Saturday, September 15, 2018

Quicksilver Challenge Kids Race 2018!

We have had racer in the Quicksilver Challenge Kids race ever since Hayley was six years old.  Now we have four in the race.  Hayley is about to age out: turning 13 before next years race, she will have to become a spectator or graduate up to the 10k.  The race is a one mile out and back course on a rolling fire road.  The kids are always excited about this race because they usually get some pretty nice goodies at the end.  I like it because it is free.

Seth beat Hayley last year - which I think she took pretty hard, getting beat by her then six year old brother.  This being her last year, she decided she was going to go all out and take back the crown as the fastest Johnson kid miler.  

Small turnout this year.  But it is a fierce group of competitors!

And they're off:

Don't know this kids name, but by the looks of it he might be one of the well trained quicksilver cross country boys.  The kids all agreed - he was fast.  He had a pretty comfortable margin for the win.

Seth charged up the last hill to the finish like a little dude on a mission.  Apparently he ran with Hayley for most of the race and then decided to drop her like a bad habit and flew to the finish line for second place.

Hayley ran a well paced third place.  She seems resigned that Seth might officially be faster than her - but I have yet to remind her that if she so chooses - that she has many years of actual distance training ahead of her and the potential to transform her as a runner.

This little girl ran with beautiful form and took it out hard with Seth on the opening downhill.  Well done.

Blake chugged up the hill with a determined pump.  He was ready for a donut!

Ada ended up getting into a little bit of a sprint at the end, dueling another determined gal for a finish. 

Notice Ada relaxing HARD in the background.  They earned their goodies!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Pacing Sachin at the 2018 Headlands Hundred

A few weeks ago I was honored when my buddy Sachin asked me to pace him at the Headlands Hundred.  Here I will write down my account of what transpired.

Headlands was not Sachin's first choice of the hundred mile mountain race that he wanted to prepare for this year.  He is a goal oriented dude that when he sets his mind to something he is very meticulous and focused in every step of the process.  He was originally training to complete a race called the Fatdog 120, a 120 mile race in a real alpine environment in Canada.  That race got canceled at the last minute because of forest fires.  He had already done all of the training, spent all of the money (including investing in an altitude tent to help him acclimate to the elevation), so the cancellation understandably came as a blow.  He decided that all of that investment shouldn't be wasted though and decided to find a replacement race.  Headlands fit the bill with it being a local hilly race with pretty straight forward logistics.  The race would not however test his mettle with respect to technical mountain trails at elevation - but his fitness and mental resolve would still be put on the line. 

I got to sleep in, make coffee, read my book, generally just chill out, and then drive up across the Golden Gate bridge to hang out on a beautiful sunny day at the beach before expecting Sachin somewhere after 4 p.m. at the 50 mile mark of the race. 
Sachin - all smiles and high fives at the 50 mile mark.

Sachin was somehow able to convince his girlfriend Kate to drop him off at the race, drive around the headlands for 20 hours following him around and catering to his every need at every aid station (mixing drinks, wardrobe changes, gear exchanges, etc), driving around his stinky pacers, and then drove him home.  Something tells me he owes her one or a lot. 

In stark contrast to last years race, there was hardly a cloud in the sky and the runners were fully exposed to the sun pretty much the whole day.  That took its toll on the runners!  Sachin was however able to take pretty good care of himself, and ran some really well paced loops, never burning himself up.  This discipline really helped him cash in once the temperatures started dropping.

The best thing about this years weather was the fact that the views were amazing.

Sachin came into the 50 mile aid station in fifth place.  He ran the first lap in 4:45 and the second in just over 5 hours, staying steady.  The leader of the race at the time, John Burton (who I've paced at a couple of races now) decided to withdraw.  Then Sachin started to methodically catch the other racers in front of him because they were starting to slow down, while Sachin was holding steady at his 5 hr per lap pace.  I should note that most every runner in ultra-running, especially at the longer distances (100k, 100 mile, etc) slow down as the race progresses - something that is known as a "positive split".  It is so hard to fend off muscle and brain fatigue when you are talking about those kinds of distances.  Sachin was somehow able to keep things even. 

This was the moment that Sachin was about to take the lead of the race from Mike (guy I don't know) at about mile 62.  After we put some distance on Mike, Sachin was explaining to me that this leading a race thing was pretty stressful.  He did not like the idea of having to worry about everyone chasing him for 40 miles!

After Sachin took the lead we headed down into the Tennessee Valley aid station (kind of the main hub of aid stations where the race passes through multiple times).  Many of the volunteers were super excited about helping out the new race leader.  The funny thing was that many of the volunteers remembered me from last year (I take pride in thanking the volunteers and joking around and trying to have fun).  As we were leaving the aid station they were all cheering for me doing an awesome pacing job.  As we headed up the next hill, I was joking with Sachin about how I was getting more love than he was... 

From the moment Sachin took the lead it was basically my job to try and get him to relax a little because this leading a race thing seemed to be rattling him a little bit.  He kept second guessing his pacing, nutrition, etc.  I told him to just keep doing what he was doing.  That was all he had to do.

There are a lot of out and backs on this course where you are able to get an idea of where your competitors are at with respect to you, so you can tell how much you might be able to relax or push depending on what you are trying to accomplish.  The tricky thing is that there are several different races going on at the same time and sometimes it is hard to keep track of who is running what race and who your competitors are.  Especially in the dark.  Sachin was relying on me to give him information on where everyone was - but I was doing a piss poor job.  I guess I wasn't super excited about that part of my job because in my mind it just didn't matter where the other guys were at.  There would be nothing good that would come of Sachin getting this information.  Either the guys are catching him - in which case he might try to speed up and burn himself up just trying to keep the lead, or Sachin was creating a larger gap - in which case maybe he could relax a little and make sure to take care of himself and just finish the race.  Personally I like the idea of keeping him a little bit on edge so he would stay in the zone.  That zone was paying off handsomely for him.  He was entirely focused.  He was in and out of aid stations without wasting any time.  He peed while hiking.  He was relentless.  He thought about every way that he could save time and be efficient.

As we crested the hill at about mile 78, he was totally convinced that the headlight that he saw behind us was someone that was about to catch him.  I said yeah, maybe - doesn't matter, just keep doing what you're doing.  He then proceeded to drop some insane downhill miles down to the golden gate bridge.  I was barely keeping up with him.  As we got to the aid station at the bottom (with me huffing and puffing), I turned to Kate and Sachin's buddy Matt who was able to help out with crewing duties last minute and I told him that if Sachin throws down another downhill like he just did that I was tapping out and Matt would have to take over.  He said he was ready to go.

Sachin and I started heading back up the hill and since this was an out and back section we had a chance to really scope out second place.  It took us a while before we ran into someone that we thought might be in his race.  I estimated maybe a 20 to 30 minute lead.  Sachin was worried.  I decided to do the math for him to try to relieve him of some of this crazy paranoia he was going through.  Basically the chaser would have to average over a minute per mile faster pace than Sachin to catch him.  When we crested the next hill, Sachin decided to drop some seven minute miles down to the next aid station - I couldn't believe it.  Your quadriceps just shouldn't be working that well at mile 87 of a hundred mile mountain race!  When we rolled into the aid station I tagged Matt in to get Sachin to the finish line - I was toast.

I caught a ride with Kate to the rest of the aid stations to track his progress and then watch him and Matt roll into the finish line for the win in a time of 19 hours and 56 minutes - the eighth fastest time in race history.  Before the race Sachin had communicated an "A" goal of sub 22 hours and a B goal of sub 24.  I'm not sure if he really believed he was capable of achieving what he was able to set out and do, but it was one of the coolest things to get a front row seat to:  To witness someone totally nail their race and in the process blow everyone's expectations (maybe even including his own).  I'm just glad he allowed me to be a part of it!

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Backpacking w/ the boys in Santa Cruz Mtns. 2018

Time for a spur of the moment backpacking adventure with the boys:


The women folk accompanied us on our first mile to wish us farewell as we marched off into the wilderness.

Pretty soon it was just us and the trees...

Seth spotted a good plot to set up for the night, so they went ahead and started site prep and construction.

I gave them the option of rain fly or no.  At first they thought it was pretty obvious that they should have protection against the elements, but when I explained to them the pros and cons, they decided to try without...

We then retired to the "kitchen" as the boys designated the space within their grand plan.  Mountain House Chicken Teriyaki was a big hit for this age group!

During an after dinner walk we discovered a truly huge tree.  This thing was one of the biggest trees I've ever seen in these hills.  The boys named it "Big Aspidistra", or big A for short.  We then continued to name every worthy tree on down the alphabet: Big B, Big C, etc.  In fact, on this trip we came across so many large trees that we made it all the way through Z.

They slept better than I did.

Nice foggy vibe in the morning.

Down by slate creek someone had gone through the trouble of creating some wonderful trail art.  The boys and I had a great time discovering several of these gems in our exploration of the creek.

Trail art.  I gave it more thought since then and have decided that this is just a great idea to keep kids entertained in the forest.

Everyone's favorite slug.

Baby newt?  Who knows...  But Seth names him "little black spot", I think this might have been the highlight of the trip for Seth when he discovered this little guy under a rock...

Little snake.  We came across one that looked just like this one a half hour later, and the boys were convinced it was the same snake.

Blake likes Jerky.

And climbing.

And waterholes.

And rocks.

And waterfalls.
Video of waterhole.

Video of little snake.

Not clean.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

San Francisco One Day 2018 Report

I like the idea that one can accumulate a "life resume".  I guess what I mean by life resume is a list of highlights throughout your life that have made a significant impact in the happiness or growth of a person.  I believe that a lot of the stuff that I write down in this blog might be part of that resume and it is important to try and capture at least a fraction of the memory of what went on for personal reflection reasons, and maybe even for other eyes that might get something from it.

I am attempting to make a conscious decision to stop looking at these endeavors as successes or failures because I am coming to the conclusion that the ultimate outcome is growth as a person.  In those terms, every time I gear up for a big adventure, whether it be an ultra marathon, or a big backpacking trip (within the context of this blog), it always results in a success.  In terms of a tangible outcome of the 2018 San Francisco One Day, I was not successful.  I ran 77 miles around a one mile loop course by the bay.  I quit with about eight hours still left on the clock because the cost/reward equation just wasn't working out for me.  I had an "A" goal of running 109 miles to get a mileage PR, and a "B" goal of at least running 100 miles and contributing to Quicksilver team points. At 77 miles severe chafing started to take it's toll on me and I was doing the mental math and decided it wasn't worth it anymore.

When I analyze what went wrong I would summarize it like this:

1) While the 6 p.m. start was novel and allowed for running through the night with fresh legs, it seemed that I for whatever reason was unable to manage moisture accumulation.

2) Body glide failed me for the first time.  I applied the lubricant periodically, taking time every once in a while to completely towel down and start over again.  I even changed my shirt because I started to suspect that moisture was soaking from my shirt into my shorts as well.  While I think all this helped, it was just prolonging the inevitable.

3) I ran a good pace.  I finished 62 miles by hour 12 (6 a.m. in the morning), and thought my goals were totally within reach.  All I had to do was average four miles per hour for the rest of the race.

4)  The sun did some damage.  I completely changed into dry clothes once the sun came up, hoping that might get me through the next 12 hours.  The problem was that it was getting warm fast, and heat was aggravating my chafing even more.

5) The sleep deprivation started getting to me.  It's not that I wanted to stop and take a nap or had a hard time keeping moving - it was more that I started getting a little grumpy with the sheer mass of young beautiful San Franciscans getting out there for their morning jogs in their yoga pants and smiles and bouncy strides.  I was constantly having to dodge and navigate the crowd with very little patience still left in my head.

These were the things that went wrong for me.  But it's all good!  It was actually a beautiful experience.  Running through the night with fresh head and bouncy legs was wonderful. There was a nearly full moon above the San Francisco skyline keeping us company.  It was bright enough to cast shadows on the course - which was interesting.  Every-time I ran along the bay said of the lagoon I heard the waves from the bay lapping up on the beach.  It was a peaceful and eery feeling cruising through that night.  It was also wonderful to get rid of all of the tourists once it got really late and all that was left was us crazies banging out the miles.  A new innovation for this race was that you got to change directions around the loop at will, so we were constantly greeting each other and joking and high fiving and stuff.  It was also funny to get the random San Francisco night owl weirdo person coming by on their bike, electric scooter, whatever with neon lights and strange music blasting - like that was the best way they could figure out how to spend their Friday night/Saturday morning.

This was a well run race with wonderful volunteers and a fantastic aid station and lots of friends.  I will probably be back some day...

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Some musings

On my long run today I was thinking about ducks.  You see, when I was a grade-schooler I used to walk along a stretch of canal on the way to school.  There always seemed to be ducks there.  To stave off the boredom of the walk I would tell my two younger sisters stories about a duck kingdom.  These were stories about heroes and villains, doing the right things and the wrong things, stories with adventure.  It seemed so easy back then to tap into the mystery and pull a story together, no matter what a silly thing it was about impossible scenarios and magic.  When you are a kid just about everything has some degree of wonder and awe.  You see things for the first time - your brain hasn't yet formed all of the patterns and grooves that take away possibilities.  I remember constructing these stories almost effortlessly while on our walk just by watching ducks and tapping into something that I didn't understand.  Where is it that our stories come from?

I did see ducks on my run.  But I think what really brought the nostalgic memories to the front was the set and setting of my trip today.  As I was ascending the hills of the peninsula that separate our house from the ocean I was climbing up through the clouds.  It was an foggy, cool day and I was in cruise mode.  Just motoring with no hurry to be anywhere, letting the mind wander and soaking in with gratitude the privilege of having nothing more important to get done but wander my paths.  The foggy days in the forest are some of my favorite.  Even though I know every root and bump in the trails, every turn, tree, bridge, the fog seems to spice things up a bit because the normal patterns are obstructed.  My mind needs to recalculate to remember what is coming next because I'm working off a constricted set of information.  It also blurs the normal sight lines, so you are a little bit more locked in - paying attention to your surroundings because it seems like anything can happen.  A new tree fall across the path, surprise animal encounter, other hikers, etc.  The fog makes things a little more mysterious.  And that was when I spotted the ducks hanging out on the pond.  I wondered why it was this set of circumstances that recalled my childhood memories.

I think the fog reminds me that there are possibilities.  Almost endless possibilities, and this in turn allows me to remember when I was a child and most things still had mystery.   I thought about how the mystery was lost.  Do we trade something in when we decide to take our slot in the adult world that we have prescribed for each-other?  So you go to school, learn some smart peoples explanations for the whys and whats of this world.  Slowly chop away at the mystery.  Abstract complicated, not quite understood, observations out to study-able chunks and theorize away.  Write down the rules so that the mystery is completely gone.  Get a job, get married, buy stuff, pop out some babies, buy more stuff.  Parents happy, guidance councilor happy, corporations ecstatic!

The germans have this word Gem├╝tlichkeit.  It is a complicated word to translate.  What it means to me is it describes a feeling or way of being that is warm, peaceful and comfortable.  When I was cruising along the mountain footpaths in the fog observing the ducks and being transported back in time, I was flowing in gemutlichkeit.  The mere contemplation of a time when life supplied awe and wonder in a seemingly endless stream seems to warm my soul.  So what's the point?  There is no point.  Just chill out and "hang loose".  Life is beautiful.

Ramble over.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

High Sierra Backpacking: Sachin's Loop

Back to back in the high sierra (thanks Joanne!).  It has been a great past two weekends where I got to explore all kinds of new incredible territory.  This past weekend Sachin and I backpacked 54 miles with over 11000 ft of climbing taking two days.  Sachin proposed a big loop starting at Lodgepole campground in southern Kings Canyon.  I had never been there before and was excited to check out some new terrain.

Sachin's loop.  54 miles with over 11000 ft of climbing.  Red is day 1 (33 miles,  6824 ft climbing), Blue is day 2 (21.4 miles, 4508 ft of climbing). Start/Stop is Lodgepole campground in Kings Canyon.

We started the hike in the dark, climbing through the forrest.  As we came around one of the corners we spotted a couple set of eyes shining back at us.  A couple of bear cubs were traveling the trail ahead of us.  We assumed the mother was with them, but never got a good look.  We kept making noise, attempting to get them out of the way, but it probably took 10 to 15 minutes of us chasing the bears up the hill before they decided to crash downhill through the forrest.

We were in wilderness territory, outside of the bounds of Kings Canyon National Park, and came across a hunter who was questioning us about the trail that we had just descended.  Here we see a "snow surveyors shelter".  I guess when things get crazy in the winter, the surveyor can seek some safety here.

Much of the first half of the loop was through the forrest without extensive views of alpine granite terrain.  We did get pretty high and were able to see some fun stuff in the distance.

Our trail skirted Sugarloaf peak.  It was a very prominant chunk of rock. 

We saw plenty of this.

As we start to climb up Deadman's Canyon, we start to see some serious rock.

Sachin was loving the Aspen.

Following trail climbing up this creek reminded me a lot of a canyon climb on the IMTUF course in Idaho.

Notice the smooth U carved out by glaciers a long time ago.

The Canyon just kept going and going and getting better as we went.

Here is a Video of of the stream falling down the rocks:

As the sun started to set we were scouting out a nice place to camp that set us up to tackle the pass in the morning.

We reckoned this would be the perfect spot.  Some nice soft, flat sand, protected by rocks with the soft sound of the waterfall in the distance.

It got pretty cold, but it was actually a comfortable night of sleep, all things considered.

Now starting to climb from the floor of the valley in the morning.

Up and over the top of Elizabeth Pass.

Video of one of our breaks on the High Sierra Trail:

Some really weird looking rock in the distance.

This section of the High Sierra Trail contoured a very steep mountain side with some spectacular views off to the left.

Great trip!  After we cleaned up a little we actually went right next door to inspect the General Sherman,  a giant Sequoia.  It has the distinction of being the largest tree in the world.  Which means I have now seen the big three:  Grizzly giant in Yosemite, General Grant in KC NP and Sherman in Sequoia NP.