Sunday, September 30, 2007

Quicksilver Half Marathon

I really did not know what to expect with this one. I've done trail running with a 10k and with the 50k, but both are completely different races from a half marathon trail race, so I came into this one a little cautious. I figured I would shoot for a 2:10 finish, and I almost did it.

Quicksilver Half Marathon - 2:15:29 (10:20 pace; 51/99) Stats

This was yet another race that I was looking forward to because it was not only a local race but it was also a trail run, which I am trying to get more of. I slept in and woke up a half hour before I had to leave and had some toast with peanut butter and a banana with some water. So I was ready to go. I cruised over to the Quicksilver County Park, which is only 11 miles from my house, and arrived with plenty of time. I was amazed. I had been back there before, to New Almaden, but didn't remember it at all. It is such an old, historic town that is seemingly preserving this feel with its houses directly on the main street, a very small post office and seemingly only one restaurant in the whole town. You would never have thought that such a quaint, old town would be nestled in the foothills of the bustling Bay Area.

A bit of history. Apparently the Quicksilver mines were owned by a private family but the mines themselves were on public property. So in 1863 Abraham Lincoln was informed of the seemingly fraudulent and dubious claim of the private family to the mines ownership so he issued a writ that ordered the army general in San Francisco to take over the mines in the name of the United States. The family, of course, believed they legitimately owned the mines and staked a protest and refused to turn over them. As the army readied to apprehend by force other mine owners in Nevada began staging a protest and feared that the US government was setting a precedence of confiscating private property on public property. This, of course, was going on during the Civil War, so Lincoln re-thought his position in fear of secession and revoked his writ. Interesting the history you find in such a quaint out of the way town.

Back to the race. The race itself was a very small and quaint race. There was no starting line except "over there". The RD gave a quick speech and then with no further notice said go on my mark and quickly counted down. At first we all scrambled and then eventually took off once we realized the RD actually started the race. We all crammed into a small road to the fire road and it felt like a herd of cattle charging down the chute to their new pens. Soon enough, though, we spread out and started up the hill. Huh? A hill at the very beginning? Yep, and when asked the RD said he thought it would be easier to have the fresh legs on the uphill rather than have a hill at the end. What kind of hill, you might ask? Take a look at the elevation profile from my Garmin.

We had close to a 1,000 foot elevation gain in the first four miles with next to no downhill or flat sections. Unbelievable. As I kept going up, most of which I was walking at this point, I couldn't help but begin wondering if the hill would ever end.

Oh, and when it did I had a ton of fun. The ground I lost on the uphill was quickly made up on the down hill. I went flying down so fast I was amazed. I mean I was like a banshee wailing down the hill passing people up. And I couldn't help but wonder, why was everyone going so slow on the downhill? I mean you could tell they could go faster, and yet they were running with guarded steps, almost as though they were afraid of falling. Which, of course, is a real concern, but why worry? Thus is the nature of trail running. Have fun with it.

So I had fun with it. But the hills did return, albeit not as steep except for a short section around mile 9.5. But this also meant more downhill. By this point I had started to feel a dull ache in my left knee. The same place I felt the dull ache at mile 16 of the 50k when I ran the steep, steep downhill when I should have walked it. So this bothered me a little as I did not want to aggravate it any more than it already was. But, how could I deny my legs to utilize gravity and throw themselves down the last descent and try and make up lost time and pass people? Ultimately, I had to give it a go and I am sure glad that I did. I passed about 5 people in the last mile, although one guy came out of nowhere that I hadn't seen at all during the race and flew down so fast I was amazed that he hadn't passed me earlier. Anyway, I ended up running my fastest for the whole race during that last mile and it sure felt good to let the boys off their leash and see what they could do. I hit a speed of close to 11 mph at one point and maintained it for a while. It sure felt good.

Coming into the finish felt great. The weather was warming up and it felt like I had truly exerted myself on this trail. When I crossed the finish line I was greeted by two volunteers offering water and a medal. As I walked away I heard one of them say, "Geez, he's barely even breathing hard". Haha, I guess I should have pushed it a little harder.

In the end I was very pleased with this result. A half marathon trail run that gave me a little more practice with steep elevations, which, by the way, had a total gain of 1,603 feet, so not bad for a half marathon. I came in 5 minutes over my projected finish, so not too bad again. And, here is the kicker, this halfer was run on much of the course that I will be running for the 50k next year (or, dare I say it with a smile, the 50 mile if I am ready) so it was good practice.

This race day turned out to be a great one, one that I was very pleased to have run and to have taken part in. But the day soon turned sour when I began daydreaming of my favorite Mexican food, Super Taqueria, and went to my car. Put the key in the ignition and... nothing. I would spend the next 6 hours getting things straightened out and arranging transportation for tomorrow. What a pain. But that is another story...

Friday, September 28, 2007

Life's Journey

There are two quotes that I absolutely love and represent how I view life and running. The first is pretty popular. Google it and it comes up everywhere, most often on quotes pages or as someone's signature. Yet nobody knows who said it and I have been unable to dig up the authors name. Grab the bull by the horns, I say, and live life. This is a great quote:

"Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body but rather to skid in sideways totally worn out shouting "Holy shit, what a ride!"

This second quote is perhaps the same in different words. Live life doing, not thinking and not acting. I try to live by this one, but I could perhaps do more upon my feet. Something to work towards I guess.

"It's better to die upon your feet than to live upon your knees!" by Emiliano Zapata quoting Cuban hero of Independence Jose Marti.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Almaden Times Classic 10k

I was a bit disappointed with this race for several reasons. The main reason, though, was that this race, which has been ran something like 14 years now, was not accurately measured! It was .4 of a mile shorter, which was very frustrating.

Almaden Times Classic 10k - 45:53 (7:54 pace; 100/341)

I was happy to have stumbled upon this race months ago when searching for possible races throughout the year because of how close it was to where I live. An extra added bonus was that it started at 9:00 AM, which is such a great time to run a race. Needless to say I got plenty of sleep and was able to get to the race about a half hour early, purposefully skipping breakfast. When I got there everything felt great. As I jogged to pick up my bib my legs felt light and it seemed like it would be a great race. Bib in hand, I realized I had left my Garmin in the car so I jogged back, then turned around and jogged back and milled around, so I had plenty of warm up.

After the focused stretch session we all moved into the street and waited for the horn to go off. I projected a 7:30 average mile for this course, which was run on a flat bike path that bordered a creek, so extremely doable. A quarter of a mile into the race, though, I knew it was most certainly not going to happen. My legs (you know, the ones that only moments before the race felt light?) seemed to feel as though a ton of bricks were tied to my shoes. I struggled through the first mile and came in at 6:47, so not too bad of a mile. But, then again, this could have been what did me in, starting out too fast. The only reason I discount this is because in other 10ks I had started out and held that pace for a while and it did not hamper the rest of the race as it did this time.

Anyway, at about mile 1.5 I gave up and took my first walk break. I just wasn't into it. My legs felt heavy and it seemed like I was running through a pool of jello. Nothing felt right at this point. So I soldiered on and slowed my pace, coming in the next two miles at 7:57 and 7:53 despite the 30 second walk breaks. At this point, though, I didn't much care and slowed my pace down a lot, moving more towards finishing the race comfortably than trying to kill myself pushing through the uncomfortable miles. As I came down the home stretch with about a mile left I looked down the bike path and could see the finish line, which did not seem right. But, maybe it was, who knows, sometimes distances can be deceptive.

As I turned off the bike path, down the dirt trail and across the street into the high school parking lot to the finish line I was floored and dumbfounded: the finish line clock said 45:34 as I came up to it. Huh? Had I really ran that fast where I blew my PR out of the water even though I felt completely wasted and incapable of pushing it too fast at the first quarter mile? Looking down at my watch it said 5.8 miles, so I knew something was up. The Garmin is off sometimes, but never by that much. So I asked the guy behind me as we filed through the chute and he agreed, definitely shorter. Found another guy as I waited to have my body fat tested (16% by the way) and his Garmin also said 5.8.

Unbelievable. You go to a race trusting everything is accurate only to run it and find out that it was not accurate at all. When I approached an event coordinator I didn't even finish my question before she chimed in and said the course was short. Her answer? We didn't measure it this year. Great organization, right? They've done this event 14 times and they didn't oversee the measuring and mapping out of the course this year? Even though I wouldn't have run well enough to achieve a PR, I still like to know that the distance that I ran was comparable to other races. This one was most certainly not.

So at the pace of 7:54 I was running I would have ran the actual 10k in 49:04.

Has anyone ever ran a race that was measured too short or too long? Would you run the race again next year or skip it because of this? I was considering doing this race again next year before today, now I am not sure...

About my heavy legs. I think what it all comes down to is that I need to schedule more rest time after my long events (i.e. marathon and 50k), which I still haven't fully recovered from I guess. In the first half of the year I had run only smaller races and so when I did the three 10ks I was fresh and was able to set a PR at each and every race, eventually running my best 10k at a 7:30 pace, which was why I set my goal at that pace. But the second half of the year (starting at the end of July with SF and then again the first week of September with the 50k) is a lot more loaded with the longer more intense distances. In the future I just need to recognize that I need to rest for at least a month after and not try to do races that are more speed intensive. Live and learn again. Chalk another 10k up, but one that didn't feel that great.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Future Race (Vacation) Schedule

I was daydreaming the other day. There are so many places that I want to travel and visit, so what better way than to travel there for a marathon and tour the sites at the same time? What better way than to take a tour on foot? I'm seeing so many places in the many assorted races that I would have probably otherwise never been to or seen. I live in San Jose and yet much of what I ran at the Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon last year was all new to me.

I have no delusions. I know that a majority of these marathons I'll never get a chance to run, although I will definitely get to visit the cities, and some of them may be too difficult for me to even try. Nonetheless, I'll indulge my daydreams and build a Future Race Schedule. Some are local and are "must runs" because of their locality (CA) and others are races where I used to live (AZ), but most are areas across the US that I would jump at the chance of visiting. Hopefully I'll be able to notch off a few of these from the list, but only time will tell.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

New to Mistakes and Lessons

8. Run the descents, walk the ascents. Mistake: No Mistake here, I knew that going into trail running that, and especially with endurance trail runs, you walk the ascents and run the descents. This prevents you from blowing all your energy and killing your legs by trying to run the hills too much.

9. Don't run all the descents and don't walk all the ascents. Mistake: At about mile 16 at the Stevens Creek 50k was an extremely steep downhill. I took it like any other hill and tried to run it, although it was too steep to run so I had to lean back and do a half trot. All this did was not necessarily make up some time but definitely hurt my left knee from the massive amount of pressure the steepness caused from trying to run. I would have been better off walking it with that steep of a descent. Same with hills, run the ones that are manageable, and walk the steep ones.

10. Just say NO! Mistake: After running the 50k last week I started to run again. The day went as such. I ate lunch at 11:00, then met my brother at the gym at 4:00 and did some weight training on my chest and triceps for about 30-40 minutes, then decided to go out and run for an hour at around 5:15. I got .2 of a mile in and knew immediately that it wouldn't be a good running day. Tired legs from the 50k, plus early lunch and hard weight training = no energy and heavy legs. Know when to say no to yourself and either not go out for a scheduled run or stop the run you are doing.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Night Running

Ah, I sure do love night runs. There is just something about running in the dark with the cool night air with everything completely quiet. Of course you have to watch out for the errant sidewalk jutting out that you can't see until the last minute, or dogs that mysteriously jump out at you from seemingly nowhere. I love running at night every time.

And my night runs feel so strong compared to daytime runs. Can't understand why. Today, for example. Ran 4.33 miles (weird number, I know, but that was what our loop came to) and my legs, lungs and overall endurance just felt the strongest it has ever. Perhaps there is a residual effect from the 50k, perhaps some increased lung capacity or something. Who knows, but I felt like I didn't just run a 50k a week ago and felt like I had come into this completely rested, say, perhaps, as though I had tapered off and today was the big run.

Can't get enough of night runs. I need to do more of them.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Useless Stats From The 50k

Okay, so I love stats. I can't get enough of them. Every chance I have I take advantage of it and compile useless stats. So the 50k is the perfect chance to compile stats because the distance affords for a lot of stats. Can I say stats again?

So here we go. Unfortunately, I don't have a clue how to display the majority of the stats (split stats for speed, pace, ascents, descents and so on) other than in a Google Spreadsheet.

It took me 495.78 minutes to complete. I consumed (pre and during race) 2,592 calories and burned 7,425 calories. I drank 180 oz. of fluid, which shocked me, and I probably should have drank more if I could have carried more.

There were 54 starters with 44 finishers, which was an 81.5% completion rate. Of the 44 finishers there were 36 men and 8 women. Of the 10 DNFs there were 7 men and 3 women.

I've written stats 8 times on this post.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Test Run

Did a quick test run here at the house. Jumped on the treadmill and started at 3 MPH, slowly pushed the speed to 7 MPH. Ran for a mile, felt great. After the SF marathon it took me a while to feel comfortable running a little again, a while being at least a week. I felt like I could have ran Monday, but the mile today felt great, strong and with no discomfort. Trail running is MUCH easier on the legs is the only conclusion I can come to. Amazing, simply amazing. I have to do more trail running.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Stevens Creek 50k

Holy bejeezers, this was a blast! Either from running up, down, or around hills to carefully monitoring your nutrition to hydration, this distance was a fun distance. Part of the fun was running the trails, which meant following ribbons. I missed one and ran an extra 2.5 miles. Whoops, but it was a lot of fun. I still can't stop myself from smiling at the thought of finishing this 50k, my first.

Stevens Creek 50k - 8:15:47 (14:48 pace; 39/54) Stats

Coming into the race I was a bit nervous. I was starting to think that I got myself into something way over my head. In fact, I was contemplating as I stood in front of the bathroom mirror before leaving whether I should just go right back to sleep. But, my stubborn side prevailed, and thus I finished getting ready then ate a breakfast of 2 bananas, 2 pieces of wheat toast with peanut butter and a bottle of Gatorade. There was no turning back now.

I arrived and right away it was a much different atmosphere than the atmosphere I was used to at races. Everyone was just as friendly and nice, but you could tell looking around that these runners were in much better shape than I was and were much more hardcore. Some guys were walking around with their 100 mile Western States or Hardrock shirts. Wow, this would be interesting. This pre-race was the most casual I have seen as the race director gave us a last few bits of instruction before walking to the starting line. As we all milled around people were joking and taking pictures before 9:00 (ah, isn't this a great starting time? Not those god awful 7:00 starting times) rolled around and we were off.

Start to 10.9 mile Aid Station

I stayed around the back to feel everyone out to see what I was comfortable running. I knew I had to take it slow if I wanted to last the whole 31 miles. Soon enough though I sped up knowing that I could handle a faster pace. At around mile 1 I started hearing this noise and I looked around and found that there was a guy running in front of me who was dragging a stick along, and not a small stick, so I couldn't figure out why he hadn't noticed it yet. As I continued staring I made a rookie mistake and wasn't watching where I was going. Down I went as a root jumped out and tripped the distracted runner. Luckily it was only a little dirt on my hands and a bloody right knee. So I quickly (I think I got up really fast out of embarrassment) jumped up and soldiered on.

As we came from out of the cover of the trees and into the sun the temp must have jumped 10 degrees, but we were soon back into the trees and the cooler temperature. Soon enough I found myself sandwiched between three veterans of this race as well as a ton of 100 mile races. Directly in front of me the guy had run 15 100 mile races and right behind me the other guy had run 26 100 mile races, so I purposefully stayed at their pace, which was extremely manageable, since we were in a predominantly uphill section. You see, I didn't want to flounder around and make a ton of mistakes and then get a DNF. So I followed their lead, even though I could have run much faster than them on the uphills. When they walked the ascents, I walked. When they ran the descents, I ran. This worked wonderfully and I learned a ton, which I am positive was why I was able to finish. So as we neared the 10.9 mile aid station they slowly outpaced me as I stayed back to get my electrolyte pills out. I didn't want a repeat of the SF marathon, so I brought these to offset my electrolyte depletion. Finally running again, I came in at 2:15:19.

Out of the trees and in to 10.9 aid station
Coming into the aid station I had drank 40 oz. of Gatorade and was right behind the veterans I was pacing before, so everything felt great. Now I had never run a race with this setup for an aid station (standard among ultras), and I came to some volunteers who took my water bottles and filled them up as I looked at the array on the table. M&Ms, brownies, pretzels, potato chips, coke and sports drink. What I eyed though, because I read about many ultra runners eating this during a race, was the boiled potato. You are supposed to roll it in salt and then eat it. Oh wow, what an absolutely disgusting treat. I almost threw up with my first bite. Not wanting to be rude (even though the volunteers couldn't care less) or seem the outright newbie (the more likely answer) I sat there and forced myself to eat the rest. That was just wrong. I know the salt is the key, but not on my watch!

10.9 Aid Station to 19.3 Aid Station

It was from this point on that I pretty much ran the whole race on my own. With so few runners spread out over so many miles there wasn't much interaction. But we did run past many of the runners running towards the 10.9 mile station, so there was always the quick hello and way to go, keep it up. Much different than other races. Anyway, it was pretty much all downhill for a while with a few extended hills, so this was a fun part of the course. I did catch up to four people, though, so that was fun. Two had run the wrong direction and got lost, running an extra 6 miles! For the rest of the race to the 25 mile aid station I pretty much kept trading places with them. They ran ahead, I ran ahead and so on. I found out later that they had started an hour earlier, so that extra 6 miles really set them back. Then there were two more who I passed who were also early starters.

It was at this point in the race that I had my first clue that I should eat a Cliff Bar because my legs were getting wobbly and I had no energy. It was amazing, within minutes my legs were back to normal and I felt like I had just started the race! I had overlooked nutrition during the race to this point, and what a difference it does make. Eventually I was passed by two more runners near the aid station, one of which was the race director. I liked this idea because it meant the race director was only minutes ahead of me and was making sure the course was marked correctly. Score for me. I eventually came in to the aid station at 4:08:44.

Rounding Horseshoe Lake to 19.3 Aid Station

19.3 aid station to 24.5 aid station

This was perhaps the hardest part of the course, and not only because of the hills. There were virtually no trees so you were running the whole way practically with the sun blaring down on you. And the hills, oh the hills. This far into the race and it seemed like the hills were never ending. At least in the first half the hills were covered in shade and you had a ton of energy. Not this section. You round one corner and see the trail way off in the distance rounding another hill going up again! Ah, this was a pain. So I trudged on and kept walking the ascents and running the descents.

I had one goal on this leg of the race: get to the aid station! Seems obvious, and it is, but I knew that when I got to the aid station then I would be able to turn around and begin making my way back home, and it would also mean that I was pretty much guaranteed to finish, which wasn't always so up to the 19.3 mile aid station. It was a small comfort I was looking forward to. So the heat pounded me and I shuffled the hills. The two people I kept trading places with eventually passed me for good. But one of them had dropped out?!?! It turns out one of the half found another running partner. Anyway, I arrived to the aid station at 5:38:49 and was ecstatic to find out they had ice cold water! Oh what a joy that was.

24.5 mile Aid Station to Finish

This was the hard part. I was still running in the sun, so that made things difficult, and the descents were getting harder to continue running down. At about mile 28 I began shuffling along not realizing that my energy was depleted and this was why I was feeling dizzy and my legs non-responsive. Sounds worse than it was. So I started fishing for another Cliff Bar, which seemed to take an amazingly long time to pull out from such a small little pouch. First I took another electrolyte pill, which I almost choked on when there wasn't enough water in the one water bottle to swallow it with. So I grabbed the other water bottle and used that to assist eating the Cliff Bar, then I ate about six Cliff Shot Bloks. It helped, again, almost immediately. Amazing, you would have thought I would have learned this the first time it happened. Oh well.

Okay, now I was lost. I was looking at the ground looking for foot imprints and, oh, there's one! So I continued on, even though it didn't seem right. I hadn't seen a pink marker ribbon in a long time and this road was starting to get overgrown. What the, I have to walk up that?!?!? So I got to the top and began walking down, just as steep, then up another even steeper hill. What was going on? The gnats were swarming over me now. There must have been 15 of them on my legs before I realized it and began angrily swiping at them. Was I lost? I got to the end of the road and it turned into a trail, which dead ended at a fire road that you had to turn left or right. No pink ribbons anywhere. This was not right. I was at an intersection and nothing was telling me where to go. I screwed up. This was where I wanted to lie down and curl up into a ball. Not only did I go a lot farther then I had to, but I now had to do it all over again with the gnats and those steep hills. Unbelievable.

I mad my way back slowly because by now I was running out of water and I didn't want to keep drinking it without really knowing how far I had to go. Luckily I only went 1.25 miles farther. I saw a string of four ribbons, one on the left of the fire road and three directly across from it going up a steep trail. I must have missed it when I was fishing for food out of my pack. That sucked. So I was finally back on track again. Problem now, it was all uphill practically. Oh well, I could smile again. I was now 31 miles into the race and had another 2.5 to go, damn the hills!

5,000 ft elevation gain

I eventually came in at 8:15:47. If I hadn't got lost I probably would have come in at around 7:15 (the extra miles section took a crazy amount of time because of the steepness of the trail/fire road), but thus is the nature of trail races. Incidentally, there was one couple that had still not come in yet. I wasn't last at least! They finally came in around 20 minutes later, and the race officially ended. It turned out there were nine people who started early at 8:00 (because they thought they would take longer than 7 hours) so there were a few people who placed behind me, not to mention there were 8 DNFs. Not that place matters here, mind you, but there was something about not wanting to come in last place.

Will I do another 50k? I think so, but it will be after I do a ton more hill/trail running which is a completely different beast than street/paved path running. My next trail run is the Quicksilver Half Marathon in San Jose on 9/30, so that should be fun.


Pre-Race (690 calories total)
2 Bananas (200 calories)
2 Pieces of Bread w/ Peanut Butter (360 calories)
20 oz. Gatorade (130 calories)

During Race (1,902 calories total)
14 Endurolytes (0 calories)
9 Cliff Shot Bloks (297 calories)
3 Cliff Bars (900 calories)
2 Brownies (180 calories)
1 Potato (50 calories)
Handful of Pretzels (150 calories)
40 oz. Gatorade (260 calories)
10 oz. Cytomax (65 calories)
130 oz. Water (0 calories)

(All pictures taken from the Stevens Creek 50k website and are representative of when the race was ran in March of previous years when it was much more lush. This race was very dry and hot. From 19.3 on it was brown weeds everywhere except the controlled fire with the black landscape that we ran through)

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Trial By Fire

So I recently started a new job, part time in the mornings, including Saturdays. At the time I accepted the job I started thinking about the 50k I've signed up for, which just happens to be my last Saturday event of the year. I was disappointed. I wanted to run this one so bad, but I knew that there would be other events (luckily, and strangely, this event, the Stevens Creek 50k, is one of the only free events around).

Add to this my recently finished marathon in which I didn't drink enough fluids as well as ran too fast and hard, and I wasn't sure if I was ready for my first ultramarathon. So I reluctantly accepted and bowed my head in resignation. What more could I do?

Then, the clouds parted and the sun made an appearance. The new schedule came out and they didn't schedule me for this coming Saturday the 8th, even though they said I would work Saturdays!

What I thought I would miss will indeed be my first ultramarathon. Am I prepared? I would like to think I am, but I probably am not. I haven't done too well with hills in the past, and there is a combined 5,000 feet in elevation gain as we run through the Santa Cruz Mountains. I'll need to maintain at least a 10-11 minute pace on the flats and descents (with of course a slower pace for the ascents) in order to not blow my energy in the beginning. Water? I'll probably carry two water bottles with Gatorade, or perhaps I'll wear a Camlebak. Aid stations? Well since this is a free race the aid stations are few and far between. Only three aid stations at 10.9, 19.3 and 24.9. So I'll most certainly need to be well prepared for my hydration and nutrition. Projected finish? It'll probably take close to 8 hours.

Why, you might ask? Why run an ultramarthon, and why run it when you could have prepared more? Well, just as much as I day dream of running a marathon, so to do I with a 50k. And not just for the distance, but because it is a trail run taking me back into areas I would otherwise not see on my own. As for the second question, I do best by Trial by Fire. Throw me into it and learn as I do. This was how I did my first marathon. Granted, the traditional and correct way is to train for months before doing. But I do better by just doing it. That way I learn what I'm doing as I'm doing it, which is always the unknown factors that you won't encounter until you attempt something. And I've ran enough to know I can do the distance, now it is a matter of how long it will take me. I wouldn't be surprised if I come in last or near last.

Anyway, Trial by Fire, that is the way I like it.