Wednesday, June 27, 2007

51 Miles -- One Day

What a great weekend! Two runs totaling 51 miles and mostly at night. In other words, some excellent TRT100 preparation.

Run#1 – Habitat Run Half Marathon (+/- 13.1 Miles)

This was the 6th race in the Gold Country Grand Prix Series. It was a “first annual” race, featuring 5K, 10K, and Half Marathon distances. The race was held on the Pioneer trail and started at the Harmony Ridge Market on Highway 20, a few miles east of Nevada City.

The races started at different times, starting with the Half Marathon at 8:10 a.m., so we picked up our race numbers, chatted with a few of the other runners, and went to the starting line. Reno’s Chris Bodelato was running the Half Marathon today, as was V Neelakantan (Neel) who practically lives on the course, so there was going to be some good competition.
Before the first race

The first few miles were uphill, on an old wagon trail close to the highway. I was following Chris closely and we had to look carefully for course markings. After about three miles, we crossed a road and started heading away from the highway on a fairly flat section of single-track trail and after another mile or so we started heading down a steep road.

I caught up with Chris on the downhill and we chatted a little bit. He is on the waiting list for the TRT50K, so I might see him fly by there. We enjoyed the steep downhill while it lasted, knowing full well that we had to go back up the same hill a little later. At one point we took a wrong turn and we ended up in front of a creek, scratching our heads and looking for the trail. Neel zoomed by on the far side and pointed out that the trail was on the left and so we quickly ran back and followed him on the correct path. In my hurry to catch up I tripped over a root, but fortunately the trail was soft and I did not get hurt, just dirty.

Once we were back on the main road, Chris started pulling away slowly. We reached the turnaround point and we started heading back up the hill. Some sections were really steep and it almost did not matter if you ran or walked. Neel, who lives really close to this trail and trains here a lot, was running strong and started pulling away. I thought about pushing it to the finish, but since I was still comfortably in first place in my Grand Prix age group, I figured that I would save a little bit of energy for run#2 later in the day, (pacing 38 miles at Western States).

The last three miles were all downhill and it felt good to run the last part fast. I finished in 1:33, but have to add that the total distance measured on my Forerunner GPS indicated only 12.7 miles, so I am not sure how accurately the course was measured.

Over in the 10K, Sean picked up second in his age group with his first-ever sub-60 10K on a pretty tough course. Along the way he also got lost once. Sean’s friend Hayes came in first in his age group and I think he is now tied with Rough and Ready’s Austin Violette in the GP standings. Austin was crewing and pacing for his cross-country coach at Western States and I ran into him later in the day.

In the 5K, Rocky got lost and actually ended up on the freeway. Fortunately he knew that this was not a road race and he turned around and managed to find the trail again, losing about four minutes, but still placing 3rd in his age group.

We waited for the medals and then we were off to the Wisdom CafĂ© for coffee. After that, I went for lunch at on of my favorite lunch places, Fudenjuce, on Zion street. I had a delicious (and big) Greek wrap there as well as one of their great fresh-squeezed juices. I pulled out the laptop and checked on the status of my runner. Dave was only about 15 minutes behind schedule, so since I had never been to Western States race, I figured I’d fill up my water bottles and head to…

Run#2 Pacing from Forest Hill to Auburn (+/- 38 Miles)

I met Dave jr. last year at the Lake Tahoe Super Triple and we kept in touch after the race. When Dave jr. wrote me that he was going to run the grand slam this year, I immediately offered to pace him at WS100, since it is practically in our backyard. He happily accepted and the day had finally come. Dave was shooting for somewhere between 23.5 and 26.5 hours, but never having run the course, all estimates were to be taken with a grain of salt (and electrolytes).

Although the weather was really good for June, it was still a hot day. I arrived in Forest Hill and found out that Hal Koerner, the eventual winner, had just come through. The place was buzzing with pacers, crews, volunteers, and spectators. I picked up my pacer number and hung out close to the aid station while the front-runners were coming through. Sean Meissner was there, crewing and pacing for Rod Bien and I also ran into fellow ultraholics Rajeev and Anil, who had just finished their 30-mile safety patrol.

After the first twenty runners had come through, I figured I should have an early dinner and headed over to The Pizza Factory. I had a delicious pizza with Rajeev, Anil, and some of their friends and we all had a great time. The town definitely had Western States fever; laptops were posted at the restaurant counters and customers could check the progress of their runners while ordering a pizza. The legendary Tim Twietmeyer, who clocked his 25th sub-24 hour finish last year, is now one of the race organizers and he was having breadsticks and checking on the race progress.

Since Dave had not reached the Michigan Bluff aid station (organized by our own Sierra Trailblazers Running Club) yet, I decided to go there to wait for him. I could not believe the number of cars parked on the side of the road, this place looked busier than Forest Hill! I found a spot about a mile down the road and walked down to the aid station. There was also a school bus shuttle service that took people back and forth.

After waiting a little while and checking the computer system a few times, Dave (#429) came running around the corner, wearing his traditional orange bandana (the same one I had been looking at from behind for many, many miles at the super triple last year). He had now finished a little more than half of the race and had the toughest part (the canyons and the heat) behind him. He had fallen a little bit behind schedule and looked like he was not eating as much as he should be. I gave him some gel and salt tablets, we talked about what was required at the Forest Hill aid station and it was “429 out!”

I drove back to Forest Hill and got ready. I put on a pair of fresh Balega socks, bagbalm, my Black Diamond nightlight, and a long sleeve shirt. I filled up my water bottles and got ready to go. Dave planned a slightly longer stop at Forest Hill, so I got his drop bag ready. Upon his arrival, we went to work quickly. Dave took care of a blister, and changed into a new pair of shoes. He ate some soup, a can of ensure, and 9 minutes later, we were out of there. It was exactly 8:30 p.m. and it was slowly getting dark.

Although it was “all downhill” to the finish, the Western States trail has a lot of ups and downs. It is mostly single track trail with plenty of dust, rocks, and roots. We walked the uphills and ran the downhills and flats. This went pretty well and we were getting pretty close to the section splits that Dave had anticipated prior to the race, although we were not quite making up time. Could we still make it sub-24?

We turned on the headlamps a little after 9 p.m. Dave had fabricated a light that would go around his water bottle, which worked great. I will try to duplicate that for TRT. The aid stations along the way were very well stocked (hence the nickname 100-mile buffet), but we did our best to minimize our stays there. My main job was to keep pushing forward and to make sure Dave was fueling properly. It’s hard to eat so many gels, but you really have to keep doing it to stay in the race. I was surprised at how well Dave was running this late in the race. He also had not lost his sense of humor (probably the best indicator that he was doing well) and we had a lot of fun along the way.

At the Rucky Chucky AS (around mile 78), we had to cross the American River. This was fun, but left you with a pair of wet shoes and I was a bit worried that this would not be good for Dave’s feet. Fortunately we had a pair of dry socks waiting at the Auburn Lake Trails aid station 5 miles ahead. While Dave was changing his socks, I asked for some coffee. They were just making some new coffee, so we decided to move on, hoping to get some coffee at the next aid station, but when we got there, they were, once again, just making some new coffee. We just grabbed a few Gus and kept running.

We kept a good pace, running for extended periods here and there and walking the uphill sections. Sometimes we caught a very good running rhythm and we were able to go for nice long sections. Still, it is very hard to make up lost time at a 100-mile race. We kept going, but it was clear we were heading for something in the 26-hour range, comfortably under 30 hours, which ultimately is all that the Grand Slam is concerned about.

At the Highway 49 AS, we finally got our coffee. A medical volunteer quickly patched up a heel blister for Dave and we were off again. There was still a lot of uphill running in the final ten miles, but the aid stations were getting closer and closer together. First 5 and 4 miles apart, then 3, 2, and finally, we reached Robie Point with only one mile to go to the finish at the Stadium!
Entering the track, the grand finale

The last 300 yards is run on the track and it’s a great finish to such a long race. The runners had to wear a timing chip for 100 miles and the sole purpose of this chip seemed to be to provide the runner’s name to the finish line officials and announcer, because there were no timing mats at any of the aid stations. In the future, I am sure we’re going to see runner profiles complete with pictures and preselected theme songs pop up on giant scoreboards as they enter the stadium. This year, the WS100 website already featured mugshots of all the runners, which was kind of cool.

As we rounded the far side of the track, I noticed that two other runners had entered the track and they were rapidly closing on us. I told Dave that he was “at risk” and had to hurry up. After running a hundred miles, I wanted him to at least get a good photograph of himself at the finish-line of this world-famous ultra and not just a shot of his arms waving in the air behind some other runners! Dave cranked it up a few notches and we parted ways on the final 100 yards (runners go straight and crews and pacers move into a separate chute to the right). The announcer called out his name and time: 26:41:51. The first 100 miler of the Grand Slam was in the bag! (Congratulations, Dave, on a well-run race!)

We had a nice pancake breakfast in the stadium and after that, my friend Chris gave me a ride back to Forest Hill. On the way back, we stopped at just about every Starbucks for coffee, in order not to fall asleep on the way home. It was a long, but very satisfying weekend. I could not have asked for a better training run for the upcoming TRT100. I'll fine-tune a few things based on this run, but overall things went really well and I feel ready.

At the finish

I also think I’ll sign up for the 2008 WS100 race. With the current lottery system, it may be 2010 before I get in anyway. One thing I would recommend for this race, or at least for the night-run part, is wearing is a pair of clear-lens sunglasses to protect your eyes from the dust. My eyes were a real mess afterwards.

Next up, a quick 5K on the fourth of July and then my own 100 miler: the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 on July 21st.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Dutch Go 1-2 at the Oracle 5K

Today, I joined a few hundred other Oracle colleagues and some ex-Oracle employees for the annual Oracle 5K. Though this event was advertised as a non-competitive fun run, there was going to be some serious competition up front.

I warmed up for about a mile and met Chihping and Yuki at the start. I'm looking forward to see them again this weekend at WS100; Yuki is going to run the race and Chihping will first be on the safety patrol for 30 miles, and then he will pace Yuki for the last 38 miles from Forest Hill. Chihping made some nice pictures, so I am looking forward to his post about the race.

There were easily 200 people at the start and I took off quickly to avoid getting run over on the narrow bike path, then settled into about a 6 minute pace. The course is a flat out and back course along the Belmont slough in Redwood Shores, close to the Oracle Headquarters. I work for Oracle, but mostly work off site, so it is always fun to visit and meet co-workers and other friends.

I was almost immediately passed by a fellow Dutchman, Mark van de Wiel, who is a product manager and an accomplished marathon runner, who has run marathons all over the world. I followed him to the turnaround point and on my way back I noticed that Ian Inglish was not far behind me, looking strong. The temperature was great, but it was a bit windy, causing slightly slower times.

On the way back, I was not able to close the gap with Mark (he finished first in 19:08 and his name will be added to the 5K trophy that has the names of all the previous winners on it), but fortunately, I was able to hang on to my second place in 19:23. Ian Inglish came in right behind me in 19:30. One good reason to try to finish this race really quickly is that you avoid the long lines for the showers. Last year, I hung out at the pool a little too long and ended up waiting for over 20 minutes to take a shower :)

All in all, it was a lot of fun and I plan to come back again next year.

Next up, the Habitat Run Half Marathon on Saturday morning, followed by pacing my friend Dave jr. for the last 38 miles at WS100 at night.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Predicting the 2007 Western States Winner

Greg Crowther has posted a fun contest on his blog. Predict the winner of this year's WS100 and collect one of three cool prizes :)
I'll be at Ws100 myself this weekend, pacing my friend Dave Yeakel Jr. from Forest Hill to Auburn Saturday night and I'm really looking forward to it.
I heard Sean Meissner will be out there pacing too and Chihping Fu will be crewing and part of the safety patrol as well. Should be good preparation for TRT100.
Next up, the Oracle 5K on Thursday.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Running for the Community

The 10K Altitude Profile

On Saturday, I joined a crowd of runners (it seemed like more than 200, but I am not sure) in Grass Valley for the first annual Run for the Community 5K/10K. The event was hosted by the Twin Cities Church and was the fifth run in the Gold Country Grand Prix series.

I had scouted out the course with Sid Heaton last week and it was a good thing we did. The course (especially the last half of the 10K) was a lot harder that I had expected for a Grass Valley run. It almost reminded me of the Salmon Run and some parts were actually steeper.
Arriving on race day, you could not tell that this was the first time the event was ever hosted. The race was extremely well organized. There were nice technical shirts, prizes (including actual trophies), and lots of volunteers and water stations on the course.
The race started at 8:30 and at that time it was already hot. During my warmup, I had stashed a bottle of water around the three-mile mark, which would come in handy. A high school runner from Reno, NV who ended up winning the race, Reno's Chris Bodelato, and Sid Heaton led the 5K, and I followed closely, followed by V Neelakantan and Dixon's Greg Ngo, who recently finished an unbelievable bike ride across the US in 28 days. I knew the last two miles of the race were going to be a tough uphill, so I decided to go out hard, taking advantage of the downhills. The first mile, which led us into a beautiful cherry orchard, flew by in 5:38.
After about three miles, we crossed the Rough and Ready Highway, which marked the start of the long downhill to the Kubich's Lumber Mill (as seen in the Hallmark movie The Christmas Card). Some sections were extremely steep and at one point I felt like I was actually flying, reaching a maximum speed of 15.7 miles an hour (per my Garmin Forerunner)!

Of course the fun was short-lived, because, after turning around at the lumber mill, everybody had to climb back up the hill. The Bannister-like speed was instantly replaced with a slow shuffle. Greg and V were not that far behind me, so I kept moving forward as fast as I could.
Half-way up the hill there was a flat, 1-mile irrigation ditch trail section that allowed us to catch a breath. It was another out and back section, and at the turnaround point I was in roughly the same position compared to Greg and V as before.
The last 3/4-mile section was back up the hill, with a somewhat flat finish into the parking lot. A lot of the 5K runners that had already finished were cooling down and offered encouragement. I was able to hang on to my first place, finishing in 44:25. Greg came in second, followed by V.
Rocky had already finished the 5K in about 33 minutes and our friend Marie who ran the 5K finished second in her age group. Vicky walked the 5K with another friend and shortly after they arrived, Sean and his friend Hayes finished the 10K in about 1:09, a great time considering the tough course. Sean increased his lead in the Grand Prix with his first place in the 12 and under AG, while Hayes came in second in the 13-15 AG behind Austin Violette, who will be part of the crew that is going to film the Western States 100 mile race this year.
We all had a great time. There was lots of hardware to take home; I received a nice trophy (see below) and the boys received nice medals. After the awards ceremony, we were off to the Wisdom Cafe in Nevada City for a nice coffee.
Next up, a big running day on June 23rd. First, the Habitat Trail Run Half Marathon in the morning, and later that day I'll be pacing my friend Dave Yeakel Jr. from the East Coast from Forest Hill to Auburn (38 miles) at Western States 100 . Good preparation for the TRT100!

Note: I left my camera's memory card in the computer, so no pictures this time.
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