Monday, December 15, 2008

2008 California International Marathon (CIM) Race Report

So here it is. My CIM race report: From Folsom to Sacramento.

I was looking forward to getting back to the road, having spent a good deal of my year on the trails. CIM was a way to help bridge the training time between November to Rocky Raccoon 100 in February. I like to race, and had been yearning for the opportunity to get that sub-3 at this marathon as evidence that I’d be ready to take another big step forward in my ultramarathon racing. People seem to have this impression that if you run ultramarathons, you will automatically lose your marathon speed. But, I’ve used a hybrid approach to training, combining the core elements of road marathon training with the longer, course-specific runs of trail running. As I’ve progressed in running ultramarathons over the past 3 years, I’ve found that my speed has been developing in part due to the muscular strength required to run the ultra distances. While admittedly most all of the marathons I’ve run over the past 3 years have been either with others (as a part of their goal races) or not at 100%, each year I’ve been able to run one goal race and continue to drop my personal best in the marathon. CIM has been “that race”, as much for its place on the calendar and proximity to San Francisco than anything about the course profile. I try to choose races for a variety of reasons, but I must admit that sometimes it’s fun to find a course where you can turn and burn.

Going into this race, I had been dealing with soreness and tightness in my right hamstring for over a month. Running the Mother Road 100 had actually helped to loosen it up and stretch it out, but it still persisted at highest intensity effort. The 4 weeks of training were not much to write home about and I wouldn’t have even gone for sub-3 if it wasn’t for a couple of key marathon pace runs in the two weeks prior to the race. I’m not too much of an advocate for the taper, so I did my traditional week long taper. What can I say? I like to run and find that my body is looser and more ready to go with the shorter taper than most marathoners.

In effort to skip the details that often clutter a good story, let’s skip straight to the race. With a cool 36 degrees F start and mid-40s F high temperature, it was a great day to race. While slightly lower than the “ideal” 50 to 58 degrees F, it didn’t matter in light of the awesome cloud cover and spirited crowds that gathered at strategic intersections.

Here it is:
0-13.1 1:28:20 (Chip)
13.1-End 1:32:12 (Chip)
Final 3:00:32

Honestly, I didn’t pay too much attention to splits, especially since course topography can vary between miles. The volunteers kept calling out 6:47 pace, which sounded good to me. In a race that was a wild-card as far as performance, I just paid attention to how I was feeling and making sure that I put out “even effort”. It helped to have the 3 hour pacing group nearby to pal around with for the first 9-10 miles. I spent the next 10 miles going back and forth with a running friend, before he faded back and I spent the rest of the race trading places with individual runners. I maintained that lead on the ever-thinning sub-3 hour group till 23+ miles. Having a time advantage on the group by 25 seconds, I had planned for a slight fade. But with the hamstrings tightening up, it took just enough off my closing speed before a final finish of 3:00:32. While a little disappointed I didn’t drop the opening half by about a minute considering how fresh I felt, I had no reason to be disappointed with being 33 seconds off of a predicted 2:59:59 finish. It just felt nice to run a good PR and set it up well for a killer 09’.

Of my two remaining goals for the year, a sub-3 marathon represented the greater prize. It represented an increase in marathon speed that most don’t associate with runners who dabble in ultramarathons. I still have longer term goals for the marathon and it holds a place in heart as the place where all this running stuff began. I believe that to the contrary, the road and trail ultras have made me stronger due to the emphasis on climbing and downhill running, as well as the persistent mental/physical effort that one is forced to endure.

I’ve targeted getting to 2:50:xx as a sort of standard-bearer to have the right combination of speed and endurance to fully compete at the 100+ mile distance. I have the endurance; now, I just want to add the necessary speed to support that strength. While I believe that may take until sometime in 2009, I believe it can be done with the right combination of weight loss and intense training. I have always run at around 180 and believe this is the year to reshape my body at around 169 to compete effectively. It’s been a long process to lose the weight/muscle that has served me well in many other athletic pursuits, but necessary at this key juncture if I want to compete as a runner more than just an athlete. This has meant trying have appetite control in the face of pretty darn good-looking holiday meals! It is often quoted that each pound lost equates to 2 seconds per mile; hopefully, I will lose the weight in a way that will not compromise the necessary power and speed. At least my knees will thank me for not having to carry as much of “me” as they usually do.

Going forward, I feel great going into next year. 3:00:32 is good, but not good enough. I’ve set the bar for a sub-2:53 “A” goal and 2:54 “B” goal at the Napa Marathon on March 1, 2009. In addition, I have started to formulate goals for the Rocky Raccon 100 in Huntsville, TX in Feb. of 09’ (don’t want to state them quite yet!). Most importantly, I’m already at 175 lbs. and hope to work my way to that ideal 169 lbs. by mid to late February. I can say with certainty that I have my eye on applying for Badwater again in 2009 as my “A” race, which will make it an incredibly busy year in general. I will do whatever it takes to make myself faster, stronger and tougher. Even in this rainy season in the Bay Area, I will find a way to make it to the track or the roads or the trails to do whatever I need. After the Napa marathon, Uncle Andy has already formulated a training plan which will include 10 x 1 mile hill repeats up Twin Peaks in San Francisco and Mt. Tamalpais twice a week in order to prepare for both the climbs at Badwater as well as the climbs at many 100 milers.

As the year winds down, I’ll be setting my other goals for 2009 in the next couple weeks as I set my race schedule for next year. I’ll also be setting goals for fundraising for a new set of projects in Uganda. I am thankful that my running can be a powerful witness to my character and support the work holds the highest place in my heart. Good times are ahead. Merry Christmas and God bless,


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Mother Road 100 Race Report

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a full-fledged race report. I know this is a trail running forum, but I figured since there's been a couple other threads on this race, I might as well post. I’ve actually been focused on writing a book proposal for a publisher in my free time, which is humorous considering the likelihood that I could ever get a book published is very small. In fact, when they ask for qualifications, one of the ones listed will be “Runner’s World Forum- Contributor”. This report will be more of a short synopsis rather than a griping tale of triumph and despair, simply because I don’t have the time to create that sort of intrigue….so here goes nothing.After getting patience beaten into me in a few of my recent 100 milers, it was time for a different tack. Going into the Mother Road 100, there was both a lot of anxiety as well as a lot of excitement that this would be a “corner-turning” race. Looking at the race profile and being aware of the general topography of Route 66, I expected this race to be flat at times, but mostly rolling from peak to peak. The first 10-15 miles of the race were rather uneventful, marked by random oil rigs, American trucks whizzing by, and miles of open fields. The most exciting thing were probably the police cruisers that were escorting us out of Elk City. In a marathon, the only one with a police escort is generally the leader. In this case, the entire field followed behind the cruisers. I cruised through the 16.4 mile mark at 2:20:xx, having already intentially started the process of slowing down to 9:00+ min./miles. I was in 6th place at this point, enjoying the fact that I was in a very nice position where I could continue to run alone but maintain a comfortable pace going forward.The first major checkpoint was at mile 30.5 at the Route 66 Museum. Reaching the museum in 4:22:xx, I needed a short break to let my body settle down. Over the last 5-6 miles, I could feel myself start to strain to maintain focus and my posture began to suffer as my stomach began to sour slightly. It was too early to let this race slip away from me when we had so far to go and had already positioned ourselves well, moving from 6th to 2nd from the last checkpoint. We made a concerted effort to not use gels during this race, and stick with solid foods as long as I could take it. Keeping things simple, I pretty much only ate Lays chips, ginger snap cookies and bananas. Every once in awhile, I’d stick in a sugar wafer or different kind of chips/cookies. While I primarily only drank NUUN mixed in water, we also added Propel and G2 at times to add some sweetness. As distances increase, my tolerance for various types of food decreases. This decision was partially aided by Northwest Airlines, who conveniently misplaced my second piece of luggage with a few extra clothing items and all of my GUs. Northwest would eventual return the luggage, a day AFTER I returned home. At various times, I even allowed my mind and eyes to wander, taking in all the sights, sounds and smells of the Midwest plains. There is quite a bit of history attached to Route 66, and it was great to have an opportunity to take it all in. This included, among other things, copious amounts of road kill. Apparently they didn’t get the memo that Route 66 was still an active road. Over the next 10 miles, the incessant rolling roads continued, broken only by the need to go over (or under) the overpass over Interstate 40. Route 66 often paralleled I-40 for a great deal of the first half of the race. With the aid stations often 10+ miles apart, I would sit in the crew vehicle at times when the sun exposure started to bear down on me. It was taking its toll, but the rest minutes were crucial to keeping me mentally engaged while waiting for the body to “turn the corner”.It was around mile 41-42 that I could feel my body and my pace strengthen once again. I was starting to hold the 10:00 min per mile pace again, intermittently dropping under it for shorter stretches. I was continuing to take advantage of the rolling hills by going down them at or below 9:00 min per mile pace and taking it easier of the ascent. I would throw in 1 min walking times going uphill to take in nutrition before starting up again to give me added momentum on the downhills. I was still holding onto 5th place and although 6th place kept trying to close the gap, I would continue to maintain it through the 50 mile checkpoint. Just before the 50 mile checkpoint, I could see 4th and 3rd place in the distance but chose not to go after them. Instead, I was focused on using the walking breaks to keep my legs fresh in anticipation of strong close over the last 1/3 of the race.After coasting in at around 8:16 to the 50 mile mark, I took 6 minutes to regroup and drink 2 cups of chicken broth. The nutrients and high sodium content hit the spot, tipping the electrolyte and energy scale back into balance. The result of this was a renewed sense of purpose and mission, as well as a more upright running posture signaling that not only was I back in the driver’s seat, but that the engine was just getting warmed up. Only a half-mile out of the aid station, the 4th place competitor was crossing the road to get back out on the course after being tended to by his crew. He looked dazed and unsure of himself, with his head wandering and his legs moving gingerly while trying to run again. I greeted him warmly, wished him well and just kept on moving. Another mile down the road, I could see the 3rd place competitor cresting the next hill as I began down the hill I was on. While the ups and downs were somewhat scattered, these hills were much more uniform in length (anywhere from 2/3 to 1 mile, I think) had a clear rythym to them. The most important thing at that point was developing a strong rythym in order to maintain the 10:00 per mile pace through the rest of the race. I continued to see sub-17 hours as a very real possibility, choosing to focus on my time rather than placing, which would ultimately take care of itself. Passing people was the least of my concerns when an epic blow-up could be lurking in the distance. After catching up with the 3rd place competitor around mile 53, we seemed to change positions back and forth with some measure of frequency. He continued to try to run all sections, while I took a different tack. I would run the downhills at a sub 9:00 to 9:30 min. per mile clip, but I would always give myself a minute of walking about half way up the uphill sections. This allowed me to use some different muscle groups, clear my head and even munch on some food without sacrificing time towards my ultimate goal. I was also believed this would allow me to save muscle strength to significantly drop my pace over the last 10-20 miles. In addition, I was also taking short periods to put on colder weather clothing, keep taking in solid food, and even spend a minute or two in the crew vehicle getting warm. We continued to go back and forth until finally around mile 62.5, I took off for the last time. I was too physically strong to continue holding back and I had grown tired of hanging around him. In no way did it reflect any enmity towards the other runner; it was merely a way to give myself a psychological edge in order to finish strong. By mile 67.5, the gap had grown to 0.75 miles and I just kept pushing forward. The volunteers at the 67.3 mile aid station pegged me at well over 20 minutes behind 2nd place and even further behind 1st place, which kept me solely focused on the sub-17:00 hour race goal and not on the two runners in front of me.After polishing off a strong section with a 9:10 final mile, I arrived at the 73 mile aid station surprised to see the flashing lights of the 2nd place runner in the distance. Things were rolling along quite nicely. After a cup of hot potato soup and putting on more cold weather gear, I was off on my own on the 6 mile off-road dirt section of the course that gave me the isolated feeling of being in “Sleepy Hollow”. The section has a decent amount of foliage, which creates a sort of “tunnel-like” feeling with no end in sight. Away from the concrete, the weather shifted and with some wicked winds picking up, it created a wind tunnel which brought a chill to my bones.As I met my crew member at the outlet from the dirt back to the pavement in the town of Geary, I had originally thought of running with her from here to the end and picking up the vehicle later. However, with the conditions so cold and our formula working well, we didn’t want to mess with a good thing at the time. This is where it got interesting. We were supposed to go on Hwy 273 East, so when we reached an intersection without any markings or signs on the ground as was expected, we simply kept going. There were no signs anywhere that we could see looking ahead. All other major intersections had multiple ground markings painted on as well as one of those two-sided ground signs often seen outside small shops.12 miles later, after continually checking to make sure we were on 273, we realized the truth when there was no aid station. 12 miles and over 2.5 hours later while freezing through winds, humidity and temps in the 20s and low 20s. The time we took reflected the breaks needed to keep the body warm and somehow try to keep clothes dry to stay warm out there. As much as it hurt to be out there, it hurt even more to discover what happened. When you’re one of the first runners out there, there are no “others to follow”. In fact, the only painted symbol on the roadway was on the right hand side (as opposed to the runners being on the left) which was covered up when my crew member stopped for me on the spot to get me another sweater to wear. There were no two-sided signs and the supplies left unmanned were tucked away to the right on a porch that is not very visible from the roadway at night in the quiet, dead-still town of Geary at night. I was spent, emotionally and physically. As much as I could’ve gone back out there at the 17:25 mark (after working with my crew member to sort out what had happened and finally figure out what the race officials recommended) and a little over 21 miles to go, I let it go. To be up there with a chance to close the gap and overtake 1st and 2nd was both awesome and taxing at the same time. The emotional drain when I finally got the news from my crew member was definitely a lot to take in at the moment. I know that I should have just finished, but then I was thinking about all these crazy rules of the race and the flight home to mom’s 60th birthday celebration in SF later that day, and I just decided to rest for at least a few hours before going to the airport to fly home. Should I have just gone back out there and finished? Probably. It probably reflects somewhat poorly on my character considering those who struggle just to make it in 29:59. For that, I do hope that this is more of an abherration than the sign of a long term defect. But in this case, that excitement and anxiety left me fully drained when I figured out that we had taken the wrong road. There was also a bit of an appreciation for the mental drain that those in front go through while jockeying for positions during a race. It adds a layer of excitement, anxiety, and physical strain that can push an individual closer to that “edge”. Usually, races leave me with something to go back to the drawing board with to figure out. In this case, there was nothing about this race (apart from the missed turn) that wasn’t executed well. Sure, the down period between mile 30 to mile 40 wasn’t exactly flawless, but our reaction and execution of our recovery strategy was excellent. Besides, I always plan for this as a down period partly due to the body being drained of stored glycogen. I was so proud of my crew member for helping me manage a race that reflected everything that I had put into planning. It played incredibly well into my strength of closing out the last 10-15 miles of 100 milers incredibly strong. While I was building to closing out with 9:00-9:30 min. miles to finish, I guess I’ll have to save it for next time . It’s enough for me right now to know that a sub-17 hour race as well as the eventual 1st place time of 17:17 were well within my striking range. While normally I would come away from this feeling like nothing good happened because of the non-finish, I am genuinely excited about the future and can still say, “Mission Accomplished” (somewhat ). Next up: CIM and Rodeo Beack 50k.

Stay strong, take care and God bless.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Year Winding Down

Hello again!

I know it’s been awhile, but I did want to update the site with all the comings and goings. First off, in September, I completed 2- 100 milers: the Rio Del Lago 100 in the Folsom/Auburn area and the Angeles Crest 100 in Southern California (just north of the eastern L.A. valley area). I was tremendously challenged in both races, with a badly bruised left big toe and sprained right knee over the last 75-80 miles at AC and temps around 100 degrees at RDL. They both took a lot out of me and left me in precarious straits. But, I’m pleased with how we recovered to finish strong in both circumstances. A special thank you goes out to my pacers at both races: Mambo Jose, Mike Moseby, Lora Liu and Rick Gaston ( It was an awesome opportunity to run with them by my side to perservere. I’ve always enjoyed bringing and introducing friends and family to the world of trail running (particularly 100 milers) through experiences like pacing or crewing. It may or may not be something that they do in their lifetimes, but they get the taste of what I go through and we get to share that together. I never want to take their contributions to my own successes for granted.

As far as my goals for the year, I’ve hit all but two of the goals. It’s not like I had that many goals to start out with (listed below on the front page of the site), but it does show a good measure of success at transitioning to the wear and tear of these longer races. While still wanting an even better time at Badwater, I was happy with the 36 hour finish and the 16th place finish, which does represent a step forward. While I’ll still be shooting for a sub-30 hour finish if I get accepted next year, my body’s ability to recover from low points more rapidly is encouraging. The two goals left on my list for the year are a sub-3 marathon and a sub-20 100 miler. Of the two, the easier one will probably be the sub-20 100 miler. I just paced a friend to a 8:58 hilly 50 miler, minimizing the wear and tear on my body and giving me the confidence that at the level of effort I gave, I could’ve gone another 50 on the course in the same time or less. I just need to relax, limit the anxiety, and run a smooth and even race. Running a road race like the Mother Road 100 in flat lands should allow me to dial down the effort over the first 50 while finding the right rythym to keep trucking all the way through to the end.

The harder race for me should be the sub-3 marathon, considering the intensity necessary over the shorter distance. While I have incorporated major marathon training elements into my training, the marathon distance can turn on much smaller, less predictable events like a shoe lace coming loose. The one thing I haven’t focused on, but represents a big step forward in this event is weight loss. While my body fat level has dropped since starting to run ultramarathons about 3 years ago, there still is room for improvement. At about 5’11” and 179/180 lb., I’ve been able to compete well, but not well enough. I’m not getting up hills fast enough and while there could be a training component to address, I’m also carrying more mass up the hills that some of the other competitors at my height. It wasn’t until Lance Armstrong lost his weight (albeit, under rather dire circumstances due to cancer) that he was able to be come the elite climber he needed to be in order to win the Tour de France. There is simply a major advantage to the lighter athletes going uphill when gravity is pulling with a greater force on larger masses.

So here it is, in the midst of getting ready for these pivotal races, that I want to be 10 lbs. lighter by year’s end. They say that in marathons, a pound lost can translate into a 2 second drop per mile for one’s pace. 10 lbs. can represent the difference been just barely crossing the sub-3 hour barrier and making a run at a sub-2:50 marathon, simply by carrying less weight on the body frame. While some of this loss may come from losing fat, there’s also a desire to lean out the larger muscle in my quads and legs. The primary driver will have to be my diet, with a secondary driver being the use of a smart weight training program to complement my running.

Don’t get me wrong; I have no desire to be a stick figure runner particularly when my frame has always been built more for contact sports like basketball and lacrosse rather than running. But, the body is an amazing gift and just as it has taken time for it to simply adapt to running these distances, it’s going to take the next 3 months for it to take the next step forward.

I’ll post a preview of the upcoming races next week, along with the long-delayed part II finale of the Badwater report. Stay strong, run hard and God bless.


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Part 1 of 2- 2008 Badwater Race Report

Part 1 of 2

You always remember your first time. The first time you rode a bike, the first time you hit a home run, the first time you drove a car, and the first time you ran a marathon. There’s just this magical feeling that comes with setting out on a new adventure. I remember the first time I laid eyes on the heart of Death Valley from the top of Townes Pass. It just kind of hits you how far the landscape extends out and wide, and how quickly the temperatures rise as you descend to the Valley floor. To be in it is much like peering out from the bottom of your own grave.

For me, going to back to Badwater for a third Badwater Ultramarathon carried with it a different set of emotions and thoughts. The first time out there, the mind was pre-occupied with casting visions and dreams of all the sights and sounds I would encounter. The second time out there, I was focused on not making the mistakes of the first year and working with a mostly fresh, new crew from the previous year. This year, though, I had done everything possible to be primed for a great run. That awe and wonder that captivated me with the first trip to Badwater was replaced by a sense of comfort and calmness that only comes from knowing one’s advesary. Instead of tall peaks and long valleys, I was focused on all the little things that would help shape my final performance. While never losing sight of the fact that it’s always a great thing to finish, I knew that my expectations of myself were much higher. This demanded an attention to many things which had gotten lost in past year’s “big picture” thinking.

It all started with putting together a veteran crew, with 5 of the 6 crew members had already done at least one “tour of duty”. There were family members, college friends, roommates and church friends. Pete, Kimi, Uncle “Mambo” Jose, Mike and Jeff had all crewed for at least one Badwater and been apart of other trail race adventures. Each one of them had also paced me for various size segments of other races, The only member of the crew who hadn’t been to Badwater, Trish, would be able to lean on the other’s experiences. As a costumer in the entertainment industry, her experience at handling actors and actresses made her ideal for the task of handling an ultrarunner whose grasp of reality could erode at any time. In fact, each and every one of them possessed an easy going personality that allowed them to easily roll with the punches.

But of all their talents and abilities, the most important quality of all was their personal relationships with me. I personally value loyalty among all other attributes, and they are among the most loyal and dedicated people I have ever met. They believe strongly not only in what I was doing as an athlete, but also what I was doing as an ambassador for God in Uganda through the well-building and development. I consider them all friends/family for life, which is especially relevant considering that I was trusting each and every one of them with my own life out there. That may seem like an over dramatic statement, but considering the environment and the stress it places on the body, it is not too far fetched. They each came with the attitude that we were all part of a team and that team’s goal was to get us from Badwater to Mt. Whitney Portal as quickly as possible. We would be able to draw on our past experiences to define the areas which had worked well as a team and improve on the areas that had contributed to past issues.

My crew and I did extensive research into various aspects of my previous two Badwaters to identify the areas I needed to focus on as the runner and they needed to do as the crew to ensure a successful journey. These areas included the following aspects (among others): a) 3 scheduled ice baths in the Valley from Furnace Creek to Stovepipe Wells to further assist in cooling the body and increasing nutritional intake, b) Scheduling shorter breaks with more frequency prior to previous years’ “trouble points”, and c) rigorous pre-testing of nutritional and electrolyte/water consumption strategies. Pete and Kimi created numerous pre-race charts which we used to identify problem points and integrate rest/fueling to meet those challenges. The time charts would be structured around the premise that my strength as a runner was a) an ability to “close” a race over the last ¼ and b) the climbs up Townes Pass (mi. 41.9 to 58.7) and from Panamint Springs (mi. 72.3) to Father Crowley’s Point (mi. 80.1) would be the single biggest turning points of the race. In particular, the climb to Father Crowley’s Point is an 8 mile climb with about 2500 ft. of climbing that comes during the night after an exhausting daytime section. A strong climb up Father Crowley’s can propel a runner into a 10 mile flat/moderate uphill section before one last 32 mile flat/downhill rolling section to Lone Pine (mi. 122.3).

Our pre-testing included a number of key races leading up to the big race. The biggest testing ground of all would be the Running With The Devil 50 miler around Lake Mead in Las Vegas two weeks before the race. I would only end up running 40 miles of it to preserve my body, but it would prove to be invaluable at predicting what would work best during the first 40 miles of the race through the heart of the Valley. It resulted in adding and subtracting from the variety of foods and supplements that I’ve previously used in races. While supplements such as the Hammer E-caps had been difficult to swallow at last year’s Badwater, we made sure to include it as part of the nutritional offering for the simple reason that sometimes you don’t always know exactly what’s going to work at what time. Having backups for the backups is important when the personal stakes are so high.

This planning/training gave me a certain freedom from worrying what the crew was doing and focus on the task of running. The first year, success was measured by survival and maybe a medal and a buckle. The second year, success was measured by improvement over the first year. This year, success would be measured by how big a leap forward I could take considering we would be able to apply the lessons learned from the race the first two times as well as 3 years of ultra running. While nobody knows exactly how the body will react on race day in those extreme conditions, I could no longer personally accept just “getting through” and instead had set me sights on making significant progress towards my ultimate race goals. I didn’t want to be the poster child for being able to We needed to exhibit the discipline and use the knowledge we had acquired in order to get the breakthrough I was looking for. We had set forth multiple race and time plans, focused between just under 30 hours to 36 hours.

Like the year before, the plan called for the crew to rendezvous at the Furnace Creek Ranch on Saturday July 12th, two days before the race, in order to finish off the preparations and do a final review of the crew/runner responsibilities. This was effective the year before, as a way to get settled in and help both the crew and myself further acclimate to the surroundings. Even going to the sauna on a regular basis or basking in whatever summer heat there is in the Bay Area cannot mirror the feeling of being in the Valley of Death. This is even more important for the crew considering that the level of training they go through to get ready for the heat is no where near the training the runner goes through. By making sure that the crew was comfortable with the surroundings, I would ensure that their efforts to keep me going would be maximized. In addition, we would use this extra day in Death Valley to get organized and ensure that each member of the crew knew where everything was in the van and that I could have a certain expectation of the level of service I would receive each time I passed them.

On that Saturday morning, Pete and Kimi would pick up one of the crew vans in Las Vegas, while Mambo, Trish, Mike, and I would pick up the second crew van in Los Angeles. While Pete and Kimi’s plan to pick up miscellaneous supplies in Las Vegas and be in the Valley be early afternoon went according to plan, my plans in Los Angeles were less than smooth. The morning was spent haggling over rental car reservations until I finally picked up the second crew van just after noon time, grab some lunch to go and head out.

This year, we took an alternative route to Death Valley, going east from Los Angeles before picking up the 15 Fwy to Las Vegas. After slipping around the Angeles Crest mountain, we took Hwy 138 westbound through the back country to Badwater before meeting up with Hwy 190 just before the Furnace Creek Ranch. In previous years, we would go through the Mojave to Lone Pine first to drop off any extra vehicles before taking Hwy 190 all the way to Furnace Creek. The nice thing about this was that since Hwy 190 was the route for the race, it gave people the chance to enjoy the various sights on the race course prior to the race. But this route would be longer than the route we took, which translates not only into time lost (considering we were already late) but also gas burned.

While traveling up the 15 Fwy we were hit with the one thing you can’t always expect in the middle of July: thunderstorms. The forecast had called for a small chance of storms, but in an expanse as vast as that desert region, the movement of storms can be unpredicatable. The sky, covered in a blanket of greys and black, had opened up right over us. With about an hour on the 138 before hitting Furnace Creek, we took our time on the back roads that were now intermittently covered with sand and dirt left over from the storms. We even turned off at one point to take some photos of everyone. The storm was the perfect backdrop, providing the pictures with a palatte that would be a reminder of what awaited us later on. The silver lining was that it made the local weather much more tolerable. It was still warm and incredibly humid, but without direct sunlight we didn’t have to worry too much about our skin getting burnt.

With Pete and Kimi waiting, we didn’t stop at the Badwater salt basin. Instead, we paused the car for a brief moment to take in the view at the bottom before jetting the last 17 miles into Furnace Creek Ranch. It was like I’d remembered; a number of small pools of water next to that long, winding salt-encrusted lake bed. When we did arrive at the Ranch, Pete and Kimi happened to be in front of the General Store next to the main entrance. It was a little embarrassing to be a few hours late from our original 2 p.m. redezvous, but better late than never. Fortunately, Pete and Kimi were able to check-in to the rooms I had reserved and relax.

Furnace Creek Ranch has the feel of an old west dude ranch when you first arrive. It was built as the sister property to the Furnace Creek Inn, Furnace Creek Ranch is by far the preferred place where most of the runners and crew will stay before the race. While there’s always smattering of tourists at the Ranch on race weekend, . It’s proximity to the start at Badwater and numerous supplies make it ideal for an easy morning before the race. Besides, where else can you gaze out at the hottest place in North America while hitting a 5-wood at their golf course?

After a short break to set up the sleeping arrangements, do introductions with the crew, and move our supplies into the room, those of us who just arrived broke for dinner. Dinner was a nice opportunity to relax and unwind from always being on the go. After spending Friday night working late, we left in the wee hours for Los Angeles to pick up Mike and Trish before leaving for the Valley. I think the only time I stopped to relax was the half hour we took to get some food and rearrange the supplies we were taking with us. Besides, there’s nothing like a nice plate of spaghetti with a huge meatball to take the edge off.

Nightfall brought with it a light rainfall, which felt incredibly good in the warm air. However, it also brought with it some measure of anxiety. With the course traversing incredibly dry terrain, any rain can washout roadways. The weather forecast had called for clearing on Sunday and Monday, which was good. As far as performance, I wasn’t really worried about the high humidity affecting me too adversely. So you trade extreme dry heat for a hot and humid heat? The common denominator is still planning on hot weather. I always build into my heat training a few trips to the wet sauna in order to get somewhat used to high humidity in case of a situation like this. Everyone has to run in it, so whatever it ended up being, we’d all enjoy it together J

Usually a night owl, I succumbed to the desires of the rest of the folks in going to bed at around 11 instead of watching a movie. Well, it paid off because I was up bright and early at 7 a.m. on Sunday. After showering and getting dressed, I headed to the General Store with Kimi and Trish. I noticed the weather was still not above 90 degrees and overcast sky kept the sunlight from bearing down. Instead of the heat acclimation hike that I had slated for us, we decided to take advantage of the overcast weather and get the supplies into the crew vans now.

Gathering the crew at the vans, we went through the process of splitting up the supplies between the main crew van and the support van. The main van would have all of the main medical, food and water supplies. It would have a round cooler with just ice, a 100 qt. cooler with drinks and food for both runner and crew, and a third cooler with “grey water” for use with the ice towels being draped on my neck every couple miles. In the back next to the hatchback, there would also be a small rubbermaid container with a sampling of all the “most used items” including electrolyte tabs, a couple bags of chips, a clif bar, and small trail mix bags. This would allow for quick and easy access on the fly. The support van would serve a dual purpose by holding the ice coffin/cooler I would soak in periodically during peak heat as well as keeping all the extra water and food supplies that would not fit in the main crew van. We did an initial load of ice into the coolers to cool down the drinks while planning on a refill the following morning prior to the race. We also left four seats remaining in the main van since that would fit the maximum number of crew members we would have on duty at all times.

I pretty much stayed away from this process since knowing where things were would be less of a priority for me as the runner. Trish and I were in charge of writing my name and number on the back, front and side windows of the crew vans. With limited numbers of special marking pens, I couldn’t get too creative. However, I did find space to sneak in a couple smiley faces and a “Go Oxy” in honor of my alma mater, Occidental College.

After finishing off the vehicles and the crew being satisfied with the final organization of the vans, I took off just after 11 a.m. with fellow runner Alan Geraldi to the pre-race check-in. It started at noon, but with a long wait to be anticipated, it didn’t hurt to walk over to the Death Valley Museum and get in the front of the line where the check-in and pre-race meeting would eventually held. The rest of the crew were off on their own to eat lunch, use the pool on-site, or just use the time as they pleased.

The long wait at the Museum finally ended and within 15-20 minutes I had picked up all the swag, shirts and gear I needed before going back to the Ranch. Lunch consisted of a pre-made sandwich before Pete and I decided to lace up our shoes and gofor a short couple mile jaunt up the road to the Furnace Creek Inn. The Inn is perched on the hill a mile up from the Ranch. It is a national landmark, having been built around the turn of the 20th century when the Valley teemed with workers mining for borates. With a day spa, natural spring pool, and lush gardens surrounding a few ponds, it stands out as a . Closed in the summer, the Inn accommodates the influx visitors in the Winter when the weather is decidedly cooler in those parts. Once arriving at the Inn, we took a quick 10 minute look around before turning around and heading back.

After hanging around for an hour, it was time to head to the 1 ½ hour pre-race meeting at 3:30 pm. The meeting is mandatory for runners and at least one crew member. They show the brief video from last year’s race, run through the main safety points and highlight certain rules. The highlight of the meeting is at the end, when all the runners are introduced by name on stage and there is a group photo. Many of the speeches are variations of previous years’ speeches and although some are quite humorous, it makes the meeting less than appealing for veteran crew members. The veteran crew members unanimously agreed that Trish should go to the meeting with me, as a sort of initiation so she could get the “full experience”.

As always, we ended up meeting a few of the volunteers and runners I’ve gotten to know over the past couple Badwaters. I ended up chatting with Dean Karnazes, who was right behind me in line. We wished each other a good race, from one San Franciscan to another. He has always had one of the more muscular physiques of the Badwater runners but this year, with all his desert running, looked as skinny and lean as I’ve ever seen him. The veins popping out of every corner of his arm were insane. I can’t say I had the same look myself, but if anything, this race teaches you that speed out here come in a lot of different forms. I was just hoping that all the gym work and intense June runs had leaned my body sufficiently to where it needed to be.

The meeting itself was pretty much standard protocol. Well, except for the flash flood warning for Badwater basin. With the storms moving through, they honestly didn’t know what it would do to the course. While the area near Mt. Whitney was been hit and other areas were experiences delays to clear roads, it was anyone’s guess what the final outcome would be. Although I was optimistic with the skies clearing earlier in the day, weather in the desert can change on a dime. The most humorous moment came when the CHP representative showed us how AAA will open your car if you lock your keys in it here in the Valley. He pulled out a rock in his right hand with the letters “A-A-A” painted on the flat face. The meeting took a much more serious tone when the race director mentioned that one of the long-time participants/volunteers would not be racing this year due to the recent dissapearence of his son while hiking over July 4th. If anything, it put back into perspective the place the race holds in all of our lives.

In another “real life” moment, the race director announced that 2007 competitor Don Fallis was battling colon cancer. Don was well-known because although he didn’t finish due to severe back spasms, he made a spirited entrance to the post-race party in Lone Pine (122.3) right at the 60 hour time directly from being out on the course. He was a true warrior out there and in honor of that spirit, we each wore a “I’m on Don’s Team” t-shirt provided by the race officials for the pre-race photo.

Night Before: In a bit of detour after the meeting, I made sure to show Trish the small airstrip tucked away behind the museum as well. It’s really rather neat to think you can take a private plane and land there. We drove the ¼ mile back to the Ranch. With the flash flood warning in effect, we decided to skip the 17 mile trip to the start in favor of a group trip and pictures up at the Furnace Creek Inn. Everyone wore their new Badwater race t-shirts, and we quickly made our way to the oasis that Pete and I had found earlier. After snapping a number of shots near the gazebo and among the palm trees at the pond, we went back to the café for dinner. The Furnace Creek Café is one of two eateries at the Ranch. It pretty much serves standard American fare at a pretty reasonable price considering your options are limited.

By this time, we were getting concerned about our 6th crew member, Jeff, who was scheduled to join us around this time. Jeff and I both went to Occidental College, later becoming roommates and I was a groomsman in his wedding. Jeff was an outdoors person, always interested in exploring. I can’t say I was really worried about Jeff. But with the flash flood warning changing the road conditions and both of us out of cell phone range, we were unsure where he was at this point. Of course, as luck would have it, shortly after we sit down at the Café, in comes Jeff. Finally, the crew was all there.

After chowing down, we made our way back to the rooms for some minor, last night arrangements. While the crew members hurried back and forth, arranging the leftover items, I was left to sit there and “try and relax”. Around 9 pm, I just couldn’t stand it any longer. If I was going to get some sleep that night, I would need to work off at least a small portion of this excess enemy. So, I grabbed Mike to go with me on short 1.6 mi jaunt from our room to just up the road from the main gate.

It was nice to get out of the room. Being around all those people, I needed to get back into my own space. Mike thanked me for bringing him along on the journey, but in truth it was me who was thankful to him. We were mere hours from the start of the journey, . Our friendship with each other had seen quite a bit; broken relationships, broken finances and a few pick-up basketball games to name a few. This was just another shared struggle to add to the foundation of our friendship. Oh, how good it felt to be back where I belonged.

Before finally going to sleep, the crew and I held a short prayer time back at the room. It’s always good to ask for God’s grace, especially when faced with a daunting challenge. Humility is always the order of the day here. There is no room for pride; the race simply won’t allow it.

6 am: Rise and Shine! After a good 7 hours of sleep, I was surprisingly lucid. I hate race morning, but at least I got an extra couple hours compared to some 100 milers and marathons. Looking around the room, I started to smile. There was just this sense that after all the months of training and racing, I had finally reached the culmination. At the same time, you also start wondering if all you’ve done will translate over well into the actual race.

Race morning at Badwater is supposed to be as stress free for the runner as possible. As the runner, the only thing you should be doing is taking a morning shower, nibbling on some food, and putting on the race clothes. The crew takes care of all the details. Still, I wanted something to keep me occupied. After a quick shower, I nibbled on a Clif bar and banana. Around 6:50 am, I took a couple of salt/electrolyte capsules in order to firmly start the race fully fueled. I shuttled back and forth between the room and the crew van, checking things such as radios and clothes. It probably didn’t add anything to preparations except to give me something to do like a baby and their pacifier. Just before leaving at 7, I took the customary pre-race trip to the restroom, got into the van and we were off.

Pete, Kimi and Trish accompanied me to the start to handle the first leg from Badwater to Furnace Creek. This section requires less people because the runner requires less servicing. The temperatures tend to be lower and the strain of the journey doesn’t begin to bear down (in my experience) until the section between Furnace Creek to Stovepipe Wells. The ride out was pretty quiet, with some chatting back and forth. It wasn’t as quiet as the first year or as chatty as the second year. I felt like I was in that happy medium between excitement and focus. Often, I prefer to spend this time gazing out on the landscape and listening to music.

Most of the music isn’t too emotional; I try to keep things a little lighter at that point to settle into an even-keeled emotional state. Sometimes, if I find a song I like, I might actually play it a few times prior to the start. The song of choice this time? “New Shoes” by Paolo Nutini. It’s rather tame, but with catchy instrumentals and creative lyrics. Besides, what could be more appropriate for a race that often forces its participants to put on new, larger shoes due to foot swelling in the heat?

On arrival around 7:25, it was the same as years past. Get weighed in, use the restroom again, and say hello to various folks. After weigh-in, I made a point to walk out onto the salt flats. Alone at this point, I kneeled and silently prayed to the Lord. I didn’t say much, simply sitting in the presence and allowing the silence to speak to me. After a minute or two, I got up and returned to the crowds.

I paid no attention to the runners around me. Even during the runners group photo at the Badwater sign, I didn’t really say anything. In spite of the anticipation and the overwhelming yearning to put aside past disappointment and make this a year to remember, I wouldn’t allow it to show in my demeanor. While emotion can be a powerful ally, now was neither the time nor place to display it.

Ten minutes before the start, we moved to the starting line on the roadway. Occasionally, I would glance towards Pete and Trish to my left in the crowd of crews, race officials and media who were snapping pictures. I was in a mental vacuum, a sort of black hole of thoughts. I had washed away all the thoughts of previous races and was ready to run my race. While others were either joking or smiling or crying (yes, crying), I stood there with little emotion. I had the crew I wanted, the plan I needed and the training necessary to get it done the way I wanted to get it done.

Finally, after all the speeches, anthems, and runners getting last minute supplies, it was “Go” time. With a couple minutes before the start, the crews were allowed to give their runner any last minute items, at which time Trish slipped me one water bottle to keep my company for the first couple miles. Chris Kostman, the race director, kept looking at his watch until the final countdown begun. “10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5”. I planted my feet in anticipation of the start. “4, 3, 2, 1, Go”. Off we went, with most jogging and some walking. From my inside front position on the start line, I quickly moved towards the front.

Badwater to Furnace Creek:
After a half-mile of trailing the “early leader”, I firmly planted myself out in front. It’s not so much as if I was gauging myself against anyone else as it was just a part of the race day pacing plan. Having an 8 am start, I want to take advantage of those cooler temperatures before mid-day. While the advantage is somewhat diminished by having to begin the climb up Townes Pass during a warmer time of day, it was important to me to let the legs loosen up during this first section from Badwater to Furnace Creek. We had initially targeted a 9 min./mile average during this section, which would eventually drop to 13 min./mile between Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells. I was just moving along, minding my own business.

I had 3- 5 minute ice baths planned between Furnace Creek (mi. 17.3) and Stovepipe Wells (mi. 41.9) and had already planned on a slower pace through the heart of the Valley, so this quicker pace at the outset did not worry me much. Having experienced intermittent ITBS during the year, the thing that concerned me the most would be roads with an unevenness or were banked. Most of the roads in the valley have an even grading and even if I did feel some discomfort, I had no reservations about popping the Aleve as necessary. While not always recommended, it had become my all-purpose drug of choice for how easy it went down. For the time being, I was just concerned with making sure I established a good hydration, electrolyte and fueling base.

The pit stops every mile were rather mudane at the outset: drop the old bottle and cap, grab the new bottle and grab a new cap with ice in it. Every couple miles, I would also get a new ice towel around my neck. It was important that right from the outset, I kept my body temperature down and did not allow my perceived comfort to dictate my actions.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Back From Badwater and Africa

Wow! What a great race! Even with all the ups and downs, 36 hours and 16th place overall was a great finish. Enjoy the slideshow, with the race report and the report of my Uganda trip (incredible) are coming in the next few days. Sorry I've been delinquent on this all. The training and being swamped at work just took over :). AC100 is next....I'll be skipping Headlands Hundred this year to focus on it.

Thanks to the Crew: Pete, Kimi, Trish, Jeff, Mike and MamboThanks to the Sponsors: Injinji Socks, Brooks, Arrowhead Water and JM Hyde!Cheers and God Bless,


P.S. I just want to give a HUGE thank you to all the donors who have already given for the Wells in Uganda! I am pleased that as of now, we have $12000 (including off-line contributions). Over 5000 people will be affected by these four wells!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Back From Boston

So I’m back from the Boston Marathon! Wow, what a race! This was my first Boston marathon, and it was everything I expected it to be. I think it can be hard for some to go back to road races after moving predominately to trail races, but I still love a good road marathon. While I’m loathe to the commercial culture which has slowly continued permeating the marathon culture over the past few years and tend to prefer the picturesque views at many trail runs, Boston seems to have everything all in one package. Its history is unmatched, its route unchanged, and its championship history legendary. While I was a bit turned off by the puffed up chests and ego displayed in conversation with some of the participants, I found most of the city preparing for their party with enthusiasm and charisma.

For some, it’s a chance to show off their marathoning talents on the marathon world’s biggest stage. For others, it’s the culmination of many years of working towards this race. And yet for others, it’s a reward for the charitable work they’ve done to help others. Just to put the level of competition in perspective, a 3:00:00 time at other regional races like San Diego’s Rock N’ Roll Marathon or the L.A. Marathon or the Honolulu Marathon will put you in the top 100, at this year’s Boston Marathon would leave you in 1239th position. I know it may sound like I’m overstating what many already know, but it is probably the most competitive of the major U.S. marathons. Nonetheless, the Boston Marathon represents very different things to many different people.

By the time race day came, I already had 3 days of sightseeing under my belt and really considered the Marathon and extension of the Boston experience. I found the crowds to be invigorating, almost intoxicating. The route winds through suburban Boston through small towns, with even smaller roadways. It can feel crowded with so many runners out there and the pockets of people who fill the sidelines of the route. But it is those same people that create the intimate race experience. I could just imagine that these same people had probably been out here having a good time and cheering on runners in generations past. I was not only a part of the race’s tradition, but I was probably also part of their Patriot’s Day tradition as well. I was merely a footnote, but a proud footnote nonetheless. Whether it’s the Wellesley girls that line mile 13, the Hash House Harriers handing out beer at mile 19 or the enthusiastically hammered co-eds at Boston College, the energy of the spectators is infectious.

The trip itself was truly an experience, a reward for the countless other races I’ve done. While I thought about sub-3 for maybe the first few miles of the race itself, I slowed to enjoy the experience. I was content to spend the necessary time to slap hands with many spectators (particularly children), get hugs from the Wellesley girls, and yap it up with the Boston College co-eds as I ran by down the last hill into downtown Boston. It got particularly emotional as I crested Heartbreak Hill. This was it; although there will be other Boston Marathons to PR, this race was my reward. It took a while to get over the hump, but now that I was here, I wouldn’t let the moment get away. I didn’t feel better than anyone or any more “elite” than anyone other runner out there who is striving for their reward; I was just happy that my hard work had delivered a satisfying reward. It meant more to me to be able to soak in this view of the city, these spectators along the course and then meet my brother downtown for a celebratory beer.

Here are the pics and a video from the finish area taken by the PowerBar folks of my brother Daniel and I. Onward to Uganda in less than 2 weeks……

Cheers and God Bless,


Monday, April 14, 2008

Training Miscellaneous and Boston Excitement

Hello again!
It is now 7 days until the Boston Marathon, and I am definitely excited. I was supposed to go on a training run with Alan Giraldi, a fellow Badwater entrant, but that was scuttled. I’m looking forward to running with him next week sometime after Boston if he’s available. As for Boston, I’ve never been there so I’m trying to plan the right itinerary. While there’s a lot going on that’s associated with the race, I do want to enjoy the city with those coming along. One must do: Tour of Fenway Park. Other than that, it's pretty much whatever. While on the whole, I think East Coasters see themselves much differently than West Coasters, the city definitely has much to offer the traveler. Besides, how else can I convince people to come on my crazy race adventures if I don’t at least offer a little bit of non-running related fun? Hehe.

As far as training’s concerned, a good 50 miles on the weekend helped me close the week well. Although I’m scheduled to taper leading to Boston next Monday, I’ll probably try to put in 45 miles total over the next four days. But the intensity for those miles will be very mild; more of fun runs than anything else. I just want to relax and enjoy the scenery of San Francisco before I really ramp down on the weekend before the race. Easy runs are great because they’ve just been reminding me of why I love running in the first place; the freedom to wander and be in my own space. I have to start taking a camera with me so I can give you all a glance at what I’ve been seeing. Since my training weeks include Monday-Sunday, next week will be two big mileage weeks (almost 100 and 105 miles) prior to leaving for Uganda.

One thing I am not excited about lately is this persistant ITB Syndrome. It has been getting progressively better, with targeted stretching becoming the norm. However, I don’t want this to persist, particular as I get closer to the meat of my season. The best thing for me to do right now is to rest when I can, ice after workouts, and stretch diligently. I might go with orthodics at some point, but the isolation of the pain to the right knee makes me wonder if there’s something going on related to my ACL tear from 10 years ago. Oh well; we’ll see.

I just want to give a HUGE thank you to all the donors who have already given for the Wells in Uganda! I am pleased that as of now, we have $1720. This is such a blessing and although there is much work to do in order to raise the total of $6000, I am hopeful that the generosity will continue and the work of friends/family who are also fundraising will pay off in the end. I hope that the people who have/will give will be blessed in their giving. A big thank you as well to the friends/family who are fundraising; I have full confidence that they will be successful and blessed in their efforts as well. Doing things for those who can not pay you back helps to re-center the heart, mind and spirit on that which is most important in the world. Good stuff, indeed.

God bless,

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Onward To Boston and Africa

So, I’m back at it again. It’s been 3 weeks since my last post, and most of my time has been devoted to training, planning the Africa trip, and getting my fundraising back up and running ( I finally put together the training plan up until Badwater, which includes the time I’m spending away in Africa. While the trip does come in the middle of the training schedule, I’m hopeful that in the early mornings there I’ll be able to get 5-6 miles in before I eat breakfast and start my day’s itinerary. I don’t want to take away at all from what I’m doing there which is meeting with villagers where World Harvest Mission has built wells, speaking in local churches, and speaking with local schoolchildren. So, the mornings will probably be the best time to run. As far as heat training, that should be no problem there, considering that I’ll be on the equator.

I am incredibly excited about going there. This is why I work were I do and why I go the extra mile in my running. Sometimes I have a hard time explaining the whole 100 mile runs to people, but something like this speaks for itself. I love the people there and this is just an opportunity to connect my running to the greater purposes which fuel me. While there, I will visit the villages where the wells we. That way, I can show the sponsors the tangible places and people whose lives will be affected by their giving. The great thing about working with World Harvest Mission is that no money goes to administration since the organization is run by volunteers. So when they give $25, all $25 is put to work in the field to do the work. Probably the most exciting thing is seeing friends I worked with last time there. It’s been almost 6 years, so hopefully I recognize them. I'll post pics of my last trip to Africa in my next update.

As far as the running is concerned, the Boston Marathon is now 3 weeks away. I’ve had some IT Band stiffness over the last couple weeks, so I’ve been alternating rest and running. ITB is a common injury in trail running due to the uneven terrain which can stress the IT Band which runs down the leg.

While I’ve still be able to get my weekly long runs of 25, 23 and 20 miles, it’s limited some of my shorter runs and forced me to run them at a slower pace than usual. Although my lungs and aerobic fitness is still excellent, it keeps me from those faster paced tempo runs which help stretch the ability to keep a quick pace. I’m still targeting a sub-7:00/mile pace, just trying to best gauge how the IT issues will affect my overall performance. I expect that my marathon PR under 3 hours will probably not occur at Boston, but will probably have to wait until the California International Marathon in Sacramento in December. By then, I’ll have a good mix of speed training and long run fitness from my numerous ultras to take a hard look at setting an initial target of 2:55.

I’ve finished my initial training calendar for the rest of the year leading up to Badwater. The major goal race in the calendar is the San Diego 100 on June 7th. Another key race I just added in the past week is the Running With The Devil 50 Miler just outside Las Vegas ( It’s the last weekend of June, about 2 ½ weeks prior to the Badwater race. It’s a road race which will give me one last opportunity to evaluate my hydration, electrolyte and nutrition in a super hot environment. I plan on going at a pace commensurate with my expected pace for the first 42 miles through the Valley (10 min/mile pace), trying to be as even and consistent with my pace as possible.

What’s your goal race for the year? How are you preparing for it? How does each aspect of your training? Are you just running or are you adding weights, core and back exercises? These are questions that I continually ask myself, and hopefully you’re asking yourself when you’re mapping out where you’re going this year and in life.

Ok, it’s time for me to get back out there, keep stretching and make it happen. Take care, run hard and God bless.


Monday, March 10, 2008

L.A. Marathon and Back to Badwater

Three words: 2008 Badwater Ultramarathon. Here is a copy of the acceptance letter I received:

"Hello Gundy:
Congratulations! You have been accepted to compete in the 2008 Badwater Ultramarathon. You are part of a select group who will participate in what is recognized across the globe as “the world’s toughest footrace.” In the near future, we will include your name and biographical information on the online roster. When we do, please check it for errors....."

2008 is truly a year of redemption. In addition to the new races I’ve added (ex: Rocky Raccoon 100 at 20:58), quite a few of my races are opportunities to redeem the races I had last year over that 4 month period where I was dealing with persistent nausea. Badwater is a part of that, the golden stamp and the ultimate 2008 goal race. It gives me a whirlwind of emotions; happy that I get the chance to make “the third time a charm”, but aware that whatever I did to prepare the last couple years, I want to do it even better. I am acutely aware of the challenge, but this is an opportunity that I have to have the race of a lifetime and put my stamp on this race if I can put it together. A big grin comes to my face as I think about toeing the start line once again.
Once again, I will be running to raise money for World Harvest Mission. World Harvest Mission is a non-profit Christian organization doing relief work in East Africa. This time, we have set a goal of $6000 in order to build two wells in Uganda. Last year, we raised close to $3000 for child sponsorships in Uganda and this year we’ve doubled the goal. But in order to do that, we need your help. Every small amount helps; you can help people have access to the precious water they need where they live. I’ll be putting up a link to a website in the coming few days for this fundraising. I will be visiting Uganda this year and will visit the villages which will benefit from your contributions. Hopefully, I will work with friends there to provide you with pictures of the villages.

I am pleased to welcome back Injinji and Brooks as my two year-round sponsors; now I’ve added Arrowhead Water to my list of Badwater sponsors. I wrote to them about the race and the fundraising being done as a part of this year’s Badwater. Arrowhead stepped up and is helping to support us with over 40 gallons of water, which is tremendous. It’s great to work with sponsors who believe not only in my mission as a runner, but in my greater mission as an individual. Thank you, Arrowhead; I look forward to both the race and the charitable fundraising as a part of that.

I ran the L.A. Marathon this past Sunday, which was awesome. I had a tight back from tweaking it a week and a half ago, so I ran a solid first half and eased up on the second half to keep the back/legs from tightening up too bad. 1:30 first, 1:48 second…..The first half felt very easy and I feel good that I’m on the right track to go for a sub-3 at Boston, even if there is still much work to do. I have a soft spot in my heart for this race, because unlike any other marathon/race I’ve been a part of, it is truly “the people’s race”. Whether it’s the huge crowd support, the runners from all walks of life, or the plethora of neighborhoods the race travels through, it is always a special experience. I am also pushed on by the strangers yelling my name (on my bib), handing out food/drink or banging a drum. I don’t know if I’ll ever get that feeling at another race.
I’ll update the training log in the next few days. Even with the week off for the back injury, I still have time to keep the miles going in the right direction.

UPDATE: Another big opportunity is that I’m starting up a running program with a local Christian drug/alcohol rehabilitation center, CityTeam, in Downtown San Francisco. We're pretty much all ready to go. We will start shortly. I’m trying to emphasize how to get the men to improve their physical health and take better care of their bodies as they recover from their addictions. It’s just a great opportunity to show them, without the pressure of having to go towards a goal (at least at the start), how running fits in with the center’s mission to improve the physical, mental and spiritual health of each of the men in the program. I’m hoping to get some support from Brooks, so we’ll see where that goes.

Take care, run hard and God bless,


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Lead up to Rocky- Pacifica 50k

What’s up?
It’s been a great two weeks of getting back into the swing of running. Training for the past two weeks has been 70 miles each week. Not super big mileage, but enough to keep me healthy while getting some key targeted runs. This past weekend, I had my last major tune-up before the Rocky Raccoon 100: Pacifica 50k. With 7100 ft. of elevation gain in 31.4 miles, it’s a good strength builder looking ahead towards the other 100 mile runs this year. I kept a nice even pace, with the following times on the loops: 1:04, 0:59, 1:03, 1:22, 1:06. The 1st and 4th loops were the 11.3k and the other loops were the 9.3k loop. The 4th loop was an anomaly, in part due to my desire to keep my legs fresh for Rocky Raccoon and also the stimulating conversation taking place between myself and two other runners. Normally, I would have kept pounding the trail with jogging on the flatter sections. I chose instead to enjoy the company and the conversation on the trip up to North Peak before picking it back up on the return trip back down to the aid station. It was a bit weird though, since it seemed to placate my usually competitive nature. I’m hoping this is a blessing in disguise and has a positive effect on Rocky Raccoon performance. I try not to get too competitive at the 50ks, trying to instead use them as base builders and speed work where appropriate. All in all, though, I still finished in a respectable 5:48, 6th place out of 44 starters, when all was said and done with the aid station stops. Still, at least once this year, it would be nice to have a top 3 finish at a 50k, even though it is the 100s where I want to compete the best.

This week, I’m looking at a 100 mile week, with 15 miles each on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and then a late night/early morning 18 miler/ 32 miler back to back runs on Saturday morning. That way, I have Saturday and Sunday all day free to do whatever. Then, I’ll start the taper for the following week with a few easy runs. I am excited to go back out to Texas. I haven’t been there since last March for my cousin’s wedding just outside Houston. I’ll be flying into Houston and then traveling to Huntsville for the race. One small benefit of the race is a chance to see my cousin and his wife again. It should be great, especially going to a place that’s really foreign to me. I’ll be seeing them at some point on Saturday during the race and on Sunday noon time when the race is over. I like to travel with a purpose, and although doing a big race can be a purpose in and of itself, traveling to see family, friends or just to do some work your passionate about is sometimes a little bit sweeter.

People don’t always realize this, but traveling to a race and then competing can definitely take its toll if you let it. It’s enough to be running 100 miles, but to add to it the stress of being in a new city, sleeping in a different bed, and not always knowing everyone around you can be overwhelming. I’ve always enjoyed adventure, so that’s really the approach I take. Going to Huntsville is just another adventure and another chance to see a part of this country that I see very little. I just hope I don’t run into any gators out there!

I have a friend who will be taking pics and I’ll start to include video of this race as well as some of my “only for Badwater” training methods, for those of you interested in the race. The application is due in less than a week and I'm almost finished with it. It's definitely a strong application, but nothing is ever guaranteed. Of course, I think I'm just as excited about returning to Africa in the first half of 2008 for 2 to 3 weeks. Either way, I'll be doing things that I'm passionate about and always keeping my eyes on the prize that's most important.

I definitely have to put some more pics up here for 2008, especially considering the places I get to go. It'll be nice to look at all these pics 20 years from now and remember the good times I had and the great people I shared them with. Also, I’ve updated the training log on the right hand column. Enjoy.

Stay strong, run hard and God bless.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Getting Ready for Rocky- The first 100 miler of 08'

The last two weeks of training have gone well, with a 70 mile and 80 mile week respectively. I will try to bump that up to 90 miles and 100 miles for the next two weeks, before slowing down to a much lighter load prior to the Rocky Raccoon 100. I know there are other runners who believe in consistent weeks above 100 miles, but I am not one of them. I have enjoyed playing basketball and using some of the other cardio machines at the gym (when I don’t feel like running in the rain), which have helped me feel better about the time I’ve been putting into my runs. I’m making a conscious effort to include activities I already enjoy doing to enhance my focus during my runs. So far, so good.

While I wasn’t 100% happy with my race at the Rodeo Beach 50k on 12/22, but there were some positives out there on the trails. I was really sick going into the race, continually trying to fight off a cold I had caught the week before. The time in the race where being sick really took its toll was over the final 20k loop. On the first major ascent of the 20k loop, I felt like my energy had been sucked out of me. I started to suffer from just being plain tired, continually wiping my nose and spitting flem. I felt better over the last 10k, but still tired from the lingering illness. The major plus from the race was feeling the benefit of my road marathon racing on the downhills. I flew downhill, hitting sub-6 minute mile speed at times while moving efficiently over the somewhat uncertain footing of the terrain.

Rocky Raccon, which once felt ages away, is now only 4 weeks away. 4 weeks until I’m back attacking the 100 mile distance again. The goal will be to have a negative split between my first half and second half. With 5- 20 mile loops, it’ll give me an accurate look at how my first half loops compare to the second half loops. Considering the relative flatness of the course (5500 ft. of elevation gain and 5500 ft. of elevation loss) and being the first 100 miler of 2008, I have shaped my pacing plan to a sub-20 hour finish with the following tiered-goals for the race:

1) Finish the race
2) Finish under 24 hours
3) Finish under 20 hours
4) Finish under 18 hours
5) Finish under 16 hours, 40 minutes

The goal for the race which I believe I’m well trained to reach is goal #3. I will adjust accordingly, but I plan on running the first two loops in 3:30 minutes and 3:40 minutes, with 6 minutes of breaks on each lap. From the first lap on, I will gradually increase the number of calories coming from solid food sources to control potential nausea. I’m concerned more with setting the stage and laying the foundation for a race like Badwater in the summer. Oh well…..even the best laid plans still require tinkering during the race, so I’m prepared for anything both positive and negative.

Time for me to go to bed….I’ll post the training log tomorrow.

Stay strong, run hard, and God bless,