Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Saratoga FA with Rhus Ridge Start/Finish

L.S.D.  Long Slow Distance is a term that is used to identify a certain type of training run, which pretty much means a longish run that is done at a moderate pace(considerably slower than race pace).  It is supposed to have several training benefits like improved cardiovascular function, thermoregulatory function, mitochondrial energy production, oxidative capacity of skeletal muscle, and increased utilization of fat for fuel(got all of this from wikipedia).

I decided to get myself an extra helping of LSD on Memorial day.  The Saratoga FA is a really well designed loop 50k starting and ending at the Saratoga Gap.  It is really hilly, although I do not believe the 7800 ft of gain as advertised on the website is accurate.  It is no Ohlone.  But is is a fun challenging run with some of the most beautiful stretches of trail in the area, I am thinking specifically about the slate creek trail portion which in my opinion is almost magical.  A conservative pace for me for this 50k would be around six hours.  But I wanted a longer run to get a REAL LSD run as a buildup to TRT.  The website also shows a 50 mile option that starts and ends at the Rhus Ridge entrance to Rancho San Antonio.  This seemed like a good idea to me and thought that going up and down Black Mountain from Rhus Ridge would be another 2.5 hrs and that would me a solid 8.5 hr + training run, just what the doctor ordered.  And to add to the fun, a perfect running day was in the forecast, overcast and cool.

Unfortunately, or fortunately(depending on how you look at it), I failed to complete the equation with exactly how long this run would take me.  I was thinking a 50 mile training run maybe in the neighborhood of Cypress to the Sea, would take me max 10 hrs.  I chose to design a 50 miler that had as little overlap of trails as possible and did this by making a loop from Black Mountain to Skyline Open Space via Bella Vista, then travel along the Ridge trail until connecting up with the 50k course.  Then on the way back from the Gap, cross Table mountain and follow the Canyon trail up to Indian Creek and back up Black Mountain.  Long story short, it ended up turning into a tough 56.5 mile run that took me like 12 hrs.  But it was actually really fun.  One of those experiences that reminds you about what a great sport this is.

The run in pictures:

Looking down at the valley on the way up Black.

In the clouds on Black.

Christmas tree farm at Skyline Open Space.

Ridge Trail and co.

Views to the Ocean from the STTS.

Alls I can say is TGFTHG.  Thank God for the hotdog guy.  Hotdog smothered in sauerkraut, relish, and dijon and a mountain dew.  Heaven at 40 miles.

Remember this Toshi?

Table looking towards Black.

Cool Tree.

More cool tree.

Love this pic looking down into Steven's Creek valley from Black.

This view is always welcome to me.  It always tells me that I have only 4-8 miles left in my run and its all downhill.  I can see my office window from here, and I sit in my cubicle staring up at this spot on the trail when work is dragging.

So happy to see my little red truck!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Free Advice Friday: Sit and Stand Workplace

Sitting all day is bad for you!

Reasons why:

1) Minimal calorie burn

2) Places the muscles, tendons, ligaments, etc in a habitual state that the body adapts to.  The question is: Are you ok with your body being optimized to sit?

3) If you are optimized to sit, that means other movements suffer.

4) Even if you are a regular exerciser, there are plenty of studies that show the negative effects of sitting all day can not be offset.

5) Our ancestors were not habitual sitters, we are only beginning to understand how the new possibility of being able to sit all day hurts our health.

What to do:

1) Don't sit all day.

2) Take regular chances to get up, walk around, or even do something strenuous.

3) Look into sit/stand type of desk setups

4) Treadmill desk

Now I am going to plug my own incredible "Beat the Seat" program.  And it is yours for free!

Setup your workspace so that you have the option of working in a seated or standing position.  If you have done research into options for this, you might notice that they can be expensive.  I have a ghetto setup: I basically utilize various boxes and shelves in my cubicle, price is free!  The program is simple: Half an hour sitting alternating with half an hour standing with five pushups in-between transitions.  I have been doing it for a year and a half now and I notice a difference.  Try it!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Ohlone 50K 2013 Race Report

I have wanted to give the Ohlone 50k a try for a while now, but honestly, it intimidated me a little.  For one, it starts with a climb up Mission Peak(the big hill that we see on the other side of the bay from Sunnyvale).  I feel a lot more comfortable hiking this climb rather than "running" up it.  Oh, and the race only gets more crazy.  Second, this race is held towards the end of May, exactly when things start getting hot in the east bay hills.  So, what does the race have going for it?  A climb up mission peak for one.  And a climb up to Mt Rose for another.  And views forever.  And who doesn't like point to point races where you are actually running to somewhere?  So it was on.

I got a ride with Jean and his lovely wife Agnes to the start at Mission Peak.  There we hung out and mingled with the other runners.  This race is typically a favorite for our running club Quicksilver.  Last year I think we took 1-2-3 in the race.  It got close to the start so we all started to line up at the park gate.  Mission Peak has become an incredibly popular hike in recent years.  I remember when Joanne and I first moved here in 06 we could get a parking spot in the main parking lot.  That doesn't happen anymore, in fact, you have to drive a ways down the residential streets to get a spot.  With that being said, there were already plenty of people on the trail(and trying to push through a bunch of ultra runners to get to the trail).  I am sure they thought this was a silly idea to have a race there, especially when the guy said go and we start our "ultra" shuffle until the first steep section and 90% of us turn into hikers anyways.

I settled into an easy pace, joining that group of hiker/racers.  It was a beautiful morning, already starting to heat up, but it felt good at that time.  The plan was to hike hard on all of the stuff that I wouldn't be running much faster on anyways, to conserve energy.  Then bust it out on the downhills.  The downhills is where I did all my passing(like usual), but to my surprise, I very rarely lost a position when I decided to start hiking, maybe everyone else was doing the same thing except I was going downhill faster...

We got to the top of Mission peak(yay, 4 miles down, 27 to go).  This is when I got to have some of the most fun, hopping on the rocks and jumping around the timid hikers to put a gap on my pursuers.  The next section is a nice long downhill that was perfect for me.  I remember some runners being on my heels right before the summit and then as I cruised down the hill, I looked back, and there was no-one there!  I then caught up to the next group of racers near the Sunol, where we start to head back uphill to Mt Rose.  I kept pace with this group of runners through the climbs, perhaps putting a small gap on them whenever we hit a downhill, but then they might slowly claw back at me on the climbs.  After a while I finally lost those guys and then caught up to the next wave of racers.  I was not pushing the sections at all, and was having a lot of fun actually catching other racers while doing as much "walking" as I was.

I kept moving up through the field as we headed in on the Mt Rose Summit.  I got up there, received my wrist band to prove that I was at the summit, and then bombed down the other side.  I remembered Toshi's advice to me to not go all out until after Mt. Rose.  But I also remembered Marc telling me that it isn't downhill after Mt Rose, like you might conclude from looking at the elevation chart.  I didn't really change anything, just ran down fast, and did a lot of uphill hiking.  There was still plenty of steep climbing involved, but I felt sure I could keep up just "walking" the hills.  I kept closing in and passing some guys on the downhills, but it was around this time that I remember I started to get pretty tired-funny how that happens in these races.  At around 25 miles there is this steepish, semi-technical, windy single track that descends down to a creek.  I had been warned that this was a tough section because of the miles on your legs and the tricky footing.  But I loved this downhill,  I just blasted down it, catching a couple of guys that had blown by my at the last aid station while I was messing around with my hydration pack.  Turns out I might have used myself up on this flash of fun.

Then I saw what was awaiting me on the other side of the creek.  This steep uphill that went straight up.  I buckled down and just tried to hike the thing.  It was crazy, I was huffing and puffing, ready to pass out, just from walking!  I still had a decent gap on the guys I had passed on the downhill, but with every fleeting moment I was just imagining getting caught with the insanely slow progress I was making.  It was bad enough that I would stop and count to 15, not moving an inch, and then get in some more hiking.  I did get passed, by several people actually, at least one of whom I hadn't seen before, meaning he probably paced himself perfectly for this thing.  And then we hit the final down hill to the finish, which you would think I could just let it all out and catch everyone, but I was toast!  I did catch a couple of people, but it was painful.  It is a steep downhill fireroad to the finish, but I was totally out of glycogen by then, running of of fat energy.   When you are running totally off of fat, it hurts.  It hurts less when you can adjust your intensity down and not use "too much" energy, but in a steep downhill like that, you can either use your energy "breaking" so you aren't moving too fast, but you still have to exert yourself pretty well to accomplish that breaking.  Or you can let it loose, but that requires energy as well.  There was no way to keep from hurting this last section, so I just grinded it out.

I got to the bottom of the hill where it turns over to the finish area, and Joanne and the kids were right there to cheer me on.  It was a great boost to get me the last 100 yards to the finish line!  I crossed the finish line in good form, running fast, but man, I was spent!  Some people gave me some stuff, someone handed me a 4 x 4(the famous "big wood" trophies that this race gives out).  Turns out I got third in my age-group, so that was nice.  I think I ran 5:51 or 52, I could care less at the time.  I still don't know what place I got overall.

Coming down the homestretch.  Credit: Joanne Johnson
I laid down on one of the benches and it felt like heaven.  Then my one year old picks up two fist-fulls of dirt and nails me, thanks Blake!  I didn't really reach my time goals for the race.  I thought I was capable of about 5:30 or so, but I guess that just means I have some more work to do.  I am thankful for the wonderful breeze that kept us cool on the ridges.  I am thankful that my body is healthy, no abnormal pains or niggles.  I am thankful for my beautiful wife and incredible kids that support me and take care of me after these things.  I am thankful for a great group of running buddies and community that I get through Quicksilver.  I am thankful for finishing yet another tough race, gutting it out, and seeing what I am capable of.  There is too much to be happy about to dwell on the things that "might have been".

Quicksilver ended up going 1-2 this year.  Another win for Jean Pommier, even after busting his foot halfway through the run.  And then John Burton, turning in an incredible PR for himself on his 40th birthday.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Goofing Off in the Foothills

Deer Creek Canyon park has some great trails in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies above Denver.  These hills are only 10 miles away from Green Mountain that I had run the day before, yet the trails are totally different.

I climbed to the top of the rock shown in the picture above and took a little vid:

Sorry, google is turning into Microsoft and nothing seems to work anymore, but here is a link to the vid:

There were several trails that were "hikers only", which is cool because trail runners are basically like hikers, except faster, and better looking.

A little clinic on downhill running: Flail your arms as if you were a chicken with it's head cutoff(because chickens have arms).  Keep a continual look of sheer terror on your face.  And let the legs fly!  See:

Sorry, google is turning into Microsoft and nothing seems to work anymore, but here is a link to the vid:

Oops, how did that picture get here?
And that is the end to one of my most narcissistic posts to date.  Yay.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Getting High in Denver

 Originally I had planned to drive straight from the airport to the trailhead and try to tag one of the 13ners that dominate the views from Denver.  To my dismay, as the plane descended over the Rockies, I realized there was way too much snow up high for my comfort zone.  So, change of plans.

The lady at the hotel desk pointed me toward "Green Mountain".  I had visions of some fantastic mountain like what Anton K. would run up every day, but was not to be.  Green Mountain reminded me of the San Bruno Mountains just south of San Fran.  Big, bald, hills with nice ridge running, with fantastic views and some steep stuff on the sides.  I did a lot of off roading, relishing the absence of poison oak, or terrible prickly things in general.  I had a clean conscience at the time- I crossed paths with another trail runner and asked him if it was frowned upon to leave the trails here.  He said nope, he saw people do it all the time.  That gave me the green light and I turned left, and went straight up the hill.  Later I found out that they have the same "trail erosion" fears as they have in California.  Whatever.

Looking South through the valley.

Green Mountain from below

Sweaty guy with short shorts.  Downtown Denver in the background.

Green Mountain at the top.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Tarp Setups

Tarp camping is a useful tool for fastpacking.  It provides light-weight shelter from the elements and is very flexible in application.  The equipment used for the following tarp designs include:

1) 5' x 8' sil-nylon tarp from Oware

2) shepherds hook titanium stakes with orange hook coatings

3) 1 mm cord that came with the tarp

Setup in the backyard is easy compared to the trail.  The ground is soft and there is plenty of flat space.  It should be noted that a good tarp shelter will need to be able to deal with obstacles such as constrained spaces, rocky ground, uneven surfaces. slanted surfaces, etc.  But in a lot of cases you should be able to use some of these things to your advantage.  I can think of no better tent stake than a tree.

The designs shown here are my first attempts at how I might set up a tarp to protect me from driving rain, and or wind that is coming from one or two directions.  This setup is intended to be combined with a water resistant or waterproof bivy to keep your sleeping bag dry.  I do not consider it important to have the foot of my bivy covered by the tarp(since my bivy is supposed to be waterproof).  I would consider it a successful application if the top half of my bivy doesn't see direct rain or wind impacts.

The first design is the good old fashion lean-to but with a foldover on one side.  This should protect you from one direction very well, and give you some more protection from one of the sides.  This would not be ideal for a swirling environment, but it does allow some space to sit up.
Lean-to foldover.

 The next setup is the Diamond.  This is not a particularly "tight" setup.  That means there will be some significant flappage in the wind.  I would use this design if there is some particularly strong winds coming from one direction.  Just point the tip of the diamond directly into the wind and it should shed the forces quite efficiently(yet to be tested).

 Finally, the A-Frame, but slanted.  Since this isn't a very wide tarp, I wanted to have options in terms of coverage with the A-frame.  If there is a light rain that doesn't seem to be favoring any particular direction, this would be pretty useful.  I would point the head of your bivy towards the open end if there wasn't much side action, basically for more space.  But in times of side spash of some sort being part of the equation, I think you could point the head of the bivy towards the shorter end and get more protection that way.
Slanted A-Frame

This is all good in theory, but until I actually have to deal with inclement weather on the trail it is going to be tough to evaluate the designs.  Most likely the condition I face, and the terrain or obstacles that I have to deal with will determine the design I use.

The tarp is 7 oz.  The stakes are 2, and the cord is another oz.  All together I think this is about 10 oz, which is a pretty cheap(in terms of weight-which is the fastpackers currency) insurance policy for crummy weather.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Miwok 2013 Race Report

Miwok 2013 didn't really follow the game plan.  First, it got turned into a 60 km run(down from the advertised 100 km).  Second, I ended up quitting at 26 miles.

I hitched a ride with Jean and Pierre, early in the morning.  In fact I got up at 2:20 a.m. and we left Jean's house by 2:45.  The race was supposed to start at 5 a.m., easily the earliest start time I have ever heard of.  We got to Stinson Beach with plenty of time to check in and get ready to go, but as Pierre and I started towards the community center someone broke the news to us:  The park had pulled the permits for the event for the northern part of the run the night before because of fire danger.  The race management decided to just run the southern part of the course which is 60 km in length.

That was deflating news.  Most runners sign up for an event like this because of the challenge of running 100 km on hilly, scenic terrain.  Some of us use it as our "long run" in a buildup to a 100 mile race.  This is such a popular race that people come from around the country to participate.  Jean, Pierre and I just sat in the car for a while and contemplated the situation.  The start time was moved to 8 a.m. with checkin starting at 7.  We decided to go back to sleep.  That was quite a feat, actually, considering Pierre is as tall as I am and we were sitting in a small toyota corolla.  But we all passed out pretty quick and ended up getting a nice chunk of sleep in before we started hearing other car doors as people started heading in to check in.

My approach to the new race was to be conservative.  I assumed that most other runners were going to tackle it from the perspective of a 50 km race and go pretty hard.  I was planning on picking up the carnage as those that were too aggressive realized that this 60k had significant climbing involved along with an "extra" 10 k thrown in.  Good theory.  This didn't quite follow the game plan either.

The early running was nice.  Basically while it was still cool I was having a blast.  But then the sun started shining pretty good and the miles started piling up and the going got tougher.  I was sweating really well early in the race and decided to implement my plan of taking on more salt to avoid the fate of the last race.  I think this might have been a mistake.  The combination of all of the salt and all of the water I was taking in might have been messing with me.  I started feeling off a bit and I thought that my hands were swelling.  And then I just generally felt really bad for a while.  I ran down into the Tennessee valley aid station hoping to regain my composure a bit and try and go for a strong finish, but things weren't getting better.  I headed out onto the slight downhill paved road before connecting up with the coastal trail.  I stood at the bottom of the trail and looked up at the open, exposed fire road with the sun shining down and decided I couldn't take it anymore.  I sat down for a moment and came to peace with my decision and then started walking back to the aid station to drop from the race.  It was tough walking back and having all of the racers ask me if I was alright and trying to talk me back into continuing on, but I had already made up my mind.

There are potentially a bunch of things that lead me to that point where I ended up making that decision.  But they just sound like a lot of excuses and I don't think it would be productive to future me if I want to try and learn something from this experience.  It is a day later and I don't regret it.  I am not a "finish at all costs" type of person, which may actually be a bad thing going into the 100 miler, but we will see.

Despite the race outcome for me I still had a nice day out in the hills with my friends and teammates.  I look forward to more.

Before Miwok

Done with Sonoma, three weeks until Miwok.  After Sonoma I had an awesome family vacation to Lake Tahoe and did some active relaxing.  The only unfortunate thing was that I was recovering from a pretty mean poison oak reaction because my "runny" brain allowed me to lay down in a patch of the stuff after Sonoma.  Anyways, my right arm swelled up to about twice the size of my left arm which sorta freaked me out a bit and had me considering medical attention.  But it turned out ok.

Then I had a good week of training including a track workout with the guys, and a nice hard rancho run.  Then on Saturday I took the family out on "our hike" which consists of starting out at Skyline Open Space Preserve parking lot and hiking on single track up to Alpine Pond and then back.  From there Joanne and the kids drove back and I ran back to the house.  So that was my long run for the week.

Then I had a business trip to Houston where I did my taper before Miwok.  Basically some nice maintenance runs on some neighborhood recreational path, complete with warning signs about poisonous snakes and alligators.  I guess every destination has it's dangers.  Houston provided some interesting new stimuli including humidity and plenty more fried food than I am used to.

Here are some pics:
Getting "the gang" moving...

On the way back, past Rancho farm, these guys reminded me of Seth and Blake playing in the mud in the back yard.

Sunday morning the next day I hit up a Mission Peak summit.

Sweet pic of the Sunol.

Yeah, it was one of "those" days.