Friday, August 6, 2010

The Perfect Race

Once again, it's been a little while. With the Angeles Crest 100 coming up and Western States behind me, I wanted to reprint the article/race report of mine that showed up in Ultrarunning Magazine. There's a lot I could post about my race and a lot of details there left to share, but with my current writer's block, this should give you a nice overview of what just happened.

The Perfect Race

When Roy Jones Jr. won a silver medal in boxing in the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, it was certainly not the result that he had hoped for or even earned. I had seen a documentary about the circumstances surrounding it on television a week or two before. I hadn’t thought about it since, but at the time I remember it touching a nerve in me by how much Jones had out boxed the Korean boxer and how utterly stunned the result had left everyone on television. He had clearly given a performance worthy of the gold medal, yet in the end the record books do not read “Olympic Champion”. It was a sad irony that seemed to illustrate one of life’s enduring truths: you never get exactly what you deserve.

In the middle of the Western States 100 out on that lonely, isolated trail down to Volcano Creek from Michigan Bluff, it hit me that even if I had done everything that I thought I needed to do in this race, nothing was guaranteed. Roy Jones Jr. had fought the perfect fight and in the end it was not enough to guarantee him the result that he desired or deserved. This thought started a rather deep, internal discussion on the meaning of perfection.

At the time, I was a literal and figurative mess out there. I was being punished by a badly sprained left ankle early on going downhills and fits of nausea on the uphills. In fact, the ankle had grown so troublesome that I was intentionally avoiding pivoting on the left foot all together on downhills. A race that began with a disciplined beginning and a major ramp up from miles 32 through 44 was now cracking at the seams. The level of disgust with which I felt with myself was clearly evident to all around me, even as I strained to put my race back together again. It didn’t matter to me whether I failed at every race in 2010. After succumbing to elevation-induced sickness and general exhaustion in 2007, I was doing a poor job make amends for it here in 2010.

I had just seen my wife and a friend at Michigan Bluff, beaten down and in need of some inspiration along with a couple of new body parts. Coming away from the aid station, I steadily meandered down the trail, not concerned with much else other than trying to feel a little bit better. As the trail got steeper and more rocky near bottom of Volcano Creek, I tried to steady feet with each foot strike when Roy Jones Jr. entered my consciousness and with it a streaming internal discussion on expectation and perfection.

I had been acting like a pestilent child, not getting what I desired out of the race and choosing to wallow in my own self pity. Children lament when things don’t turn out exactly they imagine because they see things in black and white. To them, there is no acceptable outcome other than the one which they were expecting. It reminded me of times as a child watching the San Francisco 49ers play in the Super Bowl when I came close to tears more than a few times fearing possible defeat. A child sees no other outcome more important than the one they were expecting.

Maturity, in many respects, allows us to see the shades of grey in a black and white world. It sees beauty in unimagined possibilities. It also allows us to see that rarely is there a 1 to 1 correlation between the effort we put in and the results we receive. Nothing in my training or previous racing guaranteed an outcome; rather, it could only feed the internal hope for a given race.

The truth was that my family and friends who had come out to support me didn’t come just to see my post a particular time or come in a particular place. In my disappointment and disgust, I lost sight of the fact that those most important to me were there for no other reason than to support me because they loved me. I could’ve stopped right there, in my disappointment and disgust, and they would’ve loved me regardless.

We expect perfection of our imperfect selves in an imperfect world. I wanted perfection, but only the kind of perfection measured by results. I had expected the improvement in my running over the past year as well as the training and comeback from injury over the past 7 months to be rewarded with results. However, life doesn’t all of the sudden become perfect simply because we are participating in this “perfect” race. The race only magnifies the imperfections which are all around us and within us. In my moment of weakness, I had made it about myself.

I would go on to continue experiencing the nausea and the ankle instability the rest of the race, but from that moment on, it did not matter. I would continue to pursue perfection even if the results didn’t reflect it. In my struggles, there was something refreshing about knowing that I did everything I could to run the race well. Coming in second, whether that be to a competitor or to our own expectations of self, is never easy. Someone else sees the race you had while you see the race you should have or could have had. But in that final moment sprinting around the track at Placer High School Stadium, coming in 114th never felt so good. 23 hours and 47 minutes after I started, my journey was coming to an end. I was not accepting mediocrity, but rather embracing the highest standards of sport which demand that we empty ourselves in mind, body and spirit in the pursuit of excellence. Others may be more celebrated or publicly lauded, but this was special to me because this was the day I found perfection. On that day, I had run the perfect race. Never before has taking home the silver felt so satisfying.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

T-Minus 3 Days

It’s down to the wire now….the hay’s in the barn and all that’s left is to countdown to race day. Am I excited? Yeah, I am. However, it’s always tempered by the fact that 100 miles is still 100 miles. I wonder why I chose a sport that never gets easier, but I’m going to at least enjoy this one. I’m in Lake Tahoe right now getting used to the elevation and making all the last minute preparations. For people unfamiliar with the terrain and course layout, there’s two really key points that will tell you all you need to know about how my race is going: Robinson Flat (29.7 miles) and Foresthill (62 miles). If I come into Robinson in 4:30 and Foresthill in 11:45, then I’ve got a real good shot at achieving my goal time of sub-19 hours.

Thanks go out to the following people:

Crew: Wilma, Kimi, Uncle Andy (Sugar Bear) and Uncle “Mambo” Jose
Pacers: Tara, Lori
Sponsors: Injinji, Brooks, GU, NUUN

Let’s go do it :)

God bless,

P.S. For those curious about the race or what's going on, you can go to for the live webcast.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Goal Race Psychology

Miwok is over now and Western States is now upon me, so I thought it would be an excellent time to examine goal race preparation from a tactical and psychological perspective, which is a pertinent topic for all racers. With 2.5 weeks left until race day, I am pretty much as prepared as I’m going to be to execute what should be an excellent race.

One major confidence boost was the 45 miles I ran on the course on Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend, which included descending and climbing out of the canyons highlighting the major challenges of the race. My climbing was much, much better as compared to Miwok with a lot more pickup to my uphill paces. I feel much better about my sub-19 hour race goal, although I realize that success at the 100 mile distance still requires consistent execution and pushing through all the way to the end. That said, confidence runs often provide a psychological boost that one can maintain a particular effort level over the life of the run. In my case, it’s just one really long day.

One’s psychology going into a goal race can hinge on these little assurances that the body can handle the various unknowns. These unknowns come with them a certain stress that an issue which starts out as a pebble will eventually become a boulder. Alleviating this undue stress means coming into a goal race prepared. Whether it’s the food you eat or the gels you take or how fast to approach each individual segment, that preparation should be precise in detail and structure, yet flexible in execution. Life is full of surprises, so why should a race be any different? When a race presents 1000 different scenarios for how it will play out, it’s best to expect Scenario No. 1001.

Things develop so slowly in a 100 mile race that they often resemble the slow cooking a master chef employs to get the right taste. The focus always has to be on the process with the foresight to know that a good process will give you the best opportunity for good results. While the training is the major part of that process, allowing your race day plan to evolve at the race itself takes a major amount of patience and resolve. You develop your race day plan based upon the feedback you’ve received in training, and yet your body may present something different on race day itself.

I, myself, have 3 different pacing plans based on 3 different outcomes. While my race will probably end up resembling all 3 at some point, different sections of the course will yield various surprises based on how I feel and how much I’m willing to push. This is not to advocate that everyone’s best race means being conservative; rather, it’s a recognition that even with months and years of training and racing, what one is given on race day can still be a pleasant surprise or rude awakening. Those who are best at managing the necessary adjustments required are those who will psychologically be best able to weather the storms.

And if I don’t weather the storms? Well, a little divine intervention couldn’t hurt either.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

2010 Miwok 100k

The anatomy of a good race report is this: It is able to tell the story of your race in a thoughtful, engaging way that makes the reader feel like they were there. I will include splits and goal splits at the end of this report, but the real story for me lies in three key events which I will describe in detail. First, though, a quick summary of the mindset and goal coming into this race.

Coming off a rather vanilla 6th place performance at Skyline To The Sea 50k, I still came into the Miwok 100k with the idea that I wanted to take it to the course. I could not simply sit back on my heels and let the course wear me down, but I needed to assert myself and run with authority. Running with authority means running assertively, particularly in those single-track and small technical sections where it is easy to lolly gag and move gingerly. I needed to run hard, to help further dust off those calves in need of a more serious race to keep the training train rolling. I had a plan for a sub-9 hour race, but having slowly worked my way back from my previous calf strain, I was looking for consistent effort in my climbing as much as anything else. Still, there was the raw realization going in that while I would be very strong on the flats and downhills, the uphills would be where many of the top runners would hold a good advantage on me. If I could limit the lost time on the uphills, I would be in great shape coming back from Bolinas. Having run every section of the course except for a small 2 mile single-track section at the outset, there would be no surprises and no need to worry about anything else other than how I was running. Since Miwok has been a popular race as a precursor to the Western States 100, there are various theories for how one can take their Miwok performance and extrapolate a projected finishing time for States. Most people double their Miwok time, although there seems to be a some amount of variation depending on how one chooses to run Miwok and how well developed is one’s endurance.

I gave myself a range to run within which would tell me if I was on or off-pace. Each range came with it an absolute limit that, based on previous years’ performances, was the theoretical cutoff. I gave myself space to run faster on some sections and slower on others, knowing that my standing relative to the range would depend on the section being run.
The plan was solid and my capabilities had been tested against various sections of the course over the last 2-3 months. While at times during my training I felt incredibly lethargic out there, I had enough excellent runs that tracked well against a couple of other 8:xx:xx performances I was baselining against. It was the same strategy that used going into the Firetrails 50 last year which served me well last October when I cruised to a 7:25, 5th place finish.

The race at Miwok played fairly true to form, highlighting both my weaknesses (uphills) and my strengths (downhills and flats). I kept a brisk pace through the early going, moving continuously on the uphills and slamming the downhills, as I am prone to do. The race played out fairly close to my expectations, minus a few minutes here or there. Having reached Pantoll Ranger Station at mile 21.7 in 2:58, I felt a bit sluggish but nothing of any major concern. I had been drinking copious amounts of fluids and devouring 270-280 calories per hour in GU. Still, the uphills started to bother me and left me wondering why I wasn’t moving faster.

Key moment #1: After having been passed by a couple other runners and slipping out of the top 10, I seemed to find my groove again on the lonely single-track Coastal Trail which slithers tightly on the steep grass hillside overlooking the Pacific. While the views are stunning, the narrow trail makes it important to not lose focus. I was quietly ticking off the miles, but started feeling sluggish on the small climbs. To a Miwok runner, what I’m describing probably seems absurd considering the relative flatness of this section. However, even as I was moving along in relative solitude, I knew there would be other runners coming up faster than I was moving.

The silence was finally shattered by the swift, easy strides of Kami Semick. Kami may be much shorter in stature, but she is built like a rock and moves fluidly over a variety of terrains. Kami would go on to finish 1st woman and 10th place overall in 9:10:29. I would go on to follow right behind Kami into the Bolinas Ridge Aid Station (mile 28.4), but after that she would fade out of view until seeing her again near Randall Turnaround (Mile 35.6).

The significance of the moment had nothing to do with getting “chicked” ( a common, light-hearted ultra term for getting passed by a woman). It was the subtle beginning for what would become my crucial undoing during this race; my relative weakness on the uphills. While I would end up losing the most great majority of time against my 9 hour goal on the 1000’ climb back from Randall, this is where I could feel the race slipping from me. Sometimes we need to see what others are capable of in order to give us perspective about what we need to do better.

Key moment #2: After Tara came aboard to pace me, I spent the section from Bolinas Ridge (Mile 42.8) back to Pantoll (Mile 49.5) getting my head together and getting back into the race. It wasn’t that there was anything specific wrong with me; I just felt incredibly sluggish on the uphills. I could’ve been slightly dehydrated since I never did drain the kidneys during the race. Even that, though, is a bit of stretch since it wasn’t accompanied with the lightheadedness and general loopiness. Tara didn’t necessarily say anything; rather, she acted as a sounding board for all my meandering thoughts. I confess that I did feel bad that I subjected her to watching me curse out a solitary coyote on the hillside for no apparent reason. But in reality, the act of being pushed subtly and working to keep myself in perpetual motion worked to get the freight train moving again. And yes, at 170 lb., I was a freight train compared to some of the sticks out there.

All of this leads me to my key moment. Coming out of Pantoll, my pep had returned and I warned Tara that I would be cranking it for the next 3 miles of mostly screaming downhill. After warming up over the 0.5 mile flat, we started cranking it over the next 0.2 mile transition trail before over 1000’ ft. of decent over 2.2 miles down Deer Park Fire Road that can best be described as an out-of-control barrel race. We took the brakes off and kept cranking with ease. Soon enough, a little more than half-way down the Fire Road, we spotted two runners about 0.2 miles ahead. Even though one turned out to be a pacer, not too much seems to motivate more than seeing “ducks on the pond”. A couple minutes later while slightly cranking the arms to get a little more momentum going, I eased on by the two guys with a polite “On Your Right”. At that moment, one of the runners looked back to his right with a shocked look on his bearded face. I’m not sure if he was shocked just to see anyone or shocked at how quickly I was coming up on him; regardless, the look was priceless. It’s the kind of look that as a competitor, you love to see. It had the exact opposite effect that Key Moment #1 had on me; downhills and flats are definitely my strength. I feel like if I had to run a marathon right now, I would definitely be in the 2:40s coming off of my 2:51 PR run last year. My quads feel strong and my ability to navigate downhill trails with ease is definitely high. Part of it comes with my simple approach to downhills; why fight gravity when it feels so good to let it ride. This will become a key point at Western States, a net downhill course.

Key moment #3: After 58.5 long miles, it was 1000’ ft. up and 1000 ft. down to the finish at Rodeo Beach. 3.7 miles of dirt between the finish and I. After righting myself somewhat on the way to Pantoll, I stayed steady the rest of the way. Yes, I was still relatively weaker on the ups and stronger on the downs. But while there was some passing and being passed, I was in 19th place overall which was right where I was coming into Pantoll. The hardest thing for any athlete is maintaining focus when the original goals are out of reach. I had reached a point where top 10 and 9 hours were not in the cards, but I still had an opportunity to maintain my position in the top 20 in this ultra competitive race (no pun intended). The final 3.7 miles is over 2 miles of climbing 1000’ and about a mile and a half of hard, steep decent to the finish at Rodeo Beach. To make things more interesting, there are a number of steps and logs to go over at various times during the descent to mix in with asphalt roadway and winding dirt switchbacks.

Starting the climb, I was in 19th place and simply wanted to maintain my position. While 18th was just a minute in front of me and still well within my reach, I simply wanted to stay ahead of any pursuers. I told Tara that if we made it up to the top of the climb first, we could cruise on in from there. This first 1.4 miles up Old Springs Trail provides fairly good footing and many parts with gradual grades allowing someone to run/jog quite a bit. Some sections have dirt stairs built into the trail to help firm them up against erosion. A couple minutes into the climb, I spotted my nearest pursuer wearing a white sleeveless top and red ball cap. I didn’t feel like climbing much, hoping that the gap between myself and the next runner was enough to allow me to coast in. Tara, though, pulled a play from my own pacing playbook to get the ball rolling. “Let’s try and run for 30 seconds.” I’ll admit; this is one that I use quite a bit to have a reluctant runner getting the legs moving again on an uphill. It’s a simple request that helps speed up the inevitable grind that uphills can become and also help a runner find their legs again.

The first few cycles, it was a bit of grind to put in the full 30 seconds of running before 30 seconds of walking. But after a few cycles, I started to feel better about the rate I was moving at. My posture become more upright, I was slouching less, and I seemed to be able to pick up my legs with a little more gusto. On the flattish ~0.4 mile section near the top, I even stopped the walking altogether and kept a nice 10 min./mile jogging rythym. This carried over to the 0.2 mile connector section on the Miwok trail and the first slight downhill before two brutally steep ascents on the Wolf Ridge trail over the next ~0.7 miles. On the first of these two ascents, I peered back to see “The Man In White”, as I took to calling him, continuing to close in with less than a quarter mile between us. I knew that with the climbs, the time difference was more significant, but I still needed to hit the top of that final ascent first.

I moved quickly on the quick 0.2 mile downhill dip before the final quarter-mile climb to the top. I could see the 2nd place woman just ahead on the climb, but once she crested I simply retrained my focus on holding off my pursuer. With scree littering the trail of this quad-busting ascent, good footing was always hard to come by. My hands latched firmly to my quads as I kept driving through each step and turning over my burning legs more quickly. Those minutes felt like a lifetime with the only thing holding my attention being my upward gaze at the end of the rocky earth under my feet and the beginning of light blue skies at the summit.

I was not disappointed, gazing out on the ocean and Rodeo Beach below with a sense of relief releasing some of the building tension. With over 25 minutes into this section, I had only a mile and a half to go until the the finish. While gingerly starting up on the steep, narrow road outlining the ridgeline, gravity quickly sucked me in to pick up the pace. A walk became a trot. A trot became a jog. Finally, a jog became a nearly out of control run with gravity as my fuel and my brake pads (quads) worn to the metal. This half-mile barrel race hits a dip, going slightly upward before returning to the dirt and fine sand. I began losing touch with Tara, focused on putting distance between myself and the “Man In White”. At the dip, I glanced back only to see him coming down the road himself about 200 yards away. I just couldn’t seem to shake him.

This is where the race becomes part obstacle course, part road race and part trail race. I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but when I hit the first set of winding stone stairs, I just took off and left Tara behind with a mile to go. The coming pursuer was now close enough to see clearly but not quite close enough to touch. Tara is not the first pacer that I’ve “ditched” in the final 5-10 miles of a race; I have a clear pattern of being motivated by pursuing runners and the anticipation of the finish. My uncles earlier had clued her in that it may happen and my intimate knowledge of this section of the course makes it much easier for me to anticipate all the various pitfalls. As a more experienced trail runner, I also find that I’m much more willing to take chances on the trails than less experienced trail runners. I moved with a clearer sense of urgency, bounding down stairs and leaping over logs that left me precariously close to taking a fall. Even with a water bottle strapped to both my hands, I reigned myself in a bit half way down one set of logs to avoid a catastrophic fall.

Once away from the steps and logs, I hustled on the winding, paved fireroad leading down from the WWII-era bunker. My uncles down below watched the action with no idea that I was the runner in the black cutoff shirt being chased since they were looking for a runner in black with a pacer. Uncle Jose remarked to Uncle Andy, “Look, that guy in white is going to catch the guy in black”. The “Man in White” had closed to within 25 yards with less than a half a mile to go and although I briefly entertained the idea of coasting it in and finishing together in an show of sportsmanship typical of ultras, the speed with which he was closing made me believe that he was pushing for my placing. I responded by continuing to push as hard as I could as I entered the final 3 short switchbacks on the winding trails which lead to the parking lot.

I resisted the urge to look, realizing that I would waste more in time than I would gain in comfort. After each turn, I expected that now would be the time he would pass me. But each time, I simply got closer and closer to the finish. It wasn’t until the reaching the short, 20 yard L-shaped finishing chute at the Rodeo Beach Picnic Area that I realized I would hold him off. Making that final turn, I charged through the finish line in 9:37:09 and gave my customary silent props to the man up above.

While the official finish times reflected a 1 second gap between us, in reality the “Man In White” would come through the finish line about 10-15 seconds later. I clapped with a smile on my face, tired but happy to have had the experience. Once he crossed the finish line, I walked over to him and we both smiled before giving each other a big hug. We laughed at what a crazy journey that final 3.7 miles had been; he kept trying to hunt me down and I just wouldn’t let him have it. We pushed each other harder and were rewarded for it with a nice way to end the day. It was a great moment where two competitors, when it was all said and done, could just appreciate what had happened. The roles could’ve been reversed, but the ending would’ve stayed the same: respect for one another and a sheer joy for having been a part of an exhilarating chase to the finish line to end 9+ long hours.

In some ways, the finish line is the line between heaven and hell. It has this funny way of turning struggles into learning experiences and making triumphs grow larger. Somewhere in the retelling of the story, it takes on new meaning and foretells the necessary steps for future successes. Sure, I can needle my weaknesses from this race and talk about what it will take in the next 6 weeks to finish Western States in 18+ hours…..but I can at least take heart in the simple fact that with some well-timed words and a little push, I seem to have no trouble finding motivation. Thank you to my crew, my pacer and Tracy Moore.

God bless,

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Miwok Bet

Rick Vs. Gundy: Miwok 100k

The Prize: Lunch post-race

Since I won’t be doing the San Diego 100 in June and Rick didn’t get into Western States 100, it’s time for a little head-to-head action at Miwok. There’s nothing like a little friendly competition to help spur oneself to better performances and this one should be good. The competition is simple; we each pick a goal for the race and the closest one to their goal wins. However, beating your goal is worth more than coming up short. Every minute you beat your goal is equal to one point while every minute you come up short of your goal is equal to two points. The lowest score wins.

While this is predicated on both of us picking goals that accurately fit our current abilities (and not sand bagging), we’re competitive enough people with ourselves that it shouldn’t be a problem. I want to pick a goal that’s going to stretch me on race day, but that I think I have a 50% shot of hitting.

Originally, I had targeted 9 hours as my goal for Miwok knowing that slightly more than doubling my time would give me a guestimate for Western States. With my good training run on the weekend of the 10th and feeling good despite some nagging PF and calf issues, I’m ready to shoot for sub-9 hours at Miwok.

Here are the approximate thresholds/gating points in this race in order to finish under 9 hours:
1) Pantoll Ranger Station (21.7 miles) in 3 hours (8:45 am)
2) Bolinas Ridge Rd. (28.4 miles) in 4 hours (9:45 am)
3) Randall Turnaround (35.6 miles) in 5 hours (10:45 am)
4) Bolinas Ridge Rd. (42.8 miles) in 6 hours (11:45 am)
5) Pantoll Ranger Station (49.5 miles) in 7 hours (12:45 pm)
6) Tennessee Valley (58.5 miles) in 8 hours, 20 minutes (2:05 pm)

I always seem to want to go out quickly to warm up the legs and then slow between miles 6-10 as I start to settle into a rythym. The rest of the day seems to work like clockwork. Rick is setting his bar at 10 hours. She's also stated that if Rick and I both don't meet our goals, then she should get taken out to lunch by both of us. The big winner will probably still be my wife no matter what since I'm taking to Napa for our anniversary. It’s going to be a great day to race and a great tune-up for Western States.

There will be a lot of elite runners there and you can follow the race live at

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Skyline To The Sea 50k

Going into the Skyline To The Sea 50k, I expected that this would be a fast race. With 3000’ of climbing and 5500’ of descent through the Redwoods on the Skyline to The Sea trail, it had the look of a race that would test my quads as well as my ability to maneuver on tight, steep trails. I had been warned ahead of time by Rick to position myself well from the outset since the single track trails would get tight early and often before opening up onto a few scattered fireroads in the middle. It ultimately opens up at the bottom of the hills where the final 5 miles is mostly flat and rolling fireroad with a few single track connector trails thrown in.

My initial expectations were to go for a Top 5 finish under 4 hours. It had been 3 weeks since the Lake Sonoma 50 and I felt that much of the residual effect of the calf strain which limited my training from early February through late March. The only thing that concerned me going in was a sporadic bout of inflammation in my PF which caused some minor discomfort. In order to finish well, a major key would be my ability to manage the race on a course that I had never run before. I wanted to give myself a shot to let the wheels go over the last 1/3 of the race. I spent some time before the race looking at the elevation charts and a few previous race reports to identify key climbs and key descents. There are three major climbs to take note of: 1) Just after the first aid station for 1000 ft., 2) The Gazos Creek loop from miles 16-20 and 3) Mile 22ish, during the final long stretch down to the ocean.

One of the more deceptive features of this course is its endless array of obstacles (fallen trees, rocks, etc.) and tight trails which can take away straightaway speed at times and can act as a detriment to runners who haven’t run it or seen it previously. While the quick drops can help a runner pick up a good amount of speed in a hurry, they often leave you with the choice to treat upcoming obstacles with a) respect, for fear of injury or b) indifference, looking for the quickest route past. While this description shouldn’t deter a runner from embracing the challenge of this race in a fabulous natural setting, it will at least inform you that in order to do well one needs to be proficient at making quick decisions with their feet.

After a relaxing Sunday morning drive (courtesy of my wife) with Rick and Billy to the starting area at Saratoga Gap, a nervous energy came over me while waiting for the race to start. It’s that anticipation of racing again, knowing that for the next 4 hours I would be focused and zoned in on simply moving through the redwoods with a smooth, consistent effort. The time I had spent studying the course and putting together my splits would be put to the test. It’s one thing to study an elevation profile; it’s a whole other thing to study a course in person.

After a quick 5 minute warm-up followed by a brief stretching session, I was ready to go. Once the pre-race briefing was completed, we were off down the trail. I had the gospel and rock blaring in the earphones and I was ready to go. The course began on a downhill slope with the trail narrowing to single-track for 6.5 net downhill miles (1000 ft. of elevation drop) to the first aid station. There is enough room to pass for at least the first couple of miles. I was in the 7th or 8th position, although the number of runners also included those in the marathon race. Leor Pantilat took the lead from the outset and slowly distanced himself as the redwood forests with its myriad of twists and turns made it difficult to see very far. In the early 2-3 miles, I let me legs go on the downhills and ultimately moved up to share the 2nd position with Kevin Swisher. He and I were only about 10-15 seconds ahead of a main chase pack of 4-6 runners, but continued to maintain our distance in the early going.

As we wound our way through quite a bit of hanging brush in particularly windy section on the hillside, my headphone cord kept getting knocked to the left or right. At one point, 19 minutes into the race, the cord came undone completely. I looked down quickly and though I had lost my iPod. I stopped, allowing Kevin to pass in order to look for it quickly. Within 10-15 seconds, I was passed by the train of other runners in the main pack. All in all, I spent a minute and a half looking for that darn iPod only to feel embarrassed to see it still clipped to my shorts.

As I started up again, I found myself alone in my own space. In one way, I considered it a bit of a blessing which forced me to focus on my own race. I didn’t feel particularly inspired to be out front, since I tend to run best at the back of a pack and don’t like the feeling of being pushed on a course which I had never seen before.

However, being in your own space brings with it other challenges. I had no one else around me with which to judge my pace against. Keeping contact with the main pack would also help me keep my fellow competitors (particularly those who were veterans on the course) in sight. This could have been a valuable resource since my Garmin had been reduced to a big stopwatch by the tree cover overhead. At that point, I just kept moving and figured that I simply needed to work on my own race.

One rather harrowing moment was having to cross Highway 9 in order to continue on the trail. A number of cars zoomed pass me, including a red Lotus, which had no intention of ever stopping. It took 15 seconds before I had an opportunity to cross. When I did, I put me head down in a full sprint to avoid becoming the latest road kill.

About a mile out from the aid station, I came up on the first runner who had passed me. He looked as if he had slowed significantly and I quickly moved past on the slightly uphill slope on the edge of a small basin. Coming into Aid Station #1, I was right on time at 46 minutes sharp. I was in fairly good condition and kept this stop brief in order to grab a couple of gels and get my bottle refilled. A big advantage of coming into the aid station alone was the ease of which I was able to get in and out quickly. 15 seconds later, I was off to tackle a 1000 ft. climb before descending again into Aid Station #2 4.7 miles later.

This 1000 ft. of climbing in the second section really highlighted one of weaknesses exposed with a calf that I didn’t have 100% confidence in. I allowed the psychology of being alone to somewhat dictate my physical exertion and walked steeper portions of the climb. It was a bit of downer, wondering if any of the other front runners had chosen to walk during these small sections. I was fatigued, but generally considered that to be par for the course since I tend to get into a groove after mile 10. While I was able to push through that fatigue at times, I clearly allowed it to take me out of my game in the early going.

Once I reached the top, I once again took off on soft, slowly rolling downhill before a quick climb to the 2nd aid station. The soft surface, blanketed by pine needles, provided a needed rest bit absorbing the impact of the downhill. My PF was giving me some minor discomfort, so the soft surface seemed to calm it down. I came up upon another runner during this section, a young Indian runner who was running the marathon. He was one of the first to pass me when I was looking for my iPod and looked as if he was pushing for a podium finish. After exchanging pleasantries as I passed, he kept fairly close to me for the remainder of the section.

I eased into Aid Station #2 at mile 11.2 in 1:28, about 5 minutes off of my appointed goal time. I knew that I had lost time with that walking episode, but was generally ok with the early paces. I needed to continue to work within myself to maintain a good rate of speed overall. I picked up another couple of gels and some water before scampering away for this long 4.6 mile downhill jaunt to the bottom of another basin. Two other 50k runners came up on us, leaving the aid station just after I did.

The four of us continued to push the pace as the top half of this section was filled with major rock formations and narrower trails. On a couple of occasions, I had to catch myself before sliding down the slick and sometimes wet rocks. You could tell a number of these formations had been there awhile

About 1/3 of the way through, I allowed the three runners behind me to pass as I re-tied my shoelaces (which would happen another couple of times). We continued to stay fairly tight together, although I dropped back somewhat when I fell on my backside prior to a creek crossing. I got a bit frustrated with my early pace, imploring myself to keep at it.

The section ends in a basin which was filled with numerous mud puddles, roots and large logs. The roots blend in quite well, which is a big reason I did a face plant at one point onto the trail. I was shaken a bit as I wiped the front of my sleeveless shirt, but all in all found the experience to be a bit of an awakening. Besides, this is a trail run so you need to get dirty every once in awhile. I also got onto my hands and knees to quickly slide under some of the logs. It was about then that I was starting to enjoy this race, which was starting to resemble an adventure races as much as anything else.

To my surprise, I entered aid station #3 at Gazos Creek in 2:02, which was now only 2 minutes off my pre-race goal splits (for a 3:50ish). I felt like I was losing time, but apparently I was picking it up once again. It was a pleasant surprise, putting me at 7:20ish min./mile clip for the last section. After a quick check-in with volunteer and trail runner extraordinaire Will Gotthardt, I departed northbound (the race goes east to west) on the 4.5 mile loop back to the aid station.

While leaving, I saw one of the 2- 50k runners in a yellow SCRC (Santa Cruz?) singlet who had passed me earlier. The third person, being a marathoner, had already departed not needing to do this add-on loop. I surmised that I was probably around 7th or 8th place and would probably need to pass at least two more runners to ensure a top 5 finish. We were now beginning the second of the three major climbs and this one also brought with it 1000’ of climbing. We started out on a fire road for less than a mile, which is a nice and steady grade. Fire roads are much easier to climb due to the firmness of footing and general predictability of the grade which allows a runner to get into a rythym.

I kept a steady rythym as my legs started to feel warm again. I sort of lost sight of the overall time goal, although I figured if I could get back to the aid station at 2:45 with 10.5ish miles to go that I would have a fighting chance at a sub-4 hour finish based upon the final section’s layout. Although the splits were developed with 3:50 in mind, they left a fair amount of buffer to shoot for that 4 hour time. Although I ran quite a bit of the uphills, I still walked the fairly steep grades near the top. The course opens up on another fire road near the top where the route gets fairly exposed. While most exposed sections are loathed by runners looking to stay cool on an otherwise warm day as this, it was a very nice change. The damp, cool air below the redwoods’ canopy had given way briefly to the warm, bright glow from the sun up above.

Eventually, a sharp turn off the fire road led to 2 mile stretch begun with a sharp, steep downhill and ending with a return to 1.5 mile rolling flats that we originally came into Gazos Creek aid station on. It was during this stretch that I had a chance to say hi to Steve Ansell and Harry Walther, who had yet to come into the aid station the 1st time to begin their loop. Steve and Harry looked good for a couple of guys who had run 50k prior to the race as training for an upcoming 100 miler. Steve asked me what place I was in, to which I replied that I didn’t know.

Shortly before I polished off the section, I finally passed that 50k runner in yellow, Stefano Parsado. I came into Gazos Creek at 2:45 with at least a shot at 4 hours. While I had fallen off the goal time of 2:36 (for a 3:50 overall) by 9 minutes, I still had a shot if I could get moving in a hurry. 30 seconds later, I was gone with 3 gels in my pocket and full water bottle. I knew I would probably have to be careful with the fluid intake with 9 miles until the final aid station and 10.5 miles total until the finish line.

Well, whatever visions I had of averaging 7:06 min./mile for this last section vanished when faced with the final long uphill climb that lasted for about a mile. I just couldn’t seem to get into a rythym and I decided to slow down in order to protect the right calf. Fortunately, once at the top of the climb, I knew the rest of the race would be a 3 mile downhill followed by 5ish miles on mostly rolling fire roads to the finish.

I had to stop a couple more times to take care of a loose shoelace as well as another faceplant. This final downhill is sharp and steep, punctuated by numerous obstacles. I was jumping over, under and sometimes around huge fallen trees and tree stumps. Other sections had fallen rock on the path, creating a potential slipping hazard with those that were wet. I rather enjoyed this section, taking care not to fall as I moved methodically to try and catch up to 1 or 2 others.

People on the trail told me I was 2-3 minutes behind the next runner, so I continued to try and gain time by jumping up and over obstacles every chance I got. At times, I had to be careful with quite a few Team In Training hikers along the trail. They looked at me inquisitively, probably wondering why I was moving so quickly on the narrow trails in this hiker’s paradise. I was in a hurry, but never in such a hurry that I got close to knocking anyone over. They seemed to know when to pull to one side or the other and I respected them by taking care to be deliberate with my own movements.

Once at the bottom and on the fireroad, I knew that I needed to get to the final aid station at 3:50 in order to get in under that 4 hour barrier. As the minutes rolled away, it seemed less and less likely. I had no Garmin reading and although I was moving quickly and smoothly, every turn seemed to lead nowhere on the endless road with limited forward vision. My fluids had long been tapped and my mouth was getting parched, although my gels were keeping me fueled sufficiently.

Passing one more marathoner, I cruised into the final aid station at the 4:02 mark to fill up on some electrolytes and down one final gel quickly. The quick 20 second stop was just enough to put my electrolytes back in balance once again. I took the next few minutes to marvel at the cool breezes and rustling trees signaling that the ocean was upon me.

With a half a mile to go on the final long straightaway, I finally spotted the next runner. It was too late for a pass, but I kicked it in strong finishing in 4:13 and good for 6th place overall. Not exactly the race I was thinking about, but still a good step towards restoring my lost endurance from injury. I needed that kind of race to get me back into the mindset of running fast, which requires strong, explosive calves rather than the passivity I’d been accepting during training lately.

Some of the key takeaways is the need over the next 2 weeks to loosen up my calves and my PF in the foot. I think the confidence to run up the hills I need to run at Miwok in order to hit 8:5x:xx will be huge. I’ve run a number of hills in training and the general strength is there; I just need to confidence to come through when it counts. Running at least 30+ miles for my long run each of the last 5 weeks (starting just before Lake Sonoma) is finally giving me the endurance back that I lost during that 6 week calf strain recovery period.

I don’t think the mental games that I allowed to plague me at this race will crop up at Miwok. I know the course inside and out and should be able to anticipate each and every turn, uphill and downhill. Knowing a course and the type of effort your body will tolerate as it progresses through that course can be a significant advantage. The best runners can often “feel their way” through a course, always tuned in to the subtle physiological cues about when to fuel, when to hydrate, when to back down and when to speed up. I don’t remember the last time I saw an elite marathoner wearing a Garmin on their hand. I feel like the additional miles I’ve put in on my long runs will ultimately lead to a much more relaxed and well-paced raced in 2 weeks. I’m going to need it at Miwok, which is a much more stacked race to score a Top 10 finish as compared with Firetrails 50, Rocky Raccoon 100 or Skyline To The Sea 50k. While somewhat disappointed in the consistency of my effort, I know that my time is coming and that I just need to keep working hard to meet it.

Monday, April 5, 2010

2010 Western States Challenge to benefit Well-Building in Uganda

sponsored by Injinji, Brooks, Josh Moberg, P.T., and Diakadi Body

The Challenge: To raise $5,000 towards my yearly goal of $12,000 to build 4 water wells in Uganda. Each well built will help provide fresh water for over 1,000 people. To put it another way, every $3 you donate will give one person access to fresh water that is free of many water-born parasites and diseases. You can help me reach that goal by making a donation now towards World Harvest Mission's well-building program. All money donated goes towards this goal. Donations are tax-deductible and receipts will be sent to donors at the end of the year in addition to the email receipt sent to you by PayPal. For more information on the program and my personal involvement with the people of Uganda, click on the "WHM and Donations" button up above.

My Challenge: Run the Western States 100. My goal is to finish the race in less than 19 hours. All donors can additionally challenge me personally to finish with a particular placing or a particular time for additional donations. If I accept your challenge, I pledge to make a donation in the challenge amount if I don't meet it. Email me personally at

The Schwag: Every donation, regardless of amount, will receive a picture of the well-building projects in Uganda. For each donation of $25, you will receive 1 entry into the drawing for the Grand Prize pack which includes the following: 10 pairs of Injinji Performance Toesocks including one pair of their Nuwool socks and one pair of their brand new Compression socks. You will also receive a pair of Brooks shoes of your choice with a retail value up to $100 (per

Second Chance Drawing: If you don't win the Grand Prize, there is a drawing for the Second Chance Prize which is a 1 hour personal training session or nutrition consultation with Josh Moberg, P.T. Josh is a personal trainer with Diakadi Body,, a Personal Training and Wellness Center in San Francisco, CA. There is no need to apply for this drawing; all individuals entered in the Grand Prize Drawing who do not win are automatically entered in this Second Chance Drawing.

The Charity: All proceeds benefit the Uganda Well-Building Program for World Harvest Mission,

Be Part of The Challenge:
To be a part of the challenge,
1) Make a donation via the ChipIn icon to the right. Donations can be made via PayPal account or Credit Card. Again, every $25 in donations equals one entry.

Looking Ahead to the 2010 Miwok 100k

I guess it’s time to fast forward ahead from my last posting, which was a run down from my performance at the Rocky Raccoon 100 and a look towards the road ahead to Western States. Unfortunately, a calf strain in my right calf from Rocky Raccoon caused me to take a couple weeks off from running. Since then, it’s been a string of 4 weeks where I averaged about 50 miles per week. I’ve only had one run over 17 miles, and that was a 22 miler a few weeks ago.

Going into the Lake Sonoma 50, I was less than adequately prepared for an excellent race, although I went into it with the expectation that considering my most recent string of excellent races I might be able to pull one more out of the bag. The bigger goal was to get my body back in the game as far as long runs are concerned so that I can let it rip at Miwok on May 1st. Originally, I had been signed up for the Old Goats 50 Mile Run in San Juan Capistrano. However, when a spot off the waiting list opened up for me at Lake Sonoma, I took it. It was closer to home, had some good climbing (mostly rolling), and had gotten some great reviews from other runners.
Not knowing quite how to pace myself come back slowly from injury, I took splits from the previous year for a 7:55 finish. However, I came into the race knowing that I would not sacrifice the complete healing of my calf in order to hit the major climbs harder.

Needless to say, the end result seemed to fit with my current training. I got through mile 20 with no major issues, although the major climbing over the next 10 miles forced me not to push it before my lack of training kicked me in the butt over the final 20 miles. It wasn’t a bad day, finishing in 8:31 in 11th place, but it also wasn’t a great day. I felt like I was bonking over the final 20 miles, unable to really kick it into that next gear. It was a fatigue and “worn down” feeling that came over me.

I did see a few silver linings in my performance. While I did fade from 8th to 11th overall over the final 28 miles, in the past I would’ve allowed myself to slip further. When Devon Crosby-Helms, the first woman, passed me with 10 miles to go on a long 7.4 mile stretch and took that final top 10 position, I was at first anticipating a flood of others waiting to pass me. When that didn’t happen while continuing to walk significant portions of the uphills, the mental uplift seemed to invigorate my running on the flatter, downhill portions. While I couldn’t quite close the 2+ minute gap that had built between Devon and I at the last aid station, I did bring it together to finish stronger than I anticipated and run a number of those final uphills.

On a day without the injury hindering preparation, I felt like a top 5 finish was definitely a very real possibility, but that will have to wait until next year. I really enjoyed being out there and thought the course was just a really good, fair challenge. It demands a fair level of consistent effort to keep going over those rolling hills over and over again. The key is to not push too hard on the ups or go too lightly on the downs; consistent effort yields consistent results. While you can’t simply compare one section on the way out exactly with the same section on the way back,

I prefer to look forward from here with the Skyline To The Sea 50k and Miwok 100k coming up. A preliminary goal for Skyline, with it’s net downhill course, will probably be to try and break 4 hours. I may re-evaluate this goal with Miwok 2 weeks later, but going hard at Skyline will lead me right into my tapering period.

A larger goal over the next 3 weeks is to hit 3 consecutive 100 mile weeks with long runs of 30+ miles. This will prepare me much better for Miwok and beyond. This next 3 weeks, including Skyline, is crucial to my overall training. Although I’ve been under the weather the past week with work also bogging me down, I did a 32ish mile run on Saturday from Tennessee Valley towards Bolinas Ridge and back using the same segments that the Miwok course used. I treated certain segments like a tempo run and will do the same next weekend as I attempt to further measure myself against a few previous participants’ splits and hopefully give myself a good approximation of what I can do on race day. Based on what I did during those timed segments on Saturday, I am continuing to focus in on formulating a goal time somewhere around 9 hours. One really encouraging thing to come out of this run was that my calf seemed to respond fairly well, particular when going up Deer Park Fire Road towards Pantoll Ranger Station for that 3 mile stretch.

Other than that, life is good and Easter was good. Good Friday and Easter are two of the most important holidays on the calendar for me, so being able to spend it with family was good. It continues to remind me that running always has its place, which will never be #1.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Year Built Around Western States

Having “grown up” running-wise at Badwater, I know quite a few people running the race and wish them all the best. I may ending up crewing and pacing for a friend, but that is yet to be determined. It was a difficult decision, but in the end I decided not to put my hat into the ring for this year’s edition. Instead, I will apply for the 2011 edition.

While it’s certainly possible to have “A” races two weeks apart making for a unique “double”, the nature of preparing for two unique races makes it difficult to come into both of them and expect to perform at 100%. My racing over the past 7-8 months has clearly benefited from being more discriminating about when and where I choose to race. There are only a finite number of times that we can “go to the well” and pull out an “A”-level race. We often consider going to the well to be simply a matter of willing that level of performance out of us, when in fact there is also a natural physiological fatigue from trying to do it too much. It is the reason why most elite marathoners race only 2-3 marathons a year.

The temptation is there to make a serious run at going under 27 hours at Badwater this year, but it is tempered by the fact that I also have unfinished business to attend to at Western States. There is an emotional weight of having an excellent race in light of my abysmal DNF performance at Western States in 2007. Based on my performances in the last 7-8 months, I am definitely on a major upswing and want to take full advantage of it by taking on challenges that I can give my utmost to achieving. I have an opportunity to have a special race in June that could exceed my current expectations. Considering the current state of the demand to get into Western States, this is something which may not come around again at an age when I should be looking to maximize every ounce of athletic potential I have. To allow myself to split my energies to get ready for both races could ultimately result in cheating myself. Badwater will be there in 2011 and hopefully this upswing will continue so that if accepted, I will be there for another “race of a lifetime”.

That being said, I’ve finally solidified a good portion of my year’s race schedule. While I’m still tinkering with adding more summer and fall races, the bulk of the planning is completed. I am relying on a number of fairly tried and true assumptions when it comes to crafting a training and racing schedule leading up to Western States. Heck, everything seems to revolve around this race, even my fundraising efforts this year, which I will announce on my next post. That said, here's list of some of my basic training assumptions:

1)Go Long: Not all the time, but I’ve made sure to add in a difficult 50 miler in Old Goats as well the Miwok 100k on May 1st. In addition to the just completed Rocky Raccoon 100, this should leave no doubt in my mind that I am prepared for the distance.

2)Prepare For The Course/Race-Specific Challenge: Old Goats will help me refine and work on the climbing aspects that will come into play in the Western States canyons. Miwok will give me another chance to run quick and long over the rolling, non-technical terrain. I should be able to double my time at Miwok to give me a good time goal to fix my eyes upon for Western States. Rocky was also important to me as far as preparing for the uniqueness of night running and battling through the late race fatigue. Oh, how easy it is to forget just how much of physical and mental struggle it can be to keep the legs moving in the late stages of a 100 miler.

3)Hit Triple Digits: There isn’t an exact science as far as miles per week is concerned. However, a general rule of thumb I follow is to hit 100+ miles a week once every 4 weeks. The addition of these races to the schedule should allow me to do this effectively without too much additional effort. Plus, racing can make hitting triple digits somewhat exciting in the midst of the long months of training for one particular race.

4)Rest: I never race on back-to-back weekends. In fact, I only average 1 race per month leading up to the big race. I hope that this will keep me fresh and not mentally tax me too much. I often get sucked into the “competitive mentality” during races, so abstaining from becoming a race junkie is a good decision. This is not to say that I’ll never race back-to-back weekends as a way to simulate race fatigue; it’s just that my back-to-back runs will generally be a combination of racing on Saturday and a more leisurely recovery running on Sunday after church.

Next Post: The introduction of the "2010 Western States Challenge", my new fundraising campaign with some pretty cool prizes for the donors.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Evolution of the Fear Gear- A Rocky Raccoon 100 Case Study

It was only a week ago that I knew for sure that I would be running the Rocky Raccoon 100 in Huntsville, TX on February 6th. Without a contract position for the previous month, I had made a vow not to sign up for any new races until I got a new job. Fortunately, after searching and praying, I got the call I was waiting for a week and a half ago. I landed a 12 month contract at a medical device manufacturer here in the Bay Area, freeing me financially to spend some money on the entry fee for Rocky. I used miles for the flight, got a good deal on the rental car and planned to bring a sleeping bag to sleep in at Huntsville State Park where the race would be held. It would be the ultimate "travel race on a budget".

For me, one of the big drivers behind doing Rocky was the opportunity to do a 100 miler 4.5 months out from Western States. After investigating other potential 100 milers in the February/March timeframe in the Western region, the only other possibility was a rugged, mountainous Coyote Two Moon. In the end, I didn’t want to risk running a more intense race with more climbing than running. I simply wanted the experience of running into the night with that level of fatigue you cannot duplicate in any other type of training setting or race. Rocky has a reputation as a faster 100 miler with no super serious climbs, although the course redesign in 2008 replaced some of the straightaways that allowed runners to pick up good heads of steam with constantly twisting and turning single-track trails. It’s 5 - 20 mile loop format makes it a good choice for someone like myself who would be coming without the help of a crew or pacer as far as been able to organize my supplies efficiently and effectively measure my ability to hold pace throughout the race.
With the conditions mostly dry, save for a few nice sized mud pools, I expected the course to play out similarly to last year when just a shade under 16 hours took home the prize. The weather would be 15 degrees colder, with highs in the 50s and lows in the 30s.

I went into the race with a rather simple pacing plan to do the first lap in 3 hours and add 10 minutes to each additional lap. This would put me with a finish of 16:40:00, which I thought would probably be good enough to at least be in the Top 5. It would help me to focus on staying strong through the end of the race, particularly when the mental games can start wrecking havoc. It was also a goal that wouldn’t wreck my legs or prevent from recovering quickly enough to continue training well the following week.

The one variable in this plan was how I was going to do without a Garmin. I had chosen to leave the Garmin at home and instead focus on my perceived effort and pacing off of other runners. Knowing that Jamie Donaldson would be at Rocky and that her effort last year had gotten here a sub-16:50 finish, I was determined to loosely use her as a gauge for whether I was going relatively too fast or too slow. One of my past failings at Rocky has been going out too fast and not focusing on a running a more consistent race. While I’m certainly not alone in this failing considering how easy it is to get sucked into everyone else’s race on this course, I need to continue to become a better tactical runner to maximize my performance. As a 2:51 marathoner, I don’t have the speed to win a 100 miler (the ultimate goal) by running as fast as I can for as long as I can and then expect to survive the resulting blowup. I need to rely more on my strength and endurance to stay in a race until hopefully surging late to create separation. I didn’t need to break 16 hours here as much as I needed to run a good race that would give me the confidence that I am on track for the Miwok 100k and then ultimately Western States.

After flying into Houston on Friday afternoon, I made my way to Huntsville where I went to Chili’s and enjoyed the dinner of champions: Chicken Tacos, Black Beans and Rice. With the carbo-loading process completed days before the race, I’ve always taken liberties the night before to have a meal I enjoy. One of the waiters at the bar, noticing my track jacket, correctly surmised that I was there for “the race”. He and the bartender took turns expressing their own desires to run a marathon, which I wholeheartedly endorsed.

After a restless night of sleep moving between my rental car (VW Beetle) and the concrete floor of an acquaintence’s camping area, I finally awoke for good at 4:30 in the morning on race day. I didn’t feel particularly good, but I wasn’t overly groggy which is a good thing given my normal disdain for waking up early in the morning. I spent the next 90 minutes prior to the race start getting my supply bags in order and positioned next to the outbound (right-hand) side of the trail at the race headquarters’ aid station. I would visit here once every 20 miles and each plastic bag of 6 Chocolate Outrage GUs and 6 NUUN electrolyte tablets had enough for a 3-3.5 hour loop.

My setup was designed allow me to save time by not having to rummage through my bag and think about what I needed. While I could have chosen to go with the offerings at each of the aid stations, GU and NUUN have become my staples at long races helping to keep my stomach at bay. A major reason for my increased success over the past 7-8 months is clearly due to simplifying my nutrition and these two nutritional supplements are a big part of that.

After some quick photos and chatting with friends, we were off at 6:00 A.M. With a forecasted high temperature in the 50s, I chose to go with a black technical top and a black base layer underneath it. Combined with my dark blue cap, black shorts, black compression tights and black over-the-calf Injinji compression socks, I decided to go with the “Jedi Knight” look. If anything, it certainly made my white Brooks racing flats stand out.

Right away, I settled into a large pack of runners upfront. I quickly found my light to have a less than ideal luminescence and after a mile and a half of running mostly in my own dark bubble, I slowed to allow the next runner to pass me so that I could supplement my light with their light. That runner turned out to be Jamie Donaldson, which pleased me considering that I was somewhat using her pace for this race as a baseline for my own race.

Along with a few other folks, we began trading positions back and forth depending upon time at the aid stations as well as moving a little faster or slower through certain sections. Once the light shone through for good 45 minutes after the start, I pulled ahead of the pack through the second aid station. Intermittently, I looked back to make sure I wasn’t trying to pull away too hard from the pack. Eventually they would catch up to me just after the Park Road aid station with 4.4 miles to go in the 1st loop. At that point, I made it a goal to get passed by at least one more runner before making it back to the start/finish area. This was a goal that I implemented first at the Javelina 100 last Halloween with the intention of disciplining myself to simply relax and not allow the emotional adrenaline that surges this early to push my body beyond that which would be good for me. Not only did I achieve that goal, but I exceeded it with at least a few runners scooting by me including Jamie.

I finished the first loop in just under 2:50 which was a little faster than the 2:55-3:00 loop I had envisioned. But, I wasn’t about to give the time back and instead focused on keeping close to a 3:10 second loop. I estimated that I was probably in 13th-15th place, which was just fine by me considering my overall time. The first 20 miles was about setting a tempo; the next 20 miles would be about maintaining that tempo. After a 3 minute break to get my nutritional supplies together, I quickly headed back on out.

Usually, I would’ve discarded the base layer with daylight now upon us. But, in keeping with the theme of simplification, I was intent on finishing in these clothes barring a major fall into one of the black mud pits scattered throughout the course. The weather was still rather comfortable and the second loop passed without much fanfare. A 3:10 loop translates into an average pace of 9:30 min./mile which, while rather unspectacular, was a pace that I continued to match or exceed between each aid station. I knew the distances between each station and used my stop watch to give myself an estimate of the average pace to that station. As long as I was able to match it, I would simply move on to calculating my time to the next station. This would be a race of small battles and if I could “win” a majority of them, I could expect to come out of this with a good time and placing.

While the theme for the second 20 miles was to simply maintain position, I quickly found myself passing quite a few people who were fading back. Each aid station brought with it the pleasant surprise that I was continuing to exceed the 9:30 min./mile for each section. I wasn’t exceeding it by more than 15-20 seconds at a time, but it was consistent. With the music playing, my body and mind were moving in rythym and the miles seemed to go by without much hard effort. I had moved ahead of Jamie earlier in this loop and was continuing to play leap frog with her as we both moved up the general classification. I saw a few people I knew, including the Jimmy Dean Freeman and the Coury brothers (the young race directors, Javelina Jundred) who were moving along at a brisk pace themselves. One of the nice features of this course is the opportunity to see other runners on the way out to start a loop as they are finishing.

At one point, I was in 6th or 7th place by my estimates since there was no clear, definitive answer from the aid station volunteers. It was rather early to be moving that high up the GC, which I had preferred to see happen in the 3rd loop. Nevertheless, I was pleased with continuing to stay at a healthy pace while always near my Badwater buddy Jamie. I would ultimately yield a couple positions in the final 4.4 mile section before hitting the start/finish area again at the 5:57 mark. Although I ultimately dropped a place in the GC, I was nevertheless right on target. Including the 3 minute break at the start, I had taken 3:07 for this second loop which was right where I wanted to be. I was continuing to feel good as far as my stomach was concerned, although a dull pain in my right knee was beginning to become an annoyance.

I got an unexpected boost at the start/finish area when Alan Gehraldi, a fellow Bay Area resident and Badwater veteran, offered to help me get my water bottle filled and prepped with NUUN. I took the opportunity to pack up with more GUs and switching out to another iPod shuffle. While the aid station volunteers could have probably helped me as well, having Alan there to do it gave me that added assurance that I had one less thing to worry about. Jamie came in a couple of minutes after me and left after a quick 20 second meeting with her husband David at the turnaround sign directly in front of me.

After taking an extra minute to relax and get my head together, I would start my third loop at the 6:02 mark looking to maintain a 10 min./mile pace and a 3:20 loop. About a mile after I headed out, I looked at the pouch on my water bottle realizing that I did not have my NUUN tablets for this 20 mile loop. There wasn't any time to go back to the aid station; I was resigned to the fact that I would have to go on and simply take whatever electrolyte drink they serve at the aid stations.
When I reached the first aid station 3.1 miles away, I took a seat for a minute while the aid station volunteers filled my water bottle with what I learned was Gatorade and fetched me a couple of acetametaphin. The acetametaphin was an attempt to kill the soreness that was creeping into my right knee and both calves. As opposed to ibuprofren, which has been linked to kidney damage, acetametaphin is generally safe as long as their's food in the stomach to act as a buffer. For some reason though, I didn't think to ask about the Gatorade. Although I was weary about the taste or long term effectiveness, I assumed it was Gatorade Endurance with little or no calories. Either way, I just hoped there were enough electrolytes to keep my body going well.

While the acetametaphin slowly kicked in, I continued onward at a brisk sub-10 minute mile running pace. My legs definitely didn't feel fresh, but I continued to pick up my legs well and avoid any potential obstacles or pitfalls. I would use the extra time to take short walking breaks leaving each aid station in order to keep my legs loose. At the next aid station, Dam Road, 3.1 miles away, I finally learned that it was regular Gatorade and not Gatorade Endurance. I knew Gatorade had less electrolytes but also over 100 calories for every 20 oz. bottle. I would have to adjust my GU intake down to approximately 1 GU per hour instead of the 2 GU per hour that I had originally calculated. I continued to add in banana and orange slices at each aid station to supplement my diet and help keep my stomach in check.

While finishing off the Dam Road loop to come through a second time, my GU packet didn’t go down right out on the trail, causing a bit of a gag while pausing briefly before swallowing it with a swig of Gatorade. While a seemingly minor inconvenience, the relative lack of stomach fortitude did not go unnoticed. Later, as I was coming back into Dam Road, the light headedness and slouched running posture that accompanies an electrolyte deficiency started to set in. I wasn’t upright or strong in my running; instead, I was lethargic and lazy with my foot strikes.

Electrolyte deficiency is a subtle condition, often coming on slowly. At first, you often feel like you can simply run through it and it will simply get better. It simply feels like the physical fatigue you’d expect later in a race. Then, all of the sudden, your stomach goes south fast and you find your body in a freefall. I tried to take in an additional cup full of Gatorade along with more banana slices and a piece of PB&J, but still felt somewhat out of it. The last looping section back to Dam Road had left me lacking with only one water bottle full of Gatorade to take in. With the next section only 3.4 miles, if I took my time and drank a full 20 oz of Gatorade, I'd figured I could start to right the ship.

That process of righting the ship took a little longer than I thought, lasting all the way back to the start/finish area. Those 7.8 miles total weren’t a grind, but the biggest difference was the lack of spring in my legs when going up some of the gradual uphills. Keep in mind that these are probably only 50 to 200 ft. in height, but the slight cramping from lack of electrolytes that cause muscles to contract and tighten wasn’t allowing my muscles to absorb energy in order to “spring” my body forward with any authority. In order to focus on my running, I found myself praying with more frequency and shutting off my iPod which was cluttering my mind with too much noise.

I was a bit surprised that I was able to continue staying just below 10 min./mile for my running pace. For this final 7.8 miles to the start/finish area, I started paying less attention to my overall pace and focused more on drinking in regular intervals. The back and forth with other runners also continued, athough I didn't believe I lost any placing. Incredibly, I actually moved up the GC from 13th to 10th position, highlighting how much of this sport is about consistent effort rather than running like a banchee. Upon my arrival to the start/finish area at the 9:19 mark, I could tell in Alan's eyes that he noticed my deteriorated condition. He moved quickly to get my water bottle prepped with water and NUUN while I took a seat on a camping chair next to the outbound path. The two previous years, this upcoming 4th loop had been my undoing. I just didn’t have the energy, physical strength or internal fortitude to see it through. This time, although I didn’t feel great, I didn’t feel bad either. I was definitely very “into it” at this point. I had just had a 3:22 3rd loop including that 5 minute break after the 2nd loop. I was also running pretty much according to plan with a small 11 minute cushion built upon the speed of the 1st loop.

Once Alan was done with the bottle, he also got me a cup of chicken noodles with broth and some bananas. I drank the broth, which was loaded with salts and ate the banana pieces for an added dose of potassium. While I originally intended this break to last 5 minutes became 7 minutes by the time I starting walking back into the great unknown. If there was anything to fear, it was whether I was going to melt down again. Memories are a powerful thing, but here was an opportunity to look beyond them. It was not lost on me that I had the chance to write a new, better chapter. It was 2010 after all. As I was praying for myself, I even had people back home praying for me and my stomach. We were calling on a little divine intervention to supplement the desires of my heart.

With this new energy, I started methodically rattling off the miles on my 4th loop. While my stomach seemed to recovering nicely with each gulp of NUUN water, my legs continued to feel sluggish. The toll was considerably noticeable in my calves going downhill in sections that at first seemed to breeze on by. Each application of my “brakes” brought with it an intense pain in my calves and left knee. Having taken two ibuprofren earlier in the race, I started contemplating when it might be appropriate to take two more.

I reached the 66.2 mile mark at Dam Road at a sub-10:30 min./mile pace and continued to remain on target. I worried less and less about who was in front or behind me, partly because I wasn't exactly feeling confident that I would make a surge. During the ensuing 6 mile loop back to Dam Road, I made my first acquaintence with Greg Stofka. It was first real conversation with another runner since early in the race. Greg and I traded stories over the next few miles until getting back to Dam Road. Greg was faster than I was on the downhill sections and I moved quicker on the uphill sections. We were both feeling the strain of the miles beginning to bear down, athough he had a little big bigger problem figuring out what to do about his blisters. I suggested he stop to put some NuSkin on his wound, although he seemed resolved that he could make it through to the end even with the blisters popped.

We both relished in the sight of the half mile straightaway leading to the Dam Road aid station in the distance. With the terrain slightly uphill, I surged ahead to make it into the aid station ahead of him. While I stopped to sit on a camping chair and wait for some ibuprofren tablets, Greg would leave a half a minute ahead of me. I continued to trudge on with the hope that ibuprofren would kick in soon and relieve the pain and swelling.

Not more than a half-mile down the road, I heard a familiar voice say "Jonathan". It was Nick Coury along with his older brother Jamil. It was nice to see another familiar face, although it also meant that I had most likely dropped out of the top 10 to 12th (or so I thought). Considering how strong they are with excellent finishes at the Hardrock 100 and marathon times under 2:50, I didn't expect to see much of them again. After exchanging pleasantries, they moved along ahead of me on a 1.5 mile single-track section. This exchange would ultimately become a major turning point in the race.

After finishing the slog along this single-track section, the course opens up on a fire road for over a mile towards the next aid station. Stuck in 11th place, I began this section on the fire road by walking a sharp 100 ft. long uphill. I had spent the previous 1.5 miles sulking a bit with the thought that once again had I let a great finish slip through my fingers. Within the past 2 miles, I had watched 3 fellow runners pass with with many more almost assuredly awaiting me.

At the top of the hill, I found the strength to begin jogging on the down and towards the flat. It wasn't much of a run, but gravity seemed to pull my legs along helping me begin to overcome the inertia that was keeping my legs stuck in neutral. Once on the flat, I started slowly increasing the speed as my legs allowed. No longer was the pain I felt only a few miles before overwhelming my mind. Maybe it was the ibuprofren kicking in? Maybe I decided that finishing top 10 meant too much to me? Maybe, considering the cyclical nature of a race like this, it was just my time to feel better? In a race like this, there was very little time to consider the reason I felt better. I just knew that it was time to roll with it.

Off I went, determined to make up the time and placing I had lost. Not more than a half mile up the road, I saw Greg up ahead. With less than 5 miles to go until the start/finish area, I caught Greg and we smiled at each other with grins on our faces while wishing each other well. After that, I was off "like a rocket". Each passing mile brought with it the joy that I was indeed running again and my energy level helped me keep me moving well.

Continuing to drink generously, I continued to pass other runners on the their 3rd loops while encouraging them to continue going strong. I passed the Park Road aid station with 4.4 miles to the start/finish area at just before the 12:20 mark as the sunlight faded away. I switched on my headlamp with my cap turned backward and hustled towards the end of the loop. Fire road became winding single-track which once again opened up to two-wide traffic. With less than a mile to go, I saw two headlights bouncing just ahead. It was the Coury brothers. I was in a chipper mood again, engaging them in a brief conversation about the fast-filling Javelina 100 in late October which they were directing. After a minute, I started to pull away from them before the trail quickly opened up to a clearing leading across a road and 0.1 more miles to the start/finish area.

After coming across the line together at the 13:05 mark, I quickly slipped over to a camping chair next to my supplies where Alan quickly met me to take care of filling my water bottle with water and NUUN. I sensed an opportunity to move out ahead of the Coury brothers by making this final major pit stop as quickly as possible. After loading up on 7 Chocolate GUs in my various pockets, I left in 2 minutes flat which was my quickest stop at the start/finish area yet. I didn't announce my departure in any way, shape or form. I simply slipped out quickly, hoping to go unnoticed.

Thus began what quite frankly was the most on-edge final 20 miles of a race that I've ever run. Throughout a 100 mile race, there are several gears you'll physically use. Most runners will operate between 1st and 3rd gear, slowly and steadily clicking off miles. Some will venture into 4th gear and a few select runners may crank it into 5th gear. While not always sustainable for long periods, 5th gear can be exciting and often kicks in when a finish line is near.

There is one gear that is not always used, but extremely effective for runners: the Fear Gear. While it's often brought out by runners pursuing from behind, it can also manifest itself when fear of losing a particular finishing time comes upon a runner. It is to long distance running what Nitrous Oxide is to street racing; the ultimate short term adrenaline shot tapping into our deepest competitive desires. While there are no universal rules governing its use or appearance, the Fear Gear can more succinctly be put as the fear of what is lurking in the shadows or the distance.

What added to my own anxieties as I kicked it into Fear Gear was the topography of the course. Because of the tree cover overhead and the endless twisting and turning that accompanies a good majority of the course, it becomes almost impossible to tell if anyone's coming up on you or you on them. You have no clue whether someone is on their 4th lap or 5th lap until you actually come up along side of them. The only thing you can do is simply put your head down and run. The first 3 miles went effortlessly, moving at a brisk 9:45 min./mile pace. But as the miles went by, the pace slowed frustratingly. This course plays out much differently at night, with the inordinate number of roots which litter the trails now shrouded in darkness. Even with a light, the course as well as fatigued legs demand that you slow down to ensure firm footing.

I kept finding that through each aid station, I would need the abbreviated rest afforded when volunteers would fill up my water bottles. Once they were done, I was immediately gone for fear that maybe in the moment the Coury brothers or anyone else for that matter would simply stroll on by.
15 miles to go, 10 miles to go. I was solely focused on the next aid station ahead. Each passing minute was a minute closer to the end. Soreness kept returning and and with each mile, a new twitch or pain appeared. Right calf, left calf, right knee, etc. To me, it became inevitable the someone, heck anyone would be pulling up along side me any minute.

With 7.8 miles to go, I had 88 minutes to go to try to slip under 17 hours. I tried to focus solely on the time goal to distract myself from the coming competitors. But with each straightaway or segment of trail, not a light behind me seemed to be closing in. Even when I was hitting 11 min/mile to 12 min./mile pace, there was no one out there except for those on their 4th loop that I was passing in front of me. When I got to the final aid station with 4.4 miles to go and 44 minutes to go under 17 hours, I kind of took off. The effort felt like I a lot, but in reality I was probably struggling even to keep 12 min./mile pace, While that's pedestrian in a road marathon, the effort to sustain that after 96 miles on the legs can feel downright painful.

My calves twinged after spending the duration of the race in racing flats which now had their tread flapping off the back of the shoes. It was go time and the only thing on my mind was the pain in my legs and simply ending this thing. Every half mile, I would peak back, see lights and shrug. Was it the Coury brothers? Was it Greg? Was it someone else? At that point, I wanted to leave this long straightaway section and get back to the single-track trail for the final 2.5 miles. If they only knew that I was out there right in front of them for the taking, then maybe they'd sprint past. But the shadows and lights in the distance would not move fast enough. With 1.5 miles to go, I passed a group of spectators who had camped out next the trail all day long. I smiled dimly, working harder and harder to get to those last set of open straightaways. 30 seconds later, I heard a yell go up behind me. They were close; really close.

But they would get no closer as I barreled down the trail, eventually crossing a road with the bright lights of the finish line in front of me 200 ft. away. After one more quick look back, I broke out a smile before finally raising my hands and crossing in 17 hours, 8 minutes and 4 seconds. It was over and I had a new PR for the course, 7th overall and 5th Male which got me an interesting Texas Fire Ant trophy. It was a nice day and a good run; I can't ask God for much more.

After a couple minutes trying to right myself with the help of volunteers, I was quickly let to a heated tent to sit down and unwind. A minute later, I learned the Coury brothers had crossed the finish line. We would later sit around the heater in the tent, along with a few others, trading stories about the race that was as well as other races we've done before. Jamie ended up scooting in at 16:54, one spot ahead of me in 6th place overall, 2nd woman. While she was a little less than 14 minutes ahead of me, she might as well have been on a different planet out in that darkness. Nick and Jamil never did know whether I was ahead or behind them because they had never seen me leave on my 5th loop. I asked them if that sound of cheering I heard behind me at the end was for them, but we never could tell. Greg's blisters ultimately led to his relative undoing, coming in overall in 17:55:57. Jimmy Dean Freeman, would had spent most of the day trying to patiently grind out 3:10 loops, would finish in 17:34:26. A couple others would ultimately join in with war stories of their own, turning our heated (I used that term liberaly) tent into a roundtable of wounded, sore-as-heck runners telling stories about the "glory day". It amazes me how inextricably our experiences were linked in the midst of a race where holding a conversation with another runner for more than half a minute was a rarity.

As for me, there's no more time left to look back at this race. Fear led to urgency which led to action; it is a powerful thing. Fear of the past can be an even more powerful thing. But the past is the past for a reason: because it already happened. What happens now in 2010 is what I have to work with. I need to look ahead, to the Lake Sonoma 50, the Miwok 100k and the Western States 100. I need to keep my eyes on the prize and that prize keeps getting bigger every day. If anything, I made a statement to myself that the best is yet to come.

Here's a small tribute to the greatest quarterback ever in light of the recent superbowl:

Saturday, January 2, 2010

2010, The Year Ahead

Here we are with Christmas over and New Year’s Day approaching. Did Santa bring you everything you wanted this Christmas? It’s a good time to reflect further on the year and look forward to the good things ahead in 2010.

The first place to start is to look back at the goals I set forward in 2009 with my actuals immediately following:

1)Raise $18,000 for development programs with WHM in Uganda
-$3500 raised
2)Run sub-30 hours at Badwater (if accepted)
-Ran 31 hours, 33 minutes
3)Get weight down to 169 lb. from a high of 181 lb. last year
-170 lb.
4)Run sub-2:50 marathon by the end of 09’
-2:51:59 at CIM, a 8.5 minute PR
5)Run sub-18 hours 100 miler
-20:31 at Javelina Jundred (100)
6)Finish top 5 at a 100 miler
-8th at Javelina Jundred (100)

It seems like with most of my goals, I came up just a little bit short. In some ways, it was a reflection of my choice to challenge myself. But in other ways, it was a reflection of a need to dig a little deeper. For goals 2 through 6, I was ahead of the target in the second half each time but just came up a little short. At Rocky Raccoon 100, I made an error in pacing and let some physical ailments overwhelm me mentally. At Badwater, I allowed my mental and physical exhaustion to overwhelm my focus on the goals at hand during the climb up Whitney Portal. At Javelina, I didn’t take care of my electrolytes consistently enough. Coming up just a bit short let me know that you can’t just get 70% right and sit on that in this sport. You have to keep fighting and work smarter to get that 30% righted when it does get off track. There is a struggle that takes place in each competitor throughout the course of these long races that takes a consistent attention to detail to overcome. I’ve gotten much better, but it continues to remain key to unlocking my own potential in 2010.

The two complete races where I came in right on my target were the following: the 4:25 5th place at the Angel Island 50k, which I used a tune-up for Badwater, and the 7:25 5th place finish I posted at the Firetrails 50 Miler, which I also used as a tune-up for Javelina. I’ve gotten much better at the shorter races, which is evidenced by these results as well as my 2:51 at CIM. These shorter races allow for more leeway as far as taking care of electrolytes or even the fatigue that comes with running through the night.

But…..when you come that close to so many goals, that is also a sign of good things to come. I like setting goals which will challenge me and cause me to dig deeper. I like goals that I can look at and honestly not know whether I’ll meet all of them or none of them. Goals should cause you to look beyond your current situation. They should have concrete gating points you can do continuous self-assessment, but also have an air of imagination and planning of where you want to be. Some goals should have much greater than 50% chance of happening and others should have much less. 2009’s been a solid year, but I want 2010 to be a great, more aggressive year. So, here are my 2010 goals:

1) Raise $10,000 for development programs with WHM in Uganda
2) Run sub-19 hours at the Western States 100
3) Get weight down to 164 lb. or less from 170 lb.
4) Run sub-2:42 marathon by the end of 10’
5) Run sub-18 hour 100 miler
6) Finish top 3 at 2 races and top 5 at 3 other races
7) Run sub-7:05 at Firetrails 50

The first goal is always try to take care of business with regards to the well-building program in Uganda. I’ll be rolling out a new fundraising program this year, although on a different scale with a different focus. I really enjoyed the fun run last year I helped put together, so we’ll see about partnering with Injinji and some other companies again to put on some fun events. The scaled down dollar amount is more a reflection of having a little less time to put in and a focus on probably 3 key events related to that fundraising. I ran out of steam last year, but doing a trail fundraising run in Los Angeles (Running For The Wells L.A.) is high on my list of things to do this year.

The rest of goals are meant to build upon my successes and increased leg speed at the end of 2009 and also develop consistency to my racing (goal 6). If I hit the time goals and didn’t hit the placing goals, I would probably still be pleased. The two race-specific goals are at the Western States 100 and Firetrails 50.

With a big fat DNF emblazoned on me from 2007, I owe Western States a much better effort to say the least. With an 18% (approximately) chance of hitting the lottery, I came up golden and intend on capitalizing on the opportunity. I also came up golden on the Miwok 100k lottery for the race held on May 1st here in Marin County, which will serve as the perfect all-out tune up effort. I hesistated to put a goal out there in cyberspace for Miwok, partly because I want my eyes squarely on the prize no matter what kind of race I post.

While Western States is clearly the 100 mile showcase race in the ultramarathoning world, Firetrails is a local Bay Area race that I’ve developed an affinity for due to its excellent race organization, tremendous views, and all-around good people whether runners, volunteers or race organizers. The proximity of the course to me also affords me a great opportunity to “baseline my fitness” against specific course sections prior to the race. It also allows me to do it with family and friends there to support me and lend a hand to get me in and out of the aid stations with supplies all ready to go. Besides, everyone loves “their” local race.

About the only thing on this list not race related is the weight goal. I found that to be a great help to me in the 2nd half of 2009 and believe it will be a big key going into Western States all the way through my fall goal marathon as far as allowing me to push the pace even more. At this point, I might be joining a local running club but I need to clear up some potential sponsor conflicts. It would be good to add an even greater social component to this long distance running that often takes us deeper into our own minds with the levels of isolation. While I enjoy running with people like Rick Gaston and others during training, it would be even better to expand that running social circle. I am friends with others who are runners, but the team component might help further harness my competitiveness for the sake of things outside of myself.

I’m still working on the race schedule for 2010 and apart from the Miwok 100k, Western States 100 and the rescheduled Angeles Crest 100 (from those fires last year), it’s still wide open. Is there another Badwater in line or is it time for a break? Is there a Rocky Mountain 100 in there? Maybe an East Coast Race? The New York City Marathon? Maybe a 50 miler down in So. Cal? We’ll see….. :)

For now, I'm in the midst of "Christmas Camp". I'm into day 9 and at around 132 miles. Hopefully today and tomorrow will help cap that off nicely and get my going into the new year after a short break after CIM in December. Happy New Year and may your lives be enriched and may your lives enrich others. God Bless.