Saturday, September 29, 2007

Won the 2007 Lake Tahoe Super Triple Marathon!

Here is a short recap of the race -- a more detailed report will follow. The 3rd leg of the Super Triple (a 72-mile run all around the lake) was run under terrible weather conditions. Sprinkles at 11 p.m. turned into a full-blown snowstorm at midnight (start of the race) that dumped a few inches of snow all around the lake. When the storm died down, it started to freeze, icing up all the roads around the lake until mid afternoon. This changed the race dramatically. Several runners developed acute shin-splints and DNFed, because they had to change their running style to adjust to the conditions.

I started the race out with a nine-minute lead from day 2. However, I am not sure if the second place runner even showed up (it was very dark at the start) but nobody saw him at the start. Due to all the time lost by running on the snow and ice (for example, I could not power-walk for fear I would slip and tear my groin muscle), I missed the chance to run the first 46 miles in 8:30, which would then line you up with the start of the marathon (+ aid stations). I am sure I would have made that this time around if it was not for the weather, but will have to just try that again next year.

Note: Triple next year will be Fri, Sat, and Sun -- with the marathon on Sunday so that Bay Area folks can come up after work easier.

With the help of my crew, I ran a good, conservative race. It was cold all day and I certainly had my ups and downs during the race, but every time I felt bad, we kept focusing on the task at hand (often related to fueling).

Keenan Follis took second place for the day and most likely 2nd overall. I say "likely'" because at the time of this writing, there may still be a few people out on the course and they will be allowed to complete the run.

I made it to the 50-mile mark in 10:10 and was the first Super Triple runner to get there (10th. overall in the 72-miler). Without too much pressure from the rest of the field, and having missed the opportunity to run with the other Triple runners due the crazy road conditions, I finished up the race in (roughly) 15:42, again, as the first Super Triple finisher!

Sean and Rocky completed their first half marathon. They stuck together and ran 2:55 (shared second in their age group). Excellent!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Tahoe Super Triple Report for Day 2

Day 2 -- 3:44!

Had a great second marathon. Basically just cruised all the way with the help of my super crew. Caught Steve Young (super triple leader after day 1 by 30 minutes) at the 18 mile mark and just took it easy to the finish, coming in at 3:44 (5th overall). For the first time ever, I ran a faster second marathon during the triple. Steve Young came in in 4:23, which means I am now in the lead by about 9 minutes. Still a lot of racing left though.

Extreme Crewing with Chris

Thomas Reiss was out for his morning run around Incline Village and joined me for about 2 miles. Lynards Skynrod came in first overall in 2:50 and will have to run well below 2:40 tomorrow to break Johan's world record.

With Thomas Reiss around Incline Village

Immediately after the race, I iced the legs in the lake, then had lunch (Sprouts) and picked up the half marathon bibs for Sean and Rocky at the expo. Now I am off to bed.

Going to bed now (final race starts at midnight). Keep sending those positive vibes -- it is working!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Tahoe Super Triple Report for Day 1

Finished Day 1 in 3:46 (6th overall and 2nd in the Super Triple)

First of all, thanks for all the good luck wishes on my previous post. It is great to have so much support!

Today went very well. I was hoping to run 3:50, and I ran 3:46, beating last year's time (4:04:56) by almost 20 minutes on the first day course that runs from Inspiration Point to Spooner Summit, and placing 6th overall.

Inspiration Point

This puts me in second place in the Super Triple, after Steve Young (35, from Davis, CA), who ran an amazing 3:16, which was good for 3rd overall. We left before any of the other Super Triple runners came in, but it looks like Jennifer Forman was going to place 3rd, and Charles Francisco 4th. Esther, Ron, and Keenan were still on the course with a few miles to go, so we'll see how they did tomorrow.

We started out at Inspiration point. At 7 a.m. Everybody made a last bathroom stop and then we lined up for the group picture.

Fellow Super Triple Runners (from ltr) Ron Barlow, Esther White, and Charles Francisco at the start.

Lining up for the group picture, while Les Wright loads the shotgun.

The race started promptly at 7:15. No fancy countdown, or "good luck out there," just a deafening blow (loudest ever) from Les Wright's 9 gauge shotgun started off the race.

I quickly settled in about 4th place and ran down the steep hill. After a few miles it leveled out and then, at mile 4, another runner (Ryan Flynn) stopped and wondered about some arrows on the ground. I recalled taking a left there last year, so we followed the arrows, but we had some doubts, because there was no fresh chalk.

We finished a little loop and noticed that most runners had gone straight. Ryan and I had just run about a quarter mile extra and were now in about 10th place. Oh well, no need to get excited, lots of running left. The quarter mile stretch was added last year, as part of Johan Oosthuizen's world record attempt, but did not need to be run today. Tomorrow's marathon is a little longer, so it evens out.

Chris, mixing up the Gatorade

Having Team Chris and Rebecca out there again was awesome. It really meant zero downtime. If there were prizes to be won for crewing, they would be the winners.

I ran pretty steady and passed a few more people. I power-walked most of the steep Spooner Summit ascent and ran the short section to the finish line, arriving in 3:46. Ryan Flynn came in shortly after and we gave him a ride back to the hotel, but first we stopped at a little beach below Cave Rock to do the mandatory leg-icing in Lake Tahoe. This is a must for any triple runner. 20 minutes in the ice-cold water makes a huge difference for your legs.

Icing the legs

In the regular triple, 27-year old Lynyrd Skynrod, from Soda Springs CA blew all the competition away by running 2:39 (first place). I believe that may actually be a new record for day 1 and a world record pace. Let's see how he does tomorrow, there are still two marathons to go!

After a shower, we headed over to Sprouts for a delicious lunch. Their nachos are out of this world.

Sprouts -- we'll be back tomorrow!
And now: resting up for tomorrow. The race starts at 7:45 and runs from Spooner Summit to Commons Beach in Tahoe City.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

#505 Ready for the Lake Tahoe Super Triple

Well, we're here. About to go to bed now and all set for tomorrow's 1st marathon from Inspiration Point to Spooner Summit.

Lots of exciting stuff going on. First of all, check out an interview with yours truly in the Tahoe World paper: The article features a nice picture that my dad took of me on my way to Spooner Summit (below).

A few days ago, to my complete surprise, I received a package filled with goodies from my co-workers Janet, Susan, and Deb. I had told them why we were not having our regular meeting today and they pulled together a great gift. The box contained everything from footcare products and massage tools to power bars and finish-line confetti! Thanks!

Christmas came early this year!

Another exciting thing is that the new 2008 Guiness book is now out and features the updated article about the world record for running three marathons in three days (8:11).

The new record was set last year at the Tahoe Triple by Johan Oosthuizen. I was fortunate enough to meet Johan and his wife; they are wonderful people and Johan is an incredible athlete. Johan will not be here this year.

The new Guiness World Record book, complete with glow in the dark features :)

I left early today to give Sean a ride to school. He had to hand in his aqueduct history project early, since he is going to miss school on Friday so that he can come up here to run the half marathon with his brother Rocky.

The "A+queduct"

After that, I loaded up the truck and picked up my crew, Chris and Rebecca. We drove to Nevada City and had a great lunch at Fudenjuice.

Fudenjuice in Nevada City
After that, we drove to Tahoe. We scouted out the course from the casinos to Spooner and for once there is no highway construction going on.
Race Expo and triple buffet are at the Horizon Casino

At the hotel, I just got everything organized. clothes, including three fresh pairs of Balega socks -- one for each race.
At 4:30, we went to the Triple buffet. We picked up the really cool looking bibs, a nice windjacket, and the timing chips. The triple runners received a blue racing singlet, 72-mile ultra runners received a green singlet, and the Super Triple praticipants got a nice orange singlet. That was a nice touch.
Sean Meissner and Thomas Reiss spoke about the course and there were some other speakers. The big surprise is that Thomas won't be running the triple this year, so, as Les Wright said, "There will be a new winner."

The new bibs
One of the speakers was Tom Linthicum, who swam across Lake Tahoe from North to South. It was interesting to hear his story. He failed the first time, but learned a lot from his mistakes (like, don't eat smoked salmon on the go). He tried it again and succeeded. Quite an amazing feat. I don't think I would last a mile in the water myself.
With Tom Linthicum
Will keep you posted on the progress during the race and send me those positive vibes!

Monday, September 24, 2007

A Great Day of Trail Running at the Sierra Nevada Endurance Run Double Marathon

I had really been looking forward to run the Sierra Nevada Endurance Run (SNER), but just a few days before the race it looked like it was all falling apart. A minor cut on my right hand somehow become infected and the next day a big red streak appeared on my forearm. It looked like a rash or some sort of allergic reaction and I thought it might disappear overnight. Instead, I had two streaks on my forearm the next morning. They started at the cut and traveled up my arm. I went to the doctor and he almost wanted to take a picture of it; it was a classical case of lymphangitus (a bacterial infection in the lymphatic vessels).

The doctor said it was pretty serious, but a one-time shot combined a seven-day regiment of penicillin would cure this quickly. Oh and, no strenuous exercise for a little while. “Does a double marathon qualify as strenuous activity?” I asked. After discussing the options, the doctor said it might be OK if all the red streaks were completely gone by Friday, but he still would not recommend it. However, if the streaks were not gone by Friday, I would be “foooolish”, the doctor said, while he looked me in the eye, trying to stare the stubbornness out of me.

I felt a little bit bad, but all hope was not lost. I wasn’t going to do something stupid, so all I could hope for was a lightning-fast recovery. The next day, the situation had improved a lot and on Friday the streaks were pretty much completely gone, so I cleared myself for the run and it was time to line up the crew! My friend and “crew captain-extraordinaire,” Chris, offered to come out with me on Saturday. We would treat SNER as a dress rehearsal for next week’s Super Triple, fine tuning a few final things.

One of these “final things” was trying a new pair of shoes. I have been wearing the Nike Air Zoom Vomero for about two years now, but when I got to Fleet Feet in Roseville the week before the race to buy a few new pairs, they told me that the shoe had been upgraded to version 2 Plus and they no longer sold the older model. I tried the new model and they felt pretty good. However, during a six-mile training run, I noticed that they fit a little bigger. I compared them with the older models and, sure enough, the new model (size 13) was about a half inch bigger!

The slightly bigger shoe was not too uncomfortable (in fact, the cushioning has improved in the new model), so I decided to run the double marathon on the new shoes (Chris would have an old pair handy in case I needed to swap them out along the way). After the race I would trade in the second pair that I had bought for a 12 ½, since Fleet Feet was on the way home from SNER anyway.

It was supposed to be cold and rainy on race day, but a few hours before the race it was actually quite pleasant outside. I still brought a whole wardrobe full of clothes just to be prepared for any kind of weather. Chris and I drove to the race and discussed the aid station splits and other race strategy. The plan was to run very conservatively for the first marathon and drop the hammer on the steep sections on the way back.

At Cavittt Middle School, the race HQ, We picked up the goodie bag, which included a shirt (without sponsor names!), a nice towel, water bottles, and almost an entire case of gel. I also received a great Joe McCladdie picture of me running Helen Klein 50K last year, which I thought was a very nice touch.

My Race Number -- Easy as 123!

Norm Klein’s pre-race briefing was short and to the point: 1) Littering was strictly prohibited and if you were caught, you would face a lifetime ban from any of Norm and Helen’s events (This was not the Tour de France!). 2) If you want to leave the race, you must go to an aid station (AS) or a search and rescue team would be sent out at your own expense. If the rescue team would actually find you they would, as an added bonus, shoot you. 3) Bridge construction somewhere along the course – wet feet possible (this turned out not to be a problem).

Norm Klein Lays Down the Law

Since SNER is held in conjunction with the Rio Del Lago 100-miler, there were a lot of people at the start of the race. I saw lots of familiar faces. For example, Scott Dunlap, who was back after having missed the 12-hours at Cool night run due to a knee injury.

The race started at 6 a.m. sharp. Jon Olsen and Mark Tanaka, who were both running the 100-mile race took off quickly. Scott and a few other runners took off after them, and I settled into a good rhythm in about 15th place. I paced with Ray Sanchez for a bit. I had run with him at the Sunsweet Tehama Wildflower 50K run as well as TRT100. Post-TRT, Ray had finished quite a few other ultras, including PCTR Headlands 100, where he impressively placed 2nd.

The first half hour or so was run in the dark, so I used my Black Diamond bottle lamps, which worked quite well. The early miles ticked away effortlessly, but I made a mental note of the fact that the six-mile section between Twin Rocks and Horseshoe Bar was more down than up. The race was run on mostly single-track trail from Granite Bay to No-Hands Bridge close to Auburn. The continuous rolling hills are pretty runnable, but there were definitely some “walkers” as well.

I met Chris for the first time at the Rattlesnake bar AS (mile 12). The two aid stations between the start and Rattlesnake Bar are only crew-accessible on the way back. I took off my hat and the extra shirt that I was wearing, because I was getting a bit warm. With an extra bottle for the 9-mile unsupported section, I took off. I quickly passed the Power Plant water-only AS and started on the seven-mile section to the Maidu AS.

This section featured "Cardiac," the biggest climb of the course (1500’ climb over about a mile and a half). I was not exactly sure where Cardiac was going to start, so on a few of the steeper sections I thought that I might actually already be on it. It seemed a bit overrated, or so I thought until I actually reached…Cardiac. There were quite a few switchbacks and I could see that this was going to lots of fun on my return trip. I walked the steep climb and I reached the top in good shape.

SNER Elevation profile -- Can you find Cardiac?

The last section before the Maidu AS was along an irrigation canal, so it was practically flat. Chris gave me the low-down on the competition: Scott was ahead of me about 10 minutes, and I was in about 8th place overall (still including 100-mile runners). It was fun to see Daffodil Run RD Joan Bumpuss volunteering at the AS. I quickly left and told Chris to meet me at the turnaround point at No-Hands Bridge, skipping the Auburn Dam Overlook AS in between, because it was only about a 1.5 miles past Maidu.

I kept cruising and figured I could reach the bridge in 4:20. Since there was more downhill running on the way back, I thought I could make it back in an overall time of about 8:40. The section from the Auburn Dam Overlook AS to the bridge is about 4 miles. It was during this section that it finally began to drizzle. I love running in the rain, so this was a welcome change for me.

As I was getting closer to the bridge, I figured I’d see Scott charging back towards the finish, but the first runner coming back was not Scott, but Sean Lang, followed by Suzie Lister. Where was Scott? When I arrived at the AS, Chris told me that he had noticed that Scott had taken off in the direction of Cool, which was part of an extra loop that was reserved for just the 100-milers. Chris, not familiar with the course himself, quickly checked with the AS personnel and they realized that he was not a 100-miler. Ouch! They radioed the next AS at the Cool Fire Station, but that was not going to do Scott much good. To top it off, the section towards Cool featured "K2," which was another big uphill like Cardiac. I am not exactly sure about what happened, but let’s just say Scott will be well-prepared for Western States next summer.

On the way back to Auburn Dam Overlook, I stayed close to Suzie Lister, who was setting a really good pace, power-walking the uphills and running the downhills. On this section, I ran towards the runners that were on their way to the bridge. It was a lot of fun to see the many runners like 15-year old Michael Kanning, who was running his first 100-miler (and finished!), Alan Geraldi, with whom I had paced at TRT for the last 27 miles, Chihping, tackling his 5th 100-miler in three months and still looking fresh, camera in hand, and Nancy Warren, the 12 hrs at Cool RD. I think I also saw Hao, who had commented on the blog last week.

I passed Suzie just before the AS, and the other runners told me that Sean Lang was about three minutes ahead of me. Coming out of the AS, I met Rajeev and Anil. We high-fived and wished each other good luck and then I made my way back to Maidu, Chris handed me my iPod, some gel, and a bottle of my orange Gatorade/Water mixture and I took off again after Suzie, who had passed me while I was stocking up at the AS.

The next section was trail running at its finest; I passed Suzie at the top of Cardiac and then started flying downhill. It was a wild rollercoaster ride downhill and I am willing to bet that my descent was one of the fastest of the day. Even after finishing the Cardiac descent, I just kept hammering, filled with pure positive emotion.

I passed Sean Lang about a mile before Rattlesnake Bar and stormed trough the AS, surprising Chris, who had to scramble to get my bottle refilled. One of the AS volunteers told Chris after I left that I looked pretty serious about minimizing AS downtime and whether it was possible to get fired from a volunteer crew. Don’t worry, Chris; there will be no pink slip in the mail! Seriously though, I felt very fortunate to have Chris there all day. Having a good crew can really make a big difference in a race like this.

The next 6-mile section included a lot more uphill, which meant more walking. Once you’re in front, the dynamics change a bit. I looked over my shoulder every once in a while, but there was nobody in sight. With all the twists and turns, however, it was hard to really get a good idea of my position relative to the other runners. I tried not to worry too much about my position and just kept moving forward as fast as I could, depending on the terrain.

One stressful thing on this section was that the trail had been very well marked on the way out, but on the way back it was much harder to see where you had to go. The course was the same, but many intersections only included pink ribbons on the No-Hands Bridge side. I must have come to at least ten of these places where I had to pick the right one based primarily on footprints or memory and, believe me, the latter was not so trustworthy since all the trails looked similar.

Time and time again, I lucked out, running several minutes, wondering if I should go back, only to find another pink ribbon with a sigh of relief. All in all, the trail looked pretty clean. All the runners had carefully listened to Norm, and wanted to avoid a life sentence in nearby Folsom prison. I found (and picked up) just one empty GU packet along the way.
Just before the last AS (Twin Rocks) I made a wrong turn, but I quickly backtracked and only lost about four minutes. I reached Twin Rocks and grabbed my last bottle of Gatorade/Water, had a few Clif Blocks and told Chris to meet me at the finish line.

I figured that if I could make it trough the next two miles without getting passed, nothing could stop me from wining the race. Well, I made it to the two-mile mark, but almost lost the race in the last quarter mile. Just before the finish, the trail forked again. I thought I remembered that I had to go straight, but there was fresh chalk going left. I decided to follow the chalk since it had been used quite a bit on other sections of the course, but I was not convinced. I ran up a levee and saw a man on his bike. I asked him if he knew where the school was, but he did not know and started pointing to the horizon. I thanked him, but immediately started sprinting back to the intersection, hoping that I wasn’t passed in the roughly ten minutes that I had just lost here.
I took the trail in the other direction and within a minute, I could see the school. A boy on the soccer field close to the school told me that I was in first place, so I looked over my shoulder one last time, and then coasted to the finish line, arriving in 8:54.

Arriving at the School

Suzie Lister arrived a few minutes behind me and she had also taken a wrong turn. It turned out that the chalk marks were for the 100-mile race which would pass the school and then go back to circle Lake Natomas. We immediately sent someone out to flag the intersection so that others would not make the same mistake.

In the awards department, Norm and Helen’s races are in a class of their own. All finishers received a beautiful eagle statue, but I also got a gorgeous mountain lion statue for the overall win. As if that was not enough, I received an age group win certificate in a huge frame. It was a good thing we brought the truck!

An (early) Thanksgiving dinner was served and we sat around a bit, recovering and cheering on the finishers, which included Nevada City’s Frank Plucker, who ran an excellent first 50-mile race. After taking a picture with Norm and Helen, we went home, passing by Fleet Feet and stopping for coffee on the way. I got to experience the nicest part of having a crew: not having to drive on the way home!

Thanks a lot to Chris, for spending his Saturday crewing and helping with the setup of some of the aid stations, and to Norm and Helen for putting on another great race! Congrats

3 More Miles -- The Draft Horse Classic/Gold Country Grand Prix Update

Well, I wish I could have slept in ON Sunday after the double marathon, but we had to run the 9th Gold Country Grand Prix race, the Draft Horse Classic 5K and 10K, in Grass Valley. For me the main thing was to just pick up a few GP points, preferably no less than 3rd place in the age division. Normally I run the longer, 10K option if it is available, but I decided to change to the 5K this time, much to the surprise of my age group rival Larry Defeyter, who easily won the 10K race.

Sean, Rocky picked the 10K as a final training run for their half marathon in Lake Tahoe. It was a straightforward, yet scenic out-and-back course, which was a vast improvement over last year’s confusing race through downtown Grass Valley in which I was accidentally directed to run an extra one-mile loop.

It was a bit hard to run the much faster road race pace, but I still managed to squeeze out a decent 5K run. Sid Heaton and Greg Ngo, came in first and second in the 5K 30-39 AG respectively. I am pretty sure I got my third place AG points, but we left before the results were posted, because there were some timing issues and it was cold and rainy.

I went for a cooldown with Chris Bodelato (5K winner in 17+ minutes), who had actually run the TRT 50K in July. We ended up running the entire 5K course once more at an easy pace, which actually helped my legs feel better.

Sean and Rocky ran a great 10K race, arriving together in around 1:12, placing second and third in their age group.

Next up: Off to South Lake Tahoe this Wednesday with Chris and Rebecca to run the Tahoe Super Triple. During the race I’ll try to post a daily progress update on the blog. Wish me luck! :)

Friday, September 21, 2007

That's Right, the Marathon Is No Longer Enough!

Yesterday, the Tahoe Daily Tribune ran a story about the upcoming Lake Tahoe Ultra Marathon events. The Lake Tahoe Marathon certainly provides a lot of ultra options. You can pick from the Triple Marathon, the 72-Mile Ultra, and, as the article titled "The Marathon is no longer enough" states, "For the few runners that can't get enough, there might be an answer - the Super Triple."

It looks like there will to be eight of us running the Super Triple this year: "Five entered the super triple last year, and thus far, eight runners have been brave enough to send in a registration form prior to Thursday's start."

Time to lace them up again and follow the white line!

Well, to warm up, I'll be running the Sierra Nevada Endurance Run tomorrow, followed by the Draft Horse Classic 10K race in Grass Valley on Sunday. I am definitely looking forward to a full week of running!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Running the Tahoe Rim Trail (165 Miles) -- An Interview with Wendell Doman and Sarah Spelt

Wendell Doman during his 66-hour run on the Tahoe Rim Trail (Photo Courtesy PCTR)

On Labor Day, I met Sarah Spelt from Pacific Coast Trail Runs (PCTR) while I was shopping at the Adidas store in South Lake Tahoe. While we had a leisurely talk, Sarah's husband, Wendell Doman, was out running the entire Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) in one go! Wendell finished the run two days later in just under 66 hours on an exceptionally hot weekend.
The Tahoe Rim Trail is roughly 165 miles, at altitude (between 6500' and 10,000'), with almost 25,000' of elevation change. Running the entire Tahoe Rim Trail is not to be confused with the Tahoe Rim Trail 100-mile race. That race is run on a 25 mile section of the 165-mile trail between Spooner Summit and Tahoe Meadows, on the East side of Lake Tahoe.
Wendell and Sarah run PCTR and organize many ultras and other trail running races every year. I ran one of their races (Sequoia) in February and can highly recommend these races (for me it is usually a bit too far of a drive).
But Wendell and Sarah don't just organize running events; they are also very accomplished ultrarunners. They have run races like Badwater and many other famous 100-milers, as well as many non-organized ultras. For example, a few weeks earlier, Sarah ran solo across the state of California from Lake Tahoe to San Francisco supported by Wendell and their son Aaron in a run they called Sierra to the Sea.

Sarah at the start of Sierra to the Sea (Photo Courtesy PCTR)

Wendell and Sarah have both run and hiked the entire TRT a number of times already, but always spread out over multiple days. Running the entire TRT in one go has been one of the things I personally want to do. In fact, I'd like to attempt to break the speed record (currently at 46 hours, held by Tim Twietmeyer). If everything goes well, I'll try that in 2008.

How do you run 165 miles in one go? I could not wait to ask Wendell and Sarah all the questions I have been wondering about and they were kind enough to take the time to answer all of them. So here it goes:

PL: Congrats on your recent run, Wendell. How many times have you and Sarah run or thru-hiked the TRT?

WD: Thanks. Sarah has completed the TRT twice. Both times in stages over 4 and ¼ days (58 hrs. 32 min. in 2003 and 56 hrs. 25 min. in 2006) I did it in stages with Whit Rambach over 4 and ¼ days (42 hours 9 min. in 2004).

PL: Was this (under 66 hrs) your fastest time?

WD: This was the only time I’ve run the TRT continuously.

PL: Where did you start and in which direction did you run? (And, if that is not the traditional route, from Tahoe City, clockwise, why?)

WD: We’ve always started at Tahoe City, but headed counter-clockwise. We like to get the Desolation Wilderness section done early on. It’s the longest (32 miles) and most difficult section without aid.

PL: Which section was the toughest and which one was the easiest?

WD: Actually, the easiest section is typically the 12-mile section from Kingsbury North to Spooner Summit. However, this year this section was the most difficult for me because it is so exposed. I passed through from 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the heat of the day (mid 90's) and the sun was very intense. The easiest section was the first section from TC to Barker Pass.

Wendell takes off at one of the TRT trailheads (Photo Courtesy PCTR)

PL: How about crew access? Some sections are hard to get to and trailheads can be many many miles apart. What was the biggest single stretch you had to cover? How easy was it for Sarah to meet you and were you able to use a cell phone on the trail?

WD: Sarah met me at:

  • Barker Pass – 17 miles
  • Echo Lake – 32 miles (longest)
  • Echo Summit – 2 miles
  • Big Meadow - 15 miles
  • Kingsbury South – 22 miles
  • Kingsbury North – 4 miles
  • Spooner Summit – 12 miles
  • Tahoe Meadows – 23 miles
  • Brockway Summit – 19 miles
  • Tahoe City – 19 miles

All access points are easy to drive to. I used my cell phone a few times on the trail, but most of the time there isn’t a signal.

PL: What time did you start and end?

WD: I started at 3:28 a.m., Saturday, 9/1/07 and finished at 9:18 p.m. on Monday 9/3/07.

PL: Did you sleep at all, and if so, where?

WD: I slept a total of ~ 4 ½ hours throughout the adventure:

  • One hour at 12:30 a.m. Sunday at Big Meadow
  • Two 15 minute naps on the trail early Sunday morning between Big Meadow and Kingsbury South
  • Two 15 minute naps on the trail Sunday afternoon between Kingsbury North and Spooner Summit 1, 15 minute nap at Spooner Summit at 5:30 p.m., Sunday
  • One 15 minute nap on the trail at ~ 2 a.m. Monday morning between Spooner Summit and Tahoe Meadows
  • One hour at 4 a.m. Monday at Tahoe Meadows
  • One hour at 1:30 p.m. Monday afternoon at Brockway Summit

PL: Did you try to time it to be at specific sections for the night runs?

WD: Yes, I timed the start so that I’d complete the Desolation Wilderness section, including the technical Echo Lakes section, in daylight. I expected it to take 60 hours. I timed the start so I’d run 3 days and 2 nights as opposed to 3 nights and 2 days.

Continuous Forward Motion (Photo Courtesy PCTR)

PL: How well is the trail marked? Was it hard to find the trail in the dark?

WD: The course isn’t marked that well considering that it’s the TRT. I’ve done it before with a map, so it wasn’t too difficult staying on the trail this time. I have a pretty good sense of where I am and where I need to go after I’ve run a course once. I didn’t carry a map with me this time.

The section around Dick’s Pass is difficult without a map. Many intersections are not marked at all with TRT or PCT and there are a lot of trails around that area. Also, the beginning of the last five-mile section on Cinder Cone was almost impossible to find in the dark. It’s all rocks and it’s difficult to determine a trail on the flat section about a mile from the top.

PL: Did you run into any animals?

WD: Yes, I saw 2 bears. One before Barker Pass and the second at the top of Cinder Cone before the finish.

PL: Let's talk about your gear. What did you use?

  • Hydration pack/water supply? Ultimate Direction pack with a 100 oz Camelbak bladder and one 20 oz handheld UD bottle.
  • Headlamp(s)? No headlamp; I use handhelds. One, 3 LED light and one, 1 LED backup light. Changed batteries once.
  • Clothing? running clothes/extra layers? Running shorts, Mountain Hardwear Polyester Shirt, Patagaonia Houdini shell (night), and gloves at night.
  • Trekking poles (Note: the speed record was set using poles)? No
  • Shoes? Vasque Blur

PL: What did you eat during the run?

WD: Chocolate milk, goldfish crackers, Payday bars, ginger cookies, Clif Bloks, Swedish fish candy, Pizza, Starbucks Frappuccino, Hamburger, Taco Bell tacos, French Toast, English Muffin, Eggs, Ham, Hash Browns, and a Tri-tip sandwich.

PL: Did you use a GPS tracking device? Any idea of the exact distance and amount of elevation loss and gain? I have heard many different distances (164-168 miles).

WD: No GPS, no map. Last time I took the new section around Tamarack Peak and I estimated 167 mi. I used an altimeter to calculate 24,240 feet of elevation gain. This time was about 165 miles and the same elevation gain.

PL: On a run like this you must go through a lot of ups and downs. What helped you pull through in the difficult times?

WD: I stopped at 56 miles this year at Hardrock because I wasn’t having fun and I wasn’t motivated, since I’d done it twice already. I didn’t want another DNF. I was about to stop the first night at Big Meadow because I thought I was going too slowly to finish in time for Aaron (12 years old) to get back for school on Tuesday. I had made a miscalculation and Sarah corrected me and kept me going.

PL: What was the most memorable moment of your race?

WD: Sarah buying me breakfast at the casino near Incline Village at 5 a.m. Monday morning.

PL: Anything you would have done differently?

WD: I would have rested more the week before and started a little later than 3:30 a.m. 6 a.m. would have been better. Maybe do it in October when the weather is cooler.

PL: When will this be added to the PCTR calendar of events?

WD: Funny.

PL: Is there anything else you would like to share about any of your TRT runs?

WD: Doing the TRT continuously was much more difficult than I expected. If I hadn’t DNF'ed at Hardrock this year, I probably would have stopped my attempt. I’m very happy to have done it but I don’t plan on doing it this way again. Doing it is stages is much more enjoyable.

Thank you so much, Wendell and Sarah. See you on the trails!

Congrats to the 2007 Grand Slam Finishers!

The 2007 Grand Slam Finishers (Photo courtesy of Chihping Fu)

Congratulations to Dave and the other 10 men and women who finished the Grand Slam on Sunday!

Over the weekend, I kept monitoring the Wasatch 100 website anxiously to track Dave Yeakel jr's progress. After successfully completing Western States, Vermont 100, and Leadville 100, with about a month between each race, he ran another solid race in 33:14, well ahead of the 36-hour cutoff. Fantastic performance, Dave! I am looking forward to the final race report.

Congrats also to Chihping, who toughed it out at Wasatch to make it to the final cutoff with nine minutes to spare. He did this after finishing TRT100, Burning River 100, and Cascade Crest 100, with only about two weeks in between each race. To top it off, he is signed up for Rio Del Lago 100 in two weeks!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Labor Day Weekend at Tahoe

Last weekend, we had a fun time around the Lake. We stopped by the Adidas Outlet store to buy some running shoes for the kids' upcoming Lake Tahoe Half Marathon. While we were there, we ran into Sarah from PCTR. Wendel was out running the entire TRT (165 miles) in one go! That is something that I am planning to do next year. Wendel did a great job, finishing on Monday night in just under 66 hours. It was a very hot weekend, which, as Sarah said, made a tough undertaking even tougher. In the past, Sarah has also run the entire TRT, so I am going to ask Wendel and Sarah if they want to share some of their tips and expertise and I will post that on the blog.

On Sunday, we went to the Labor Day Tent Sale at Heavenly and picked up a new snowboard for Rocky, as well as some other snowboard gear for the kids. (They can't wait for the snow to come!) After that, we had a great lunch at Sprouts. I love their food and juices, so I am definitely coming back to eat there during the Super Triple. (I already warned the owner and started a punch-discount card :) )

On Sunday we went for a run on the North Shore. Sean ran ahead and I ran a little bit with Rocky, while Vicky was crewing for us. Training for the kids' half marathon and the Super Triple is going full speed ahead now and all the tightness from the TRT100 and Cool12Hr is gone.

We finished at one of my other favorite places, Tahoe House Bakery. This Swiss-style bakery is another must-visit place!

Next up,in two weeks, 7 marathons in 7 days:
  • Double Marathon -- 9/22
  • 10K race -- 9/23
  • Super Triple marathon one -- 9/27
  • Super Triple marathon two -- 9/28
  • Super Triple 72-miler -- 9/29

I guess I should sign up for Marathon Maniacs after that week, because that would be good enough for the Ruthenium level :)

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Leadville Trail 100 – The Race Across the Sky (By Dave Yeakel jr.)

Here is part 3 of the Grand Slam journal written by my friend and guest blogger Dave Yeakel jr. This is Dave’s account of his Leadville 100 experience, his third race in the 2007 Grand Slam (Part 1 can be read here, and part 2 here).
Leadville has dominated my thoughts all year. 100 Colorado miles defined by unpredictable mountain weather, altitude averaging 10,500 feet prompting the catch phrase “Got Oxygen?” and some of the toughest miles on any course between 40-60 when runners must traverse Hope Pass at 12,600 feet twice on this out and back course. This race is not the hardest of the summer as that distinction is saved for the Wasatch Front, but it has the least mercy with a 30 hour cutoff and an ability to chastise those who lose focus, or who’s body it senses an exploitable weakness. Every year 50% of the starters never finish this race. Yes, this was the one to worry about because I felt the outcome was beyond my control.

The primary Leadville issue relates to altitude acclimatization, which is so eloquently described by the American Heart Association of Colorado safety brochures.

"A sudden change in environment from sea level to high altitude (above 5,280 feet) can produce symptoms of nausea, insomnia, diarrhea, restlessness, shortness of breath and air hunger. Palpitations or fast heart-beat, headache, nasal congestion, coughing, increased flatulence or “gas”, easy fatigue and intolerance to exertion also may be experienced. If the high altitude experience progresses, more shortness of breath, and increased coughing and edema (fluid accumulation in the lungs) may occur requiring medical attention and possible hospitalization."

The general consensus is to acclimate for a minimum of two weeks or arrive the day prior to a high altitude race and take your chances before the body knows what hit it. Due to personal constraints and a belief that my body would respond to a shorter time period, I opted to arrive eight days prior to the race. Within six hours of landing in Denver I had managed to stock up food & supplies before driving to the parking lot atop Mt. Evans, Colorado - elevation 14,100 ft. This was to be home for the night as I put the seat back & settled in.

The road to Mt. Evans is the highest paved road in North America, and it doesn’t go anywhere except to a parking lot and an observatory. It’s amazing how many people drive to nowhere in the middle of the night as I took note of many visitors coming and going throughout a very blustery night. I lay in the car atop the mountain, all alone with the wind howling and rocking the car. It was so blustery that I moved the car to the center of the parking lot so as not to get blown off the mountain. Yes, a little over active imagination but then again why take chances! By 3am I had a screaming headache, stomach nausea, and knees that ached, but I took mental comfort that the shock-approach was working and I only needed a few more hours before driving to a more reasonable altitude for recovery.

At 6:20am Saturday morning I was finally coherent enough to move about and climb to the 14,268 foot summit, what a beautiful view standing atop the Rockies peering down on Denver miles away with mountain vista’s all around. After 15 minutes or so of soul searching I determined enough was enough and I was ready to go. I could not get to lower elevation fast enough, could not eat food without fear of recourse, and spent the remainder of Saturday afternoon lying in bed drifting in and out of sleep between bad movies on cable TV.

Sunday prompted a return to Mt. Evans, parking at Summit Lake (elevation 12,700) followed by a brisk rock scramble to the summit gaining almost 1,600 feet. In the thin air I should have been more careful as on the return descent I picked up the pace and promptly took a nasty fall banging my back and shoulder against the rocks. It took a few moments to collect my thoughts as my body was wracked with pain and my head was spinning, the mountains had just served notice that this was not going to be easy!

Monday thru Thursday were spent running the ridges of Loveland Pass (11,996 ft), hiking the jeep road to Mosquito Pass twice (13,186 ft), visiting the 50 mile turn-around located in the ghost town of Winfield, checking e-mail at the local university, morning walks with coffee in hand, resting, socializing and relaxing. This part of the prerace ritual I’m enjoying and becoming quite good at!

Thursday evening just prior to the pasta dinner the surrounding mountains were dusted with a summer snowfall as an informal omen to expect the unexpected. All that remained to be done on Friday was the medical check, prerace briefing, and delivery of drop bags to the courthouse lawn. As I had debated what to put in the drop bags all week I was quite anxious to deliver them as soon as possible so I could to end the mental acrobatics.

My room at the historic Delaware Hotel was strategically located just one block from the start/finish providing extra time for sleep and eliminating any logistical issues. Everything that could be planned for had been taken care of to the best of my abilities, now it was time to run. Once again, the 4am start arrived way to early but the adrenaline was pumping for this race and I was ready to test my limits at altitude.

The initial plan was to run comfortable and not push the pace like at Vermont but with 475 runners toeing the line, the top third was calling my name so I could run the trail sections around Turquoise Lake without much interference. With almost an hour of running until reaching the lake section I found a niche within the crowd and made myself comfortable. Early on I happily realized that my acclimation appeared to have worked, although the true test would not arrive until climbing Sugar Loaf Pass (11,000+ft) at mile 19 and Hope Pass (12,600ft) at mile 45.

Leadville’s course was far prettier and entertaining than I imagined as it twisted, turned, climbed and descended thru the mountains. Once again I was immersed in conversation with fellow runners and my mind occupied with a constant measure of pacing and physical energy levels as the miles rolled by. My least favorite section of this course came just after the Fish Hatchery aid station (mile 23.5) when the course travels a road for 7 miles, this section reduced my running strategy to running past three telephone poles before walking to the next followed by a repeat, over and over for almost the entire section until Halfmoon Campground aid station.

The “outbound” 9 miles between Halfmoon and Twin Lakes (mile 39.5) were some of the best as the course rolls across a series of three hills with a constant downhill bias ending in a screaming vertical drop on a jeep trail just short of the aid station. This bustling aid station really got the adrenaline pumping as the crowd was very enthusiastic and I was still full of energy as planned. This milestone brought me face to face with the menacing Mt. Hope indicating that the climb from the lowest (9,200ft) to highest (12,600ft) point on the course was soon to test my limits not just on the first climb but also 5 miles later on the “inbound” return trip.

Soon after departing Twin Lakes and crossing the river and wetlands feeding the lakes we began climbing and climbing and climbing. The ascent was not intensely steep but constant and wet as the mountain skies began dumping cold rain in the higher elevations. I will have to say it started looking pretty bleak from a mental aspect wandering where the top was after leaving Twin Lakes almost two hours prior. Finally, in a clearing, several hundred feet below the pass I could see the aid station and remember thinking I was almost halfway home. It was extremely difficult to summon the energy to re-emerge from that aid station tent into the rain and now hail to climb the final 500-700 feet up and over the pass but it had to be done.

The final push was wet and miserable, but once over the top an enchanted valley lay below. From the pass you could see endless switchbacks littered with runners looking like autumn leaves in there brightly colored rain gear. The initial descent was fairly mild but it was hard to look around as I was having issues with the height and a strange dizzy feeling like when standing on the edge of a cliff. It was best to focus my eyes on the trail and just keep moving.

It did not take long for the narrow trail to plunge to the valley floor, making passing faster runners on their return climb difficult. From the bottom of the mountain it was only 2.5 miles until Winfield and 50 miles (4:03pm). I had purposefully not packed a drop bag for the turn around because I did not want to dawdle too long. My goal was to get back over Hope Pass and put the worst of this course behind me.

Running in the mountains means that temperatures can change in just a matter of minutes. So while an hour ago at the top, it had been raining and hailing, it was now bright, sunny and quite warm on the gravel road between the trailhead and Winfield. Once again the aid station crowd was one of the largest I’ve seen and served to excite the adrenaline, however short-lived. Most of my adrenaline rushes are short lived after 50 miles!

On the road back to the trailhead I began looking for friends and taking mental measurements of their pace and energy hoping that each would make it to the finish. Once I was back on the trail the course got ugly real fast as the return climb was shorter but steeper. Whether it was from the wear and tear of prior races this year, the prior 50 miles, improper training for real mountains, or general fatigue from the higher altitude, I was forced to make repetitive stops along the climb. These were not just stops to look at the scenery these were full-fledged hands on the knees to rest or “tree huggers” to keep from falling back down the steep trail and lose precious ground that I had worked so hard for. It wasn’t my lungs stopping me dead in my tracks, but my legs screaming for a few seconds of rest and recovery. I know it looked pathetic but trust me I had company at more than one stop.

Never have I been happier to be above tree-line as I was on that climb knowing that it meant only another 1,000 feet or so of climbing. Of course the very cold rain and hail returned (surprise) along with dark gray skies, thunder, and wind to add to the excitement. Once again it was Dave vs. the mountain and my energy levels grew to meet the challenge as the conditions worsened. I was determined to get across that pass. The unfortunate aspect of climbing back up Hope Pass was seeing a large number of runners still coming downhill for whom it was mathematically impossible to meet the 14 hour time cut-off at Winfield. In other words they had already been eliminated by the course and knew it but they still soldiered on. Just as anticipated this return climb up Hope Pass was my slowest section of the course averaging 28minutes per mile – like I said, it hurt!

From the top of the pass back to Twin Lakes it was a fun-filled, fast, muddy trip. The adolescent runner in me attempted to break out again but I reeled him back in so he wouldn’t hurt himself. At the aid station (60.5-miles, 15-hrs, 58-min) it was time to change shoes and socks after a very wet 20 miles. The sun would soon be setting and the next section would take some time, as it was primarily uphill. The energy level in me was waning a little but I still felt strangely content to be headed for home knowing that nothing short of a major problem could stop me.

As expected the inbound section between Twin Lakes and Halfmoon took some time with its uphill bias but even still it proved again to be my favorite as the woods were so dense and beautiful. At Halfmoon (69.5-miles, 19-hrs, 11-min) I had some difficulty, first with the volunteers actually getting my drop bag and then with self motivation to get out of the chair. I could feel extreme fatigue setting in and I knew the next 7 miles were my least favorite of the course.

It is two miles from the aid station to where crews are allowed to meet their runners, and while I did not have a crew I did collect a hug and moral support from Don Halke’s crew/pacer Ellen. Always nice to have a few friends! I had warned Ellen before the race that my only need may be to collect a hug from her and when Ellen’s husband Bill saw me and asked if there was anything I needed there was no hesitancy in my voice, “I’ll take that hug now! I really need it!” After the usual lies about how I was making this look easy, I confessed to them that I was really tired and the last 30 were going to be difficult. No major issues with my body or legs just extreme fatigue like I had never experienced before. I believe this extra level of tiredness was due to the altitude.

At most races the runners seem to “thin out” in the second half as people drop out and the time expands between groups of runners. In this race the number of runners on course seemed to expand in a strange phenomenon brought about by the western landscape with fewer trees on this section, pacers joining their runners, and the constant climb back up to 11,000 feet at the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain (mile 81). On several occasions I took the time to look back at the course and see what appeared to be a parade of lights extending for miles. It was really spectacular and served to remind me I was not alone and that I needed to keep moving because technically this was still a “race”.

From the top of Sugar Loaf the course descends back to the May Queen aid station leaving you at the doorstep of Leadville with 13.5 miles to go. But before you can count yourself a finisher you must first must traverse the rolling and rocky shoreline of Turquoise Lake, get past the Tabor Boat Ramp and back uphill the final three miles or so to the finish.

I had hoped to never see this section around the lake to the finish in daylight but it was already 4:50am when I arrived at May Queen and the sun would soon be rising across the lake. I continued to make good time inspired by a woman and her husband pacer who I had shared the trail with since the top of Sugar Loaf. Neither one of us was talking much but traveling together seemed to spur us on as we changed leads repeatedly but neither of us could break the imaginary rubber band that bound us together for those miles. That is until the Tabor Boat Ramp (mile 93) when my wheels finally came off and my running buddy slowly pulled away.

Once again, extreme fatigue had set in, my feet were now seriously hurting and while I could still power-walk I could not establish a run momentum further than 100 yards or so. Part of it was the knowledge that barring serious mishap I had survived the uncontrollable race. I kept a firm mental picture of how much time was left and pushed whenever my feet would allow so that I could put more “time in the bank”. The last few miles were tough as I had ignored scouting them before the race and never noticed the hills in the early race darkness and adrenaline. Now it was all uphill to the finish – I was determined that if the finish was not apparent by 8:30am I would have to run no matter what, as I could not afford a DNF at this point in the summer.

Thankfully, just before 8:30am the course was benevolent and provided a glimpse of the finish line three quarters of a mile away and uphill but at least I could see it! The entire idea of running went out the window as I walked all but the final 30 yards. One person passed me in that final stretch with a full sprint from about one half mile out, but the announcer said he was from Colorado Springs so I felt justified that he came pre-adjusted to altitude….he should be sprinting! Finally, at 8:38am on Sunday I crossed the finish line with a time of 28-hrs, 38-min, 17-sec.

A tagline used by the race this year, “There are no Shortcuts – The Leadville Trail 100” absolutely says it all and causes me to ponder the craving I have to return to this course in the future. A course that looks so deceptively benign on paper with only 15,600 feet of climbing and descent, but which exploits and chastises the challengers every year.

What’s next? Wasatch Front 100 mile Endurance Run and the final race of the Grand Slam
“Wasatch is not just of distance and speed; it is adversity, adaptation and perseverance.”

Dave Yeakel, Jr. (#293 – out)
139th of 210 finishers with 475 starters (yes, that’s a 44.2% finish rate)

Grand Slam Update – 30 registered runners:
05 DNF’s at Western States
02 DNF’s at Vermont
10 DNF’s at Leadville with–the “Lucky 13” still running

Way to tough it out, Dave! Now, rest up and bring it home at Wasatch!
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