown myself at the aid stations.

During the run, I felt like I was in a groove. Around mile 8, a runner who forgot her watch, asked me the pace we were running. I was surprised to see that it was around 8:40. I was in the zone–my breathing was comfortable and my legs felt great. I wasn't sure what pace she was shooting for but she stayed relatively close to me. I wonder if she was using me as a pacer.

After the last turnaround with less than 5 miles to go, I pushed the pace up a bit more. I was well under my goal. Is it possible, I thought? Could I finish in 1:55?

The last uphill section of this relatively flat course came at Seapoint, about 2.5 miles to go. The pier was getting closer which meant that the end was near. 1.5 miles to go and I checked my time–about 1:44. 1:55 was not meant to be today, but still I pushed to see how well I can beat my PR. With about 100 meters to go I sprinted to the chute. I clicked my Garmin to see my time of 1:57:39.

My official time was 1:57:34. My brother crushed his goal coming in at 1:52:46, and Karen finished her 5K at 30:48.

Karen and Rhodri

Proudly showing our well-earned medals

After the race it was a nice surprise to see two of my T-Headz friends, Corrinne (2:01:51) and Wendy (2:00:26). I hadn't seen them in awhile so we spent the next mile and a half walking leisurely back to our cars while catching up and planning out future runs.

This year's Surf City Half was a fun race. The last couple of runs have turned into PRs for me. Here's hoping that it becomes a tradition.

Pictures courtesy of Rhodri and Wendy.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

splish splash at the wtrs 15k

Baz's professionally-made sign directs high speed drivers along Ortega Highway to the Winter Trail Run Series.

Saturday morning was a wet and fun adventure at the Blue Jay Campground for the Winter Trail Run Series 15K (the 2nd of four runs). The course was the same as the previous "12K" which had to be rerouted because of trail damage. I didn't do particularly well at that run (2:09:51) so I was anxious to do better on this one. But with the rain coming down, the already treacherous and technical singletrack required more agility and care to run it.

Runners gather around for the pre-race briefing. Everyone was anxious to get the race started and start to warm up.

When we were given the go signal, the speedsters led by Dean Dobberteen, leaped out and wasted no time in taking the pack to the skinny singletrack. I didn't want to go too fast. I think that was my problem last time which led to those miserable shin splints. I stayed with Molly for the first part of the course. She wanted to run with someone since she was worried about the trail conditions. At about 3.5 miles, as the trail was going uphill, I pulled back and Molly soon left me behind. I knew she's a strong uphill runner and I really couldn't keep up with her.

The rain seemed to relent at first but soon came down and kept the runners and the trail soaked. Although I was feeling a lot better than I did two weeks ago, I was being very careful out there. One wrong and careless move could cost me some blood and DNA. I was wearing my low profile New Balance 790s and surprisingly, they held up well considering the wet and slippery conditions.

Mile 6 marked the attack of the shin splints that hobbled me two weeks ago. This time though was a 180 degree turn from that day. My breathing was better, my legs felt fresh and whereas I seemed to be tripping on every root and rock on the trail last time, this time around I felt like I was floating on the trail especially the downhill sections.

I saw the cars with about three quarters of a mile to go, and I knew that the finish is near. As we came out of the trails, our friendly forest service rangers pointed the way to the finish line. I sprinted the last 100 yards finishing at 1:45:49. I was very happy with the 24 minute improvement especially with the wicked and slippery trail. Surprisingly I didn't see any signs of anyone falling on the trail (i.e. blood) unless of course the rain just washed them away.

By the time the most of the runners were finishing, the rain had been coming down nonstop.

All in all, a great morning and definitely worthy of a 5:30am wake up. And by the way, it's hard to beat a great morning run especially with cold beer and hot pancakes (thanks to Jon R.) at the post-race festivities.

Jon (in red) volunteered his pancake cooking services for the cold and hungry runners. From L-R , Rich, Leon, Mike and Ted wait their turn.

Baz was warm, cozy and dry inside his RV as he was doing the awards ceremonies.

Click here for the recap from Baz, our friendly race director.

Photos courtesy of Doug Malewicki.