2015: A year in review

Thursday, January 7, 2016

2015 has come and gone. It’s hard to believe all of the promise that it held a year ago has already been realized (and potentially wasted at times as well). In my year-end review last year, (https://andmilestogobeforeieat.wordpress.com/2015/01/08/2015-a-probably-disrespectful-retrospective/) I talked about highlights, lowlights and lessons learned. A lot of those remain the same, so I won’t re-hash them, and will instead do a little chronological review. But first, a couple of observations/resolutions/miscellaneous items. 1. I need to do more barefoot strides. 2. I’m getting worse at the beer mile. I need to shape up or retire. 3. Every run has a purpose. 4. I had kind of forgotten how much running for a team can make one push through some dark places.

 

March 22, 2015 – Oakland Marathon Relay with Jorge, Yiou, and Galen, We each won a trip to Hawaii and then I got to watch Shirtless Sean run a big PR in the marathon.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/272570315/overview

OAKLAND MARATHON

Hawaii bound!

April 11, 2015 – Lake Sonoma 50 Mile: 6:09:39. Ran what was easily my strongest race to date and came away with the win and a new CR. We’ll see how long that holds, as it’s gone down each year the race has been run. I learned a lot during this one, including finally realizing that I do have it in me to win a big race.

Blog: https://andmilestogobeforeieat.wordpress.com/2015/04/16/lake-sonoma-50/

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/283626139/overview

And easily my favorite interview to date: http://www.irunfar.com/2015/04/alex-varner-2015-lake-sonoma-50-mile-champion-interview.html (thanks Bryon and Meghan)

LS50 Finish

Just toasted post-LS50 (PC: Jenny Maier)

April 20, 2015 – Boston Marathon: 2:28:14. Still not quite sure how this happened 9 days after Sonoma, but I’ll take it. I had a ton of fun (as I always do) in Boston. Biggest lesson: eat something after race other than beer and Moscow mules (thanks, Pam).

Blog: https://andmilestogobeforeieat.wordpress.com/2015/04/23/2015-boston-marathon/

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/289204631/overview

boston marathon

boston marathon2

Hard not to have fun during the Boston Marathon. (PC for both: MarathonFoto)

May 9, 2015 – Got engaged to a wonderful human being named Rachelle. Spent 19 of the 22 hours leading up to the hike sleeping off something weird. Proposed on the 2nd flight of the Dipsea stairs and celebrated with a drink at Beerworks. And on a related noted, I’m excited to announce that I’ll be partnering with Fort Point Beer Co. in 2016! http://www.fortpointbeer.com/

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/301403800/overview

engagement party

I’m not sure what’s going on here… But we did finish all 3 magnums. (PC: unknown)

May 17, 2015 – Bay to Breakers: Always a blast running with the WVTC centipede. A bit harder this year, as it came the morning after my and Rachelle’s engagement party where we put down 3  magnums of wine (mine, Devon and Dakota’s), all of which were courtesy of Tropical John and the LS50 (thanks for hosting, Topher and Kim!).

Blog: see next item

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/306760543/overview

b2b

Back on the chain gang (PC: unknown)

May 30, 2015 – IAU Ultra Trail World Championships: 9:21:00 (85k w/ 17,000ft+ vert). I finally achieved my dream of wearing a USA singlet in competition. The trip to Annecy, the atmosphere around the race, and the race itself were incredible. My teammates were awesome and we even brought home a silver medal. I found some really dark places fairly early on in this race but having the USA on my chest and running for a cause greater than myself got me to the finish.

Blog: https://andmilestogobeforeieat.wordpress.com/2015/06/04/2015-iau-ultra-trail-world-championships/

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/315262976/overview

IAU race

This face about sums up my race (PC: iRunFar/Meghan Hicks)

IAU silver

Team USA takes Silver! (PC: iRunFar/Bryon Powell)

June 14, 2015 – The Dipsea: 49:35 (7.4 miles w/ 2,200ft vert). The middle of the 4-week/3-race gauntlet I set up for myself (IAU, Dipsea, WSER), I suffered in this one from my training for the longer stuff. I didn’t have the pop necessary to run as fast as I needed and had my streak of fastest times broken by Rickey and Gus (both fully deserving, as you can’t perform at your best in this race if you don’t train specifically for it and they did). Still, Dipsea Sunday is always magical and I’m definitely sad to be missing it this year (most likely).

Blog: https://andmilestogobeforeieat.wordpress.com/2015/06/18/the-105th-dipsea-race/

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/325619202/overview

Dipsea 2015-110

Nearing the top of Cardiac (PC: Steve Disenhof)

June 27, 2015 – Western States Endurance Run: DNF. I told myself I’d drop if things weren’t going right and that’s exactly what happened. It took me a while to reconcile this one while still on the course (as it should – a DNF is never something to be taken lightly), but once I had the wristband cut off, I knew I’d made the right decision. My knees were unhappy and my head wasn’t in it at mile 30. There was almost no way I was going to make it another 70 miles.

Blog: https://andmilestogobeforeieat.wordpress.com/2015/07/02/western-states-2015-squashed/

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/334386445/overview

WSER

Nearing the end of my abbreviated WSER journey (PC: Chasqui Runner)

Summer 2015 – Malaise doesn’t even begin to describe it. A shin issue I’d been dealing with (and trying to run through) since late May kept me sidelined much longer than I’d hoped. I spent a good amount of time on the bike, bought an enormous, heavy mountain bike in the middle of a particularly well-attended pity-party, and got reaffirmed how much biking uphill sucks compared to running. The downhills, however, are particularly delightful, as you just point the bike where you want it to go and you don’t even have to move your legs. How easy is that!? Finally was able to start running at the end of the summer, just in time to catch our Indian summer. I also thoroughly enjoyed the 1st Annual Widowmaker Invitation.

Blog: https://andmilestogobeforeieat.wordpress.com/2015/07/30/not-as-anticipated/

Bike race PC Ornot

My first bike race! It went up Mt. Tam, naturally. (PC: Ornot)

Fall 2015 – various cross country races and tune-up for Quad Dipsea, and my first bike race! Unlike bike racing, cross country is so much fun. I’m glad the SFRC crew got to see the beauty of red-lining for 20-30 minutes and then being done rather than slogging it out for 6+ hours. I’ve found that as I’ve moved into the longer distances, the shorter stuff serves to remind me what it’s like to run fast, and makes the longer stuff feel easier (mostly).

Blog: https://andmilestogobeforeieat.wordpress.com/2015/09/17/something-old-something-new-something-forgotten-nothing-blue/

https://andmilestogobeforeieat.wordpress.com/2015/11/05/quick-catch-up/

Having fun in XC PC Bruce Davie

Cross country isn’t supposed to be this fun (PC: Bruce Davie)

November 28, 2015 – Quad Dipsea: 3:41:01 (28 miles w/ 9,000ft vert). This was my goal since August. Every run, workout, and race was geared towards getting me to the start line healthy and ready to go. This was one of those days when everything clicked and things went exactly as planned and I nailed it. I will look back on this race for years to come.

Blog: https://andmilestogobeforeieat.wordpress.com/2015/12/03/quad-dipsea-2015/

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/441111088/overview

Quad last climb PC Jenny Maier

Last climb (PC: Jenny Maier)

Quad Finish PC Trop John

Finish (PC: John Medinger)

December 5, 2015 – TNF 50 Mile: DNF. Gave myself a free pass to DNF the week after Quad and while things felt surprisingly good in the early miles, it was clear by mile 20 that my goose was cooked and I cut my losses. Relatively easy decision.

Blog: see next item

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/445013083/overview

December 12, 2015 – Club XC Nationals: 32:17 (10k). Pain cave.

Blog: https://andmilestogobeforeieat.wordpress.com/2015/12/17/tnf50-and-club-xc-nationals/

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/449656020/overview

Club Nats PC Matt Trappe

Jorge hunting me (PC: Matt Trappe)

Club Nats PC Fernando

Pain cave. Thank goodness there were only 10meters left at this point (PC: Fernando)

Finally, I can’t forget my sponsors, who have supported me through good times and bad. They aren’t the reason I run, but they do make it a lot more fun (and delicious).

Gear: Nike: http://www.nike.com/us/en_us/

Fuel: PickyBars: http://pickybars.com/ (they’re freakin’ awesome)

Organization: Victory Sportdesign: http://victorysportdesign.com/

Representation: Presidio Sports Management: http://www.presidiosportsmgmt.com/#intro

Coaching: Carmichael Training Systems / Jason Koop

http://trainright.com/

 

And to finish it all off, stats from 2015:

Miles Raced: 299.8 miles (109.6 miles less than last year, which if you want to go down the rabbit hole, can be almost entirely attributed to the 70 miles I didn’t run at WSER 2015 and the 30 miles I didn’t run at TNF50 2015). I also only finished 3 ultra races (Sonoma, IAU, Quad) while in 2014 I finished 6 ultras.

Highest Week: 99 (included Bay to Breakers)

Days off: 94 (compared to 50 in 2014 and 12 in 2013)

Weekly Average: 58.3 miles

Daily Average: 11.2 miles (vs 12.7 last year)

Feet Climbed: 353,098ft (1,302ft/day)

Tam Summits: 9 (21 last year)

Lifetime Total (that I know of): 30,033 miles

A few charts for those so inclined.

miles raced chart

annual mileage bar chartdays off and weekly total bar chartmiles by month bar chart

running log

I think this one says a lot – it’s a high level view of my detailed training log. The blue bars are days off and the red bars are days off due to injury. That middle section there needs to be avoided in the future.

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TNF50 and Club XC Nationals

Thursday, December 17, 2015

While I’d have liked to put up a year-in-review post today, I just haven’t had time to put one together so that will have to wait until 2015 is actually over. So for now, I’ll stick to TNF50 and the Club National Cross Country Championships.

TNF50 was the week after the Quad Dipsea. I took 2 days off immediately following the Quad and ran Tuesday through Friday, feeling better each day. I had the pleasure of running with Bryon Powell (of iRunFar) one day and with Chris Neilson (who was down with a couple other Nike designers) another. Friday felt pretty normal and I went to bed optimistic that I’d be able to give it a solid attempt on Saturday. Nike teammate Amanda Basham was staying with me for the weekend and we were up bright and early (3am) for a 3:30 departure to the start line.

The atmosphere at the start of this race is absolutely electric. Everyone is pumped for the final big event of the year and there are lots of guys and girls gunning for the win. This was my 2nd year running the race and just like last, it went out hot. I found myself a fair ways back from the leaders heading up the first climb up Bobcat. Getting towards the top, I made sure to look back down the trail and take in the sight of the hundreds of headlamps snaking their way up the valley. It’s a fun little bonus within a great event. I found myself chatting happily alongside Levi and Paddy. I use that as a gauge for effort early on in long races – if I can’t talk comfortably, I’m running too fast. There’s plenty of time for silence and suffering later on. The 2 cups of coffee I had probably didn’t help either, as I limit myself to 2-3 cups per week in an effort to keep its effects pronounced (and it works).

start

TNF50 Start (Credit: iRunFar/Bryon Powell)

Before I knew it, we were heading back down Rodeo Valley Road and up Miwok. I pushed a little bit up Miwok, as I could see headlamps far ahead of me up the trail and didn’t want to lose too much time. Coming down Old Springs into Tennessee Valley was relatively uneventful and the climbs up Coastal and through Pirates Cove were much of the same, although I was continually noting how far ahead of me some of the headlamps seemed to be. Coming into Muir Beach, I felt some tightness in my knees. It was symmetrical so I wasn’t worried that it was an injury, but I knew it was most likely a result of my quads being still pretty wrecked from the Quad Dipsea (such a fitting name). It got uncomfortable enough to where I made the decision that if things didn’t get better in the next couple miles, I’d drop. I decided to push hard along Redwood Creek and up Heather Cutoff continuing up Coastal View to Cardiac and see if the change in pace might help my knees. I hoped it would and also figured that if I was going to make up some ground on the leaders, I had to start now. Running along Redwood Creek, I could see headlamps already several switchbacks up Heather Cutoff and knew that Zach Miller and Ryan Bak were taking it out hard, bringing several other guys with them. I passed several guys on the climb up Heather and Coastal View and my knees seemed to have calmed a bit. Coming through Cardiac, I left my headlamp at the aid station with Claire and continued on up Old Mine Trail. All of a sudden, I felt great. My knees weren’t hurting and I was moving well. I saw my coach, Jason Koop, as well as several friends (Devon, Topher, Kim, Sean, Yiou) which also helped my spirits.

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After a long push up to Cardiac (Credit: iRunFar/Bryon Powell)

However, that was short-lived as basically as soon as I crossed Panoramic Highway and got onto Matt Davis (around mile 18), the trail got more technical and my knees decided they didn’t like all of the added movement that comes with picking every footstrike. I was bummed, but had prepared myself for the possibility that something like this might happen. As I made my way out Matt Davis, I became increasingly unhappy with the state of my knees. My pace slowed and I decided I was going to drop at Stinson Beach (mile 28 on the course). 8-9 more miles of running felt like a looooong time, though. I saw Rudy and Pam with before starting on the out-and-back section of the course and within a couple minutes, I realized I didn’t have to run the out-and-back if I was going to drop. I could just run straight down to Stinson. So I returned to them and continued on down to Stinson. On the way down, I thought about my DNF and found that I had no issues with it. My A race for the fall was the Quad Dipsea and I nailed it. Asking for more would just be getting greedy. I wasn’t about to do damage to my knees and quads by running another 30 miles on them in pain. Easy decision. I found the Nike crew at Stinson, as well as many friends, watched the top men and women come through, and eventually found my way back to the finish line to watch Zach, DBo, Ryan, and Jorge take first, second, third, and fourth. Nike won the team competition with Zach, Ryan, and Dan Kraft (7th) and Ryan Ghelfi (10th) rounded out our squad. Strava data here: TNF50

The rest of the afternoon was spent at the finish line rehashing our experiences and then we went back to Mill Valley, cleaned up, and hit the Deuce. Hard.

The following Saturday (after a week of easy runs where I actually felt some hop in my step), we were back in Golden Gate Park for the 2015 USATF Club Cross Country National Championships. This was my 5th weekend of racing in a row and I was ready for a break, but this race is one of the most fun events of the year. (On a related note, Ezra ran the Berkeley Half, Quad Dipsea, TNF50, and Club Nationals 4 weeks in a row, becoming the only guy to finish the Dirty Quad). Having it in our backyard just added to the excitement, and an added bonus was several good friends on San Francsico Running Company racing team (in its 1st year) would be running alongside West Valley Track Club (my team). A little friendly competition (followed by a lot of beer) is just what everyone needs to close out the year.

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Start of the open men’s race (411 finishers) (Credit: unknown)

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Jorge stalking me in the 2nd mile (Credit: Brett Rivers)

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Pain cave in the last 100m (Credit: Fernando! Fernando! Fernando!)

The race went pretty badly. I went out hard (planned) and felt pretty strong for the first 2 miles, but soon thereafter got a big side stitch which prevented me from getting full breaths and really opening up. I was bummed, but it’s a small price to pay for such a good fall of training and racing. Thankfully I wasn’t peaking for this race, so I just relegated myself to gritting my teeth and getting to the finish. I tried to keep Jorge in sight, but he gapped me (a great race, especially just a week after TNF50) and went on ahead. I suffered pretty badly in the final miles but managed to run roughly the same pace I had 3 weeks prior before the big races, so I couldn’t be too disappointed (even if it was on ugly positive splits). Strava data here: Club XC Nationals

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WVTC and SFRC hanging out post-race. Thanks to Headlands Brewing for providing the keg! (Credit: Bruce Davie)

Like the week before, the rest of the afternoon was spent hanging out in the park, rehashing our race, and then cleaning up before heading to the Strava after party. I can’t forget to mention our West Valley masters men’s team, which finished 2nd in the country! Huge congrats to them. It was another great year of cross country with West Valley and having the SFRC guys out there with us was most excellent. We’re already looking forward to next year.

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Quad Dipsea 2015

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Quad Dipsea went just about perfectly. I hit the splits I wanted (for the most part) and was fortunate enough to be able to take the course record down by several minutes. Ever since I signed up for the race on August 3, my entire fall training block was dedicated to this singular cause. Every run had a purpose: to get my legs ready to carry me over the Dipsea Trail 4 times faster than anyone else before me. That’s a scary proposition, knowing that all of your training is leading up to one race on one day and hopefully everything comes together at the right time. Thankfully, it’s a lot easier to have faith that it will since I’ve been working with Koop, as things came together at the right times last December at TNF and last April at Lake Sonoma. However, I’d be lying if I said my confidence wasn’t severely shaken during the summer. After a disappointing personal performance at the IAU World Championships in Annecy in May, I ran a sub-par Dipsea (although that was somewhat expected being only 2 weeks after Annecy) followed by a DNF at Western States at mile 30. I finally had to deal head-on with the shin issue that had been bugging me for several weeks and it took longer than I’d hoped to heal, taking me well into August before I was running normally and comfortably again.

The first couple workouts back were rough, but I’ve been doing this long enough to know that you just have to stay the course (a thousand points of light, for those who get the reference :-P). Sure enough, the fitness came around. I raced several XC races which were just plain fun and before I knew it, I was heading into the 5 straight weeks of racing that I’d found myself more and more excited to run. I think that was when I really knew I was back and fit and ready – heading into the ITR Mt. Tam 30k on Nov. 14, I couldn’t wait to race, and several weeks in a row on top of that. I love racing. I race often. It’s fun and it’s a better workout than workouts, so what’s the downside (assuming you can keep yourself under control enough to not overdo it completely). The ITR 30k was a confidence boost, as were the PA XC Championships the following weekend where I ran a completely controlled 10k tempo and finished feeling strong.

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Having some fun in XC (I’m definitely doing it wrong). Credit: Bruce Davie

Then it was time for the nerves to really set in. With just 5 days until the Quad, I slept fitfully, had weird dreams, and was just generally at a higher level of stress than normal. Not ideal, but I also think these things are a part of the deal you’ve got one goal and one race to execute. It’s a lot of pressure and so I’m sure I subconsciously put 2 races on either side of it to give myself some excuses should the day not go as planned. But I knew what I wanted – the CR at the Quad Dipsea and if I came away with anything less than that, I’d have been bitterly disappointed.

Two days before the race was Thanksgiving. Rachelle found the time to come down for a couple of days which was great and we had our first big (new) family Thanksgiving my parents and some of her relatives and mother. Friday was spent wandering around SF, doing some shopping and sightseeing and before I knew it we were going to bed on Friday night. Race morning was cold but not quite as bad as I’d anticipated. I was planning on wearing a shirt and arm sleeves over my singlet, but opted to just go with the singlet at the last minute. In the days before the race, I’d hatched a rough plan of how I wanted the race to go. I wanted to be at Stinson the 2nd time (with 1 leg left) no slower than 2h48m, which would give me a full 60 minutes to get back to Mill Valley under the record (3:48:45). Doing that meant running 3 56-minute Dipseas. However, I had a more ambitious goal of getting to the halfway point by 1h48m, giving myself a full 2 hours to run the final 2 legs. That would involve running 2 54-minute Dipseas to start the race. That’s what I went for. The splits I’d come up with were: 17 minutes from the start to Muir Woods Creek, 20 minutes from Creek to Cardiac and then 17 minutes from Cardiac to Stinson. The way back was split into the same 3 sections, just with different time goals: 25 minutes from Stinson to Cardiac, 12 minutes from Cardiac down to Muir Woods Creek, 17 minutes from Creek to the turnaround in Old Mill Park. Here’s how it played out: 16:15 start to Creek, 19 minutes Creek to Cardiac (ate half a PickyBar and waved at the awesome volunteers and cheerers), 18:51 Cardiac to Stinson for a 1st leg split of around 53:45. Awesome. But that last segment took considerably longer than planned. I always forget about the Moors. No time to worry. Time to head back. 24+ minutes from Stinson to Cardiac (ate half a PickyBar, said hi again, but with a bit more tunnel vision), 12 minutes Cardiac to Creek, 16:30ish Creek to turnaround (ate a Gu) for a 2nd leg split of 52:25 (brief aid station stop included) and a turnaround time of 1:45:30.

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10 minute quick clock at the turnaround. Credit: Jorge Maravilla

The clock was 10 minutes fast at the turnaround for some reason (it read 1:35), but I knew where I was and that I was certainly not running that was, so it wasn’t an issue. Others, however, thought it might be, so they made sure a volunteer at Cardiac told me it was fast the next time I went through. It was great to have Rachelle and her family and my family at the turnaround. It provided a big boost and I was back up the stairs before I knew it. 3rd leg splits were: 16:10 turnaround to Creek (ate a Gu), 19 minutes Creek to Cardiac (hi again, more tunnel vision), 18 minutes Cardiac to Stinson (ate a Gu) for a 3rd leg split of around 53:45 (woooooo!!!). Hit the Stinson timing mats in just under 2:40, which gave me 68 minutes to get back. I was quite optimistic that I’d be able to run the final leg in 56-57 minutes, since I’d felt so good the first 3 laps, but immediately upon starting back up, I realized it would be slower than that. My legs were tired and started to threaten cramps, particularly in my VMOs, which felt it most on the stairs and steep descents. Thankfully, they held together, but it was quite painful at times. Home again home again. Stinson to Cardiac: 28:30ish (woof, not much of a hello, just straight pain face this time through). Cardiac to Creek: 14+ minutes (yay downhill!). Creek to finish: 18 minutes. The last climb, from Creek to Panoramic was really rough. I stumbled and fell right below the mailboxes and was just barely able to run between Muir Woods road and Panoramic. Thankfully DeNooch was there cheering which spurred me to up as best I could. Once I was dropping down Walsh Drive, I looked at my watch and knew I had it barring any catastrophic cramping. I told myself to savor this. It was the culmination of a long, hard training block and it had paid off. I had executed on the right day and I was ecstatic. Coming down the stairs for the final time was a little dicey, but Paddy and Lucci kindly let me pass and I was met at the finish line by a huge group of friends and family 3 hours, 41 minutes and 1 second after I’d started.

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Top of Cardiac for the first time (~35mins). Credit: Yoko Senga

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Top of Cardiac the second time (~1h18m). Credit: Brett Rivers (I think)

The nice thing about this course is that you’re continually seeing people on different legs and the camaraderie and cheering that goes on between runners is awesome. I was able to see where the 2-3-4-5 guys were in relation to each other on each crossing and knew that Ezra, Yassine, and Dane were running strong. It turns out that Ezra had dropped back a bit in the middle legs but made a big charge in the final leg to take 2nd, with Yassine and Dane rounding out 3rd and 4th respectively. Great runs by all of them. Their words to me as they were heading down to Stinson for the last time definitely helped me up Steep Ravine.

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Paddy and Lucci let me pass on the final descent. Credit: unknown

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The stoke is high, bro. Credit: John Medinger.

This week has been completely focused on recovery. I didn’t run Sunday or Monday and have run very slow and easy the past 2 days. I’m planning to toe the line at TNF on Saturday, but if I feel crappy as a result of the Quad, I won’t hesitate to drop. I’m hoping that I can be smart enough to listen to my body. That and I’ve got Club XC Nationals next weekend.

On a final note, thanks to all out there who organized (John Catts et al), volunteered, and cheered. Everyone was incredibly supportive and gracious in sharing the trail and I apologize if I didn’t return the favors adequately. It was one of those races where I was in the zone and my external focus is generally less-than-present when that’s the case. If I slighted you in some way, find me at The Deuce on Saturday night, tell me about it, and I’ll buy you a beer.

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Family makes a huge difference.

Strava data: https://www.strava.com/activities/441111088/overview

Results: http://www.quad-dipsea.com/2015.html

 

Gear:

Shoes: Nike Zoom Kiger 3

Shorts: Nike Tech Half Tights

Singlet: Nike Pro Kit

Buff: Nike

Handheld: Amphipod 20oz with surgical rubber strap

Sustenance: 1 PickyBar during (2 before), 6 Gus (ate roughly every half hour)

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Quad Nerves

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The past couple days, I’ve felt the urge to post another entry on here heading into the Quad. It was precipitated by the fact that I had forgotten how nervous races with the name Dipsea in the name can make me. For several years heading into The (single) Dipsea, I would sleep fitfully and have anxious race-related dreams for a couple of weeks leading up to race day. The Double was that way for a year or two, but the atmosphere is so much more laid back, that these nerves disappeared fairly quickly after I had run the race a couple of times. This past year (2015) was the first time I had been relatively calm heading into the single, as I was coming off the IAU Ultra Trail World Championships in France 2 weeks before and did not expect much of my legs. I had won the fastest time award 6 times in a row and with Rickey, Galen, and Gus fit and ready, I figured this would be the year one of them would break my streak. Sure enough, Rickey and Gus both ran faster than I did and I couldn’t have been happier for them. It took a monkey off my back while simultaneously motivating me for next year to run the fastest time again. My goal of 10 is still very much alive and on my mind. But with this year being a mentally “down” year in the single and sitting out the Double due to Western States, I had forgotten how nervous I can get for a race on the Dipsea trail.

I think the biggest culprit is simply that I know the route so well. In the single and double, you’re more concerned with passing people (due to the handicapping) than with where you are on the course at a given time (although that is somewhat the case in the Double). You simply don’t have a lot of time to look at your watch when you’re constantly trying to get around people. However, with my training runs on the course heading into the Quad, I have become acutely aware of how much time I will inevitably spend looking at my watch and calculating just where I am and how far ahead or behind I am of where I want to be. I’m not exactly looking forward to that. Passing people will not be an issue to the same extent that it is in the single and double because there is no handicapping, and I’m hoping to take advantage of this by getting out strong and avoiding the bulk of the traffic. There will be more passing involved on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th laps as people will be spread out all over the course at that point, but I doubt it will be anywhere near as crowded as the single and double can be. So until race morning (and honestly, for a good part of the race), I’ll try to manage my nerves as best I can. I’ve learned that they’re a good sign – I’m nervous because I care about the race. After a big training block capped off with the ITR Mt. Tam 30k and a strong workout last night, I know I’m fit (thanks, Koop!). Now I just have to execute.

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Quick Catch-Up

Thursday, November 5, 2015

So almost 2 months have gone by since my last post. Not ideal, but in my defense, I haven’t been doing a lot of racin. In the weeks following the GGP XC race, I ran 5k’s at Garin XC on Sept. 26 and Mt. San Bruno XC on Oct. 3 (nice, new course), and a half marathon around Tiburon on Oct. 4. All of the races went pretty well and I felt like my training was coming along nicely. Somewhere in there, I switched from Vo2 max workouts (3-5 minute intervals at the fastest pace I could manage) to longer stuff. I’m now running intervals of 10-15 minutes with 3-4 reps. While I appreciate both types of workouts, I think I like the longer ones a bit more. Sure, they prolong the pain, but they also allow for specificity for the races I’ve got coming up. I’m able to get on the courses and really simulate what pushing on the climbs and descents is going to be like on race day. This specificity is a good thing when I’ve got 5 races in a row to close out the year (and it’s a good thing in all training cycles, really). Starting Nov. 14, I’ll run the Inside Trail Mt. Tam 30k, PA XC Championships (10k) on Nov. 22, the Quad Dipsea (28 miles) on Nov. 28 (my “A” race for the fall), TNF 50 Mile on Dec. 5, and Club XC Nationals (10k) on Dec. 12. I know this seems like a lot of racing, but I LOVE racing. I do it pretty much as often as I can. I thrive off of the race day atmosphere and have a much easier time running faster in a race (even if it’s just for training purposes) than I do in workouts. There are a couple other hardy souls who are planning to join me for the last 4, which we’ve dubbed the Dirty Quad: Ezra, Edmundo (I think), Alex Ho and maybe a couple more. We’ll see who makes it through the gauntlet. Within those 5 races, the first two races are going to be more training-oriented then racing-oriented. The 30k will be a great long, hard effort 2 weeks out from the Quad and PA’s will be a controlled, tempo-ish effort with the main goal being to not be too tired for the Quad the following Saturday. I plan to leave it all on the course for the Quad and then see what’s left in the tank for TNF50 and Club Nats. But let’s be honest… the real event those weekends will be the afterparties. See you out there!

New course at Mt. San Bruno XC (PC: Shawn Tydlaska)

New course at Mt. San Bruno XC (Credit: Shawn Tydlaska)

On the way out to Stinson for a workout on the Dipsea.

On the way out to Stinson for a workout on the Dipsea.

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#Broshred heading down towards the Swoop (Credit: Brett Rivers)

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Bonus stairs post-Double. Gotta get used to turning around and going right back up (Credit: Mario Fraioli)

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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.

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

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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:

https://www.strava.com/activities/390726793/overview

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.

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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: https://www.strava.com/activities/391720824/overview

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

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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.

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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 (https://www.strava.com/segments/1431457)

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): http://www.goldengatevelo.org/tam

One more thing of note is that I’m now officially working with Victory Sportdesign bags http://victorysportdesign.com/). The Bear II (http://victorysportdesign.com/?product=bear-ii-6) 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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Top of the stairs (Credit: James Norton)

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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.

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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.

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