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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Summary of 2012

After a long hiatus of writing on this blog, I have decided that it may be a worthwhile venture and have decided to post a summary of the larger events of 2012.  Unlike most blogs, I am not going to go into the step by step minutia details of each race as found on most blogs.  If you would like this detail of information, go to Google, type in the name of the race you are interested in and the word “blog” and you should have enough reading forage for at least an evening.   I have left out a couple of smaller low profile local races and will just summarize the larger or notable events of the year.
Rocky Raccoon 50 mile
This race is down in Huntsville, Texas and is known to be a fast course, a WS qualifier, and large.  I had decided to do this almost on a whim, and was able to first get on the waiting list, then make it in.  The year before Ian Sharman had run an insane fast 100 miler, sub 13 hours on this course.  Weather and trail conditions were perfect the evening before, but things were about to change.   In the early morning hours of race day, a massive t-storm front moved through and dumped something like 4 inches of rain on the area.  Large portions of the course were quickly reduced to pits of mud and water.  In the sandier sections the, course held up fine.   I was able to run a sub 8 hour 50 mile and place in the top 10 so the day was a success with a WS qualifying time and a decent one at that.  I was planning on doing this race again in 2013, but it filled up and the waiting list was huge by early October, so if this race is on your to-do list, sign up early.  I was also able to socialize with several fellow runners’ from the mid-west so this was an extra bonus and made the event even more enjoyable .
Way Too Cool 50K
Another large event with a ton of blog posts, so you can find all the details you could ever with for.  In a nutshell, drove over the night before, and spent the night in Auburn.  Got up and ran the race, hung around for a while socializing and had a big picnic lunch then headed home.  The days leading up to the race, the area had seen some rain and many of the creeks were up a bit but not raging, though you were going to get your feet wet crossing.  The nice thing about this area, is that even after a rain, I have never seen the trails shoe sucking sloppy.   I ended up running in the 4:20 range which placed me a ways back in the field since this race draws more than a few talented trail runners.  The large pot-luck picnic was fun and a hit, a must-do for next year.
Escape from Prison Hill trail half marathon
A small trail half held in Carson City.  The course is in a large green space just outside of CC and several prisons can be seen from the course.   The area has few trees and almost no shade so it is known to heat up most years, this year was no exception.  This race is mostly on single track trail with a couple miles of dirt/gravel two track/roads.  For the most part you are either climbing or descending with some portions that are soft and sandy.   This race favors the strong fast runners, and there were some fast runners this year.  Large raffle at the end with a large breakfast spread with plenty of food for all. 
Western States 100 mile (pacing)
Once again, I went over and worked the Forest Hill aid station during the afternoon, then paced a runner through the night for the last 38 miles.  This year the runner was Dalus Kumpa, a local runner and a good one at that.  The pacing went off without a hitch and no major issues on the final leg of this race.  Dalus came into this race well prepared on all fronts with a solid summer of training, a reasonable race plan that he stuck to, and he was mentally prepared.  In many ways, pacing is as or even more fun than racing and very rewarding.  Currently have my name in the hat for this race and if I do not get in, I will be pacing.
Tahoe Rim Trail 50 mile
Another well run race with some great scenery.  I had originally put in for the 50K then later upgraded to the 50 mile.  Conditions were warm and dry and by the afternoon was bordering on hot.  Again, I had some stomach issues starting near mile 30, but was able to work through them better than in the past and ended up running a few minutes slower than last year.  In the end I considered it a successful race in that I was able to work on nutrition and hydration- hit a low spot and be able to pull back out and recover to some degree.  Still some work to be done in this area of the longer races but I am getting better.  Finished 10th overall in a field of fast masters runners, no AG prize for me this time around.  Free, drinks including beer, and a huge burrito bar at the finish.  I wish I felt better at the end of these longer races to fully enjoy the spread.
Kokanee run half
A rather small race that has been around for a while near South Lake Tahoe.  This is one of those event that might have too many event with a half, 10k, and a 5k all at the same time.  This year the half course was changed due to ongoing work in the area, so it consisted of two 10k loops.  I ran in 2nd place for the majority of the race and was able to catch the front runner with less than half a mile to go and win it outright.  The course ended up being about a mile short on my Garmin, but hey, it was a great day to be racing in some great scenery, so I am not complaining. 
California International Marathon
This years’ race will be remembered for some time for the rain and wind, check out all the whiny blog posts.  The people that came with their game faces and ready to race did fine and more than a few had PR’s.  The others did not have a much success or fun.  It was all about your outlook at the start.   What I experienced was steady rains and some strong south winds for the first half of the race.  The second half was light winds with light rain or drizzle and by the end the day was starting to look nice for running .  The weather caught the race committee a bit flat footed, but for the most part, the race did a great job and still had an army of volunteers helping out.  In my opinion, the saving grace was the rather warm temperatures  (in the 50’s) during the race.  It was cool and wet at the start, but one you got moving, I was about right with SS shirt, shorts, cap and light cotton gloves.  Many were over dressed.  Near PR time of 2:54, but felt much better after this marathon (was actually able to step up on the curb!) than in the past.  Of you are looking for a PR or BQ race, look seriously at CIM.  This is a fast course, I do not care what anyone says!
Looking Forward into 2013?
Not sure what 2013 will hold as far as racing or training.  Not so long ago, I came to the conclusion that my somewhat shotgun approach to racing and training is not allowing me to perform my best at any particular event.  I have been racing “seriously” from road marathons up to 50 mile and even considering 100 k/m events for the upcoming year.   Should I concentrate on one distance?   Or just continue what I have been doing since I have been having decent success and enjoying myself for the most part.  As of right now, I have a smattering of events in the queue, leaning hard to the trail end of things.  Most are local such as TRT and some events in the Auburn/cool area.  I may also do some fun running like a trip down to the Grand Canyon or Zion NP.  Only time will tell. 
Just Run….

Thursday, February 9, 2012

California International Marathon, December 4, 2011

One again, I have waited too long to write this race report up and many of the details have escaped me.  CIM was one of the last races to qualify of the Olympic trials, so the field was deep, especially on the women’s side. It was different to be running with so many quick women in a race.  Congrats to the almost 30 women and 20 men that qualified to the Olympic trials that will be held at the Houston Marathon in January!
With all the other stuff that has been going on, I was unsure if I was even going to run this race even though I had signed up for it quite some time ago.  In the end, I decided that I would just go do it and more or less make a plan the morning of the race.  It seemed like recovery was slow to come after Portland marathon and I felt like I had struggled with the long up tempo runs in that I would get out about 15-17 miles and the legs would just go dead, almost like a bonk.  This concerned me since I felt like I was not making good progress with my training.  Thanksgiving morning I did the Turkey Trot 10k out at Scheels. A couple of days before I had picked up a pair of Saucony Kinvaro 2’s  that I intend to use for CIM , but wanted to put some miles on them to ensure that there were no major issues.  The morning was cold, clear and calm and I was able to run a solid 36:30 so my performance was looking OK.  Back to CIM; I ended up going over to Sacramento with Jeff who had recently been coming to the Saturday group runs and splitting a room with him.  We drove over, checked into the hotel and went over to the expo to pick up my packet and was able to get in and out in short order.  We did walk around a bit but I had everything that I needed so no need to purchase anything.  Jeff did pick up a few items.  We met up with the rest of the CIM group at an Italian restraunt and had dinner with the group.  It was a fixed menu with a choice of main course.  I had the pasta with pesto.  After dinner we headed back watched a bit of TV and headed to bed. We were back up at 4 am got dressed and headed down to the continental breakfast then on the bus to the starting line in Folsom, near the federal penitentiary, you know, the one Johnny Cash sings about.  It was about a 30 minute drive to the start where we got off and hit the long line of “little blue rooms” at the start.  I had read in other blogs that the line of port-o-potties was impressive, and it was in real life.  We climbed back on one of the buses to stay warm and hung out until about 15 minutes before the race.  Shortly before the starting time, I headed for the start line, placed the majority of my warm clothes in the goodie bag from the expo with my number on it and tossed it on the appropriate truck to be picked up at the finish.  I did keep on a cheap, disposable quarter zip top until moments before the race.  A few minutes before the start, I decided that I needed to hit the bushes one last time. On the way out, I bashed my knee and lower leg on a large rock.  This scraped it up good, but I walked it off and by the time I got back to the starting line, it felt fine.  I had decided to run near the three hour pace group for a portion of the race then some time near the half way point evaluate how I was feeling and evaluate and act accordingly.  I lined up near the three hour pacer and the countdown began.  Off everyone went and I made a concerted effort to hold back since I had gone out so quick, way too quick in Portland, plus the start here was down hill.  I caught up to the three hour pace group at about mile two, so they must have gone out quick.  At this point the pace felt relaxed, but I know that I was moving well.  So I decided to that the plan was to just hold this pace and see what would happen.  As before I made a conscious effort to take water at all the aid stations.  For fuel, I had packed 4 vanilla Gu’s in a pair of shorts with pockets. The cups were small at most of the aid stations, so after spilling more than I consumed, I started getting water bottles off the tables at the start of the aid stations.  These were much easier to get water in me than on me.  I was to later find out that the water bottles were for the elite runners. Oh, well, I was running slower than even the woman’s QT, so I figured that I was not taking water from anyone.  The bottles were great when I needed more than a splash to get a Gu down.
As the miles ticked away it is always interesting to see people ebb and flow around you.  New faces will appear at your side then move ahead or fall back.  Some you run with for a long time others just for a moment.  Some you see once, never to be seen again and others you play hop-scotch for the entire race.  The flow of fellow runner is dynamic in that your are running in a pack then, you find yourself alone- new faces and “old friends” something to distract the mind in the middle of the race.

Scheels Turkey Trot 10k, 2011

Like so many turkey trot races across the country, this race was held Thanksgiving morning at the Scheels store in Sparks.  This race was just a couple of weeks out from California International Marathon, so I was undecided until the last minute, but one could sign up the morning of the race.  I knew that this was one of the more popular races in the area, and packet pick up was the day before so I headed over to the store to see if I could register, but to no avail- only on-line or day of.  I had picked up a pair of flats that I intended to run CIM in, so the race was intended to be the last speed workout and a shakedown for the shoes. 
I headed over the morning of the race earlier that I normally would since I expected lines for the day of registration.  The registration table was already doing a brisk business when I arrived but it did not take too long to get a bib number, goodie bag and the “spiffy” turkey trot sweatshirts.  I hooked up with Jeff and we did a warm up.  By the time we made it back to the parking lot, substantial lines had formed for the registration and the port-o-potties.  We headed out again, made a pit stop in the bushes, and returned to the starting line to be informed that the race was going to be delayed 15 minutes to people could make it through the registration line. In the end, many did not get registered though they were allowed to run anyway.  The goal for the race was to run about 37 minutes, so quick, but not race full out.  The race started a few minutes late, though I do not think that it was the full 15 minute delay announced earlier.  At about the first mile I found myself running with Ramona Sanchez and I hung with her for a large portion of the race.  At about mile 4, Ramona started to pull away and in the end she put about 15 seconds on me.  I ended up 5th overall for the registered runners and about 10th or so with the “bandits” with a time of 36:46.  I hung around a while and talked with several people then headed home to finish getting dinner in the oven.  Several weeks later, I received a padded envelope in the mail.  It was a metal for 1st in age group.  Interesting to say the least with white turkey wings, a pearl and a red ribbon bow.  I suspect that producing different and creative designs can be a bit of a challenge.  In all, there were a bit over a thousand registered runners and I suspect another couple hundred that were not able to get registered.  Other than the hiccups with registrations and the need for more port-o-potties, this is a flat, fast course that is worthy of a PR attempt. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Bomb; when other things become more important than running.

Not much going on in my running world right now, other than Californian International Marathon in early December.  Training for CIM has been tough since I do not feel recovered from Portland marathon.  ON the non-running portion of my life, the last three weeks have been totally out of control with two major life events happening and almost colliding. 
First off, my wife was diagnosed with a brain tumor, has undergone surgery and will start radiation and chemo soon.  Yup, that was a BIG bomb that got dropped on us!  She started having headaches, went to the doctor, meds, return visit for a cat scan and was sent directly to the hospital for a couple of nights.   Surgery followed less than a week later.   MJ, recovering from major surgery, does sleep more, but that is to be expected.   More Dr. appointments to follow including a consult with UC –SF.  After hearing the original news, my parents drove down  from Oregon  and stayed with us for a week before heading home to Wisconsin.
THEN early in the morning on November 18, I was awakened by the smell of smoke and strong winds shaking the house.  Got up for a drink of water and the front room was a glow of orange.  A look out the window revealed that the hills above the house were ablaze.  Went down stairs and woke up dad and the two of us stood at the kitchen window and watched the fire slowly march down the hill. 

The winds were driving the fire downhill in to town.  Soon the fire was close to McCarrain Blvd, a large four lane road so I started getting out the garden hoses, shovels and started wetting down the deck and the bushes at the back of the house.  The fire jumped McCarrain Blvd and once it got going good, raced down the canyon quite quickly.  The fire passed by our house, from one fence line to the other in less than a minute.  Our downhill neighbors have (had) dense scrubby pines at the edge of the yard.  The pines went up in flames and I was concerned that the fire was going to get into a large Jeffery pine that is quite close to the house then onto our roof.   About this time dad is yelling at me to leave to leave the house, so I dropped the hose and headed for the waiting cars that were running in the street.  Sherriff were going door to door evacuating people and a wildfire crew pulled up in front of the house, I assume to put out our neighbors burning pines.   We drove down the hill to Horseman’s Park to regroup.  All the equipment in the unoccupied fire station was still there though I could see some people walking about inside getting stuff ready.  Where were they two hours before when the fire was still up on the hill and away from the majority of the houses?  We left there and headed down to the Walmart on south McCarrain.  We waited in the parking lot for an hour or two then I gave a call to Sharron at about 4:30 and explained the situation.  She said come on over so we caravanned to her house where she had coffee and some breakfast items out and waiting.  We turned on the TV and watched as everything unfolded.  We spent the majority of the day hanging out at Sharron’s house, watching the news and chatting.  Nick, dad and myself made a run back over to the house to check on stuff and to pick up all my parents items, since they planned on leaving to go home on Friday anyway.  While we were there, we put out multiple hotspots in neighbors yard.

Before the fire (above)                                 After the fire Below)

We just walked through back yards, when we found something burning we would just grab the nearest garden hose and put it out.  By now the wind was blowing much harder than it had in the morning with gusts to 60 mph plus.   We loaded up my parent’s stuff and I grabbed a few other things as well and headed back over to Sharron’s. 
An impressive picture of the fire I found on the internet.  Our house would be near center, just below the flames.

About noon Friday, my parents got on the road headed home and made it as far as Wendover on the Nevada-Utah border, a full day since dad had been up since about 12:30 am.   Nick and I returned after dinner to the house - I was concerned about having the house vacant with no power.  Much to our surprise, the power was on so we watched some TV.  I sent out some e-mails then went to bed.  I got up at about 7:30 to find that we had a dusting of snow during the night. The weather was calm and I headed down the hill to the NSET group run and got in a nice long run.  Returned to the house at 10:30 to find that nick was still sleeping so I took a shower, got Nick up and headed back across town for some breakfast and pick everyone up.  Back at Sharron’s, I had some breakfast and loaded everyone up some time shortly after noon.  Returning home, the hose smells a bit like smoke, the back yard is black, and the wind has blown stuff around but other than that everything is fine.   A big blast of Febreeze in the house made a big difference.   Thanks Barry and Sharron for all the help!
In the end, the fire burned just short of 2 thousand acres and destroyed 29 homes.  A drive-by of several homes indicated to my untrained eye that the reason that they were lost was because of a lack of defensible space around them or wood shingle roofs.  Myself included, like to have trees near the house.  Several of the burned houses had thick evergreens such as pines and/or junipers right up against or overhanging the structure.   I will be doing some landscape cleanup to rid the house of some fuel ladders.
A dark picture, but all the open space in the foreground was burned
Right before MJ went into surgery, my car was hit. It was a low speed collision so it was not all that bad.  A kid backed right into the passenger side door as I drove through a parking lot. It crushed in the door and broke the glass in the door.  When the glass broke, it went everywhere in the car including all the way to the driver’s side floor.   I saw him coming, but there was not enough time to get out of the way.  The damage was to the door only so they replaced the door and everything is fine.  Several people have told me that things come in threes, so I hope that I am done for a while. 
Something to be said for a “simple routine and boring “ life when you have stuff like this going on.

We still have some great views  off the deck!


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Portland Marathon 2011

I signed up for the Portland Marathon some time ago when I found out that my sister and parents were running it.  For 2011, running, training, and racing has been all over the board, with my goals and races jumping back and forth from trails to the road and back.  I have been racing distances from 10k to 50 miles on road and trails, so even a month or so out from this race I did not know what to expect as far as my marathon conditioning.  As I neared race day, it became apparent that I was in better shape than I expected, mostly because of the huge base I had built up over the summer getting ready for races like  the Tahoe Rim Trail 50 miler.  I still felt that I was a bit weak in the speed department and the sustained race-pace tempo runs were the ones that I continued to struggle with.
We had originally planned to drive up to Portland from Reno, but just a couple of weeks out it became apparent with work schedules that driving was going to become complicated so we purchased airline tickets.  In the end, a very good choice due to the first snow storm of the year hitting the Sierras less than a week before the race.   Mass transit in Portland was great.  One can fly in to PDX, catch the MAX (light rail) into downtown where we stayed at the Embassy Suites.  Race headquarters were 6-8 blocks away at the Hilton as was the race start.  Mass transit is free within down town so it is easy and cheap to get around.  There are plenty of eateries and shopping so there is no real need to travel unless you would like to see to some of the sights such as Washington Park, home of the rose gardens and the zoo.
I went over to packet pickup and the expo at the Hilton Friday night.  A good choice since the crowds were manageable and the lines short.  Also picked up three pairs of shoes from the Roadrunner return rack booth for $135 a good price since I picked up a near new pair of Nike Vomero 6 and Brooks Cascadia’s , both  $130 each retail. Rounded out the 3 with a pair of pink Lunar racers for MJ.  The night before the race, I laid out everything and  got it ready including pinning on the number, loading pockets with  gels, and attaching the chip to my shoe.  In the past, I have raced marathons in a singlet, but each time I would get all chaffed up so this time I picked a light weight technical short sleeve shirt.  This is what I do all my long training runs in so why not.  Also a billed hat and put a pair of sun glasses on my head as well.  Why I thought I might need sun glasses in Portland is beyond me, must be just force of habit from sunny Reno.  Shoes  selected were a well worn pair of Mizuno Wave Rider 12’s that I had picked up in the spring at a shoe sale.  Lighter than the Nike Vomero’s that I train in, but still provide more protection than just a pair of racing flats. I also raced for the first time in a pair of toe socks since I had done several long runs in them and they provided protection from blisters between my toes.   Overall, the selection of gear worked great, with minimal (almost none) chaffing and no blisters on my feet (the toe socks get a thumbs up from me!).  This particular pair of shoes were nearing the end of their life and my feet and legs felt it near the end of the race.
The morning of the race, I got up at 5:30, got dressed, applied a bit of body glide to suspect regions and headed down stairs for the continental breakfast that the hotel was gracious enough to provide in the lobby.  I had a small Danish, half a cup of coffee, hit the bathroom and headed up the street to the start.  I found the “A” corral after asking a couple of people  and was hanging out near the back when my sister and friend found me so we just hung out and chatted till very near the start of the race.  They were in the “B” corral, just around the corner from me.   The wheelchair racers started at about 6:58, there was just a handful, say 6-10 and the “A” group started about a minute after them.  The race started fairly quickly, and I was a bit concerned that my Garmin 405, that was linking up slowly would be ready for the start.
It was, and we actually started about a minute sooner than scheduled, no complaints here.  The countdown began 5… 4… 3.. 2.. one.. GO!  Between the downhill start and the mix of half and full marathon racers everyone got out quite quick including myself.  With the adrenalin pumping, I torched off a 6:10 first mile, more than just a bit fast, so I pulled back a bit but still were clipping the spits off faster than expected.  The course makes a loop through the down town area then heads north out into a warehouse/ industrial area.  The streets were a bit on the rough side with multiple rail track crossings, uneven manhole covers and other irregularities in the pavement, so I was spending a lot of time watching the ground.  This portion is an out and back so I was able to see the leaders blazing away up front as the made the return.  After I had made the turn and was heading back in, I was able to see several people that I knew that were heading out still and shout or wave at them.  Soon the half and full split apart and the pack thinned dramatically and I found myself running alone.  I also noticed sweat dripping rapidly off the bill of my hat- was I working that hard?  No, a light misty rain was starting to fall but I had not noticed since I was spending a lot of time looking at the ground and not up.  Soon signs for “checkpoint Charlie” at the St Johns bridge where you had to have a bib number to proceed.  This is done in an effort to prevent “bandits”, or non registered runners in the race.  Also, at multiple spots on the course, there are chip reader mats that act as electronic checkpoints to prevent shortcuts for those unscrupulous runners that just have to cheat.  The St Johns bridge approach is the only real up hill on the entire course and the climb actually is longer than I expected since it does not end until the middle of the bridge it’s self.  Down the other side and couple quick turns and steep sections, than into a residential area perched on the river bluff that overlooked a large portion of the city.  Many locals had turned out to cheer on the runners, socialize, picnic, and reports of an unofficial aid station with a beer keg!  It is always good to see non-runners supporting and having a good time at a race.  The course wound along the edge of the bluff for a while than a big downhill back into the river bottom.  The course crosses back over the river, make a loop on a off ramp then makes a bee line for the finish area.  At this point things are starting to get a bit hectic again with the two races merged back together, plenty of spectators, bands and the like.  About a mile from the finish, I am “in the zone” of just getting done, tunnel vision and all; I pass a fire station just as an engine is pulling out.  A gal running the half, steps out of the way of the engine and right into me where I just about run her over.  With about a third of a mile a 20 something comes past me, I try to with him but do not have much left and let him go and just try to pick it up for the run into the finish.  The finish is a bit odd in that there are a couple sharp corners  right at the end so you cannot see the finish line until you are about a half block away.  Finish:  stop the watch at 2:54 they wrap me in a space blanket and move me up into the restricted finish area.  I pass on the rose, and get some water and wander around waiting for my sister and others.
Overall the race went well, conditions were cool and overcast with just a touch of misty rain.  I did go out way too hard (fast),  and from the waist down I felt really beat up.  During the second half of the race the legs were heavy, sore and stiff, I just could not make them go faster.  Aerobically, it felt good and never near or at the “red line”, so aerobically, I ran within myself.  The drop in elevation of 4,500 feet Reno to near sea level Portland must have helped.    Finish area had plenty of food, but like my experience with the St Louis marathon, water was lacking.  In Portland, the tables of refreshments were almost a block long, both sides, but had only one water station right near the finish line with small cups.  I went through the first time and took several, then later, I went back and stood there and drank about five more cups as the gent behind the table refilled the cup.  After the race, I had the chills pretty good so I stood around shaking in my foil blanket.  I had a fruit popsicle since that was the only thing that remotely looked good.  I hung around the runners only finish area for a while and hooked up with Anthony from Reno who ran around a 3:03 and later my sister (3:29).
We made our way out of this area and out to the family meeting area, that was mostly a mob scene. Looked for the family for some time them decided to head back to the hotel room to find them and get a shower plus some warmer clothes.  Jumped the MAX train made the short trip back to the hotel where they were waiting for me.  The family was at the finish area and saw me finish, but we missed each other in the crowd or they left right before I came out if the runners only area.  I took a quick shower, dressed warmly and headed back to the finish area to see mom and dad finish.  Hooked back up with Steph via the cell phone and saw the parent s finish (5:18).  Another PR by 40 or so minutes. Just then the family made it back out to the finish area as they came out of the runners only area.  We all headed over to the clothes pickup area, then over to the start line for some family pictures with or finishers metals, then headed different directions for lunch and to get cleaned up.   We went and had Tai food, picked up bags from the hotel bell stand and hoped the MAX once more to say good-by to Steph and the parents.  Steph decided to drive us out the airport, with a slight delay in not being able to find the vehicle in the funky parking garage.   Made it to the airport fine, got tickets and through the PDX security in record time for me where MJ headed to Anchorage for work and I took the boys home to Reno.  By the time I made it home, it had been a huge day and I was one tired puppy.  Slept through the alarm clock the next morning, but still got everyone where they needed to be on time.   
Occupy Portland, demonstration against Wall Street was going on very near the finish area, but both groups were able to peacefully coexist for the most part, but this did add to the chaos of down town with more fencing and people than normal.
So there were four Starostkas in the Portland marathon this year, all finished with no issues.  To add to this, my brother and wife also did a marathon the same day. So a total of six family members completed a marathon on 10/9.  Not many can say that!
Now that I have done multiple “big” races, a few things that may help you to be more successful on race day.  Stay relaxed and do not stress out over stuff.  Yes, I know traveling can be stressful, but do as much homework beforehand for things like time and location of packet pickup, start location and the like. Print hard copies of reservations (hotel, airline, race registration..) that way if there is an issue, you have physical proof that it exists.  As for racing, have a good idea, or better yet, know exactly that you are going wear during the race.  Trying out new shoes on race day might end up making your feet a bloody mess.  Use what you know is going to work.  Prep for race day-pin numbers, attach chips, load pockets, then lay everything out the night BEFORE the race.  If you are like me, the brain is not fully functional at o-dark-thirty in the am.  The day before and during race day, eat, do, and wear things that you know will work - changing anything may produce a nasty surprise.  Be conservative on your food selections and activities.  That super hot curry for you prerace dinner might not work so well on race day if this type of food is something “special” or different.  Have a race plan (realistic goal(s) and know your splits or pace) but be willing to adjust goals and plans depending on race conditions or how you are feeling.  If conditions are extreme, (hot, cold, windy …) it may not be a good day to try for a PR.  I think most of the above comments are fairly basic and common sense, in that of you race much at all, you should be doing most of these even if you do not realize it.
Portland Marathon is a good, solid, well run race that would be worth doing again.  Am I going to run Portland in 2012? Doubtful; just too many other good races out there and so little time.  Enjoy and Just Run .

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim

This is intended to JUSt be a starting point for planning your R2R2R adventure. 

Running the Grand Canyon
Planned date May 5-6, 2012
** I have done my best to provide accurate information, however, weather, venders, rules, regulations and others change.  To ensure a safe and enjoyable trip, personally check all facts.**
In recent years, running the Grand Canyon as become immensely popular, and why not, it is a great adventure with scenery that is second to none.   One of the most popular routes is to run from the south rim to the north rim and back in a single day.  I have used the word “run” here but as you will see, it is more of a fast hike for a large portion for reasons that will become apparent. 
Bit of Background Information
The Grand Canyon is a National Park and is quite popular with millions visiting each year.  Most visitors come to the South Rim, peer into “the hole”, have a meal at one of the restaurants, maybe spend a night and head off to other sites.  Few venture to the north rim or to the river far below.   I had been like the majority of the visitors, just gone to the south rim until last spring when I did the R2R2R as part of a group.  For me, I found that there is many more interesting sites and “things” in the bottom than on the rim.  Due to the popularity of the park, reservations for lodging need to be made as far in advance as possible!

Conditioning/ how hard is this trek?
R2R2R is no cake walk!  I would consider it comparable to a heavy/strenuous 50 mile trail race or a solid 100K.  If you can complete a 50 mile trail race within the cutoff time, you should be OK.  Most do this as a “fast hike” instead of a race so you are not pushing for speed the entire time.  There is a lot a decent and accent, none of it is overly steep, but once you start climbing, you will not get a rest for quite some time.  The trail in the steeper portions is dominated by water bars, logs placed across the trail forming large uneven steps.  Most are odd lengths (half a stride too long or short), so you are always having to adjust making running difficult.  The trails are well marked and 8 plus feet wide in all but a few places.  All trail intersections are well marked so if you can read, you should not get lost.  If in doubt, take the trail more traveled.  There are multiple blogs on the web documenting this crossing with many pictures to give you an idea on what the trail is like and the perpetual awesome views.  The recent Runners World (September 2011?) article in my mind is a good how NOT to do the crossing.  Adjust goals and expectations according to the conditions (they did not).  If things are not going well, turn back BEFORE it is too late!

The Run
The Rim to Rim to Rim (R2R2R) is about 45 miles, give or take a few miles depending on your route.   The traditional route is to start on the South Rim and descend on the South Kaibab Trail to Phantom Ranch at the river’s edge, then ascend the North Kaibab Trail to the North Rim.  The return trip is back down the North Kaibab Trail to Phantom Ranch and ascend the South Rim via the Bright Angel Trail.  This route avoids the mule trains in the morning and provides water on for the climb out in the afternoon.  There is no water on the South Kaibab Trail between the South Rim trailhead and Phantom Ranch.   Bright Angel Trail is a slightly longer route but has the advantage of when you reach the top, you are only steps away from the lodge.   Elevation change for the South Rim is 4,620 feet and North Rim is 5,841 feet (the North Rim is roughly 1,000 feet higher than the South), so about 21,000 feet of climbing and decent combined!

Popular seasons to R2R2R is spring or fall when rim temperatures are cool and the canyon bottom (Phantom Ranch) is warm.  Temperatures on both rims can be downright cold during the winter and will include substantial snow accumulation.  Temperatures in the bottom can easily climb over 100 degrees F in the summer.   I prefer to avoid both.  The last weekend of April if 2010 found temperatures in the upper 20’s on the south rim at 4:30 AM and mid 70’s at Phantom Ranch in the afternoon.  Like most high elevation deserts, temperatures in the Grand Canyon drop quickly when the sun goes down.
A hydration pack is highly recommended.  A pack allows one to carry plenty of water plus all the other items need.  You will need to carry a full days worth the food (you can buy some items a Phantom Ranch so a bit of cash is good), extra clothes, extra pair of sox ,first aid kit and some emergency TP.  The trick will to be self sufficient without over packing.  Other items include a well broke-in set of trail shoes,  clothes appropriate for the weather,  hat, sun glasses, sun screen- well the same stuff that you would bring an a long self supported trail run.  Phantom Ranch does not stock soft drinks (just ice tea, lemonade, and beer)  so if you would like some “rocket fuel” (Coke or Mtn Dew) to get you up the final grade, bring some down and cache it somewhere near Phantom Ranch- I am planning on doing this next time!   A person could get $5 (or more) a can for a cold Coke on a hot day at Phantom Ranch.

Developed Water Sources: 
Many of the developed water sources are seasonal due to freezing weather during the winter.  Check with the park visitor center to determine availability. There is an adequate number of developed water sources along the trail  to meet your needs if you are carrying a hydration pack, unless it is very hot.  The longest waterless stretch I encountered in 2010 was from Pump House, to the North Rim and back.  There were several seeps and springs between the Pump House and the North Rim that I could have used if I needed, I did not (one should purify this water).

South Kaibab Trail -At the trail head ONLY.  No water until Phantom Ranch
Bottom -Phantom Ranch (year round)
North Kaibab Trail - Cottonwood Campground (Seasonal), Pump House (seasonal), Roaring Springs, a short distance off the main trail (Seasonal)
North Rim Trailhead - (Seasonal) do not depend on it
                ** expect all amenities on the North Rim to be Closed**
Bright Angel Trail - Indian Gardens, 3 mile Rest House, 1 ½ mile Rest House

Travel to and From the South Rim
Getting to and from the South Rim can be a bit of a pain.   South Rim is 4 ½ hour drive from Las Vegas, NV and a bit less from Phoenix, AZ.  From Reno, NV it is a solid 12 ½ hour drive!  Flying to either Las Vegas or Phoenix and renting a car is the way to go for all but the most cash strapped students.
You MIGHT be able to take the shuttle from Sky Harbor airport (Phoenix) to the Grand Canyon.  Check into it, and get back with me!

South Rim Lodging and Food
We stayed at the Maswik lodge at the South Rim.  Two queen rooms are $92 a night and there is a large cafeteria on site to meet everyone’s dinning (fueling) needs.  The rooms were a bit small and dated, but were clean and a welcome site at the end of the day.  The hot shower and climbing into a warm clean bed were major pluses.  BOOK EARLY!
You can buy groceries in the park village, though they are expensive and limited.  Bring your favorite gels, drinks and other trail snacks the like with you!  There is also a Safeway in Williams, AZ on I-40, the last “real” town before reaching the South Rim so you might want to pull in here for your favorite libations and snacks.  Remember the liquid and gel restrictions for carry-on luggage on all airlines.  Don’t have to give up items to TSA!

Date and Time
It is a ways off still, but reservations need to be made.  I am looking at the weekend of May 5-6, 2012.   This is roughly the same time as last year and I think the weather was about ideal- cold, but warmed right up as soon as the sun rose;  not too hot - mid to upper 70’s in the afternoon in the bottom.  We also have a full moon this weekend as well, -good for that early start.
Friday, May 4th travel day
Saturday, May 5th – Do the run
Start the adventure at 4:00-4:30 am at the South Kaibab trailhead
Sunday, May 6th travel day – return home
Monday, May 7th return to work for some much needed rest

Blogs and other Sites
Google R2R2R for a selection experiences others have had!  Here is a couple to get you started.
Here is a blog from the one in the group I went with last year.  You might even see a picture of me!

Others    **This is a good link with a spreadsheet of distances, elevation changes and amenities**

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Reno Running Scene 2011

Once again, I have not posted on here in a while.  Much as happened since the move to Reno including running some great races and runs.  Reno is a great running town with an elevation of about 4,500 feet and varied terrain for both the trail runner and road enthusiast.  In the summer, one can run in the high Sierras in and around Lake Tahoe for some killer scenery and training. When one gets pushed out of the high country, you can run in town or head east into the desert and run in the hills where precipitation is much less.  The local racing circuit is starting to pick up some momentum on the road end with plenty of trail runs during the summer in the Tahoe area.  When one gets tired of this, just head over “the hill” Sierra Mountains to Auburn, Sacramento or even the bay area for more racing.
So what have I done as far as runs and races since I have been in Reno.  The first race was way back in the spring when I did the Labor of Love 50 miler down in the Spring Mountains near Las Vegas.  This race had several ups and downs for me, mostly my own fault for not racing smart.  First off was the ridiculously fast pace that I started out at with multiple miles in the low seven minute pace and not taking on enough fuel or water.  This all caught up to me about 30 miles in and made the last portion of the race not much fun.  During the last 6 miles, it started to blow and snow, you know the huge wet flakes that stick to everything.  Between the bonk, wet snow, wind and being underdressed, this was not much fun.  Self induced so cannot complain too much. Ended up with a time in the low 8 hours, but could not move or function very well for the rest of the weekend.  Gota learn somehow!  Calico Racing has several other races that have peaked my interest, the biggest problem is the 8+ hour drive down to the Las Vegas area! Check out Calico Racing they have some interesting themed races.  Race link:
Next up was the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim.  Start at the South Rim down to the bottom, up the North Rim and back. This has become quite popular and a must do for many trail runners.  If you can do a heavy (hard) 50 miler, you can do this.  I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS RUN, the scenery is out of this world!  This is not a light undertaking and the Park Service HIGHLY discourages hike just to the river and back.  The record is something like an insane sub 8 hour round trip.  Plan a full day starting before dawn and getting back as the sun goes down.  I have a full write up that I will likely post, keep an eye out for it if this run peaks your interest.   Want to know more just run R2R2R through a search engine and you should have plenty of reading.  A must do!  Here is a link to a fellow runner’s blog of the run, even some pictures of me! 
A bit of a racing break during the late spring and early summer.  This included moving the family out to Reno now that school was done for the year.  I did go over the hill to Auburn / Cool California area and run on the maze of trails along the American River.  This area is the final leg(s) of the Western States 100 trail run.  These trail runs were a great break from the cold and brown of Reno winter, since this side of the Sierras is much warmer and gets more rain.  This provides a green lush environment that after a winter in the desert, has the character of Jurassic Park.  A great break!  Went over with a group to run in, or support/train during the Cool 50K.   During the race, I was able to get in a nice 20 something mile run, shout encouragement to the participants and enjoy a nice picnic lunch afterwards.  A good day was had by all.  
In June I worked the Forest Hill aid Station and paced at WS 100.  Forest Hill is the largest aid station of this historic race and takes on a festive atmosphere.  When a runner appears, it becomes all business to ensure any and all of the runners needs are met.  I worked the aid station for most of the afternoon and then hooked up with a couple of gals that were looking for a pacer for their husband.  Marlow had attempted to complete WS two previous times, but had not succeeded.  Right after dark, I hooked up with Marlow and off we went into the night.  As a pacer it is your job to take care of or make good decisions for your runner.  After 50 plus miles of running, the ol’ CPU is not functioning at 100%!  Marlow was a good sport and ate and drank when I thought he should.  In the end we completed 100 miles within the allotted 30 hours, but even for me, it seemed like I had been on my feet a long time!  GREAT JOB MARLOW!! Enjoy the buckle!  Shower,  a huge pile of food at Ikeda Market in Auburn, and a big nap in the car on the way home and I was semi functional after being up for a full day and then some. Working the aid stations at one of these larger races, one gets to see some of the biggest names in trail running, plus meet a lot of interesting and great people.  If I do not get into WS in 2012, I will be working the aid station and pacing again.  Here is the link to the official WS 100 site.  There is a multitude of sites, blogs, youtube and other links on the net for this race. 
Tahoe Rim Trail race is the big trail run of the area.  One has the choice of running 50k, 50 mile or 100 miles.  All three start on the shores of Spooner lake and the course runs along the eastern side of Lake Tahoe on a portion of the Tahoe Rim Trail, a trail that rings Lake Tahoe.  Most all of the course is single track, with some short portions of closed dirt road.  Spectacular views of Tahoe and Marlette Lakes, from the open ridges near the Hobart aid station above Marlette Lake.  The entire course has impressive views to the point you would rather be looking around than down; normally not that good of a thing unless you like spending a lot of time on the ground.  The course is at elevation 6k+ or so, but the trails in general are very runable and consist mostly of rotten granite with the majority of the rocks being rounded. The Redhouse loop is a bit rough, rocky, and steep, but I did not think that it was as bad as most made it sound.  The killer hill for me was at the Diamond Peak Ski Resort at about mile 30 in the 50 mile race (and again at mile 80 for the 100 milers).   Aid station at the lodge, then the course goes up the black diamond slope to the top (bull wheel).  This “little” hill starts out fairly flat, but as you go up, the climb continues to pitch up until near the top, you swear that it is straight up!  For the upper half, most walk a bit then have to take a rest.  I think my mile split for this section was at or near 30 minutes!  I do not envy the 100 milers that have to do this climb again in the middle of the night!  This is a well run race with plenty of well stocked aid stations.  This was my second 50 miler and the purpose was to work on fueling and pacing during these longer runs.  Ended up not feeling too good after the Diamond Peak climb, but I think it may have been dehydration. Something to work on in the future.  Awards were sterling silver medallions, nicely done and something different.  Shirts this year were yellow technical from Patagonia with a modest logo, so once again, nicely done.  Finish line area had plenty of seating, food, drinks including microbrew beer and massages for the runners.  Kudos to the RD’s and this race will be in the queue for 20102.  Here is a link to the official site that also has links to photo albums.  Check it out- you will want to do it!!

Moonlight Madness 5k/10k is ran at Rancho San Rafael Park near UNR.   This is run cross country style in the park on grass and dirt trails in the late evening.  I went into this intending it to be a speed workout and signed up for the 10k.  The race started with a kids 1 mile run, fun to watch some small tikes with decent speed.  The 5 and 10k started together, but about 20 minutes late plus the weather was looking threatening with  the wind whipping up and dark storm clouds building out by Sparks.  About the time the race started, things started getting interesting since there was a grass fire on Peavine Mountain, maybe a mile away and lightning out Sparks way.   We all finely got lined up and off we went.  About a mile into the race, it started to rain- the big bloppy drops that hurt when they hit you.  As we came by the start/finish line the lead pack unknowingly veered off course (myself included) but ended up back on the course but adding maybe another tenth.   At the 5k mark, the majority of the runners peeled off and into the chute to be done and I found myself running with one other person.  By the time I had made the first loop (5k) it was starting to get dark and by about mile 4, I was wishing that I had a headlamp.   With about a mile, maybe a bit more to go I poured it on and was able to distance myself  and finished in the dark among a throng  of 5k’ers.  It took a bit to get the final results worked out.  Many of the 10k racers had “raced down” and finished just the 5K.  First time I looked at the results, I was in something like 13th place.  A bit of talking with the timer and we had things worked out.  I ended up winning the race in something like 38 minutes, a bit of a surprise for me.  Most of the fasties raced in the 5k.   Plenty of food, drink and swag including a pile of baked goods from Great Harvest.   A fun race that I would do again.
Thin Air Festival is a four day stage race in South Tahoe.  If you do all four, you end up with the marathon distance.  I could not get away for all four days, so I came up for the 10 miler on Saturday.  The course is quite a mix of roads, trails, big hills and some fast flat portions.  I ended up second place for the day with a time of 1:04.  Going into the race, I was thinking something very near 1:00. I will blame the short coming on altitude, hills and a lack of speed training.  This was a small race, but the RD was friendly and all had a good time.  Challenging, but well marked course with plenty of aid stations.  Food and drinks at the end.  If you like small races at a scenic destination, this would be a good series to do.
Reno 5000 series is in the process of billing itself as THE race series to do in Reno.    The series consists of six or so races and a final race for those that qualify.  To qualify, one needs to run multiple races and place either overall or in your age group.  For the details, check out the web site    The showcase race is the 5k but other distances are also ran including a 10k, 15k, half marathon, and a marathon relay.  Not all are done each time, the 5k and another race.   The course is pancake flat and very quick other than a couple of tight hairpin turns and is run on closed streets in South Reno near Damonte Ranch subdivision.  Overall a good course if you are looking to set a PR.  Warmed up with Suzi H. and lined up with the 5k’ers since I was told it was a mass start.  The race starts and we head down the road and make a hairpin turn and head past the start/finish.  As I go past I hear an announcement for the start of the 10K so I peel out of the crowd and make may way back to the start;  nice stride out warm-up!  The 10k group is assembled and there is something like 15 people.  Knowing that the course record is in the low 37 minute range, know that if I have a good race I can beat it.  It is a cool, bright morning- perfect for racing so I push it a bit and intend to stay well under 6 min pace.   I run the entire race by myself and end up with 36:24, a good solid performance, but as always, what could I have done if I had some competition? The never ending what if question we have after many races.   A glitch at the awards, since they had me in the 5k and I never looked closely at my bib.  A quick talk with the RD and the timing people and it was resolved.  There is a 15k on this course in a month or so that I may do as well.
Portland Marathon- Just around the corner, and with four runners in the family doing the race, it should be interesting.  My brother and his wife, who are overseas, are doing a different marathon on the same day so there will be a six pack of marathoners on Oct 9th. Should be an interesting weekend!