Something Old, Something New, Something Forgotten, Nothing Blue

I forgot how much I love cross country. But more on that in a bit, as this past weekend I did something I never thought I’d do – I rode a bike race. Golden Gate Velo puts on the Mt. Tam Hill Climb once a year, which runs from Stinson Beach up to Rock Springs parking lot. You head north for 4 flat miles on highway 1 before turning right onto Bolinas-Fairfax road for 4.5 miles and then right again on Ridgecrest Blvd for the final 4 miles. In total, you climb 2,000ft in those final 8+ miles. The CEO at my work is a fairly avid cyclist and definitely played a role in convincing me to sign up for this thing. He gave me some advice, mainly to just tuck into the pack on the flat part and then see what I could do on the hill. I didn’t have a chance to ride the BoFax portion of the route beforehand, but I’d done the Ridgecrest Section, so I knew what was coming for the final 4 miles. I rode out to Stinson in the morning before the race for a warmup and met Jonas at the start. We were in the public/open group which started last, at 10am. Today was also my first time riding in clipless pedals for more than 5 minutes. I didn’t really have any problems with them, thankfully, but I’m sure I’m due for a fall at some point when I am unable to clip out.

As a quick aside, WTF is up with the pedal names. “Platforms” make sense because they’re just pedals. The ones with the cages are apparently called “clip-ins,” while the ones that you click into and need special shoes for are called “clipless.” That doesn’t make any sense to me. Why not just call the pedals with cages “cages” and the click-in ones “clip-ins” because THAT’S WHAT YOU FREAKING DO WHEN YOU RIDE WITH THEM.) But I digest…

Alone on the climb, but this is also where I was at the end of the flat section (Credit: Ornot)

Alone on the climb (Credit: Ornot)

There were about 25 guys in our group and I found myself in the middle of the line quickly after the start. I would like to point out that I was the only guy riding a cyclocross bike (or at least the only one with cyclocross tires) but there was one dude with a backpack and running shoes. I wanted very badly to not lose to him. A week ago, that was me, though, so who knew what might happen… The first thing I noticed is that I had a hard time staying right on the wheel of the guy in front of me. I was uncomfortable being so close to someone while moving so quickly. In running, being on someone’s ass is not a huge deal as my feet handle way better than a bike, but on the bike, my handling skills and overall comfort were considerably shaky. When I did manage to get up on him, though, I finally observed firsthand how helpful drafting can be. About 1.5 miles down the road, the pace suddenly slowed as the leader decided he no longer wanted to pull everyone, so people fanned out across the road and I thought for a moment I might end up riding through everyone and to the front. That thought was erased very quickly. Jonas ended up taking the lead and before I knew it, I was spit out the back of the group, as everyone went by me (except for one guy). When we hit the turn onto the climb, I was about 100m behind the group. I wondered if they knew something I didn’t, but figured we still had 8 miles of climbing to go and my plan all along had to be cruise the flat and then grind the climb.

9-12-2015 Tam Hill Cimb Bike Edition Jonas PC Ornot

Jonas (aka The Polar Express) cracked the peloton and rode to victory (for our group) (Credit: Ornot)

9-12-2015 Tam Hill Climb Bike Edition 1 PC Ornot

Runner on a bike. Am I doing it right? (Credit: Ornot)

And grind I did. I passed 5-10 guys within the first mile and another 5 or so in the next 2-3. There was one older guy with whom I found myself battling a bit, but he was quite friendly so it wasn’t very competitive at all. I just put my head down and rode. I started to feel fairly fatigued about 6 miles in and the last couple miles were rough, but I knew where I was on course and managed to keep going pretty well. I finished in 53:31 which I think put me 10th out of 25 in our group, but well behind Jonas, who ended up winning in 47:40 (impressive!). Here’s my Strava data:

Even more impressive were the guys who did the climb in the 41-42 minute range. I can’t even fathom that. After talking with Jonas and Gary at the top for a bit, I headed back down to Mill Valley and recovered for the rest of the day.


Jonas, me, and Gary at the top. I got soundly beaten by these dudes. Also, I found my superpower: sweating emoji. (Credit: Jonas Oppedal)

Sunday morning found me up around 7:30am to hitch a ride with Mark McManus and DBo into Golden Gate Park for my first cross country race of the season and DBo’s first xc race ever. After some coffe and 2 Picky Bars, it was time to warm up. I was a little worried how tired my quads would be after the bike ride, but as I started the warmup, I felt surprisingly good. It was a blast warming up with the SFRC and West Valley teams, as I don’t think I’ve warmed up for a race for several months. Most of the SFRC guys were split between those who had never raced XC and those who hadn’t raced in 15-20 years. They were in for a rude (but fun!) awakening. As we watched the women race, DBo commented that it didn’t look like anyone was having fun. I told him that’s because if you’re having fun, you’re not running fast enough. He seemed concerned.

Before long, we were blasting across Lindley Meadow and onto the trail down JFK. I found myself mid-pack (or so it felt) and running uncomfortably fast. DBo and Jorge were right with me through the first mile, with Paddy a bit ahead. Over the next 2 miles (the race is 4 miles on a 2-loop 2mile course), both DBo and Jorge pulled away from me by about 20-30m. I knew we still had that final little kicker hill that everyone takes for granted at the top of the loop, and I resolved to stay in contact with them and try to move past them on the hill. At the same time, I was also formulating excuses as to why I lost to them in an xc race. Right before that final hill, we ran through a big throng of people and that got me pumped. I started really working and gapped them a bit towards the top. I managed to hang on through the finish line, but we were all within 5 seconds of one another. It was so nice to get out and compete like that and feel some self-imposed pressure again. It was also great to feel my lungs popping out of my chest. Strava data here:


Nearing the finish, just had to make sure DBo and Jorge weren’t kicking me down (Credit: Michelle LaSala)

2015-09-13 10.51.36

DBo and Jorge sprinting to the finish (Credit: Ashley Relf)

Afterwards, we cooled down and drank some beers, commingling amongst SFRC and WVTC. As DBo put it, “This is the best Sunday ever!” (or something like that). Welcome to cross country season. Can’t wait for the next race.

What better way to spend a day? XC in the morning, beer in the morning, beer in the afternoon.

What better way to spend a day? XC in the morning, beer in the morning, beer in the afternoon.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t call it a comeback

I think I’m coming back. After the last post, I took another week or so off and began running fairly conservatively again. I had one minor setback in that time, obviously (in retrospect) due to trying to go too far too soon, but after a couple days backing off, I was able to resume my steady increase. Since then, my weekly mileage has looked like this: 30, 40, 50 and I’m on pace for something closer to 60 this week. I’ve thrown in a couple of steady state intervals (just 20 minutes per run so far) and while the first one felt rather rough (although that could have been due to the trail I picked), Tuesday’s felt better and I’m hoping that continues today. The goal is to start back in with the VO2 max workouts on Tuesday aka 3 minute intervals for the foreseeable future. So far, my shin is holding up well. I have no pain in the injury site and the main issues right now are simply the normal aches and pains of rising mileage (mainly, tightness on the insides of my shins as well as my calves).

In the meantime, Rachelle and I are driving north to Vancouver on Saturday/Sunday. I fly back to the Bay on Monday afternoon and am rather bummed to be missing the Mt. Tam Hill Climb, but this is the last time I’ll have to see Rachelle off to school since one she’s done next May, she’ll move back down here for good (HOORAY!). But we are hoping to tackle the Grouse Grind either Sunday or Monday, which should be a nice substitute for the hill climb (

Other than that, I’m looking forward to racing some cross country at Golden Gate Park on Sunday, Sept. 13th. But on Saturday, I’ll be participating in my first bike race ever (gasp!). I signed up for the Mt. Tam Hill Climb (which strangely only takes you up to Rock Springs parking lot, so you miss about 500ft of climbing to the actual summit) and am excited to take my runner-on-a-bike status to the next level. I even invested in some clipless pedals and shoes. Link here if you’re so inclined to join me (I’m in the open group, if you couldn’t guess):

One more thing of note is that I’m now officially working with Victory Sportdesign bags The Bear II ( is the only drop bag I’ve ever used and it’s great. It makes organizing and finding stuff a breeze and has huge clear panels so that I can put crazy big letters in them to make identifying my bag that much easier. I highly recommend taking a look at these guys if you haven’t already.

Victory Sportdesign Bear II

I guess I’ll try to update this again after those two races I mentioned above. After that, there will be some more XC races (Garin, Presidio, PA’s) as well as maybe some longer stuff thrown in there. I’m thinking about either the Portland Marathon or Tiburon Half on Oct. 4 and maybe the Skyline to Sea 50k on Oct. 1. Then comes the big goal of the season, the Quad Dipsea, on November 28, followed by one of the races at TNFEC and then Club XC Nationals in Golden Gate Park. For those keeping track of dates, November/December will be full with PA’s, Quad, TNF, and Club Nats 4 weeks in a row. Just the way I like it :-)

And finally finally, a huge congrats to the Nike Trail folks and SFRC bros for kicking ass in Chamonix at UTMB and CCC this weekend! David Laney 3rd at UTMB, Zach Miller and Tim Tollefson 1/2 at CCC. Fernando for a gutsy performance. DBo, who, contrary to what he says, is not retired. Sean and YiOu, Fernando, and many many others who ran strong over climbs that make my toenails pucker.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Not as anticipated…

Thursday, July 30, 2015

One of the major factors in my deciding to drop at Western this year was the thought that I would avoid the 2 months of painful and frustrating recovery I dealt with last year. However, this shin issue just won’t go away. I’ve started running twice, both times after taking at least a week off, only to have the pain come back after 2-3 runs. So instead of last year where I kept pushing my body to do something it clearly didn’t want, I’m backing off even more. I’m going to take as much time as this thing needs to get itself sorted out. I’m rather frustrated, as I’m missing all this lovely summer daylight running, but at least I don’t have any races on the calendar (officially) until TNF50 in December. I had been toying with the idea of jumping into the Headlands 50k on Aug. 29 as a long run, but that doesn’t seem prudent right now. However, that may change depending on how this thing resolves.

In the meantime, I’m getting familiar with the paved and dirt roads around Tam on two wheels. I’m getting some ultrasound done today to see if they can spot anything in particular, but other than that, it’ll just be PT a couple times per week in effort to get this thing to work itself out. On the up side, the couple of runs I’ve been on have been lovely. I’ve gotten to run with Rachelle which doesn’t happen too often when I’m training and I was feeling good enough to participate in the Widowmaker run last weekend. Despite the shin feeling solid during that, it got sore again on Sunday night and forced my hand to take a larger chunk of time off.

View from a run with Rachelle. On danse sur le pont.

View from a run with Rachelle. On danse sur le pont.

Look at all these people I found at the summit of Tam!

Look at all these people I found at the summit of Tam!

For those unfamiliar with the shin issue, it first cropped up in the couple of days before the World Championships in Annecy. It was just shin tightness and it didn’t bug me at all during the race itself. I would have taken more down time afterwards, but just 2 weeks after Annecy was The Dipsea. So instead of healing, I was just trying to get it good enough to race on again. Mixed biking and running and PT sessions got me to the start line and again, I didn’t notice anything during the race. Then, 2 weeks after The Dipsea, it was time for Western States. Once more, biking, running and PT and I toed the line having run only a handful of times since The Dipsea due to lingering shin pain. The shin pain was not the cause of my drop at Western. In fact, like the prior 2 races, I didn’t feel it at all during the race. It’s amazing what your mind can block out when the adrenaline starts flowing.

If you’re still wondering why I haven’t seen the obvious yet, I have. Clearly spending 4 weeks of running/racing trying to get my shin just good enough to get me to each sequential start line took its toll. In an ideal world, I would have rested and gotten everything back to 100% immediately after Annecy, but the race calendar doesn’t always work that way and it just so happened that 2 incredible important races fell in the following weeks. I’m paying for it now, and while I am frustrated to be missing out on all this summer fun, I hope to be back relatively soon. In the meantime, I’ll be on the bike. Anyone want to keep me company??

Two wheels on Hoo Koo E Koo fire road. A strange sensation.

Two wheels on Hoo Koo E Koo fire road. A strange sensation.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Western States 2015 – Squashed

Thursday, July 2, 2015

I toed the line at Western States feeling as close to 100% as I could. My shin bugged me enough in the weeks leading up to the race that I didn’t run at all the weekend before. During race week, I ran about 5 miles a day and saw my PT, Hal, twice. The second time (Thursday) I left feeling basically 100% with no pain in my shin. Rachelle and I drove up to Squaw mid-morning, arriving around 1pm in time to grab lunch in the Squaw Village. Inevitably, we bumped into friends and hung out for a bit before checking into our hotel across the valley. We had dinner that night with my parents, had a couple of beers with the Gu and Nike crews, and were in bed at a reasonable hour.

I went for a shakeout the next morning before watching the start of the hill climb, and ended up running with Bob Shebest (San Diego 100 winner) who was warming up for the climb. My shin felt pretty good – not quite as good as Thursday, but good enough. After that, we ate a late breakfast with some SFRC folks, went to the runners meeting and headed back to the hotel for a relaxing evening and dinner in Tahoe City.

Saturday morning saw us up around 3:30am. We packed the car and drove over to the start, arriving around 4:15am. I pooped twice before the race (quite a pleasant surprise as I usually go during the race –the coffee helps with that, as I didn’t start drinking it pre-race until February). The start was considerably warmer than last year. I didn’t even consider wearing arm warmers, while last year I was happy to have them. Nike teammate Ryan Bak even decided to shed the shirt he was wearing before the start. I said a few final goodbyes/good lucks to Rachelle, my dad, and other runners and made my way to the front of the start. Within a couple minutes, we were off.


21seconds to go… (Photo Credit: iRunFar/Bryon Powell)

Last year, I took it really conservatively in the early miles, and especially on the first climb out Squaw. I wanted to be a bit more aggressive this year, and stay with the front pack, as I had greater ambitions knowing what lay ahead (versus last year where I really didn’t know what to expect). I ended up getting to the top of the climb in first, with Bak and Ryan Smith immediately behind to me. Laney, DBo, Krar, Seth, a couple of Frenchmen, and several others were right with us as well. Coach Koop was up at the top and gave me the “pump the brakes” sign, but I was only a couple of minutes faster than last year when I stopped twice to poop on the climb, so I wasn’t worried. I didn’t convey that to him at the time, but knew how my body felt and things were really relaxed.


Hiking up the escarpment with Bak and Smith (Photo Credit: Mike Hermsmeyer)

I led initially on the descent towards Lyon Ridge, but was passed by several guys when I tripped and went sprawling harmlessly into some grass. The trail is fairly technical in the high country and I was wary of it. I didn’t want to try to move too fast and stay with the group of 5 that went on ahead, so I settled down and found myself in front of DBo, Krar, Seth, and Gediminas Grinius. We basically stayed in that order through mile 10 at Lyon Ridge. Things were going well so far. I was a little annoyed by the rocks on the trail, as I spent the entire time looking at my feet making sure I didn’t turn an ankle on a rock, but I knew that the trail mellowed around mile 30 and that there was plenty of time to run. My shin wasn’t giving me any problems and the rest of me felt pretty good.

However, at some point in the next 2-3 miles, I slowly came to the realization that I wasn’t having fun. At first, I had thought it was just my annoyance with the trails, but as I kept moving, it became clear that I was in a mental funk. I couldn’t quite place why, but I did know that entering the race, my excitement was nowhere near the levels it was last year. I didn’t think much of it, but after a long spring of successful racing (Sonoma, Boston, World Championships, Dipsea), I think I was just worn down mentally. I found myself dreading running another 85 miles, even if my body felt pretty good. About this time, Krar, Dbo, Seth, and Grinius all moved past me. I could still see the leaders on certain turns, and was only 2-3 minutes back, but something told me they were already out of reach.

Heading into Lyon Ridge (Photo Credit: Bob Shebest)

Heading into Lyon Ridge (Photo Credit: Bob Shebest)

I spent the next 4-5 miles trying to figure out if I wanted to continue with the race if I wasn’t having fun. I know that sounds silly, but it plays a huge part in why I run. The races I’ve run this year were fun and inspiring. Sonoma was my first big race of the year and I really enjoyed it, not only because I won, but because there was a lot of strong competition to test myself against. Boston is impossible not to have fun, and Annecy, while difficult, was also fun because it was the World Championships and the course was absurdly beautiful. Western was fun last year. Maybe ignorance was bliss, but knowing what lay ahead (hours of pain and suffering) just took me to an unexpectedly dark place very early on. I figured that if I could keep moving, the funk would lift. I didn’t want to drop simply because I wasn’t having fun.

As I was wrestling with whether I wanted to keep going, my knees started barking. Quietly at first, but steadily louder. By the time we hit Duncan Canyon, they were rather painful and the prospect of running 75 more miles on them was seeming like less and less of a possibility. I started trying to remember Rachelle’s phone number so I could call her and tell her I dropped. But, I resolved to get to Robinson Flat. Last year they started hurting (due to tight IT bands I suspect) about 30-35 miles in, but didn’t get really bad until Cal Street. It took me nearly 2 months to recover last year and the prospect of putting my body into that sort of situation again (both during the race and in recovery) was completely unappealing. I started hiking more in the hopes that they would calm down, but they didn’t. When they started hurting while I was hiking uphill, I knew a drop at Robinson Flat was inevitable and spent the rest of the time coming to terms with it. Someone likened it to a death in that you go through the 5 stages of grief: denial (it’ll pass – they’ll feel better if I hike a bit), anger (why are they hurting so early? Why is my body letting me down?), bargaining (just make it to Robinson and my crew and maybe things will turn around), depression (#pityparty), and acceptance (I’m listening to my body. I told myself I’d do this before the race and it’s the sensible thing to do. I’m ok with that). I probably lapsed back into the anger/depression phases multiple times as my blood sugar rose and fell with Gu consumption. Even though I ultimately decided I would drop, I forced myself to keep eating and drinking just in case something miraculous happened (spoiler: it wouldn’t).

Heading out of Duncan Canyon (Photo Credit: Luke Tamagna-Darr)

Heading out of Duncan Canyon (Photo Credit: Luke Tamagna-Darr)

Anyways, back to the physical realm… For a while, I was worried that I was off trail, as no one came up behind me for probably half an hour. Then, Sondre, Sharman, Laney, Houck, and Terranova all made their way past me. We exchanged words of encouragement and soon I was coming into Robinson Flat. I saw lots of people I knew (Tanner, Matt Trappe, Bryon Powell, many Marin runners, and my crew) and all were cheering. On the trail, I had come to terms with myself, but seeing other people suddenly placed a big weight on my shoulders. I felt like I was letting them down by bowing out. I couldn’t even high five The Big Stapler when I reached my crew. I just put my hands on my knees, my head between my legs, and cried. I sensed Rachelle coming over, along with Tim Tollefson and Monica (the rest of my crew). I think I mustered an “I’m done. I’m sorry,” through the tears, but it may not have been audible. I didn’t want to look anyone in the eye. I felt like I had let my crew down.


Thinking I’m in good spirits hiking towards Robinson Flat (Photo Credit: Chasqui Runner)


Running my final steps into Robinson Flat (Photo Credit: Nancy Hobbs)

After a few minutes, I stopped crying, slowly stood up, and made my way towards the volunteers, who were asking if I was all right. I told them I was going to drop. One guy decided that needed to be announced to the entire forest and yelled: “WE’VE GOT A DROP” about 3 times at the top of his lungs. In retrospect, this is hilarious to me but at the time, I wanted to tell him to shut the hell up. They seemed like they were in a rush to summon the aid station captain, who was the person who had to officially remove my wrist band, but I don’t know why – I wasn’t going anywhere. She appeared with a pair of scissors and asked twice more if I was sure. I said I was and with an inaudible snip, my race was over.

I walked back over to my crew, drank some water and Coke, and tried to eat but realized I wasn’t hungry at all. In what would become a theme for many throughout the day, I had drained my water bottle completely before the 2nd and 3rd aid stations. For it only being 9:45am, it seemed abnormally hot. Almost every racer that came in after me was taking on ice either in arm sleeves or a bandana, which is not something I noticed last year. As more time passed, I felt increasingly upbeat. I saw that Bak was still in the aid station and went over to talk to him for a bit. He would end up dropping there as well, unfortunately.

We waited around a bit and cheered Brett, Stephen, DeNucci, and many other friends as they came through. Then, we drove to Michigan Bluff. In the car, I couldn’t stop smiling. I was so happy that I was done running for the day, it almost seemed wrong. I had saved myself hours of pain and suffering (both mental and physical) in the present, and weeks of recovery in the future. I had also saved a couple of friendships, as asking Tim and Staples to go for what would have been very long hikes with a very cranky runner would have ended poorly for our personal relationships. We spent a couple of hours at Michigan Bluff, which would claim many competitors, including DBo, Houck, and Topher. We cheered those we knew and those we didn’t, hung out with various crews, and had a great time. As I saw the state in which people entered (save for a few), my decision to drop was continually reaffirmed. Finally, we headed back to Auburn, showered, ate, and went to the track to watch the finish. It was a lot of fun and I’d be remiss if I didn’t say how impressive Krar (holy balls), Seth, and Jared were on the day. Magda, my pacer from last year who I desperately tried to get to pace me again, was first woman, and I couldn’t be happier for her. Kaci and Stephanie also ran very strong races and deserve huge congratulations. So does every person who finished. It was a day in which the elements conspired against the racers, and those who made it all the way to Auburn are stronger than they know.


Nike team – Thanks for all the support guys.

For me, the immediate future will be spent getting myself back to 100% on all fronts. While my shin didn’t bother me on race day, it is back to feeling a little iffy again. I was rushing it and forcing things in the weeks before Western and now I want to give it a chance to recover on its own. Mentally, I think I’m a little burned out at the ultra distance for the time being, but it’s nothing time won’t fix. I’ve now got a score to settle with States (although I highly doubt I’ll try to get back next year). My current mental state makes sense to me, as I’ve had a pretty big year so far and feeling the need for some down time is natural. I’m signed up for CCC in August, but have yet to book my plane flight, and may not. I’ll have to see where I am in a week or two. Regardless of that decision, I know that I am already excited to race some shorter road and cross country races in the fall, which makes me not too worried that I will re-find my stoke for the longer distances in the near future. If anything, this experience has imparted to me how important being mentally ready and excited for an ultra is. Ultras are long, hard endeavors and I now realize that I can’t run one competitively if I’m not in it mentally. Like many runners, I run because I enjoy it. I race a lot because it’s a ton of fun and don’t see that changing. But, I don’t ever want that to disappear because I placed myself in races that didn’t enable me to toe the line with that nervous energy we all know so well. It’s something that needs to be nurtured, and racing with high expectations too often seems like a good way to kill it. For those supporters out there, don’t worry. Like the sand people, I’ll be back, and in greater numbers.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

The 105th Dipsea Race

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Ah, Dipsea Sunday. Arguably one of the most challenging and fun days of the year. This was one of the first years I wasn’t really nervous about the race in the weeks and days heading into it. I think that was mostly due to the fact that it fell directly between the race in Annecy and Western States this year. I had 15 days to recover from Annecy and I was feeling pretty good come race day, save for a nagging shin issue that began a bit before I left for France. It’s not debilitating in that I can run on it with just mild discomfort, but it’s been going on long enough and is present enough that I’ve been dreading runs. Not a fun place to be. So that, combined with the fact that I knew I would likely feel some residual fatigue from France, really put me in a mindset where I was just going to run and see what happened. Rickey Gates was back and I knew Gus was in decent shape (Galen was unfortunately dealing with some injury issues himself), so it seemed like a good a year as any for my streak of fastest time awards to end. I was ready for that for the first time since the streak started 2009 and I think that also contributed a lot to the unusual sense of calm I had heading into the race.

On race morning, I was up fairly early and ran the mile up to Equator coffee in downtown MV to grab a cup. I bumped into several folks I knew, exchanged pleasantries and well-wishes, and headed back to my apartment to poop. Then I headed back to downtown to meet up with Gus and Lucas before we started.


Scratch Men’s Start (Credit: Mill Valley Patch)

The start line is always a fun place to be on race day, as you get to watch each group head off and the Bob, the announcer, gives you some sort of fun fact about someone in each group. At 8:54am, we watched the Z runners head off and at 8:55am we were on our way. Gus and I were close through the top of the stairs, with him being about 10 meters in front of me all the way through Windy Gap. Heading into Muir Woods, I took Suicide while he took the longer route, but we ended up with the same gap between us, as he was able to open up since the longer route was completely empty and Suicide was packed. We hit the creek in around 15:10 with little incident and headed up Dynamite. People were, for the most part, accommodating, with the inevitable one or two folks who don’t know how passing works in this race or just refuse to move. Gus maintained his 10m lead on me through halfway rock, where I moved ahead. I caught Galen in the rainforest and knew he wasn’t having a great day, but he was still moving pretty well. I crested Cardiac at 33:20 (18:10 for the climb which is pretty decent for race day), about 30 seconds ahead of Gus as I would later learn. DBo and Harmony and Claire were all up there but I didn’t get the split to Rickey as I think they were busy cheering (YOU HAD ONE JOB :-P). At least they made it there in time this year. Baby steps…


Top of the stairs (Credit: James Norton)

Dipsea 2015-110

Grinding to the top of Cardiac (Credit: Steve Disenhof)

Anyways, over the top of Cardiac and onto the open, sweeping turns heading into Swoop. I tried my best to move as well as I could, but my legs just didn’t have that top end gear that I’ve had in the past. I made it down to Swoop passing a couple of people and I think I was in around 15th at that point. I could hear Gus’s handheld bike horn coming down behind me and realized it was just a matter of time before he was back on me, as he was clearly descending much better than I. I managed to hold him off and nip a couple more folks through Door 1 and Kiernan’s crossing, but Gus was right behind me in the Grotto and made his move once we got onto Highway 1, saying, “Don’t take this personally, baby,” as he went by. I think he knows this, but he’s the last person who needs to say that to me in this race. Again, I felt a complete and total lack of speed on the pavement heading into the finish, and I knew that even if I managed to run faster than Rickey, Gus would get fastest time as he finished about 3 seconds in front of me. As it turns out, we were about 25 seconds slower than Rickey, finishing in 49:33 and 49:35 to Rickey’s 49:10. Gus was 8th, I was 9th, rounding out the scoring for the Pelicans (Matias 2nd, Rickey 3rd, Alan 7th, Gus 8th, me 9th), and Mark McManus rounded out the top 10. Pretty impressive to have 6 out of the top 10 and I think that’s what it’s going to take to win the race going forward. The Pelicans repeated as team champions, which completely eased any disappointment I had about losing the fastest time award. I also want to say huge congratulations to George Torgun and Mike Broom, who finished 34th and 35th respectively, to earn their first black shirts. And I want to acknowledge Lucas Agricola for his great run to finish 36th (argh!) and Victor Ballesteros for finishing 40th. May you both be in the black next year! The rest of the afternoon was spent eating and drinking at Roger’s and watching the Warriors at the Deuce.


Pelican Inn Track Club – Team Champions: Matias, Alan, me, Gus, Rickey (Credit: Paul Wais)

I woke up Monday morning tired, but not really sore, indicating that I definitely had not left it all out on the course. That top end speed was severely lacking, but it wasn’t surprising, even in the moment, as I haven’t trained that gear for months. That’s something I need to remember heading into next year, if I want to get that fastest time award back (which I do). My run on Monday felt ok except for the shin issue rearing its head again. It gets better as the run progresses, so I don’t think it’s anything too serious, but it’s really damn annoying. I saw Hal for some work on it on Tuesday, but only ran a mile because it was still uncomfortable. Same thing happened yesterday – only made it a mile before calling it quits. It did feel better/different though, which was good. I’m nonetheless quite frustrated as I’d like to be able to run, but at least it’s close enough to race day that I’m not missing out on any fitness gains. If anything, I’ll be well rested and over-tapered, but I’m hoping that it will clear up soon and I’ll be able to taper via running. We’ll see what comes. The most important thing right now is to get it taken care of and get to the start line of Western as close to 100% as I can.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 6 Comments

2015 IAU Ultra Trail World Championships

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Whoa… I did not realize my last post was over a month ago after Boston. Time flies when you’re having fun. Anyways, following Lake Sonoma and Boston, I was pretty fatigued, so I made sure I was fully recovered before getting back into workouts and ramping up for the IAU Ultra Trail World Championships. However, about 2 weeks later, I came down with something and slept from 8:30pm on a Friday to 3:30pm the next day. Rachelle and I had been talking earlier that week about going for a hike over the weekend (and I was planning to propose during said hike), so when I woke up and she got home, we went on our hike and I proposed on the 2nd flight of the Dipsea steps. She seemed fairly surprised, but had known it was coming because her father called her immediately after I called him back in March to ask for his permission. Oh well… despite having time to think about it, she still said yes and now we have a wedding to plan (don’t ask when).

Anyways, with that settled, I was able to get back into training. Unfortunately, the timing was not great, as that was 3 weeks out from World’s and I had been scheduled for a couple of solid workouts/long runs, but I was able to make up for them the following week (for the most part), with 5 workouts in 7 days (including the West Valley centipede at Bay to Breakers which is always a great time). Then it was time to start backing off and the taper was happening.


Coming off the Hayes Street Hill (Credit: unknown).

I traveled to Annecy, France on Tuesday, arrived Wednesday evening, and spent the next 2 days running a bit, but mostly relaxing and preparing for the race, and getting drug tested. When I was asked to represent the USA at this race a couple of months ago, I jumped at the opportunity. I know it might leave me a bit fatigued for the Dipsea and Western States, but the chance to run in a USA jersey was too good to pass up. I’ve been dreaming about this for a couple of years now, so it really wasn’t a hard decision. The other members of the team were David Laney, Tim Tollefson, Alex Nichols, and Yassine Diboun on the men’s side. For the women, we had Krissy Moehl, Cassie Scallon, and Amy Rusiecki. They’re all great people and I had a wonderful time hanging out with them during the trip. Most of us were wearing the red, white, and blue (well, really just red and white on the singlets) for the first time, and that really became a theme of the trip – of just how much it meant to us to run for the USA at an international competition. Running as part of a team really adds another level of accountability and motivation that is lacking in other races. You want to run well not only for yourself, but also for your teammates and country. That played a big role in all of our races. Despite this, however, as Alex Nichols also said, the hours before the race were filled with a sense of dread. I’m not sure if it was the course or the weight of some internal and external expectations, but I was not particularly looking forward to racing. Still, I knew I had to give it my best and got myself ready accordingly.

2015-05-27 21.06.17

View from the hotel

2015-05-28 14.01.25

Annecy-Le-Vieux / Venice of the Alps


I lost to Laney in the blood race and the real race (is that a banana in your pocket?!) (Credit: Richard Bolt)

2015-05-28 19.09.00

Opening Ceremonies (Credit: iRunFar/Meghan Hicks)

On race morning (night), we were up at 1:30am for the 3:30am start. We’d been awakened during the night by torrential downpours, but they had stopped by the time we left the hotel. Coffee and Picky Bars were consumed (Smooth Caffeinator and Cookie Doughpness before the race and we arrived at the start about 45 minutes before the gun. The start of the race was unlike anything I’d experience. Tons of people cheering, flares, and loud music stood in stark contrast to the unremarkable pistol or whistle that graces most US races ( It amped me up and the first mile was accordingly covered in something like 6:15. We definitely startled some of the late-night revelers still out along the lake, as they didn’t know quite what to make of 300 runners bearing down on them with headlamps and poles.


The start (Credit: unknown)


Laney and I nearing the top of the first climb – 4,000ft in 11 miles (credit: iRunFar/Bryon Powell).

The first climb of the day was the longest (~11 miles) and took us to the highest point on the course (around 5,500ft for 4,000ft of climbing). I found myself picking my way through the technical parts more slowly than I would have liked. The combination of dark and heavy rainfall the night before left me a bit cautious, but whenever the route opened up, I was able to move up several places and basically maintain my position in what came to be the second group on the mountain. Tim was up ahead in the lead pack, but I figured we had a long day ahead and I wasn’t rushed. My legs felt good and I was ready to run well. David found his way up to me during that first climb and we hit the top together with more flares and music. It was still dark so I kept my headlamp on me, which was very useful when we dropped down the first descent and went through some really dark, forested patches. If I’d been cautious on the uphills, I was downright timid on these descents. I don’t have anything like this to train on Mt. Tam and it showed. I lost a couple of places and was running pretty solo early on. David and I went back and forth a bit, but he eventually gapped me and would stay ahead until the finish. On the 2nd major descent, I was having a really rough go of it. It was really slippery and despite being light out, I managed to go head-over-heels but luckily no major damage. It was during this descent that Alex Nichols came scampering past me and was quickly out of sight. I was in 4th for the team and was slowly realizing that I was in for a long day. I began to wonder how I would cover 30 more miles of similar terrain and basically just had a little pity party for myself.


Nearing the 2nd aid station in the midst of a pity party (Credit: iRunFar/Bryon Powell)

Coming into the 2nd major aid station, I was finally able to open up and run a bit on the flat roads. I saw Bryon Powell ( who was encouraging, but I basically informed him that this was feeling like a training run (which I’ve never really felt in a race before). I got some coke and headed back out. The next climb was about 7 miles long and part way up it, I came across Tim who was walking. He said he’d hit a rock with his foot and was going to have to drop. I was suddenly the 3rd guy for team USA and my mentality was forced to change. I knew I had to do my best for the team. The climb had a couple of false summits and ended with a nearly vertical scramble up (48.5% grade at one point according to Strava) through a goat herd which was one of the most absurd and amazing things I’d ever experience in a race.


Pain Cave about 50km in. But LOOKIT HOW PRETTY (Credit: iRunFar/Meghan Hicks)

Roc Lancrenaz 1650m (km 57) – 2nd to last climb. We headed up through the herd and then over to the left where you can see those folks at the top (Credit: Pelloche)


More goats and rocks (Credit: Pelloche)


Luis Alberto Hernando (finished 2nd on the day) braving the goat herds (Credit: Kirsten Kortebein)

The views were beautiful which helped with the pain. On this climb, I’d made my way into the middle of a group of 4-5 guys (2 Spaniards, a Fin, a Canadian, and an Italian). One of the Spaniards I recognized as having been a pre-race favorite for a podium finish and he looked like he was having trouble, but as soon as we started the descent down the most interminably steep fire road I have ever encountered, they all dropped me like a bad habit. My legs were in a lot of pain, to the point where I was forced to stop and recover on the downhill, which I did not like. When it finally leveled out, I saw the Spaniard sitting on the side of the trail. Continuing into the 3rd aid station, I saw Meghan Hicks who said that we were in silver medal position and that the Spanish were imploding.


Me and a Spaniard heading up to the goats. I would pass this guy at the base of the final climb only to be re-passed during the final descent (Credit: Pelloche)

I didn’t know how many guys they had in front of me, but resolved to get back to the guy who had slipped away during the descent. Sure enough, as I turned the corner into the aid station, there were 3 guys exiting. I took a quick stop, got some more Coke, and headed back out. I was informed by Tim that we were in bronze position (clearly he and Meghan weren’t communicating :-P) and that I was in around 18th, and all I knew is that I had to run my ass off to try to secure a podium finish. I didn’t want to be the guy to let us down. Alex and David seemed to be having great races and I wanted to bring it home for us.


Coke at the 3rd aid station. Learning that we’re in medal contention (Credit: Richard Bolt)

In the first couple miles of the climb, I passed a few guys (that Spaniard, a Brit, and 2 Frenchman, 1 who had dropped) and found myself and an Italian scrambling up to the top for the 2,700ft / 3 mile descent to the finish. I was absolutely dreading this descent because my quads were absolutely shot, but I thought I had put a decent amount of time into the other guys that I might be able to hold my position. Wrong. I passed the Italian who was walking the initial part of the descent, but was passed by a Lithuanian, then the Spaniard, then the Italian again who refound his legs, and finally an Irishman. Each step stabbed at my quads and the descent never seemed to end. It was all I could to stay upright on the flat 1.5km into the finish and almost fell over the little platform they set up across the line (one guy actually did). I ended up finishing in the exact same place I was heading into the final climb. Gotta work on those downhills… All in all, this was easily the toughest and most beautiful course I’ve ever run. The views were stunning, which kind of made the pain more bearable. I was unprepared for the damage that the descents would do to my quads and paid the price. However, there really wasn’t anything I could do to prep for them, as the highest mountain nearby is Tam, at 2,500ft, which makes it impossible to prepare for 4-5-6 mile descents that drop several thousand feet. Oh well… lesson learned and I’ll do what I can next time I race something of this nature.


Views (Credit: unknown)


Top of the final climb. Not sure what was worst, the climb or the descent (Credit: unknown).


Laney tackling the final descent of 2,700ft in 3 miles (Credit: Trails Endurance Magazine).

At the finish, we were told almost immediately that we had placed 2nd as a team. Alex was 6th, David 12th, and I had finished 18th. The scoring was done by time, and we were second to the French by a couple of hours, and ahead of the Brits by about half an hour. We were ecstatic. Coming into the race, the French and Spaniards were heavy favorites, and we knew we’d have to have some really strong performances to even get on the podium, as there were several other countries with good teams in the fight as well. That result really made all of the hard work worth it. I wasn’t terribly pleased with my own race, but in the context of the US team’s finish, I couldn’t be happier. The French were simply dominant on the day, sweeping the men’s and women’s team and individual titles (felicitations!). The women also had less than ideal days, but they all persevered and finished strong.


Team Silver! (Credit: iRunFar/Bryon Powell)


Precious medals, precious rum, and Meghan and Bryon of iRunFar. Thanks for the support and updates and coverage! Bryon really kicked my ass into gear at one point. #pewpewpew

We savored the awards ceremony and I made sure to really soak it all in. Who knows if we’ll ever get an opportunity like that again. Then, just like that, it was over. We celebrated a bit on Saturday night, but the fatigue ultimately won. I took the TGV up to Paris on Sunday, stayed with my cousins there, and flew home Monday morning. It’s had more of a chance to sink in now that a couple of days have passed, and each day I get more and more proud of what we accomplished as a team. Alex (, David (, and Krissy ( have already touched on this a bit, but the feeling you get being part of a team, especially one that is asked to represent your country, is unparalleled. It easily transcends sponsorships, geography, and personal ambitions/rivalries. There’s an enormous sense of pride and responsibility, and you feel more connected and accountable to your teammates than you do at other races. Everyone knows the stakes are high and doesn’t want to be the person to let the others down. No one did that on Saturday. I know Tim, Yassine, and I aren’t particularly pleased with our individual races, but the team silver easily banishes those demons and is something we all will cherish for a long time. Congrats to Alex and David for monster performances. They really carried the day.

2015-05-30 19.45.17

More precious medals

On a final note, I’d like to thank everyone who made this possible – USATF/MUT/Ultra Running, Trail Butter for creating that awesome flavor, and all of our individual sponsors for allowing us to take this opportunity. A huge thank you is also due to Richard Bolt, who was our manager extraordinaire and, despite it being his first time crewing an ultra, performed amazingly. He was at all of the aid stations with everything ready to go (no small feat), coordinated all of the trip logistics for us, and basically just made everything run smoothly. Otherwise, we’d still be at the front desk arguing over how many nights we were being billed for.

Next up is Dipsea in 10 days and then Western States in 23 days (!!!). Time to get rested.

Strava Data:

Shoes: Nike Zoom Kiger 3 (custom US colorway)

Fuel: 2 Picky Bars before the race, 3 during the race. 12-13 Gu’s.

A few galleries/results links:

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

2015 Boston Marathon

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Boston. There’s really not much else you need to say to most people, runner or not. There’s something about it that captures a marathon runner’s imagination, as it’s become somewhat of a gold standard for marathoners. Before I ran marathons, people would ask me what my marathon time was. When I didn’t have an answer, they’d ask what I did, and I’d try to explain that I ran local cross country races and road and track. They didn’t understand. So I ran a marathon and had an answer to their question. But it was always followed up with, “Have you run Boston?” So as soon as I qualified for Boston, I signed up and ran it. This year was my fourth time traveling to Boston for the race and my third time finishing it (dropped out in 2012 due to an injury).

Each of the past 4 years, I have become more familiar with the race, the course, and the spectators. I have never ceased to be amazed by the support that the crowds show to ALL runners. It’s fantastic and I look forward to enjoying it for years to come.

Heading into the race this year, I was more focused on simply not doing something stupid and hurting myself. My legs were pretty thrashed after Lake Sonoma, so I took it very cautiously. I avoided all hills in the 9 days between the races. I flew out to Boston on Saturday, met up with Duncan, Jenn and Kim for dinner before joining some of the Nike folks for a bit. On Sunday morning, a group of us (Jonas, Duncan, Jenn, Malcolm, and Taylor) did a shakeout around Boston, and I was surprised to find that my legs felt really good. That left me feeling optimistic that they might feel good on race day. After the shakeout, I wandered around the expo with (a different Jenn), Russell, and a few others before meeting up with some West Valley/SFRC folks for dinner in the North End. Before I knew it, my alarm was going off and it was time to head to the buses.

Once we got to the runners’ village, we milled around, and found our group of Ezra, Jonas, DeNucci, Marion, and Bobby. We all walked over to the corral together. The weather was cool and overcast. It rained a bit before the race, but the start was dry and I hoped it would hold off while we were on course. The gun sounded and we were off. I had talked to Koop going into the race and we agreed that I’d start out at an earnest effort and see how it felt for the first several miles and if I felt good, I’d continue to push. If I felt bad, I’d slow it down and have a nice long fun run. Well, long story short, my legs felt much better than I thought they would. Much like New York, the wind was constantly in my face. I have no problem running at the front and was content to do so and break the wind for some other guys, because it allowed me to dictate the pace. My first couple miles were very conservative, so I ended up catching a decent amount of guys in the first half, and not far into the race, found a good group to run with, including an old college teammate Johnny Baker. There were probably 8-10 of us rolling along through Wellesley and the half (1:14:05). Around mile 14, I stepped off the course to go pee and gave up 20-30 seconds on that group. I knew that would happen but still held out hope that I’d be able to regain contact. I slowly worked my way back up to them and ended up moving on past them on the Newton Hills, bringing a couple of guys with me. I felt really strong on the hills which I appreciated, as last year I really suffered there. My hip flexors held out and the only fatigue I really felt during the race was in my calves.

Heartbreak? (Photo Credit: Jim Rhoades)

Heartbreak? (Photo Credit: Jim Rhoades)

After the hills, it was just a steady grind into the finish. I made sure to enjoy myself as much as possible, saw Sayles out cheering (thanks!), and basically just couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. My butt and hamstrings started to get a little tight in the last couple miles, but they held it together quite well and I felt like I finished strong. My time was 2:28:14, not quite good enough to get Wardian, who ran 2:27:xx. He’s off to run Big Sur this weekend, which does not sound like fun, as my calves are still pretty wrecked. I was really pleased with how well I executed. I was able to keep my pace despite the wind, the hills, and a pit stop and ran basically an even split of 1:14:05/1:14:09 (so a negative split if you remove the bathroom stop). My body felt strong basically the entire time and I can honestly say I had fun the whole race. The worst part of the race was after the finish, where we had to walk something like ¾ of a mile to pick up our clothes. The wind and rain picked up considerably and the space blankets they gave us to keep warm weren’t all that effective. Eventually, I made it to my clothes, changed, and headed back to the hotel.

Monday night was composed of celebrating, seeing old friends, and making new ones, and my alarm sounded a bit too early on Tuesday morning. I got home Tuesday night, immediately sat on my foam roller, and started working on my calves, which are still recovering. Other than that, I feel surprisingly good, although I have yet to try to run. We’ll see what happens today…

Next up are the IAU Ultra Trail World Championships in Annecy on May 30. Between now and then, I have a feeling I will be doing a lot of powerhiking, as the course has around 17,000ft of vert in 53 miles. I’m excited for a new challenge, as I’ve never raced in Europe, and I can’t wait to toe the line with my teammates.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 6 Comments