Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Lake Sonoma 50 Mile

     On Saturday, April 11, I ran the eight annual Lake Sonoma 50 Mile endurance run.  It is a fairly young race, but has grown wildly in popularity and attracts some of the fastest trail runners in North America, if not the world.  As part of the Montrail Ultra Cup Series, the top two finishers are awarded spots in the 2015 Western States 100 Mile run.  The field was stacked, with maybe 20-30 registered runners (male & female) capable of winning the race.

     My goals were to finish, get a (very) long training run in for my Miwok 100k, and enjoy the event and course as much as possible.  I was also quite interested in winning Montrail's "Last Chance Promo", which selected one runner to run the 2015 Western States 100 (from a pool of runners who finished Lake Sonoma 50 and had qualified for the 2015 Western States 100, but not been picked in the most recent lottery).  I'll save you the suspense... the runner was selected roughly one week after the LS50 race, and it was not me.

     At 6:30 AM, about 350 of us headed for the trails, which I had been told, and soon learned for myself to be beautiful.  Running gently and comfortably, towards the back of the pack, I took in the sights.

~7:30 AM maybe 5 miles in

Coming into Warm Springs, mile 11.6.  Photo: Chris Jones

My favorite shot of the day, ~mile 15
     LS50 is an out and back course, so I had been looking forward to seeing the top runners cruising back while I was heading out.  I was feeling great and made sure to hop off the trail and encourage every runner I saw on their return trip.  I also snapped a few pics of some of my fav's/buddies.

Mike Wardian, 8th overall

Max King, 9th overall

Gary Gellin, 10th overall
Stephanie Howe, 1st Female
     During an ultra I occasionally, if not continually, take stock of the feedback I'm getting from my body and try my best to translate that information into what my needs are.  For example, certain aches and pains might indicate pacing adjustments are needed;  lethargy, cramping, tightness, or nausea might indicate I'm needing certain fluids or foods to keep me going.  Throughout the day, all systems were go.  I was feeling fine, enjoying the course and company, and just kept plodding along.

     I was excited to arrive at the turnaround (halfway) point.  I received lots of smiles and encouragement from friends and dug into my drop bag where I loaded up on some calories, in the form of three 11 oz Svelte protein shakes and a Tahoe Trail Bar.   The distance I had traveled thus far (25 miles), felt long, and I was eager to head back to the start/finish.  Out of the aid station, on to the finish I went.
Halfway done and happy to see Chris Jones & co.  Photo: Chris Jones
     The second half of my run was largely uneventful.  Considering the number of miles I had covered, I was feeling great.  I no acute pains, no nausea, it was hot, but bearable.  I meandered along the trail, rising and falling with the mountains that cradled the lake.  I chatted with some new friends, I saw a deer, I nearly stepped on a rattlesnake's tail as it finished crossing the trail (this wasn't a frightening experience, mayyybe a bit of a close call, but neither of us became startled), and I enjoyed the view.

     With 15 miles to go, I was pretty much ready to be done running.  Fortunately I was still feeling well.  I was running pretty strong on the flat and downhill stretches and made no attempt to do anything but hike on anything but the most gentle uphill sections.  With 6-7 miles to go, my energy levels were really tanking.  I had been on the trail for over 10 hours and had climbed thousands of feet.  I started to break the rest of the course down into miles... and tenths of miles, congratulating myself for all progress, no matter how small.  And then, almost suddenly, as happens with events like this, the finish line came into view.  Those last miles that seemingly would never pass, in fact did.  Just as I had imagine I would, I cruised down the finishers chute and it was over.  50 miles in the books.  Incredible course, atmosphere, and a very well organized race.

Race director John Medinger.  Photo: Chris Jones

Jim, Chris Jones, WS100 Founder Gordy Ansleigh, and myself.

James and I leap frogged each other all day, finished within 2 minutes of each other, and were both happy to have our finisher's jackets.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Accidentally ran a marathon...

As has happened a few times in my life, I accidentally ran a marathon this weekend.  I was chatting with my friend Jeff on Friday and decided I would pace him for a 16 mile stretch of his American River 50 Mile Endurance Run.  I was having such a good time, that when I completed my 16 mile section, I decided to accompany him the additional 10 miles to the finish.  Congrats to Jeff on his finish, and thanks for the marathon!

I felt great running the last ~1/2 of the AR 50M course and I'm taking that as a confidence booster into this Saturday's Lake Sonoma 50 Mile race.  The Lake Sonoma 50M course is difficult, notching up ~12,000 ft. of cumulative elevation gain.  I'll give it what I've got and will be hoping to nab that last chance at a Western States 100 Mile spot!

Cruising through mile ~43 of the AR 50M.

Happiest place on earth... the finish area of an Ultra.

Monday, March 23, 2015


Heading down from the Mt. Rose summit, 10,776 ft.
Photo credit: 
Juan de Oliva

In my life, I have learned to enjoy various things.  One measure I have taken to ensure that I am able to allot time to them all is to loosely arrange them in a prioritized list.  I don't consider this life management skill of mine to be terribly unique, but I'm quite happy with the fact that I've managed to prioritize these things in such a way that I'm able to a. enjoy my favorite things (which aren't always in-line with societal norms) and b. navigate myself through life in a way that is generally well-accepted by society.  I don't think much needs to be said as for why I like part 'a',  Part 'b' is important because it seems to be quite helpful with respect to maintaining relationships, generating income, avoiding incarceration, etc.

Somewhere among my nifty list of priorities lies the task of typing out a few of my thoughts and experiences, tossing in some pictures, and clicking "Publish" (to my blog).  Firmly seated in a higher position on that same list is my running, training, and exploring our natural environment.  While I've not been blogging frequently, I have certainly have been able to dedicate some time to those other three things.  This is good because I have two difficult races on my schedule (Lake Sonoma 50 Mile and the Miwok 100k) and delving into such events, without having practiced a bit is a treacherous idea.

Quick recap of my 2015 running:

February 7, Jed Smith 50k:  This race has been going on since 1987 and has been on my radar for a while.  After a 2-3 month break from consistent running after my Cuyamaca 100k race, I logged about 160 miles in January and felt I was in good enough shape to drive to the Jed Smith 50k starting line and register on the day of the race.  I set an 'A' goal of running a sub-5hr race and a 'B' goal of running my fastest 50k (sub ~5:29).  I did not feel fantastic, but I did eek out a fastest 50k in 5:26:02!  'B' goal... check!

February 21, FOURmidable 50k:   This was my second time running FOURmidable (the FOUR is a reference to the four major climbs in the Auburn/Cool area, which are incorporated into the race course).  This is an awesome race, put on by Single Track Running (STR) and absolutely covers the most challenging and scenic trails (some of which aren't very well-known/traveled) in the Auburn and Cool area.  I didn't run a whole lot between Jed Smith and this race and suspected I would be maybe 1/2 hour slower than I was the previous time I ran it.  Bingo!  I finished in 7:04:06, twenty-nine minutes slower than I had previously run it.

Cool and foggy start to the FOURmiddable 50k.
Finishing up a FOURmidable course.  31.5 miles, 6,000+ ft of elevation gain.

March 7, Way Too Cool 50k:  With roughly 1200 entrants, WTC50k is the largest 50k race in the world and is right in my back yard.  It's the unofficial kickoff of the ultramarathon season and a great way to catch up with friends, meet new ones, and to knock out 50k of running on some awesome trails.  This was my 4th WTC and I broke my streak of running each one slower than the previous year.  5:57:02.

One week prior to this event, our Folsom Trail Runners group lost a friend, Steve Avilla, who was to run WTC50k.  We honored his spirit by sporting his bib #89 on our backs and a handful of his friends and family ran the entire course together with Steve's actual bib.  I did not know Steve well, but as a fellow runner, I do feel a connection with him and his untimely passing serves as a reminder to us all that tomorrow is not given.  RIP Steve.
Running down to HWY 49, mile ~11.  Photo Credit: InsideTrail

My 4th consecutive WTC 50k, in the books.

The trails have treated me well so far in 2015.  Here are a few more highlights:

Castle Peak w/ Lucy in February

Castle Peak w/ Lucy in February

Jumping off arches near Rattlesnake Bar, Folsom Lake.

A huge bald eagle's nest, seen at mile ~24 of the FOURmiddable 50k.
Relaxing near the TRT between Spooner Summit and Snow Valley Peak, early March.

Young sharp-tailed snake, caught and released near Mormon's Ravine along the Pioneer Express Trail.

Pioneer Express Trail, just south of Rattlesnake Bar.

Pioneer Express Trail, south of Avery's Pond.

Looking towards Dowdin's Pt., from Mormon's Ravine.
Mt. Rose summit - 03/22/2015:

We spent a lot of the day traversing steep, mildly exposed snowy slopes.

Final push to the summit

Lunch on the Mt. Rose summit (10,776 ft) with Paulo and Juan.  Frozen Macro Bars with 50-60 MPH winds and temps in the 20's.

Mt. Rose summit, 10,776 ft.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Polaroid Cube review (minus the review)

A few sample pics of Lucy from my new Polaroid cube!

See... there it is, on Lucy's shoulder.

Super bright light everywhere = fun photos.

Sometimes it's hard to know what you're aiming at and you cut off your dog's legs.
As with most light capturing devices, a drop of water on the lens will... censor your dog's privates.

Harsh light and movement will lower the picture quality a bit.

Again, careful or you'll cut off your dogs legs.
It takes video too!  Lucy LOVES it.

Oh what the heck... let me throw in a review.  I like it for the price, I hope I get better at aiming it, it's easy to carry in a pocket or pack while running, and it's controls are intensely simplistic (which is kind of nice).

Friday, December 12, 2014

New year, same goal.

The Western States 100 lottery has come, gone, and once again it's time for me to set my sights on next year's goal; qualifying for the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run... for the fourth consecutive year.

I'm fortunate enough to have gained entry to what I hope to be my qualifying race. The 2015 Miwok 100k on May 2.

Time to start training.  I began today, by walking and trotting around on the atmospheric-river-soaked trails with my favorite running compadre.

Lucy and I were delighted to see water flowing everywhere.

Neighbors have witnessed a large mountain lion take down a deer in the nieghborhood.  Lucy and I came across this scat (about the size of my hand) on the trail a couple weeks ago.

Friday, December 5, 2014

2015 Western States 100M Endurance Run lottery

Tomorrow, December 6, 2014 is Western States lottery day!  I'm in, again.  I have 4 tickets in the drawing, giving me, roughly, a 17% chance of being selected.  The lottery and results will be broadcast live at ultralive.net.  Can't wait to find out if I'm about to start training for the 2015 Western States 100, or for yet another qualifying event.  Good luck to all the entrants!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

"Western Time" - check it out!

My friend Billy put together an excellent, heartwarming film about Sally Mcrae and the story of her 2014 Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run. It's a must see, check it out!