Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Ruth Anderson 50 mile race report 2016 and Pinnacles Family Hike

I thought I would bounce back quickly from the 4 mph challenge.  As far as I knew I got out of there without any injuries or serious damage and thought I could hop right back onto the training wagon and ride it all the way through a spring of racing and culminating in my next 100 mile attempt at Bryce Canyon on June 18th.  A few days after the challenge I went out for a little test run and my whole left leg felt like it was going to fall off.  My ankle hurt, my knee hurt, and my hip hurt.  I was like, uh-oh.  I slowly worked my way out of the funk with various running strategies that seemed to hurt less, and even got myself to the point where I thought I might be able to hop into the Ruth Anderson 100k (one month post 108 miles at 4 mph challenge).  I sent out an annoying promotional email to the Quicksilver racing team trying to drum up some more runners so that we could put some teams together and make Ruth some fun.  With that impulsive move I pretty much locked myself into attempting to run 100 km on flat asphalt - basically exactly what my body was complaining about at the time.

In the lead-up to the race I was dealing with an ominous sense of foreboding.  This seemed like one of the dumbest decisions in my running.  But ultra marathoners don't have a good track record of dealing intelligently with FOMO (fear-of-missing-out).

I don't actually have a ton to write about how the race went for me except to say that thankfully I seem to have come out of the other side no more worse for the wear.  Thank goodness.  I ran conservative.  It got hot.  I got tired.  I decided to call it a day at 50 miles (a insidious option at this race).  Quicksilver didn't score one team in any distance.  But it was another great day to be alive and be able to put one foot in front of the other.  Share the pain with the other weirdos out there and hang out afterwards with the friends and awesome community of bay area ultra-runners.  I ran 8 hours and 5 minutes.  Considering I have run trail 50 milers way faster than this - it gives an idea of what kind of day it was.  Am I disappointed?  No way!  These last couple of weeks I feel like my legs, body, and soul have finally bounced back from the 100 miler.  Seems like it takes me about a month to rebound from the hole I put myself into during one of those big efforts.

Pinnacles Hiking Trip w/ the Fam

Here are some pics from our trip we just took to Pinnacles National Park:

Getting a preview of the awesome hills we are about to tackle.

Quite the variety of foliage. 

I swear I didn't know that shorcutting could result in a $5000 fine and or imprisonment.  I didn't see the sign for that until practically the top of the hill.  Seems kinda harsh.  But then again, I can imagine if everyone in California did all of the shortcuts, this place would be a mess, so it makes sense.  But rock scrambling makes the climb somewhat bearable for the little ones!

Blake says: This new Pinnacles is CRAZY!

The kids are practically pros at posing for mommy now.

On the north wilderness trail.  I split off from the fam for a little 7 mile jaunt while they scrambled through Balconies Cave.  I met them on the other side.  The trail was really fun.  A bit brushy in spots, and unnecessarily curvy with a bunch of creek hopping.  There was some sweet ridgetop running in the middle with full views of the rock formations.  

Views of the rocks from the North Wilderness Trail.

Sweet Valley descent at the west end of the North Wilderness Trail.

I got some footage of Seth bombing a rocky downhill.  I wanted to compare it with his run from three years ago at Memorial Park.  He is really impressive for a little guy.  5 years old now.  Now he is going so fast though that it is hard to get footage that isn't too bouncy.  See if you can watch it without throwing up!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

4 mph challenge 2016 race report

This is a recap of the fourth annual Hunger Games!  Each district was required to submit a runner for the grueling competition where the everyone is eventually eliminated except for the "victor", who gets to take home the miniature plastic likeness of a runner clad in shiny yellow.  The unlucky "tributes" were reaped from their home district because of various sins such as being a lazy slob all winter long, signing up for a race that they are no-where near in shape enough for, or because the sixty dollar price point for an event with nearly unlimited low price per mile was too good to pass up.  The tributes are required to run six miles of trail, rocks, hills and road within 90 minutes or else they were eliminated and returned to their districts in complete disgrace.  If the six miles were covered within in the allotted time, the runner is required to complete yet another six miles.  Over and over again - until only one person is able to complete the task.  This year the "game maker", Mark Swanson, chose a six mile stretch of trail along Whiskeytown Lake near Redding, CA for the arena.

The tributes for this years Hunger Games were assessed by the potential "sponsors" (aid station volunteers in charge of handing out indispensable sustenance to the runners) to see who would merit their favor in times of need:

David Petersen.  This man had previously ran 56 miles during the second Hunger Games where the game makers decided to make the participants trudge neverendingly through calf high water.  The crowd loved that spectacle. At 36 years of age and 56 miles as his longest distance traveled, David was considered a long shot for sure...(no chance at all)  (photo credit: Ted Goldsmith)

Davy Crockett.  The man, the legend.  76 100 mile finishes to his name.  57  years of age and only getting tougher and uglier every year.  Representing the monogamously challenged district of Utah, he was expected to deliver.  And deliver he did.

Jeremy Johnson. Representing the rich district of bay area, he was a crowd favorite for his chiseled physique and devilishly good looks hidden behind a seriously manly beard.  He enjoys leisurely walks in the forest and Indian food.  He really likes Indian food.  (photo credit: Ted Goldsmith)

Joe Palubeski.  A formerly "sponsored" athlete, he was a rare breed at this event for sure.  Being of superior pedigree this should have been an easy win for him.  The crowd enjoyed his shrewd tactics, such as feeding fellow competitor Jeremy Johnson some three year old "sunsweet" prunes at mile 30.

Scott Martin.  Representing some podunk,  hillbilly district up north (no-one really cares).  He has a decidedly surfer dude vibe for a sport laden with engineers and professionals.  Always seems to be proclaiming about some astronomical goal, but only delivering half way.  Except he did complete the Euchre Bar Massacre - an even more humbling Hunger Games style of competition.  This made him a wildcard...

There was also 90 mile Tim.  Tim McLean.  I'm not going to write too much about Tim here because I can't find a single picture of him.  It's as if his continual collapse at this competition has led him to erase any traces of his existence on the internet, so as not to remind himself of his inadequacy.

Start of the 4th annual Hunger Games

Panem was practically delirious with anticipation as the runners trotted off the start-line at a startingly brisk pace of 4 mile per hour ish.  Bouts of running were interrupted with bouts of walking, etc.  And so on and so on.  Scott Martin was heard mumbling something about The Hobbit: There and Back again.  Except that this was like: there and back, there and back, there.... and back, there and back, etc again.  He also consulted with Jeremy Johnson about discovering ten vultures that were eyeing him.  Jeremy told Scott this was not good.  Not good at all.

At some point around mile 20ish, Joe Palubeski sprung his first plan of taking down one of the race favorites - Jeremy Johnson.  He described how on one of his bathroom breaks he stepped off of the trail and discovered some interesting archaeological finding.  Being a high school history teacher, Joe fancied himself as someone who stored all of the accumulated knowledge of the local artifacts.  This newest of his findings though, when presented to Jeremy, seemed to have an eery, sinister vibe to it, perhaps some sort of Gallic shrine of evil.  Jeremy stayed away from this place.  Joe also told Jeremy about a ghost town drowned under the lake.  Joe seemed to be pulling out all of the stops in an attempt to rattle the potential champion...

Camden House aid station

Antsy tributes, ready for the slaughter.

The creek crossing.  Caused much angst amongst those runners who hadn't experience what the game makers threw at runners in the 2014 edition.

Road. Yuck.

Shasta Bally.  You know who has the CR for that, right?  Right?

The crowd was cheering for Davy Crockett.  He ran hard from the word go, each time gapping the rest of the field early on each six mile lap.  His intimidation tactics lost their edge later in the game though, as the other runners would eventually catch him on the trails.  He began to deploy other tactics such as showing off his beautiful singing voice while trying to imitate Miley Cyrus, or whoever was playing on his iPod.

It was a beautiful day for running, but then, as usually happens at these things, the sun goes down, the 36 mile runners go home.  And all you are left with is 12 crazy people turning on their flashlights and heading into the night.  Just a few hours later and it was down to 7 men on the course.  Things were thinning out fast.  Finally Joe Palubeski, for all of his potential and energies put into the various shenanigans, realized that this was not his day to put it on the line and he called it a day at mile 60.  Scott Martin eventually succumbed to the bad portents and his old man hip issues forced him to call it at mile 60 as well - exactly half of the 120 miles and course record that he had planned on.  After this, Panem could finally concentrate on who the real men were:  Davy Crockett, David Petersen, 90 mile Tim, and of course, Jeremy Johnson.

The rest of the night was, well, dark.  There was more there and back again.  More aid from those friendly sponsors, ramen noodle soup, quesadillas, grilled cheese, etc.  The game maker did throw a curve-ball and offered chocolate milk at Oak Bottom campground.  Jeremy was the only runner who partook.  In fact, Mark had purchased a half gallon of the stuff, and Jeremy drank most of it.  At some point (mile 76), 90 mile Tim finally admitted that something else had gone wrong for him,  He had lost a toe nail or two, and foot blisters were making his night a living hell.  He was done.  That left three tortured souls out there on the course with the pride of their entire districts hanging on the line.

There and back again.  When interviewed after the race, Jeremy Johnson had this to say about these miles:

"I was on autopilot for most of the night.  A mini can of coke at every aid station was keeping me going.  David was killing me on several laps during this time.  My confidence was shaken and as we left Camden House aid station at mile 90, thoughts of quitting crept into my head.  96 miles started to sound like a pretty good day for me.  It would represent the 24 hour mark in this event, and I knew the sun would be coming up to greet me for my penultimate lap.  As I ran through the early morning darkness though, I came up on and passed Mr. Crockett, and then at the bottom of the hill around the two mile mark of the six mile stretch, passed yound David (I call him young because he seemed like a youthful soul to me, maybe in his twenties.  Turned out he was a year older than me.  Whatever).  David had to take a pit-stop near the Gallic shrine.  At this point I made it up in my head to go for it.  I thought, if this is going to be my last lap, might as well give what I got.  I accelerated down the road until I reached the lakeside trail.  Knowing the topography and how the curvy ins-and-outs of the trail along the lake allowed for following runners to track the flashlight of the runner in front of them, I decided to turn my light off in an attempt to throw young David off of my tracks and not give him anything to aim for.

As the sun rose and gave me just enough illumination to see the rocks in front of me, I picked up my pace even more.  Suddenly it seemed like I was flying.  Just out for my usual morning run, cruising on some beautiful lakeside trail.  I finished the lap strong and then waited for several minutes until young David shows up at Oak Bottom.  As he crosses the line he immediately exclaims that the next lap will be his last!  He wanted 102 miles so that he could officially cross the century mark and that was it for him.  I asked him if he really just made that proclamation.  Jokingly he returned with, well, maybe I just said that, lol.  I don't know if my surge had anything to do with his decision making process or not, but suddenly things just got interesting.  As we waited for Davy, I told Mark about my observations of Mr.Crockett.  I thought he was playing the part of the the losing boxer in the championship fight.  He was bruised and battered, bleeding from everywhere, hanging on to the ropes while the champion swung away at him.  Soon the champion would tire himself out and just collapse on the mat while Davy claimed the victory.  You see, at some point Davy put away his ipod and was only able to channel his pain through various grunts and vocal cues that, frankly, scared the daylights out of the rest of us.  He was the vision of toughness.  The man that would not give up the fight, nomatter what.  I was just sure that this guy would never quit.  As Davy crossed the line with about 5 minutes to spare, Mark breached the subject that one more lap would be 100 mile finish number 77 for him.  Like usual he responded with a not to friendly grunt.  He was in beast mode.

Anyways, we ran the next lap in the early morning light, which was nice.  I finished a strong lap.  Young David finished his lap and was immediately relieved to finally be done with the thing.  Then came Davy across the line.  I saw the first smile from him all day long, and he exclaimed: number 77...

I took my aid and then headed back to Oak Bottom for the final lap, knowing that that was it.  Thank-goodness."

So that concludes the coverage of the 4th annual Hunger Games.  Deep End(my kids always thought that was what I said when reading their stories to them)

Notes on the race:

- drank 20 oz of water per lap - about 2.81 gallons
- ate a whole bag of Cheetos (the big bag)
- ate half a bag of dark chocolate
- 5 oranges
- 15 bacon strips
- some old prunes
- a large amount of quesadillas, ramen soup, chicken soup, and grilled cheese sandwiches.
- almost half a gallon of chocolate milk

One pair of old Nike Tierra Kiger trail shoes did the trick.

Two shirts:  Quicksilver racing jersey and then under-armor shirt

One pair of Injinjis.

One pair of brooks shorts.

The hot shower at the end rocked!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Henry Coe Backpacking w/family 2016

Well, I saw that valentines day was coming up and figured I would propose the most romantic idea that I could:  take the family backpacking!  I mean, usually I am a romantic date for valentines day.  I'm not really a flower giver, and I am not really good at presents in general, but I have been known to give a nice new shiny kitchen implement.  If you knew my wife, you would know I did it right.  Anyways, where we were going had all the right ingredients for a romantic date:  beautiful flowers, pretty sunset, pretty sunrise, husband cooking a delicious dinner, picturesque peaceful landscape, etc. So what could go wrong?

Well, when I went into the office at the Henry Coe State Park headquarters to obtain our wilderness permits, the ranger replied:  "Are you sure?  There are many adults that wouldn't attempt that hike..."  And with that we were off.

Ready to rock some Henry Coe trails!

This trip literally used up all of my accumulated backpacking equipment, plus the normal camping equipment needed for six people, lol.  We didn't load up the kids too much.  The girls got daypacks with their clothes, trail snacks and sleeping bag, the boys got hydration packs(they shared their water with the girls), snacks, and clothes(the hydration packs are girl packs, which I am sure neither boy was extremely excited about, but they bore their loads well).  The rest was shared by mommy and daddy.

Ada(7 yr old with blue hat) had seen me dunk my bandana in creeks before, so she decided to be like daddy so she could stay cool in the afternoon heat.

Seth(5 yr old with a penchant for taking risks) found what he deemed to be a sufficiently awesome trail artifact.

Some of my girls...

Lunch time at Manzanita Point before we drop down to the creek.  Jerky and Cheetos of course...

Seth, pushing his limits early.

We dubbed Joanne's backpack the "jetpack"

My poor 35 liter fastpacking pack was stretched to it's limits with probably 40 liters of gear and another 20 liters hanging off the outside.  Probably stressed that sucker pretty good, but it keeps truckin'.  There is some serious history with this pack now.

China hole.  This place is pretty awesome.  Great place to mess around in the creek.

Joanne just soaking it in.

I have no idea what is going on here, but this picture is just one of those special ones where you capture a moment in time and it just seems cool.

Seth was not content with just playing in the water.

We hiked the "Narrows" which is a windy, rocky, technical trail that follows the creek.  The kids had the most fun with this trail!  I actually made a navigational error(which is hilarious considering how many miles I have covered at this place) and we added an extra 1.2 miles of this type of trail to our hike on day one.  The kids didn't seem to mind.

A few of these along the way.

Los Cruzeros is a beautiful camp location next to a creek in an open valley.  Setting up camp was quite a bit more enjoyable than tearing it down.  Let me explain the setup:  I had the boys in 30 degree bags in the two person super light tent.  I had the girls in 20 degree bags under my tarp.  And my wife and I used my two 25 degree bags with bivy sacks and we tried to steal some of the tarp to keep the dew off of our faces.  Bear in mind I really thought it wasn't going to get any colder than like 40 degrees, and that would only happen in the morning right before the sun came up...

Happy right now.  Let's see in a few hours...

This is three days of backpacking food for six people...

They actually all genuinely liked the "Mexican style chicken and rice" (see I am a good cook.  very romantic)  Only Hayley(9 yr old girl in pink) was into my "Beef Pho", so that is what I ate...
That night was interesting.  First warning sign was that our stuff was already wet when we crawled into our sleeping backs.  The inside of the tarp was wet.  And then I realized my strategic error of campsite selection.  Being next to the creek in a valley puts moisture on everything!  Only the boys in the double walled tent escaped the situation.  Next issue:  The girls couldn't handle the croaks of the frogs.  The sound was driving them crazy.  And some noisy neighbors(without kids of course, because who would be crazy enough to take a bunch of little kids backpacking?)  Then the cold came.  My wife has a superpower: she can sleep on her good ear and no amount of noise will bother her (she had meningitis when she was one year old and lost all hearing in her right ear)  - so she was out quick(I didn't know that she was nursing a headache that was only getting worse).  When it started getting cold the girls started voicing their grievances.  Of course this was mostly directed towards me because they know mommy when she goes to sleep...  About those "20 degree" ratings:  I assume they mean you could sleep (however uncomfortably) in 20 degree weather if you used the bag correctly.  And if the bag was dry...  moisture inhibits the insulation capabilities.  Try explaining to a seven year old that she has to sleep on her back and put her head in the mummy compartment and cinch the breathing opening around their mouth, etc to trap heat!  There is no way.  So by 10 p.m. it was definitely not working.  I was empathizing big time and knew that they were in agony, especially Ada.  I went with the first solution I could think of.  I invited my 7 yr old into my mummy bag with me(to hypothetically share body heat - if we could actually fit...)  Well, it took some major contorting that included me putting one arm above my head to reduce the width of my shoulders and basically wrapping around her.  It was a tight fit that stretched my bag (more on this later), but she was immediately 100% better and promptly fell asleep in my involuntary embrace.  I instructed Hayley how to use the mummy bag correctly (she was not a fan and abandoned the instructions promptly, leading to a nighttime of moaning and complaining - which I took in full force because in inviting Ada into my bag I pretty much committed to no sleep that night), and then I told her to put Ada's bag on top of hers to act like a blanket.  This worked at first and then she tossed in her sleep and Ada's bag was off and she was complaining again.  Ada and I engaged in a dance that we called "changing sides", because in my body contortion one side of my body would get fatigued, go numb, and then start hurting, so I would request a side change and we would wiggle for several minutes while attempting to stay on the sleeping pad and achieve the new position.  It was not idea, but it was doable.  Then I started to get cold.  Ada had it nice: she basically had a 200 lb heat generating meat blanked surrounding her.  I had a stretched feather bag that had now lost it's insulating capability.  The insulation comes from the air barrier created by the feathers in the bag separating the air of outside and inside.  Well, imagine what happens when the feathers are squished together?  So I was shaking and Ada would ask: Are you cold daddy?  and I would answer: "I'm ok".  It is ok.  Shivering is just the bodies response to core temperature dropping below nominal.  Shivering means muscle contraction, which means using energy, which means internally generating heat.  You just can't really sleep when you are shivering, or at least I can't.  But in this situation it didn't really change anything.  Just a little bit uncomfortable - been there, done that.  Oh yeah, and the boys slept like rocks.  They were the only ones.

I was thankful for the sunrise.  I got up first and started away on the herculean task of packing up all of that stuff and trying to fit it back into our packs, all the while trying to manage the comfort of my family:  Keeping a couple of kids in the adult bags while I packed up their stuff, etc.  It was a dance of sorts, a very logistically challenging dance.  Also, there was frost on our stuff, so yeah, it got cold.  Joanne was a trooper that night, and endured a big headache that abated by some time in the middle of the night, right when she started getting cold and thinking about how to communicate her will to abandon day two of wilderness sleeping (we planned a 3 day trip).  When she woke up in the morning and found out about our fun night she was relieved and knew that we were locked into hiking back to the car that day.  Don't get me wrong, I think she felt sorry for us, but relief was definitely foremost in her mind, lol.  So I plotted the quickest way back to the van.

Seth: sporting his mothers jacked to stay warm for the morning hike.

I am sure Blake (3 yr old with orange hat) was telling me about all of the fun he was having...  He was, in general, a pretty good trooper.  I mean, what should you expect from a 3 year old kid?  He slowed us down a lot though and it took all of our tricks to keep him going.  Candy, contests, stories, uphill towing - everything was on the table.

Hayley: being goofy with 2 miles to go.

We covered 10 miles on day one (didn't plan such a big day, but it actually turned out pretty good).  7 miles to get back to the car on day two.  I thought the kids did great.  They were strong, hiking well with weight on their backs and getting it done.  Joanne is a tough woman.  She carried a big load and never complained about the situation.  And it was valentines day.  I am so lucky to have such a fun family that are willing to tackle adventures with me!  Next time I think we will be better prepared.  At least we had some good learning opportunities and much fun was had.