Sunday, July 28, 2013


I have always wanted to explore the trails at Mount Diablo State Park.  I seem to be driving past it all the time, but it is about an hour from my house, putting just outside of a driving distance that I am usually willing to go for a weekend run.  Toshi took the initiative and got a group of us together to do some Diablo exploration.  It was a great time with other runners and the trail did not disappoint!

From wikipedia:

Mount Diablo is a mountain in Contra Costa County, California in the San Francisco Bay Area, located south of Clayton and northeast of Danville. It is an isolated upthrust peak of 3,864 feet (1,178 m), visible from most of the San Francisco Bay Area and much of northern California. Mount Diablo appears from many angles to be a double pyramid and includes many subsidiary peaks, the largest and closest of which is the other half of the double pyramid, North Peak, nearly as high in elevation at 3,557 feet (1,084 m) and about one mile northeast of the main summit.


On a clear day the Sierra Nevada is plainly visible. (The best views are after a winter storm; a snowy Sierra shows up better, and summer is likely to be hazy.) The southernmost mountain of the volcanic Cascade RangeMount Lassen, is occasionally visible 181 miles (291 km) away, and people have claimed to see Mount Shasta 240 miles away. 


Historic claims that the mountain's viewshed is the largest in the world—or second largest after Mount Kilimanjaro—are unfounded. It does boast one of the largest viewsheds in the Western United States and it played a key role in California history. Countless peaks in the state are taller, but Mount Diablo has a remarkable visual prominence for a mountain of such modest elevation. Its recognizable form and looming presence over so much of the baydelta, and Central Valley, and good visibility even from the Mother Lode, all key regions during the gold rush and early statehood, made it not just a well-known visual touchstone but an important landmarks for mapping and navigation.

and finally...

Mount Diablo is sacred to many California Native American peoples; according to Miwok mythology and Ohlone mythology, it was the point of creation. Prior to European entry, the creation narrative varied among surrounding local groups. In one surviving narrative fragment, Mount Diablo and Reed's Peak were surrounded by water; from these two islands the creator Coyote and his assistant Eagle-man made Indian people and the world.[6] In another, Molok the Condor brought forth his grandson Wek-Wek the Falcon Hero, from within the mountain.[7]

All of this made me pretty psyched for the visit.  Here is our trip in pictures:

Toshi's self-designed hiking pole harness

And off we go

Destination: Diablo

The first rock we "had" to climb.

Max on the rock

I was surprised that the "weathering" on this rock left some formations that looked and functioned a lot like stairs.

I wouldn't take the kids up here.

Seeking shade under the oak tree at the top of the hill where we did our first bushwhacking exercise.  Total fail.

Summit of Diablo

Views from Devil's Pulpit

Toshi is contemplating his domain

Probably safe.

Devil's Pulpit was definitely the bomb

Sachin and Max are following Toshi and me up the ridge.

Toshi showing some more climbing skills

Sachin, getting microwaved on the north peak.

Toshi, enjoying his third peak of the day at mount olympus.

Nearing in on Mitchel Canyon

Cooling off at Mitchel Canyon before deciding to design the most efficient route back to the car (we were hot and tired by then)

Monday, July 22, 2013

TRT 100 Mile 2013 Race Report - Result: DNF

I ended up dropping out of the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 mile race at the Tunnel Creek #3 aid station, about 35 miles into the race.  It was disappointing for sure, but I hope to learn some lessons and move on.

I think it would be too easy to blame the warmer than average weather for what happened on Saturday. The fact of the matter is that we are humans and as humans we have the incredible capacity for looking into the future and planning for a desired outcome.  Experience plays a key role in the ability to create a realistic plan and execute.  This was my first 100 mile race attempt and I was not prepared.  I think I had all of my logistics figured out, and I believe I was physically ready to run 100 miles through the mountains.  Where I fell short was anticipating how the warm temps would affect my race and adjusting accordingly.

The logistics:

I would split up the logistic planning for a hundred mile race into four different areas which I will discuss next:
  1. Travel and Lodging.  Tahoe is a nice 4 hour drive from where we live, but it is around 7000 ft.  The race alternates between 7000 and 9000 ft, so being prepared for the altitude is part of the equation.  Personally the altitude does not seem to affect me too bad in terms of headaches, quality of sleep, general fatigue, etc.  I can tell the effects of the lower oxygen available to fuel the running, but altitude sickness symptoms have not been an issue for me.  Even so, it made sense to travel to Tahoe on a Thursday, get two good nights of rest before the race at altitude, and get some relaxation in the day before the race (not having to travel on Friday is nice).  I also planned to take it easy after the race as I had no idea how my body would react to the stress, so I planned on traveling back on Monday.  We rented a cabin on the east side of South Lake Tahoe.  In my opinion, this is a prime location for TRT.  It is half an hour from Carson City (the host city and where you pickup your race packet), 13 minutes to Spooner Lake (start and finish of the race), half an hour from Diamond Peak Lodge (a key aid station for pacing or crews), and a cool four hours from our house in Sunnyvale.  Joanne's brother Ben traveled with us and helped us out with the kids while preparing and executing the race plan.  The cabin was part of a complex that shared recreational facilities including a pool and spa, a huge hit with the kids and made it into a fantastic family vacation.
  2. Drop Bags (optional).  Drop bags consist of the bags that the runner wants delivered to various aid stations that contain items to aid in race completion.  The bags may contain jackets, lights, special food and drinks, extra socks, shoes, etc.  Usually there are only a selection of the aid stations that drop bags may be delivered to, so the runner has to plan accordingly with what needs to be in which bags to support some part of the race.  For instance, you would want to have a flashlight in the bag that precedes sunset in the race.  Which aid station this is depends on your pace too, so you would have to potentially have flashlights in several bags, or just decide to pick it up and carry it with you for some daylight hours.  I had three drop bags.  One for the finish line/half way point.  This bag had sweats for post race, extra shoes and socks to change into if my feet were getting sloppy half way through the race, and some other "extras" just in case.  I then had a bag at Hobart, which you run through 4 different times in the race, and a key drop bag at Tunnel Creek, which is pretty much the most important aid station where the hundred mile runner goes through SIX times.  Tunnel Creek is where I put most of my night-time gear and my trekking poles.  The plan was to run the first twelve miles and then pick up the poles to help me through the rest of the race.  In retrospect, I still like this plan.
  3. Crew (optional).  Joanne was my crew.  Crew is a person or people that meet the runner at various aid stations with gear and/or assistance to help the runner complete the run.  They may carry the equivalent of a drop bag to meet the runner's random or planned needs.  They can also do things such a ice the runner down, tend to the runners feet (blister management, sock/shoe changes, etc), basically tend to whatever the runner needs at that point in time.  Nominally Joanne was to meet me at Diamond Peak #1, half way, Diamond Peak #2, and finish.  She had my extras in a bag, and some treats, just in case (like popsicles).  She would also be the one delivering the useless corpse to bed after the race was over.  Ben played a key role in Joanne's ability to act as my crew.  He was instrumental in supervising the children.
  4. Pacer (optional).  Marc was my pacer.  A pacer is someone who runs with the racer through some prescribed distance (in Marc's case he was going to pace me fifty miles from halfway to the finish).  The pacer is there for safety first.  They make sure that the racer does not veer off course, tries to keep them from getting hurt, etc.  They are key when a racer might be getting a little loopy from exhaustion.  They are not allowed to carry anything for the racer or assist in any physical way.  They are also fantastic for motivation.  They can be the cool head when the exhausted head starts having doubts, or when the exhausted head starts making decisions that are counter-productive to the race goal.  I actually could talk about the pacers role in a hundred mile race for a long time as I have picked up a few things from pacing runners in four different hundred milers by now, but I am just going to say that Marc was going to serve an instrumental purpose in getting me to the finish line.
The Race Plan:

I didn't really have a plan other than to run my own race at a pace that I was comfortable with.  You see, I am a "run by feel" type of person.  I don't wear a watch.  I don't plan splits.  I don't believe in some sort of prescribed path to get me to the finish line.  I like to be flexible, and listen to my body as much as possible.  I like "be in the moment", and I think I am generally pretty good with this approach. I would say the "run by feel" approach is most successfully executed when the following conditions are present for race day:

  1. The environment of the race is sufficiently similar to the environment when encountered during training.  This cannot be overstated.  How can you "run by feel" if you have never felt it before? In this particular race, the combination of heat, elevation, and terrain created a trifecta of variables that were not sufficiently simulated in my training.  There is only so much you can do about this. Running in the "perfect" weather of the San Francisco Bay area can actually be a detriment to a runner who is preparing for a race "somewhere else".
  2. "Run by feel" requires a certain amount of experience to successfully implement.  What I mean by that is that you need to have a pretty good idea of what it "feels" like to run a hundred miles.  You have to know that this is different than running a 50k, or a 50 miler, you need to re-calibrate the "feel-ometer".  This is just another way to say that you need to know how to pace yourself.
  3. You need to be tuned into what your body is telling you.  If it is getting over-heated, you need to adjust, if it is getting hungry, eat, if thirsty, drink, etc.  This sounds all so easy, but in practice, it is so much harder to implement in an optimal way for a desired outcome.  But this is something that is learned through experience and through "paying attention".  I would say that most runners don't pay attention.  They are busy with their i-pods, daydreaming (not that there is anything wrong with this-probably my achilles heal though), worrying about things outside of their control.  I think at TRT I got caught up in the race a little bit and did not listen enough.  I was too preoccupied with what the other runners were doing, with how much time I was fiddling around at the aid stations, all kinds of "disturbances" that were obstacles to my listening.  It is no mistake that the tougher (more on the outside of the bell-curve) the conditions become for a race, the more the older (more experienced) runners tend to capitalize.  They just know what to do.

How the Race Played Out:

I started out at the end of the top 25% of the field.  It was a nice, easy pace, with lots of hiking in the first miles which included the climb up to the first aid station, Hobart.  I never turned on my low-power LED headlamp which I had "just in case".  It was a pretty easy start to the day.  I started to slowly pass people, mostly on the downhills which I did run assertively, as usual.  I caught up to Amy Burton, the top female competitor from our club, Quicksilver, right before Hobart.  I dropped my headlamp in my drop bag and then picked up my hat for the day.  This hat was going to be instrumental in managing the heat.  I was planning on putting ice in it at every opportunity I got, so that it could cool my head and melt down my neck.  John Burton (Amy's husband, who I paced at TRT last year), advised me on this method, and I took it to heart (mostly out of desperation).  As I started out of Hobart, I continued what I thought of as a conservative beginning pace.  After cresting the climb and starting on the downhill to Tunnel Creek #1, I started to do my thing on the downhills, what I thought of as a pedestrian downhill pace was passing a lot of racers, but this is not abnormal for me.  Perhaps I was burning out my quads pre-maturely, but then again, I have done this so many times before that there is no way that that was my downfall, or so I think.  I caught up with Amy on this section and passed her going into Tunnel Creek.  This is where I picked up my poles and iced up for the first time in the race.  In addition to the ice in the hat I implemented a brand new tactic for me which included rolling up ice in a handkerchief and tying it around my neck.  This worked like a charm and did double-duty for me, protecting my exposed neck from the sun and providing a key cooling effect over high capacity blood vessels.

The "Red-House Loop" was next.  This loop contains a precipitous drop followed by a good climb, aid station at the "Red-House" and then a flat section, then a tough climb up to Tunnel Creek.  In retrospect I believe I pushed this section a little too hard.  While it was still relatively cool because the sun was not up high yet, I decided to try and capitalize before the real heat set in.  I ran the flat section and then climbed aggressively up to Tunnel Creek.  This took a lot out of me and I think I would have been better served if I had been more conservative on this climb.  I got into Tunnel Creek #2 and to my surprise they asked for the first weigh in for the race at mile 17.2.  The day before they weight you in to get your baseline weight and then write numbers on a waterproof wristband that represent 5 to 10% deviation from the baseline.  They give warnings and even make you sit out if your weight is too far off of baseline. My baseline weight was 198 pounds.  I remember the guy at the scale saying something to the effect of me being a "big guy".  Intrigued, I asked him if that was a bad thing.  He mentioned something about someone weighing in at 220 and being pessimistic about his chances.  The whole thing seemed rather odd to me, but whatever.  At Tunnel Creek #2 I weighed in at 189, almost 10 pounds down.  The lady turned to the med person and was about to tell me to hang on a second.  Before any more attention was brought on I quickly sneaked away, grabbed some watermelon, took my pack and ran off.  My mind instantly started racing.  Was I already sabotaging my race?  I was having visions of being over 10% down by Diamond Peak and them pulling me from the race.  I thought, what a silly way to fail.  What the heck was going on.  So I throttled back a bit and tried to take it easy.  But then it got hot.  I was doing a lot of hiking and I am sure I got passed a few times.  I reached the Bull Run aid station, topped off on water, and then finished off the last of the climb before the nice four mile descent to Diamond Peak.  I was drinking a lot and trying to manage things, but how can you take the downhills easy?  I just ran.  And then I rolled into Diamond Peak, feeling pretty good actually.  John Burton was there, waiting for Amy.  I asked him if Amy already made it through, but she was not there yet and he told me of some guys that were just ahead of me.  I weighed in at 188, only 1 pound down from 13 miles ago and was pretty happy.  I had told Joanne that I would be at Diamond Peak Lodge around 11:30.  That is what pace I thought I would be running with all of the hiking that I was doing.  But to my surprise, the clock at the aid station read 10:58.  And Joanne wasn't there yet.  I had mixed feelings.  I was happy to be ahead of pace, especially with how easy things were feeling, but I was bummed about missing Joanne at the aid station.  I didn't even think of the consequences of perhaps opening up the race a little too fast.  I had a fantastic aid station stop, including four cups of ensure smoothies that were just heaven, all of the watermelon, cantaloupe, and boiled potatoes I could down, and refilled all of my ice.  Then a guy with a hose sprayed me off, and I was feeling great.  Ready to tackle the big climb.

The Diamond Peak climb is the toughest part of the TRT race.  It is an exposed, sandy, steep trail that just seems to go on forever.  I started up it with the vigor that I climbed up from Red House, fully expecting to hike right up and over.  About a quarter of the way up I noticed my legs starting to cramp up.  I thought to myself: "no way", there is no way that I am cramping just "walking" up a trail.  I shortened my stride, let off the throttle a little bit and tried to work through it.  It wasn't getting better.  When I got about a third of the way up I had to try and stretch things out because my muscles were starting to seize up on me.  As soon as I found a shady spot with a rock to prop myself on I started trying some stretches.  Then the body really rebelled.  Everything just tensed up on me and I ended up on the ground writhing in agony, attempting to wait out the cramping legs until I could relax and try to get to some place where I could even think about walking again.  I remember at one point, just sitting there, and my leg went straight, and all of my muscles on my right leg contracted at once, and I had no control.  I thought my muscles were going to break my leg.  I forced myself up, off the ground, and then worked some self message until I could bend my leg again.  I then found a position that was somewhat ok, only a few minutes after though I would be on the ground again in agony.  I repeated this dance for over half an hour.  Runners would pass by with knowing looks on their faces, trying to offer me tips, salt-tabs, anything to help me out.  But it was a lost cause.  I remember Amy stopping by for a considerable moment to try and talk me through it, but I assured her I would be ok and told her to get moving again.  At some point a lady was walking back down the trail because she had decided to drop out of the race.  She was having stomach issues and couldn't keep anything down and dreaded the thought of trying to finish the thing.  She worked with me to get me on my feet and somehow coaxed me to walk down back to diamond peak lodge with her.  There was no way I could continue up the mountain.  As I was walking down the trail with her, passing all of the runners still continuing up the mountain and having to answer all of their questions about why we were going the wrong way, I decided I was starting to feel better.  I thought to myself, this is silly, I am walking down the mountain, I can walk right up it too.  So I turned around and took one step up the trail and my legs seized on me again.  I quickly turned back around and somehow stumbled down the trail back to Diamond Peak Lodge.  This must be where the officials recorded my drop, since that is what it looks like in that was reporting runners whereabouts.  I did not quit yet though and walked over to the med people and tried to get some advice about how to proceed.  My mind was willing, my energy levels were high, I wanted to go.  But my legs were not coopering.  The med people gave me some Tums, which they thought the calcium would help.  I hung around in air conditioning for a while and ate and drank some more and then found Gary Saxton, another Quicksilver teammate who was running the 50 miler that was taking a break before the big climb.  We regrouped together and then headed out. On our way out we ran into Jim Magill, yet another Quicksilver guy and we tackled the monster together.  After the cool down and probably balancing out my electrolytes just a little my legs were now letting me take little steps up the mountain.  It was a fight for sure.  It is a pretty comical sight actually.  We got to a point where we were hiking with a rather large group of racers and everytime we came to some shady spot up the trail we would all stop and catch our breath.  What a race!  People taking tiny little steps up a mountain and then just stopping every once in a while.  It took forever to get up and over.

Once we got back to Bull Run #2 though I thought maybe, just maybe I could get this thing back.  All I had to do was to keep moving and wait out the heat of the day.  It is pretty much a nice downhill from Bull Run to Tunnel Creek #3, and I tried to run again, but was met with dead legs that wanted to tighten up on me every time I tried to get some bounce out of them.  So walking it was.  I can do that though, or so I thought.  Ever since I left Diamond Peak Lodge for the second time it seemed my electrolytes were getting more and more out of whack, and I was suffering again about a mile until Tunnel Creek.  I got within a quarter mile of the aid station and suddenly felt like throwing up.  This was a completely new sensation.  I had never had it before and I had to back off once again.  It was agony stumbling into Tunnel Creek, but as soon as I had arrived I felt a sense of relief, probably because I saw an out to the pain.  I still did not want to stop and tried to rally with some time in the shade and some ice and some food.  But as soon as I got up I realized my legs were toast, I couldn't even stand upright.  This is where I decided to drop and then received a ride down to the start where I met up with Joanne and then went back to the cabin to lick my wounds.

So, what did I learn?

Some runners, probably a lot of ultra-runners, consider DNFs shameful.  To me, it is what it is.  Every race is another data point for me.  I hope to take each experience and build on top of it, allowing me to become a stronger competitor that knows how to approach a given race.  I don't believe the heat was what did me in.  Rather it was my inability to respect the conditions of the race and adjust my expectations and plans accordingly.  Finally I have to give a shout out to all of those tough runners who completed the 100 mile race on Saturday-Sunday, including Amy who was F5 for the race!  Everyone who finished gives me inspiration to continue taking on big challenges.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Final TRT Tune-Up

Saturday I decided to get in one last good training effort before officially starting my taper for TRT.  This was about a 32-33 mile hike/run, with poles, at what I perceive to be 100 mile pace, a little over seven hours...

Starting at Rhus Ridge entrance to Rancho San Antonio, I went up over Black, then down through Monte Bello, over to Skyline Open Space where I did our "family hike", then up Borel Hill in Russian Ridge, over to the Hawk trail to get the full Russian Ridge loop.  Then back down through skyline, then to Monte Bello where I went up the steven's creek nature trail, then over to Los Trancos, where I then hooked up to the Los Trancos trail in Foothills park via page mill trail.  Completed the Los Trancos loop and returned through Monte Bello, up Black and back to Rhus Ridge.  Basically a tour of my favorite local trails through six open space preserves with Monte Bello being the cog in the wheel.

The morning running brought some great pics with the fog:

The run went well, I am completely recovered a day later and feel like I could have done the run again today.  Everything seems to be clicking right.  Tahoe Rim Trail, here I come!

Whitney Portal to Onion Valley Fastpack

After getting 5 hours of sleep before crew handling at Duncan Canyon, and then skipping the next night of sleep because of pacing Pat, I was feeling drained before driving back to the bay area to get a ride from Tina down to Bakersfield to pick up Max and head over to Whitney Portal to set off on an awesome fastpacking adventure.  We arrived at the Portal around 1:30 a.m. in the morning on Monday.  At that point we picked a place to sleep and got another 5 hours in at elevation (8700 ft).  The next morning we set off to find the permitting office to get our overnight permits to start at the portal, summit Whitney, then see what happens next.  I have acquired a mass of knowledge concerning the permits and how to get them, but I do not want to bore the readers with this craziness.

After getting the permits we perused around Lone Pine (the small city at the base of the mountains with the permitting office).  Then we returned to the portal to lounge around for the rest of the day because our permits were valid for starting the next day (on Tuesday).  I got in some great cold water soaking in the alpine stream that flowed by the campsite and took a nap while reading up and studying the maps for the forthcoming adventure.  We went to bed early to get some rest before the big adventure the next day.

Max and Tina are two solid runners with experience of traveling in the mountains.  The John Muir Trail was the perfect destination.

At 3 a.m. on Tuesday, we woke up, packed up, and headed to the trailhead.  That is where we got our obligatory "Start" picture:

Crappy Picture (because of the light bouncing off of the dust), but this was the start to our adventure.

One of the first cool pics looking down the valley.

Lone Pine Lake?

Other Wordly

One of the "windows" as we were sumiting Whitney.

Max, at the highest point of the lower 48...

Oh yeah...

So happy to have made it!
Video Clips from the trip:

The climb was a blast.  Max and I got about one mile from the summit and people started warning us about the approaching clouds.  We turned around and sure enough, it looked like bad weather was coming our way.  We hustled up to the top, got our pics, and then got down fast.  We then joined back up with Tina just a few switchbacks down from trail crest and then it was smooth sailing to our campsite at Tilden Creek.  Unfortunately my camera died on me at the summit.  But at least I got some pics up there!  BTW:  Whitney is the tallest point in the lower 48 states at 14500 ft, oh yeah!

The first day we covered 30 miles and were ready for a good nights rest.  It seems that we probably picked a bad camping spot as the bear box that we found was in the middle of a mosquito infested hole.  But we survived and hopefully learned a lesson.

The next day we went over Forrester Pass and then had a heavenly descent into a beautiful valley.  Near one of the creeks we made a decision to exit over Kearsarge Pass to Onion Valley.

That made a wonderful two day, 50 mile, fastpacking adventure with a Whitney summit.  Great fun!

Trip Notes:

  • Don't camp in a mosquito infested hole.
  • Cheese and salami experiment was a failure.  Actually the experiment was good, but the cheese and salami were a failure.  Grease everywhere = not good.
  • Jerky is still the best.
  • 14000 ft makes me silly.
  • JMT is my fav.  By far.
  • The gorilla just barely fits a giant yellow bear canister and everything else I need.
  • French people don't get sarcasm.
  • My new air mattress, a NeoAir Thermarest, is now one of my favorite pieces of equipment.  Good bye Klymit POS.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Pacing Patrick Krott at Western States 2013

Western States set up a pretty useful system this year for hooking up runners with perspective pacers.  I put my name in the hat as a pacer that was looking to pace someone to a sub-24 hour finish.  Patrick Krott, from Pennsylvania, contacted me to ask for my help in reaching his goals for States.  These are the tales of two runners and a crewing girl-friend, going through the night, to get to the finish line.

A little background on my history with Western States:  Last year I volunteered at the aid station and then paced Marc Laveson.  This was the first time I had ever paced someone in a hundred mile race.  That was also the first time I had witnessed a hundred mile race.  It was all new to me and I was totally green on many things.  Since then I have paced several times and feel that I am now a "veteran".  Still learning every-time I do it, but at least I know the basics...

Pat was not new to the distance.  Which was good.  He ran 27:30 at the Oil Creek 100 his first time out.  He knew what it would take to prepare for States and I think he was ready for it.  He had an A goal of going sub-24, but he definitely wanted to finish the race no matter what.  I met his girlfriend, Allison, who had traveled out west with him and was crewing for him at the race.  She was waiting for him at Foresthill, mile 62, which is the first point in the race that runners can hook up with their pacers. The first time I saw Pat was when I read his bib number before Foresthill and realized that this was the guy I would be running through the night with.  He was moving good, which was in contrast to the other runners that had come in before him.  Honestly, I was a little bit worried because he was behind pace and the other runners were moving really slow.  Allison had confided with me that he was like 5 minutes ahead of 30 hour pace at Robinson Flat.  30 hours is what you need to even be counted as a finisher of the race.

I didn't really know what Pat's strategy for the race was, but after starting down Cal-street with him, I realized that he still had a lot of running left in his legs.  After covering the bases with him about how the race was going for him so far I realized that he on purpose had been very conservative in the early part of the race with the expectation to be able to do a lot of running from Foresthill to the finish.  Smart.  The heat of the day had already taken it's toll on most of the runners.  Several elite runners had already dropped out the race by then, and it was clear that the finishing times and finishing rates were going to be way down this year.

It was a pure blast to pass runner after runner.  Last year Marc had managed his race similarly, but was far enough up in the standings that the passing was rare, but fairly constant.  With Pat, we were passing people every few minutes.  It seemed like we passed about 30 to 40 runners from Foresthill to the river.

We passed a lot of people I recognized.  I said hi to Nattu, who was being paced by Karen Bonnett (who I had paced to the finish of the Quicksilver 50 miler with a trail sign in my hand after finishing course sweeping).  I tried to encourage Keith Blom as we passed him going up a hill.  I was surprised to catch Scott and Claire before Auburn Lake Trails (they got us back after we slowed down).  Pat was on fire!

We saw the sun set shortly after leaving Foresthill and then watched the sun rise right before No Hands Bridge.  Doing pretty much all of our work through the night.  It was a magical experience.  Each of the aid stations were expending tremendous amounts of energy blasting huge music through the forrest, lining their trails with christmas lights, and generally providing wonderful refuges from the loneliness of the night.  One particularly memorable moment was the river crossing.  There were lights everywhere, lighting up the steps down to the river.  At the river there was a cable that went across with probably 10 volunteers in wet suits holding the line taught.  In the water were glow sticks to light up the tricky footing points in the river.  The river came up above our waists.  It felt awesome!  As we picked our way across the river, each volunteer gave us tips on where to place our feet and what rocks to step over to ensure you don't go floating down the river.

After the river crossing it seemed like Pat was reinvigorated.  We had been doing the math in our heads and realized that we were way behind 24 hour pace, but he was moving so good and so much faster than everyone else that we wondered:  If he could keep up his hot streak, could he possibly squeak it through?  Most people at this point in the race hike the whole trail up to Green Gate from the river.  Not us, we ran most of it, and ran it hard.  We passed about 5 people going up this trail, each of the runners (and pacers) said: "Wow".  This was really turning exciting.  We flew through Green Gate and were just cruising.  We ran exactly what we needed to run from the river to Auburn Lake Trails to put us in contention for sub-24.  But then the wheels fell off.  In retrospect we probably pushed too hard during that section and that led to a slow finish for Pat.  But it didn't matter.  What mattered was that we gave his A goal a shot and then fell short.  We could have gone easy and had a consistent and relatively painless finish to the race if we were ok with passing on the goal, but then would Pat look back at this race years down the line and wonder: What if he gave it his all to try to get 24?  This way he has no regrets.  He ran a smart race and put himself in the best position he could.

We cruised the rest of the night and early morning, and then he had a glorious run through the streets of Auburn, passing another at least three runners in route to entering the Placer High track and finishing the 2013 Western States 100 in 25:30.  A fantastic performance!

Volunteering at Duncan Canyon Aid Station, Western States 100, 2013

This is the second year in a row that I have volunteered at the Duncan Canyon aid station at mile 24 of the Western States 100.  Our club, Quicksilver, has the responsibility/privilege to provide all of the expected aid to the racers at mile 24.  The club turns this into a really fun event.  The fact that Duncan Canyon is actually quite remote makes it even more fun.  Generally, to be able to help out on Saturday morning, you need to camp out the night before.  The ridge we camp on is a beautiful place that overlooks the mountains in the high country and the French Reservoir.  Each year the club has a "theme" where we dress up and try to make a festive atmosphere to greet the runners.  This year we had a "Hoe Down".  Being from Kansas gave me an edge on to what that might actually mean...

Last year it was a cool year at Western States.  When we camped on the ridge it was heaven!  Nice and cool, no mosquitos, fires allowed.  It was simply awesome.  Until the next day.  Sometime during the night the rain storms came and drenched us pretty good.  Then it stayed cold, wet, and miserable, all morning long.  Most of the time the volunteers huddled under the various canopies that were set up to try and get some warms and stay out of the wet.  I got to be one of the parking coordinators for the first couple of hours, so I missed the front runners coming through the aid station.  It was my first year, so that is just the way it works.  But one of the highlights for sure is watching the top runners in the sport bringing their "A" game to the big show.  After parking coordination I got to help out filling bottles.  That is when things get exciting.

This year was a hot year.  Total contrast to last year.  It was warm when I got there Friday evening, and the mosquitos were out full force.  I had been looking into mosquito repellant and it seems like the effective stuff is DEET, but an unfortunate side effect of the comical is that it disintegrates synthetic fabrics.  Basically everything I wear now is synthetic!  Oh well, gotta learn to deal with them sometime.  No fires allowed this year (which would have totally helped out with the mosquitos).  Nonetheless, once the sun set, the party was into full effect.  I had a great time mingling and hanging out with the club-mates, talking ultra-running until we passed out.

The morning starts at 7 a.m. and everyone chows down on some breakfast.  There is the awesome scent of eggs and bacon frying, various pastries laid out, the coffee brewing, etc.  It is a glorious start to an exciting day.  At some point during breakfast the betting starts.  Everyone is allowed to guess the minute when the first runner will come through the aid station.  One dollar gets you in.  Then the breakfast stuff gets put away and you get down to business setting up the various tables with gu-brew, water, and the various ultra-fare expected at the aid stations.  We also set up a sponge-down station, fully stocked with ice water, to cool off the runners as they prepare for what might be considered the toughest part of the race: the canyons.

Somewhere between 8 and 9 the front runners start filtering through.  This year I had the privilege of being a "runner handler".  This entailed waiting in a line of other handlers until it was my turn to take care of the next runner coming down the hill.  Basically you do everything in your power to make sure the runner gets what they need, as fast as possible, and get them through the aid station.  This bottle gets water, that bottle gets gu-brew.  Oh and can I get some ice in my bandana? I need to sit down for a second, get me a PB&J and some M&Ms...  Do you have a med person?  I have a few cuts that need taken care of.  There are plenty of requests, and it is the job of the handler to coordinate getting the runner what they need.

We had an awesome MC this year.  Usually our charismatic racing team leader, Greg Lanctot, is the natural fit.  But he was unavailable because he was actually running the race.  So in his stead we enlisted a tiny little girl, maybe eight or nine years old.  She was incredible.  We gave her the mic and stood her on a big log, and she stayed there for four hours, blurting out the most hilarious and entertaining stuff I have ever heard, all with an exaggerated country twang:

"This here is a hoe down folks!  It's the best one I have ever been to.  It's the only one I have ever been to!"

"Wow, look the those shoes!  Those are the most colorful shoes I have ever seen."

In addition to the awesome MC, we had a state-champion banjo player (and runner), putting out some great stuff.  I was impressed with his tenacity to keep picking away as the runners kept filtering through. It made it a special event for sure.

The final cutoff for the aid station is 12:00 noon.  At that time, the race official, blows an air-horn and everyone still out on the course is disqualified and their tags are confiscated.  This is a sad time and I believe our aid station this year claimed four victims.  It is what it is...

After the cut-off we pack everything up and head our respective ways.  I still had one more Western States adventure to go for the day: "Pacing Patrick Krott at the 2013 Western States 100".  Which will be my next post.

Before I headed to Forresthill for pacing duties though I headed down to the French Reservoir and had a refreshing swim.  It was fantastic and just what the doctor ordered for the heat...