Sunday, March 30, 2008

This Course Is Rated Arrgghh!!! (Pirates Cove 50K)

On Saturday, March 22nd, I joined 500 runners in running PCTR's Pirates Cove. Joining me in the running fun were my wife Heidi, sister in law Kati, and friends Takeshi and Tom, who were all running the 30K distance.

We ended up getting to the race just as Wendell was gathering the 50k and 30k runners to the starting line. Chaos ensued as I tried to gather all of my equipment, pass my dog Gordy to a friend (too bad he couldn't run the course!), and get to the starting line. Because of the hectic start, I was near the back of the pack when Wendell sounded the horn. I sprinted up the first hill to catch up to my friend Tom, who I then ran the first 9 miles with.

The first 9 miles were easy going, yet the temperature seemed to continue climbing. I could tell it was going to be hot, and because of the chaotic start I forgot to put on sunscreen. Lucky for me, aid station 3 had some sunscreen, and the helpful volunteers were more than happy to lather me up!

I finished the first 30k in 2:45, about 10 minutes slower than my 30k time the year before. I was still on pace to finish sub 5:00, which was my overall goal. The course at this point has a major psychological hurdle, being at the finish line and having to complete another 20K! I tried to spend as little time as possible at the finish/aid station, and push myself to complete another 20K loop.

I was able to gut it out and run most sections on the last 20k. I definitely wasn't running fast like I was at the Skyline 50k, but I was able to continue pushing forward and pass a few people (without getting passed myself). I finished about 4:53, and 9th place overall. Results can be viewed here.

You lucked out Will G., neither me nor my dog took points from you!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Flash Gordon: Lessons from a trail running dog

(Overlooking the American River)

In August of 2007 I was getting a dental check up, when my wife Heidi told me that the pet supply store next to the dental office was having a dog adoption fair. We had been entertaining the idea of getting a dog for awhile, but we were hesitant because we were unsure if we would give the dog sufficient attention, and if our apartment was big enough for a dog. Heidi brought me to the NARF dog adoption fair. NARF, which stands for the Nike Animal Rescue Foundation, is a non-profit animal rescue agency that was founded in San Jose.

Heidi was very excited to show me a dog named Gordy, an Black and Tan short haired Australian Shephard mix. When I saw Gordy I was sold, (was it fate that he shared the same name as Western States 100 legend Gordy Ainsleigh?) he seemed a little timid but got along well with the terrier that he shared his pen with. Heidi and I took home an adoption application, and we decided to wait at least a day before we decided. The next day we decided to adopt Gordy, and we brought home my new best friend and trail running partner!

(Dog and the Sea)

Having Gordy as a running partner has increased the consistency of my runs, and he now accompanies me on almost all of my runs. It took about a month to build him up to running 20 mile training runs, now he runs 60-90 miles a week with me. Towards the end of many long runs Gordy gets a burst of energy and starts sprinting in front of me, usually with a stick in his mouth!

(Speed training!!)

I recommend anyone looking for a great training partner check out the NARF website.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Breakthrough: Personal records and strong performances at the Skyline 50K

On Saturday March 1st, I made a return to the 50K distance. The last 50K race that I ran was the Quicksilver 50K, in which I set a personal record (PR) of 5:12:31. Since that race I ran a couple of 50 mile runs including: the White River 50 mile, and the Sierra Endurance Run 50 mile, and the California International Marathon (CIM). Although I have had a few races since the May race of Quicksilver, I was curious to see how I measured up 10 months after the race. Although I don't want to disclose too much of the story, everything went beyond my expectations.

At the starting line I saw many familiar and formidable runners were at the starting line. A very competitive field toed the starting line, along with fellow Bloggers; Scott Dunlap, Mark Tanaka, and Leor Pantilat.

The first section of trail was a 23K out and back, which offered rolling hills, single track, and fire roads under a canopy of moss covered Oak trees. From the starting line Leor Pantilat, course record holder of the Woodside 35K and Sequia 20K set a blistering pace, with the 50K, 37K, and 23K runners trying to catch up. For this section I was able to maintain close to a 8 min/mile pace. Near the first aid station turnaround I was able to see the front running 50K runners. In first place was Leor Pantilat, followed by Kevin Weil, Tom Clarke, and Jon Olsen. After reaching the turnaround (mile 7, roughly 1hr), I ran past Scott Dunlap (who graciously took my picture--I am famous!), Adam Blum (running the 37K and Napa Marathon tomorrow!), Ryan Common (1st Pacifica 50K) and Mark Tanaka. After the turnaround I focused on "floating" to the next aid station. I reached the 23K aid station at 1:55, and my wife Heidi who was volunteering at the aid station cheered me on, although she made me fill my own water bottle (she didn't want it to seem like she was playing favorite!).

The final 27.5K is all hills (3,000+ft. elevation incline/decline!), and a double loop of 14K. Leaving Aid Station #2, I kept pace with Ryan Commons. Ryan typically runs a 4:20 to 4:30 50K, and I knew that if I kept pace with him I would have a very good performance. We went back and forth, trading pacing duties. Eventually Scott Dunlap caught up to us on the downhills, and eventually he took the lead into Aid Station #5. Entering Aid Station #5 I blew a kiss to Heidi, who was doing a great job filling water bottles, and left to tackle the second loop. Going into the second 14k loop, I knew I was about to get my ass handed to me!! In preparation of of this ass kicking I took a couple Ibuprofen (where is Mark Tanaka with the morphine injection?!!), and a Crank Gel. Scott and Ryan were a short distance ahead of me, and I pushed forward to catch up to them.

On the uphill to aid station #6 (Vista Point) I passed Ryan and Scott, and I got an extra burst of energy that would carry me to the finish line! Bombing down Bay Area Ridge trail at a 6:30 min/mile pace, I put everything into finishing as quickly as possible (as much as I enjoyed the trail, I wanted to be done!). Passing Heidi at the finish line, I let out a Scott Jurekesque shout to a PR of 4:24!

Looking at results board, there were many impressive performance. Leor Pantilat won the 50k with a blazing time of 3:58, followed by Jon Olsen (4:08), Tom Clarke (4:11), and Kevin Weil (4:15). Overall there were 11 runners who finished before 5:00 hours! It seems that the level of competition at the PCTR 50K distance continues to get stronger! Is it the PCTR Point Series? Or more runners gravitating towards trail running? Whatever it is, it makes for exciting races and pushes everyone to be faster!

(The best part of the race.. Post-race chili!!)

Thanks again to Wendell and Sarah for putting on a great race, and all of the aid station volunteers, including Heidi and Kati for all of the help!