Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Race Report: TRT 2014

Race Report: Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) 50 mile, July 19, 2014

On July 19, 2014 I finished the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) 50 mile race in just under 16 hours 30 minutes. This race is described as, “A glimpse of heaven and a taste of hell.” Starting at 7000 feet above sea level this race delivers 10,000 feet of total climbing in 50.2 miles. Although there were many hard climbs ahead of me, there were only two major climbs in my mind: the climb out of the Red House loop at mile 14 (1400 feet of climbing over 3 miles at a 13% grade) and the climb at the Diamond Peak ski resort at mile 30 (1800 feet of climbing over 1.5 miles at a gazillion % grade).
Last year when I attempted this race I was physically prepared, but I was not mentally prepared. I knew the course, but I ignored the one obvious thing that would have given me the edge mentally: cutoff times. Cutoff times are time limits that runners have to meet in order to continue racing. If these time limits are exceeded, then the runner is not allowed to continue the race. Last year I was completely unaware of the course cutoff times. That resulted in a DNF (Did Not Finish) at Diamond Peak.

This year I knew all the cutoff times. I knew what time I had to be at each aid station. I knew when I had to push, and when I could relax (which wasn’t very much). I broke up the 50 miles into several small races. My overall race plan was to run at a pace of 3.8 miles per hour between aid stations except for the Diamond Peak climb which would require a 2.5 mph pace. I also kept in mind what my coach, Mama Lisa, told me right before the race started, “The race starts at Mile 30. Take it easy until then.”

The first few aid stations did not have cutoff times. I still projected what time I should be at each aid station so that I could adjust accordingly. From the start to the first two aid stations (Hobart and Tunnel Creek) I hit my targets perfectly (roughly 1.5 hours between aid stations). Tunnel Creek is at mile 11 and is the aid station before the descent to the Red House at 6200 feet: the lowest elevation of the race.

The descent to the Red House is easy since gravity is doing most of the work, but the 3 mile climb out of Red House was every bit as difficult as I remember. Imagine trying to climb a hill in San Francisco. Now imagine that with every corner you turn you are greeted with more hill. Add some sun. Take away the shade. Finally add a ton of sand to make every step feel half as effective. Voila! You now have the climb out of Red House. This is the “…glimpse of hell,” part of the race.
I made it back to the Tunnel Creek aid station pretty battered from the climb. I was walking back into the aid station trying to recover. I did however manage to look like I was running when Belinda snapped some pictures of me. Special thanks to Belinda and Huyen for being so awesome at Tunnel creek; taking pictures and cheering. You two provided a much needed mental boost.
It was a quick 3.5 mile jaunt from Tunnel Creek to the Bull Wheel aid station. The Bull Wheel aid station is the last aid station for 9.5 miles before heading to Diamond Peak. I topped off my 70 oz. hydration pack and filled my 24 oz. hand held water bottle. Last year at this point with temperatures hovering around 95°F was when most people were dropped from the race. Hydration and mental toughness was the key to this part.

If the segment from Bull Wheel to Diamond Peak was a book, then it would be called, “I Am Nature, Don’t Mess With Me.” The sky got dark and ominous with thunderstorms. I’m talking “Raiders of the Lost Ark” scary. I was already at a high elevation and was well aware that being struck by lightening might ruin my day. Seeing lightening that close was a beautifully scary sight that I never want to experience again. It got so bad that the aid station at Snow Valley Peak was evacuated.
I also saw a bear. Awww… Cute but scary.

The cutoff time for Diamond Peak was 9 hours and 45 minutes (clock time of 3:45 pm). I was aiming to be there by 2:30 pm. I arrived at Diamond Peak at 2:58 pm. I was slightly behind pace, but I still made it well before the cutoff time. I dropped off my handheld water bottle, filled up my hydration pack, drank a V8, ate some food, washed my salt-crusted face, and headed out. I spent just under 10 minutes at that station. I wish I spent less time there as the rest of the race had me kicking myself for losing so many precious minutes.

As I was leaving Diamond Peak I was presented with a the biggest climb of the race. In the winter this mountain is a black diamond run, so it’s easy to imagine how steep it is. Nobody in their right mind would ever consider running this part. More or less it is a climb straight up the face of the mountain with 1800 feet of climbing over 1.5 miles. The last two times I did this it took me 45 minutes. This time it took me 1 hour. Exhausted at the top of the mountain with my legs screaming for oxygen I set my mind on my next task: getting back to Tunnel Creek by the 5:11 pm cutoff time.
It was 4:15 pm when I left Bull Wheel for the 3.5 miles back to Tunnel Creek. I had already covered over 30 miles of the course. I was feeling beat up and my walk breaks were more frequent. I had just under 1 hour to get to Tunnel Creek by the 5:11 pm cutoff. I was trying to will myself to run the flat and downhill sections, but the mental demons were getting to me. Thoughts of how easy it would be to quit, and how I can easily justify why I quit were starting to flood my mind. Something in me wouldn’t let me quit.

I can’t tell you how fast I was going over the last mile, because my GPS watch ran out of power. My guess is that I did the last mile in about 8 minutes. I crossed the sensor at Tunnel Creek at 5:10 pm with 1 minute left to spare before the cutoff. At this point I was well behind my projected times. My race was deteriorating fast. I drank another V8, grabbed my headlamp, and bolted out of there (walking looks like bolting at this point). My next cutoff was 7:02 pm at the Hobart aid station 5 miles away.

The trip from the Tunnel Creek aid station has many downhill sections which I took advantage of. It also had many uphill sections that just sapped me mentally. At a few points during the segment I sat down on a rock and just contemplated quitting. I had already covered way more than I did in 2013. There was no shame in quitting, right? I want to tell you something profound and inspirational that spurred me on out of my funk. The truth is that I didn’t want to come back to this course again trying to avenge a DNF. That was enough motivation.

The last section heading into Hobart is downhill. I raced down that hill at a 7 to 8 minute per mile pace which ended in a desperation sprint. I entered the aid station right at the cutoff time at 7:02 pm. I asked the guy at the aid station what time the next cutoff was at Snow Valley Peak. He said, “No more cutoff times, you just have to finish the race… it’s too far to drive you back.” That was probably best thing I had heard all day. I now had 3.5 hours to run the 10 miles to the finish.

From Hobart the race took me 3.5 miles to Snow Valley Peak; the highest point of the course at 9000 feet. It was now cooler and my pace was getting faster (I tend to run faster in the cold). Most of the trip up to Snow Valley Peak was spent walking uphill, but I was now walking with more purpose. I got to the final aid station at Snow Valley Peak without much fanfare (the aid station volunteers were allowed to return after the thunderstorms stopped). I drank a coke and chicken soup. From here it was mostly downhill for 6.5 miles to the finish.

The sun was still out when I left the peak, but that would quickly change. I was averaging about 12-15 minutes per mile. My pace slowed a bit as it got darker and I had to switch on my headlamp. I don’t know what time I entered into heavy tree cover. All I know is that it was dark and down hill.
I felt oddly at peace while running in the dark. I should have been scared. I could barely see 20 feet in front of me. I was constantly looking for the course ribbons, but they were few and far between. The infrequency of the ribbons made me second guess many times if I was going in the right direction. What was frustrating was that I could see the finish and I could hear the cars from the highway, but several times the course took me in the opposite direction. There weren’t many people out on the course either. I was alone.

At around mile 48 I saw 6 pairs of eyes blink at me in the reflection of my headlamp. They weren’t human. I ran a little faster. I was carrying pepper spray. I don’t know what pepper spray would do against a pack of wolves, a family of bigfoots, or a pack of harmless deer (which is probably what I saw), but I felt like I was carrying a baseball bat made of dynamite. Just stay back and let me finish the race.

I finally found my way out of the woods and could hear cheering. The finish line in the dark still felt miles away. A guy told me that I was exactly 0.333 miles away. It was now 10:20 pm (according to my phone, not my dead GPS watch). I don’t know what time it was, but I believe I crossed the finish line at 10:24 pm. I beat the cutoff time by 6 minutes.

Final thoughts:

  • I am happy that I finished this beast of a race, but I also know that I am capable of so much more. It’s now time to go back to work. I know if things don’t change, then I am going to have more close cutoffs like I did for TRT.
  • I am carrying way too much weight which reduces my power to weight ratio. I am carrying close to 30 pounds more weight than my ideal race weight. I’m comparing my weight at IronMan Lake Placid when I was 156 pounds on race day. I was 188 pounds on race day at TRT. Over the next few months I will be putting a heavy emphasis on cleaning up my diet and resisting the urge to finish the uneaten portions of my kids’ meals.
  • Mental toughness is very important in this race. By itself it is not enough. Mental toughness helped me push when I needed to, but I needed the physical toughness to back it up. Like I mentioned, I need to be in better shape in the future.
  • The TRT cutoff times should probably be re-evaluated. It took me 2 hours to get from Diamond Peak to Tunnel Creek. If a person got to Diamond Peak at the cutoff time at 3:45 pm, then they have 1 hour and 26 minutes to cover 5 miles to make the next cutoff. Remember it took me 1 hour to cover the first 1.5 miles.
  • The TRT course is absolutely beautiful.


  • to my loving wife, Victoria, for supporting me over the last few months and for putting up with my training schedule.
  • to my sons for putting up with my schedule and thinking that I can run 100 mph.
  • to all of my teammates in the Bay Area ultra running community.
  • to Belinda and Huyen for cheering at the race and for providing the pictures, smiles, and encouragement.
  • to the staff at Ultra Fitness Beyond Imagination (UFBI) and especially to my fabulous coach, Mama Lisa, for believing in my ability, and for being tough with me when I needed it. Mama Lisa Felder is unparalleled as an ultra running coach for her knowledge and honesty. I am happy to call her my friend.
  • to Robel Tezare, Brian Woon, and Laura Warren. I know you are gone from this Earth, but you were with me in spirit.
I know a 100 mile ultra marathon is in my future. Over the next few months I will be taking a break from long ultra distances while I concentrate on getting more fit. I also have house remodeling that needs to be done. I still plan on being around for Brazen races and other trail races. For now, I’m going to relax and start to mentally prepare for the work ahead.

One final thought. I know I didn't ask you for a donation this year. Please, find a worthy cause and give of yourself. Go make a difference.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Dick Collins Firetrails 50 Mile - Race Report

Wake up at 1:30am and eat 2 peanut butter and Nutella sandwiches. Throw the kids into the car and speed away from the house by 4am. Get to Lake Chabot by 5am. Start running by 5:30am. Run 50 miles on trails for 13 hours 45 minutes and finish just before 7:30pm. It all sounds so easy when I can summarize a race down to the tangible parts.

On 10/12/2013 I ran my first 50-miler on trails in a time of 13 hours 45 minutes. I opted for the early 5:30am start because I knew I would need all the time I could get. The sad truth is that I didn’t train for this race as much as I should have. I did a 35 mile run back in July and a 13 mile run sometime in September. Work made sure that there was not much more to my training than that.

Fast forward to 10/12/2013, and I find myself staring into the darkness at 5:30 am at Lake Chabot. Three of my teammates were there with me, Yvonne, Angela, and Donna. The first few miles were illuminated by headlamps which eventually gave way to the rising sun. I ran with Angela and Yvonne for a good portion of the morning hours. Angela soon shot ahead and then it was just me and Yvonne. At Skyline Gate I lost Yvonne at the porta-potties, but I knew she would catch up to me quickly. It was on that portion that it seemed like things for me went downhill… literally.

From Skyline Gate there was a really fast downhill portion. I was navigating it pretty well when my right foot found an immovable rock in the trail. I soon found myself flying into the side of the trail while my legs simultaneously decided to cramp up. Another runner helped me up (he had no choice since I was blocking the trail). I quickly got running while trying to take stock of the numerous scrapes on my legs, the splinters in my hands, and the cramps in my legs that were now slowing me down.

Not long after that Yvonne caught up to me. She stayed with me for a little while to make sure I was okay, but she eventually had to go. Soon, Donna caught up to me and passed me as well. I was having a hard time climbing the uphill portions. Both my quads were cramping which seriously hindered my ability to bend my legs. I popped some salt tablets which did not help at all. Then I decided to tie the bandanas I had with me around my thighs. The compression seemed to do the trick and pretty soon I was climbing again.

I saw Josh and Mama Lisa around the Steam Trains. Mama Lisa asked how I was doing (Yvonne had told her I was having trouble with leg cramps). Apparently Josh was having some similar problem. Mama Lisa sprayed our collective legs with BioFreeze which felt good and excruciatingly painful (remember the scrapes) all at the same time. I also told her that I had consumed 12 salt tabs, which caused her to have a horrified look on her face. She said I needed to flush out that salt or else my kidneys would shut down. Got it, no more salt and take in a little more water.

On my way to the turnaround point I was happy to hear Brian’s voice. It was nice to have company for a bit, and he helped pace me to the turnaround point at Lone Oak Picnic area. We saw Angela, Yvonne, and Donna heading towards us coming from the turnaround point. At Lone Oak Mama Lisa told me I had 20 minutes to get out of there due to the cutoff time. I should have done more research, because I did not know about the cutoff time. I dumped a water bottle into my drop-off bag and had two cups of chicken soup. As I look back on it, the chicken soup was the thing that got rid of the leg cramps. I said goodbye to Mama Lisa and left Lone Oak. It was now around 12:15pm and I had an uphill climb with 1 hour 45 minutes to my next cutoff point 4 miles away. I remember thinking at this point, “You just did a marathon, now you have to do another one. Suck it up! You can do this.” I think my inner voice is crazy.

Pretty soon that inner voice was followed by a text from my wife, Victoria, which said, “You can do this, no more DNFs.” That got me going.

I got to the next point with about 20 minutes to spare. This is where it got good. Cyndi who is part of the Ultra Team said she could pace me the rest of the way. I was really happy, because my mind was getting really negative at that point. Every aid station until the end had a cutoff time. Cyndi got me to each and every one of them. She pushed me to run when I needed it. She gave me candy or energy bites when my brain was falling asleep. And at every single aid station, Mama Lisa was there.

I made it to the last aid station/cutoff with about 10 minutes to spare. Mama Lisa met us a little ways before the aid station to tell us that we had little time left to the cutoff. At this point we picked up the pace. Cyndi and Mama Lisa flanked me on either side as we strode for about a quarter-mile at a 7:33 minute/mile pace. As I saw the aid station in the distance my stupid right foot hit another immovable rock and I went flying… again. Mama Lisa and Cyndi picked me up and I checked in. I now had 6 miles left.

It was 5:45pm and I had 6 miles to cover before the 7:30pm race cutoff. I had already run 44 miles. I knew I just had to finish. The strategy for running these races was to run the downhill and flat portions and walk the uphill portions. I can’t remember when I made the decision, but I was just going to run as much as I could… even the uphill portions. I remember after one uphill portion that we ran Cyndi saying something about “Beast Mode.”

It was now dark, but I remember seeing the welcome sight of lights from the marina in the distance. We were now on pavement which made my footing a little surer. It wasn’t too much longer when I heard cowbells. Pretty soon I had a little entourage consisting of Mama Lisa, Cyndi, and Vickee. The UltraTeam was there too cheering me on. I sprinted the last few yards and crossed the finish line 15 minutes before the race cutoff.

There are so many people who I would like to thank. First of all I would like to thank all of you that contributed to my fundraising. With your help I raised over $3000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I would like to thank my wife and best friend, Vickee, for letting me be me no matter how crazy I sound. I would like to thank all of my UltraTeam mates for all the support over the past year; especially my fabulous mentor, Yvonne. Extra special thanks to Cyndi for pacing me… honestly I don’t think I could have finished without you. Mama Lisa, you believed in me… all the thanks in the world cannot adequately convey how grateful I am.

I promise next year I’ll train better!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Support me and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

GO TEAM! Support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society!
I am running an UltraMarathon to bring awareness to the horribleness that is Cancer. Cancer sucks, and I'm committed to reducing the amount of suckage in this world.

Leukemia and Lymphoma has taken away too many people from my life, and I'm sure there are others out there that can say the same thing. WAY TOO MANY.

I am training with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team-in-Training (TNT). They are training me to run the Tahoe Rim Trail Ultramarathon (50 miles) and the Rio Del Lago Ultramarathon (62 miles). Why?

I often wondered what the connection was to endurance events and curing disease. I mean, if you wanted to support an organization like LLS, then you would, right? Just give the money to them. However, how often do you think about disease? Really think about it.

The truth is we don't want to think about it. Disease sucks. Dying sucks. Watching loved ones die sucks. So like all the ugliness in our lives, we put it out of mind... hoping the problem will go away. It won't go away.

That's why I am here. That's why WE are here. We keep this issue in the public's eye. We bring AWARENESS by any means possible. We run, because we can. And by some miracle, it works.

TNT brings in money that goes to cancer patients and their families. 76% of your donation will go to these programs.

Honestly, if I didn't mention it, would you think about Cancer?

I'm running 50 miles to bring awareness to Cancer. Please support me by donating. Click on the link GO TEAM.

Thank you!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

I wanted to share this quote I got from the CD liner notes of "Facing Future"-Israel Kamakawiwo'ole

Facing backwards I see the past
Our nation gained, our nation lost
Our sovereignty gone
Our lands gone
All traded for the promise of progress
What would they say….
What can we say?
Facing future I see hope
Hope that we will survive
Hope that we will prosper
Hope that once again we will reap the blessings of this magical land
For without hope I cannot live
Remember the past but do not dwell there
Face the future where all our hopes stand
–Israel Kamakawiwo‘ole

Monday, January 23, 2012

My Grand Sugar Experiment

Every year I give up something for Lent. For me it has been more about seeing how many ways I can challenge myself and less to do with religion. For instance, one Lent I gave up alcohol for 40 days. I learned that I should never do that. :) Just kidding.

Actually what I learned from that is that it's easy to become fixated on what you can't have. My wife got fixated on beer when she was pregnant, and she doesn't even like beer.

Here's a short list of things that I gave up (not permanently, just for 40 days):
  • Red meat (pork and beef)
  • Meat (anything that isn't a plant)
  • Sweets
  • Dating (not really an option since I just didn't date that much)
  • Alcohol (I found that I started eating a lot of fermented pears at this time)
  • Refined sugar
Of all the things I gave up, the one that seemed to have a profound effect was the removal of refined sugar from my diet. It's an exercise that really opened my eyes as to what sugar was doing to me and what little choice I had in eating it.

In case you didn't know, refined sugar is EVERYWHERE! It's in bread, ketchup, chili, chicken soup, hot dogs, cereal, granola, cranberries, microwave popcorn, chips, Cheetos (so sad), etc. In my first few days of my attempt, I nearly starved because all my usual foods were unavailable to me. Seriously, just take five food items out of your pantry and read the label. I'm going to guess that at least one of them has sugar.

The first few days were tough. Soon I started to notice that I had fewer dips in my energy level. When I woke up in the morning, I was alert. In contrast when I had sugar close to bed time, I would wake up really groggy. I do remember the day after Lent I had a brownie. It was a weird feeling as I swear I could feel the sugar course through my veins and my pulse quicken. Maybe I was excited to have the brownie after 40 days, or maybe it was just more sugar than anybody should have at one time. Probably a little bit of both.

Well as New Years Day 2012 approached, I had this idea. Instead of 40 days, why don't I try giving up refined sugar for a year? Let's see what happens. Crazy? Yes, but why not? My wife decided that she wanted to try it too. It's great that I have a partner in this. So here are the rules.
  • Avoid refined sugar (synonyms: sugar, cane sugar, evaporated cane juice)
  • Natural sugar sources are okay (e.g. honey, maple syrup). Sparingly!
  • Refined sugar is only allowed: once a week, hard workout days, and birthdays.
That's it.

I'm almost a month into it and I have only had refined sugar twice: two birthdays. I had a bunch of heavy workout days, but opted for fruit juice. I feel pretty good. I've even skipped my weekly allowance just because I didn't feel the need.

Do I miss it. Of course I do. I miss chocolate most of all. I miss getting up during lunch meetings to get my cookie or brownie. I miss eating all of those things with coffee. I miss talking to the admin who always gives me dark chocolate Kit Kats. When you eat dessert with people, you feel like you are part of a special club. I miss that.

I don't miss the dips in energy or the morning headaches. I'm rediscovering unprocessed foods. I find my sugar fix can come from one single Medjool Date, an apple, or some other fruit. I can taste the sweetness in an almond or a glass of milk. There are flavors that were once muted but are now becoming more pronounced. That is exciting.

On top of that I'm training for an Iron distance triathlon. I'm most interested to see how this change in diet will affect my fitness. I have high hopes.

Well, I still have just under 50 weeks to go. I'll keep you posted.

Oh yeah... I gave up coffee too.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Race Report : Full Vineman 31-JUL-10, Windsor, CA

Result: DNF

Admittedly I did not train as intensely for this event like I had for other races in the past. That is not to say that I wasn’t in shape. My level of fitness hasn’t changed much in the past 4 years, so I was optimistic that I would finish this race, albeit it was a cautious optimism. Why?

It was 7 years ago when I first attempted this triathlon distance at Vineman. I was 60-some pounds heavier then, slower, and inexperienced. I also had a DNF that time too. I suffered from nutrition problems on the bike which ultimately affected my run. I had put that DNF behind me by finishing IronMan Lake Placid 2006, faster and lighter than I was at Vineman 2003.

Why the DNF at Vineman 2010? I woke up with a sore throat. My throat and chest were burning during the swim, and I found breathing to be labored. I finished the swim in 2 hours; 40 minutes slower than normal. The bike wasn’t too bad, which I finished in 7 hours. My throat was raw and the roof of my mouth was swollen from spitting more than usual. My cold got worse throughout the day including a sinus infection (which would plague me for the next 4 days).

When I got to the run, I was feeling pretty bad. My body ached more than it should. I had close to zero energy. Yes, I smiled for the cameras, but I might have run about 5 miles of the distance and walked the rest. I tried everything I could to will myself forward into a run, but my legs did not want to move. I ate as much as I could at the aid stations, trying to get sugar to my brain, but it might have been too little too late.

At the end of the day, I missed the third loop cutoff of the marathon. Of the 140.6 miles, I had only covered about 131 miles. Like Vineman 2003, nutrition ultimately did me in. Unlike Vineman 2010, I was pretty devastated by the turn of events that lead me to this DNF. After about 10 minutes of feeling sorry for myself, I started thinking about how I would train for Vineman 2011.

Thanks to all the well-wishers and all the people that cheered for me on the course. You did provide a great boost to my spirits. Next time, you’ll see me crossing the finish line!

Stay tuned. I’m currently in a new training program. I will give you more details as I try it out!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Tri For Fun

I did my first triathlon in 3 years on Saturday August 15, 2009 in Pleasanton, CA. I finished the Tri For Fun in 1:16:59! I was hoping for a fast finish, but when I thought about it, this is pretty good considering that I haven't practiced that much. The only time that I predicted correctly was the swim. I can't complain considering that I just came off of a knee injury.

  • 0:08:26 swim- 400 yd (~2 min/100 yd)

  • 0:03:04 (T1)

  • 0:32:27 bike- ll mi (just under 22 mph)

  • 0:01:13 (T2)

  • 0:31:49 run-5 km (~10 min./mi)

Now which IronMan will I do next year?