Wednesday, May 30, 2007

2007 Memorial Day Fun

Hello again from San Francisco,
The weather is seasonably cold out here, which is to be expected. It was Mark Twain who once claimed the coldest winter he ever spent was a summer in San Francisco. While that doesn’t always make for good training for the Western States 100 in the Sierras or the Badwater, it does make for an unpredictable summer, which is exactly how I like it.

Memorial Day Weekend was a time of training, volunteering and just enjoying the time off. For most marathoners and ultramarathoners, the hardest part is finding balance in one’s life. So, although I could’ve been at the Western States 100 training camp Saturday through Monday, I chose to only go Sunday. I spent Saturday in Napa tasting some wine and taking a train up to St. Helena. My dad grew up in Napa and my aunt lives in Napa, so it was a bit of a family history trip. As the designated driver, I kept my wine consumption to a minimum. I also didn’t want to adversely affect my training so far. Overall, it was a nice day around 80 degrees with clear skies overhead. The wind kicked up a little bit, but not enough to put a damper on a good day.

Sunday, I spent the day at the Western States training camp in Forrest Hill, CA. It’s about 15 miles east of Auburn tucked neatly into the surrounding forest. I ended up with about 21 miles worth of running on the race course that we’ll be on during the WS100, winding from Forrest Hill to Rucky Chuck. The most impressive part of the run was being on the hillside overlooking the Truckee river. We had the best views of the canyon below; I will post the pictures when I get them. It was a picture perfect day to go for a stroll through the Sierras.

Finished off the weekend volunteering at the Tamalpa Runners’ Marin Memorial Day Races at College of Marin in Kentfield, CA. I did all the miscellaneous stuff, from helping the announcer, preparing post-race goodie bags, and clean-up at the end. With about 700 competitors in the 2.5 mile and the 10k, as well as the kids races, there were a lot of people to account for. It always amazes me when the under-10 years old kids finish the 10k, with an overabundance of energy. Makes you wonder what we’re all capable of, in all facets of our lives. I was impressed with the number of volunteers that they had out there helping. Anytime you put on an event that big, organization is the key. I could probably learn a few tricks, if only so I can apply them to my crews at my other races. I’m off to San Diego for the Rock N’ Roll Marathon this weekend as well as a trip to the Injinji headquarters to visit with my sponsor. Road trips only mean one thing; long drives, good food (relatively speaking), and a great race. I’m hoping for a great race on Sunday.

Take care, stay strong, and keep movin’.
God bless, Gundy

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Greetings again,

Well, it’s the beginning of a new week. Here's a Silver State 50 Race Report......Myself, along with (I think) at least 3 other 50 mile participants (including Hal Koerner), missed the 50Mile race/50k race split (9.4 mile mark) and kept careening down the hillside into Boomtown. It was an unintended detour of about 4 miles. I had stopped to ask earlier on, but was waved on in the same direction. Needless to say, I arrived with two other runners at the 2:19 mark of the race, which was a 10:32 pace for those first approx. 13.2 miles. Of course, once I got down there, I was faced with a decision. Either finish the 50k or high tail it the approx. 4 miles back up the hill (approx. climb of 1600 ft. from 4900 ft. to 6500 ft.). I briefly paused and began leaving the aid station 100 ft. down the road for the 50k when I stopped, turned around, and started back up the hill. The intent of the run, for me, was to get ready for Western States, so in my mind the longer the better. I didn’t like having to make that decision, but the competitor in me wanted to go for it. What made it even more difficult was the soft, malleable trail I was climbing. For the most part, it was a moist sand, narrowly hemmed in to the hillside. It was probably the end result of each year’s snow/rain cycles. On the downhill, it was superb for taking the pounding off the joints as you kick up the dirt with each stride. On the uphill, it made for a more laborious climb, each foot sinking downward as the other foot was trying to climb upward. The other runner who initially was going up the hill with me ended up turning around at the sight of his father who was doing the 50k. He wanted to help him finish, which was understandable. Me? I was left with a race against the clock and a sense of urgency to push myself to get through. The aid station at Ranch Creek had doubts, but I pushed on to catch up to the aid stations and stay ahead of the course sweeper.

Even in the midst of hurrying up, there are always those moments which make you pause. Passing by a Boy Scout camp in the hills, I heard a number of Scouts yelling “Rattler”. To avoid the embarrassment of running into the snake unannounced, I asked the scouts where it was. They pointed to a fat, 8 ft. (I think) long snake shaded underneath a parked van 15 ft. away. It was not coiled and for the most part looked as if it just needed a cool place to slither to. The rattler was fattened, probably from a few meals of mice with it’s body expanded at various points across the length. After calmly walking past, I continued on my merry way. My stomach was growing quesy from who knows what food or drink or whatever, but I tried to ignore the nausea and continued to feed my body. Before heading into Boomtown, I had taken Rolaids and coke to calm it temporarily.

Boomtown- Mile Marker 29.5 Miles + almost 8 mile detour
Checkpoint cutoff time: 7 hours
Checkpoint arrival time: 7 hours
Perfect timing, I guess. It put me at around an 11:12 min/mile pace at that point, including the detour. I felt pretty darn good about that, considering that the race was meant as a test of a sub-24 hour WS run. The bad part? Going up that hill was the biggest pain in the arse ever. When you’re already nauseous, the last thing you want is to get a whiff of someone else’s nausea. Climbing up from Boomtown that 4000 ft. climb, I passed another runner who looked in obvious pain from throwing up. Watching someone throw up from afar is one thing, but being up close and personal is another. It’s not that I didn’t have sympathy for the man. But pragmatically, I didn’t want to get too close for fear that it would trigger my own reaction. For the most part, it kept the nausea at bay. I felt close to the edge, but far enough away that I could continue to put out the effort to keep climbing. Once I had finished the major climbs and had gotten back on the fire trail, I felt it coming again. This time, with only a quarter-mile until the aid station, everything came up. I had had very little solid food in the past 2 hours, so what came up was mostly water and a little bit of stomach bile to top it off. I was like a washing machine being drained of its dirty water after a full load. After a few iterations, I was done and sighed in relief.

It did nothing to address my lack of nutrition, but pulling my head up again to look around, the world seemed a bit more cheery. Heading into the aid station another quarter mile, there was a surprising spring in my step. I felt the overwhelming weight of the crud that was in my stomach removed. At a quick few minute stop at the aid station, I tried to stuff some solid food into my stomach such as turkey sandwich and jelly beans, and move on. Even after downing 20 oz. worth of water to rehydrate myself, I felt fine until I was back on the trail again moving onward. Once again, the struggle continued. After the first mile and a half, I felt it coming in my stomach. It was time for the washing machine to be drained once again. Again, a concoction of sports drink, water, and bile flowed from me like a Greek fountain. Not fun, not fun indeed. I kept moving, but continue to stop to rest on nearby rocks. After reaching another fire road, I let the course sweeps go ahead. They would get the next aid station employees to come on up and pick me up.

Even with plenty of electrolyte fluid on me, I stopped to get refreshed by eating some ice, carefully shaving off the top. Once again, this left me nauseous and once again, my body was having none of that. After picking it up a little to get closer to the aid station, the aid station crew picked me at the 42 mile mark after about 12 hours elapsed. At that point, I was content to go, having finished my “50 mile training run” including the detour. 12,000 ft. of climbing was enough one day. Heck, I didn’t even get to enjoy the downhills. My muscles felt fine, my body in good condition otherwise (minus nausea), and my training run over. The first time EVER I had not finished a race that I started. The only thing left bruised was inside. I was smiling, imagining how just last summer I had meandered through Death Valley without a care in the world, and here I end up getting sick. Are there things to re-evaluate? Are there ways to improve? Are there foods I tried for the first time that I won’t try again? Of course. I think that there’s this innate stigma attached to “not finishing” which is ultimately equated with “quitting”. Could I have chosen to go on? I probably would’ve kept going and finished if the time limit was different, even with my stomach calamities. Could I have made decisions along the way that would have made the difference? By making decisions to sit and rest and not “pushing through”, was I choosing not to finish? It’s true that I was sick and that on a relative scale, I was not anywhere near 100%. I don’t know about everyone, but I do know that for many of us who have seen people or things close to us fail, there is a general disdain for failure that develops. It’s not so much the expectation that I always have to “win at everything”, but rather the profound feeling of not measuring up that day. There’s room for improvement in everything that we do and although I’d love to win a couple races along the way, winning is also a product of the natural growth curve of our God-given talent as well as our character. Finishing, on the other hand, is often viewed as more a testament of our character rather than innate talent. The only thing left is to say I did most of what I wanted and the experience will elevate my performances later this year at Western and Badwater. The goal is still the same; finish Western in sub-24 and Badwater in sub-36. The bruising now will only make me callous over with strength for later. Thank God, that as always, I live to fight another day.

Alright, that’s all from me for now. I'm preparing for Western States and still training. Prepping for a dynamite run at the San Diego Marathon, maybe a P.R. around 3 hours now that my right knee feels good again. I have a garage sale at the end of next month to benefit my fundraising drive for World Harvest Mission. It's a lot of work, but definitely well worth it. Stay strong and keep movin’. God bless.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Graduating and Celebrating

Greetings again,
Well, it’s the beginning of a new week. This past week has been packed with all kinds of comings and goings. The end of the week was dominated with my younger brother’s graduation activities. There was the formal dinner on Thursday, the baccalaureate on Friday, and the graduation ceremony on Saturday. After the ceremony on Saturday, we went to this great dinner in Novato, CA at Rickey’s. The service was excellent and we had this private back lawn area all to ourselves. We ended up having over 20 people there to celebrate the graduation, which was a tremendous accomplishment for my brother. He worked incredibly hard and just kept pushing all the way through. His achievement and the celebrations were definitely well deserved.

Monday, I met up with Bob Redell from NBC 11 KNTV which is here in the Bay Area. He interviewed me for the late morning news telecast about my ultramarathoning, Badwater in particular, and my charitable fundraising. It was a wonderful opportunity to share about some of my passions in life, and even give a plug to World Harvest Mission’s website on-air. He was really nice, just meeting up with me before the interview to chat about the racing and pick my brain a little bit. Overall, the interview went well and I’m hoping to snag a copy of the interview soon to show here on the website. Just to have the opportunity to go on air and talk about some of the things I’m passionate about was great. We’re all striving to have purpose in all that we do and how we do it. This was just an opportunity to see the culmination of a lot of the work both out on the run and on the website come to fruition to get my messages out there. I invited him out to Badwater this year to get a little taste of the ultramarathoning community up close. It’s a little harder to do that at Western States because the trails are off-road and the access points are limited, at least for the type of story ideas that would work for them. We’ll see……

Alright, that’s all from me for now. Gotta finish the preparations for Silver State 50 on Saturday! I’m feel better and hoping for a great race. I'm also preparing for a garage sale at the end of next month to benefit my fundraising drive for World Harvest Mission. It's a lot of work, but definitely well worth it. Drop me a line and let me know about your running journeys. I love to hear how you prepare, what motivates you, and how you take that all out to the run. Stay strong and keep movin’. God bless.


Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Journeys Beginning and Ending

Wow…’s already May 9, 2007. I can’t believe in 2 and half months, Badwater will officially begin. On top of that, it’s only 6 and a half weeks until the Western States 100. Argh! I’m still working out the kinks in my right knee, so I’m looking forward to a great race in Reno on 5/19 to really test it out. A great run at the Silver State 50 may be just what the doctor ordered. You can never underestimate your body’s need to rest and recover from injury. While our bodies are amazing instruments, I’ve also come to realize that the body can be stubborn when necessary. The body is designed with self-preservation in mind, so it is never looking to put itself out of commission. It is the never ending dialogue between the body, mind and spirit that is the most fascinating thing. They are each stubborn in their own right, so it’s interesting sometimes to see who wins out. I wonder what a dialogue between the three would look like…..

Body: Ok, I’m done. I’m beat.
Mind: I’m usually not in agreement with you, but this time I have to agree.
Spirit: No way, I will not let you quit.
Body: Aw, come on, you’ve proved your point. You did 50 of the 100 miles.
Mind: What a minute, did you say 50? That means we’re more than half way.
Spirit: That’s right, which also means you have less distance to travel than
you’ve already traveled.
Mind: That’s right. Come on, Body, did you hear that?
Body: Oh, I heard it. I’m not very happy about it, but I heard it.
Mind: So, what do you say?
Body: Well, I guess I could give you a few more miles.
Spirit: Yeah! That’s what I’m talking about.

I’ll try to include about 40-50 miles of running in the week leading up to the Silver State 50, to give myself a 100 mile week. I’ll try to put in another 90-100 miles each of the following three weeks as a way to cap off the training cycle (which includes the San Diego Rock N’ Roll Marathon June 3) before the two week slow down leading to Western States. This week, it looks like I’ll probably get in about 60, which is a bit of an off-week. However, I’d say it was acceptable considering the circumstances……

It’s exciting to be able to share in my brother Daniel’s college graduation coming this Saturday. Daniel is earning an associate’s degree from Patton College in Oakland, and he’s definitely worked hard for it. There’s been ups and downs along the way, as in any journey. In the end, he was able to pull through and do so with excellent grades to show for it. I don’t know if future schooling is in the cards for him, but the rest of family and I are proud of what he’s accomplished. It’s all rather simple; talent + work = results. The work portion of the equation is always the hardest to master and the easiest to apply, and yet it is the talent portion that we desire the most. Go figure.

I think the graduation ceremony probably takes precedence of any long run on Saturday, hehe. Maybe, I’ll just have to run late at night on Saturday….we’ll see. For those that think 100 miles running is a long journey, make sure to thank all the mothers out there on Sunday. Being a mother is like running a marathon day after day, trying to take care of all the responsilities that come with it. So to my mother and to all of yours; Cheers!

Stay strong and keep movin’. God bless.


Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Disciplined Mind and Body

What’s up?
Wow…..what a weekend. It was packed with a lot of things going on. On Saturday in the morning, I helped take a group of high schoolers from my church down to a soup kitchen to help them prepare lunch and greet the people. In the midst of this, they were participating in a 30 hour famine as a way to raise money to help feed the hungry, develop discipline and self-control over something we consider a life necessity, and gain a greater appreciation for the blessings that God has given them. As you can imagine, being around food only heightened their awareness of the fast. But in the midst of that, being able to serve people whose daily transience is built around finding the next soup kitchen or the next homeless shelter is a humbling thing. There is a severe shortage of a continuous awareness of how we can serve those most in need. There is not a gated community or security system in the world that should keep these images out of our consciousness. It’s not just about giving the guy on the corner $1 every time you see him; it’s an awareness that everything I own and everything I do is an instrument to do God’s good works.

Sunday, it was off to the Mt. Diablo 50 Mile Run. It didn’t start off too well; I was almost late to the start due to a gasoline fire in the East Bay which melted a couple of overpasses (yes, I did say melted). But I got there and to the start a couple minutes before the approximately 7 a.m. start. The nice thing about getting to a race early is the opportunity to relax, stretch fully, and ease into it. This time, it was just arrive, put the gear on, put the bib number on the chest, wait a couple minutes and just get going.

The first 8 mile climb to the summit was long and treacherous at points. I was using a softer trail shoe to compensate for the tendonitis in my knee, which also meant a softer base. A couple of sharp downhills on the narrow trails left me struggling to keep my outside foot on the hillside. It didn’t help that my back wasn’t yet fully stretched out from the hurried start. While this muscle tightness would go way, every once in awhile I would stop and pause to bend my back backwards to loosen up the muscles on the steep inclines of this beginning climb.

The next 6.5 miles was a long, winding road down into the canyons. Most of this was a breeze, cruising down at a sub-8:00 minute/mile pace overall. At times, the gravel and rock covered trail was too steep to run, especially in the shoes I had chosen. For me, the pivotal point in the race came a few miles later between miles 17 and 21. My right knee was starting to throb and even the smallest of downhills was becoming a grueling chore. For the briefest of moments, 21 miles into the race, I even sat down on an uphill beneath an oak tree just after a stream. I sat there with my leg outstretched trying to coax it into being less painful. My physical condition as well as, to a lesser extent, the toll it was taking on my overall time was killing me inside. The mental and spiritual desire to keep driving and keep moving was coming in direct conflict with what my body was allowing me to do.

More and more, in all manner of races, managing the intensity of the race is as important for me as managing my physical condition. The individual who can manage the mental and spiritual is often the one who can snap out of “the funk” that often accompanies the relative physical low-points of any race. I am naturally a very easy-going individual, so when my sense of humor starts to go, the intensity can build expotentially. Despite the fact that I watched a few people pass me by, it was the chance meeting with a fellow runner that helped me immensely. I had told him that my knee was killing me, to which he offered a couple of Aleve tablets. He even offered me a little bit of extra fluid from his water container to help keep me a float. While the Aleve was a first step in getting my body back into it, it was the simple gesture of giving that really picked me up. I would end up having a brief 7-10 minute conversation with him, which helped brighten my spirits in general. I needed to get beyond my general malaise and see that there was a bright future in this race. Sometimes, we forget that no matter what race we are running (i.e. 10k, half-marathon, marathon, ultramarathon), there will always be those relative down times. I don’t think there’s been a marathon or ultramarathon where the thought of not finishing has not crossed my mind, even for the briefest of moments. It was good for me, both personally and for my future races, to experience that again. It’s often how we deal with being in those physical, mental and spiritual valleys that will dictate the end results. It doesn’t hurt that God seems to sends angels in the least likely of moments when we need it most.

The pain relief kicked in a few long miles down the road. By that time, I was mentally much more alert and took the time to more fully hydrate myself at an aid station. The pain became more tolerable and I was more relaxed and refreshed. I had sped past the half-way point around 5:47, which was a little slower than the 5:30 needed for a 11 hour pace, but felt light years ahead of where I had been just an hour and a half earlier.

I also employed a new running technique. With my right knee still in relative discomfort, I was still determined to speed up on the downhills, which is where my time was being hurt the most. So, I started to let my left leg lead jumping off ledges and would extend my left leg further on downhills. Once the left leg hit the ground, I would hold the foot planted to allow it to absorb a great deal of the energy of the impact. This would allow me to shuffle the right leg just above the surface and plant quickly before moving my left leg into position again.

Now, let me caution anyone out there from doing this on a consistent basis. This is not ideal physically, as it puts an uneven amount of stress on particular joints. While I have seen some people adapt due to limb amputation, running asymmetrically or even partially “off-balance” as a regular practice can only lead to bigger injuries. All of your supporting joints, particularly your back, are designed to work best with a upright posture.

That being said, it ended up working well for me considering my situation. The biggest benefit was the increased speed on the downhills. While the overall soreness of the tendons in my knee still suppressed my speed, I was able to move more fluidly which limited the herky-jerky slowing down I had done earlier. Over the last 8 miles of crunching downhill and gravel from Mt. Diablo’s summit to the finish, I was able to average 10.5 minutes/mile again. I even let gravity take me and really opened my stride on the flats and moderate downhills. Not to say that it was all comfortable on my right knee, but the fact I was able to find that more fluid running motion helped immensely. Of course, it didn’t help that I got lost and ended up doing an extra 3.5 miles didn’t exactly help. I was not very happy about that, but hey, an extra few miles for Western States training works for me. Even though my “official” 53.5 mile time was 13:16, when my GPS watch hit 50 miles, I was at 12:25. 12:25 for 50 miles in that state park considering my various ailments was a good step in the right direction. It was an excellent training race with my body still in the recovery phase from the tendonitis. It definitely bodes well as is a good marker towards the sub-24 hour finish I desire at Western States. With over 13,000 ft. of both vertical climbing and bone crunching descent, it is harder time-wise than most 100k (62.1 mile) races.

Priority number one for me, at this stage, has to be getting my knee well. That will have the single biggest effect on my overall time/well-being during the Western States 100 and eventually Badwater. The goals of a sub-24 hour (silver buckle) at Western States and going sub-34 hours at Badwater (135 miles) remain the same, but my body needs to be able to effectively function for that to become a reality. I feel much better in my legs today, and will continue stretching and going to the sauna to continue training. What I’m hoping is to get my tendon/joint issues sufficiently dealt with in time for the Silver State 50 in Reno, NV on 5/19. That way, I can get a much fuller picture of how I’m doing and what I can do to improve in the last weeks. This is my second year running ultras, so I’m definitely gauging it in relation to that performance curve as well. Everyone’s always looking for that perfect race or the perfect indicator of performance. I’m not sure if that perfect race actually exists considering most of us will have more “bad races” than “good races”, whatever that means for each of us. However, there are always things that I can do both training-wise and health-wise to bring me one step closer. I’d rather be one step closer to perfection than one step further away. Perfection is a journey, not a destination.

Stay strong and keep movin’. God bless.