Monday, March 29, 2010

Mommy, that Old Goat ate my lunch!

March, 27,2010

I’m really not a complainer, I’m not. Years of organized discipline have engrained a sense of “just dig and don’t complain” mentality and its proven to be pretty effective over years of marriage and children but I have to say..”Mommy, Mommy this old goats eating my lunch!”

The thought crossed my mind many times on Saturday. Why?, well it was on this day that a brilliantly charismatic old trail runner named Steve Harvey decided to entice us adventure seeking ultra runners into running what’s called the Old Goats 50 Miler Trail run, like a cruel pied piper of sorts. Now, I can’t really say it took a lot to get us to sign up; in fact many of us are local enough to know exactly what we were in for……and we did it anyway. Hey look at that electrical socket!, I think I’ll put this paper clip in it!

I’m not gonna get into MY issues at this race (that would be boring and might make you cry, rather, I’m going to just take us through it).

The general setting for the morning of the race finds you weaving through early morning mountain roads, stretching your eyes open around every turn as if that would make you see better in the dark on Ortega Hwy. Then it happens, suddenly the turn off is upon you!, “Old Goats Trail Run” the letter are in RED which should warn you…but you turn off anyway. After a few more narrow turns you find yourself at Blue Jay campground and park your vehicle on the side of the road behind some other crazy person (which is unusually comforting) and begin your final preparations in the light of your car.

By the time you walk down to collect your bib you’ve said about 5 hellos and good mornings; the great thing is that most of the people you met on your way were friends and familiar faces! Everyone’s collected by the start line and main tents, smiling faces, people bundled up, I can see my breath but the sky looks amazing and I know it’s gonna be a beautiful day.

Pam Everett is here; smiling as always, Michelle Barton and Keith Swiatkowski, Angela Shartel, Carey Edge, Anne and Steve…I could go on and on, this is a favorite local race put on by RD Steve Harvey and it attracts pretty much everyone that I know….and if you haven’t met them…you should, they’re all great people.

As we huddle around the start line, saying our final hello’s we hear the count down and before we know it the crowd has begun to spread out past the start line. Amazing the differences are between my recent LA Marathon run and this, no shuffling, no start line frustration….it “begins YOU and ends YOU” here on the trail. This race will work its way along the San Juan Trail and is one of the most beautiful runs in the area, bouncing along the single path trails, working your way around boulders and trees, up over ridges and down into valleys to boulder over streams and draws; its just an amazing run.

After awhile you hit the first Aid station; alive with activity; your met with encouragement and the smiling faces of even more friends, Keira Henninger (The amazing LD50 RD) and Pam Everett again!, they are serving candy and goodies today…yum yum, I fill my bottles and continue on my way around the Candy Store loop to begin my climb back up San Juan. Scott Mills goes by, steady and strong, very nice; but can’t focus on him, gotta work within myself so I drive on. At this point I begin to cross paths with many other friends due to the nature of the course; at this point we are all fairly fresh and excited……at this point.

I’m happy, been running downhill for some good fun mileage but now it’s time to pay the piper, this continuous uphill can catch you off guard if you’ve burnt your quads coming down and for me…I love technical down hills so I’ve been burning them! By the time I reach Blue Jay I’ve been Chick’d (it’s not really a word- even in the Urban dictionary but its humbling none the less). Actually these women are amazing, Carey, Angela, Michelle…I’m not ashamed, I know these women and yes….you’d get Chick’d too. “Just Smile and Wave Boys, Just Smile and Wave”.

Feeling sore now, Unusually sore (thanks paved marathons) but I’m happy to see Steve and the gang at the Blue Jay Aid Station. “Now aren’t you glad you paid for this?”, Steve said. Dang!, cant cancel my check..I paid cash. With a laugh and cry combination I continue along towards the Main Divide and Trabuco Aid Station, the ground cruches beneath my Cascadias as I work my way up the steep grades towards Trabuco Trail, the sun is out strong today but I’m greeted with a cool wind that at points seems to push me along. Soon I am at the top and with a “Larry!” am greeted by the wonderful Molly Kassouf and suddenly I’ve just forgotten about the last 35 min of grueling hill. She and Eric Koster’s are awesome here and their attitude makes me feel so much better; Molly presents the menu and specials of the day…and what a selection they have!

I sit down to work with my calf that’s been causing problems and it’s here that I notice that I have a ride-along (tick) smack dab on my knee-cap!, what a weird place for a stupid tick.. I mean.. I have softer, more hidden spots than that….but…with Molly’s help he’s gone and I’m on my way(thanks Molly).

The run down Trabuco is relaxing, although its downhill, there are many rocks here and your feet need to adjust to the pounding of this trail, it’s still beautiful and I’m grateful to be able to run and enjoy it. I run along the tree lines, across exposed shale trails, under fallen logs and around shady brooks you see it all here until you are greeted by the Holy Jim Aid Station and its amazing volunteers! A potatoe and salt, a little vasaline, some water and I’m gone again……up, up, up Holy Jim.

Holy@#@$!, or Holy Jim is another beautiful trail through our local mountains as it weaves its way up towards Santiago Peak/Bear Springs. I stop by one of the stream crossings to fill my hat with cold stream water, lifting it up.. I place it directly on my head as the water pours down..Holy @#$@ that felt good. The recent rains have created a wonderfully green hillside, flowers greet the trail lining it with purples, whites, reds and pinks. I decide to run every other switchback in an effort to cut time and generally I stick to it, for awhile at least, then it’s back to hiking the remainder. Its about here that If I were talking about just me during this run…I’d tell you it didn’t look good, but… induldge me as I continue.

Lorraine Gersitz powers by and offers some encouragement, speaking of encouragement, she is another amazing runner; an inspiration. As I made my way to Bear Springs I hear laughing, loud laughing coming from the top of the rise. Bear Springs Aid Station greets me with a smack in the face!, Bill Ramsey a Grand Canyon R2R2R partner, LT the 100 mile superhero and BAAZ! Ha ha what a collection of volunteers to get the motivation meter back up… I tried to explain my problems but they didn’t care, they kicked me out and sent my sorry ____ up the hill toward Santiago Peak!, actually this is a great place to have this collection of professionals, experienced and beyond knowledgeable, I felt in good hands here.

The journey to the top of Santiago Peak is one I’ve done many times now, it’s a test and not to be taken lightly, on the top somewhere is a journal for all those that have made the journey and here we are racing to the top; it’s a compliment to all of us and to some a journey not just to the top but one of self discovery.

I see my friend David Cristof heading down the peak, his stride looks strong and his attitude is always resolute, he encourages me as we pass, driving me on. After a brief stop and a suggestion for lay down cots at the Peak Aid Station I begin my decent and return to Blue Jay, on my way down , I see Jean Ho defiantly working her way up the peak, smiling we wish each other the best and continue on…. What a wonderful day, I’ve made it to the top of the world and will take each journey with me for the rest of my life.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Me and the San Juan 50K

March 6,2010

Tap, Tap,Tap is this thing on…… Lets talk about Peer Pressure….. defines Peer Pressure as:

The social influence a peer group exerts on its individual members, as each member attempts to conform to the expectations of the group.

Ok, Ok it wasn’t that bad; and was ME that brought the question of running the SJ50k up at the last minute. I procrastinated about signing up for awhile, with my running calendar filling up I hadn’t officially planned to run it BUT… by the time I seriously considered it the weather predictions had already been set. You see.. its easier to have signed up for a race prior to knowing that it’ll be raining rather than to stare at a computer screen with all forcasts pointing to rain falling on the day of the race (that you still need to fork out for)….

So.. me and my wisdom I sent the question of running the SJ50k out to my ultra running friends – P.S. this does no good if you are seeking a way out. Ok, now that I’m out of excuses…

I’ve run in the rain before, I actually kinda like it, so why not…besides many of my friends will be there; it could be a blast.

With peer pressure in place it was decided, anyway.. it would be a great opportunity to wear my INKnBURN “OUTNBACK tech shirt…… BAZ…I’ll be there in the morning rain or shine with cash in hand... the latest of the late registrations.

BZZZZZZZ! My cell phone screams and I slowly roll off the bed, its not the typical run anticipated bedside launch ;no, it’s the went to bed a 12:30pm I’m still tired and now I’m so comfortable bed separation anxiety. What’s that song….Blah, Blah, Blah ok let’s talk about SJ50k. Time check.. 5:00am

Gathered around Blue Jay we stood laughing and catching up with friends, Baz his typical self was loud and friendly….. well, “Baz Friendly” I looked it up but couldn’t find any real definition; you just have to meet him and experience it for yourself. Time check.. 6:50am

The SJ50k takes you down from Blue jay all the way to the Candy store off of Ortega, spins you around and shoots you back up, and up, and up through Blue jay again up the Main Divide, down Trabuco trail then up the Fun Fun Happy Joy Joy Horse thief trail then back to the start at Blue jay campground.

So with a 3,2,1 we were off… so much better than those pre packaged large marathons, we were off and running, not shuffling, running…..and it was supposed to rain, it was. But we lucked out and although the cloud cover was there we ran in cool air on soft trails (if you take out all the rocks) this run has a wide variety of conditions that reminded runners that I spoke to of PCT50, Noble Canyon and more! I love technical down hills and can fly down them fairly easily which helped me gain ground on many of the runners that kicked out ahead as we began.

Everything was green, moss on the rocks, ferns sprouting from moist soil on the trailside, this whole area is abundant with beauty…. Only problem is that you have no time to look as you bounce from one rockless spot to another. Up ahead I catch up to Carey Edge… shes amazing and I take in a very brief moment of satisfaction as I pass her… after I tell here that I will see her again on the uphill section and that moment comes very soon as she strides by me on an uphill….oh well, that half mile felt good anyway….

There were a few water crossings along the way, some with stepping rocks and some without…. It takes a split second of thought..then, SCREW IT! As you plunge through stepping quickly as if the water would be caught off guard and forget to get your feet wet ha ha yeah right!
I was impressed by the trail markings, very bold and easy, and was really happy to see friends at each and every aid station!. Aid stations, friendly faces, assortments of goodies…very nice. I blew through the Candy store A/S even though I was being pitched water, Gatorade or food as I ran by ha ha ha. Technical down hills are much easier to sail down then to go up and at this point I hadn’t even finished half a bottle of water so I was feeling pretty good. I had decided to cut back on the salt as an experiment; just taking in Gatorade and food to supplement. In the end it did affect me negatively but I’m still working out the system that’ll work best for me, oh well.

This section is an out and back so you meet and greet as you share the trail with others still coming down, its great to see friends out there..we all know from being out there that many runs can be pretty lonely at times. As I was working my way up I noticed Keira Henninger, behind me and before I knew it I was greeted with her wonderful attitude, and beautiful smile, she looked so good out there!, I was happy to see here burning up the trails again.. she’s a trooper, the energizer bunny on nitrous; and off she went.

I continue climbing only then to feel this gust of wind called Angela Shartel go by, “Hey Larry!” then gone…. Obviously I’m beginning to slow down succumbing to last minutes and late nights. Another runner coming up … David Christof! Always a welcome site… he continues on strong as always. As I continued toward the top Michelle Barton appeared out of nowhere and before I could get a piggyback ride she also was gone……like a dream. Ok, this is getting ridiculous! Lets stop taking pictures and buckle down now……

Blue jay came quicker than expected and I was happy to again see aid station smiley faces.. BAZ was here and offered support (in his own way) to runners as they ran through, great guy.

Main Divide was as expected, exposed and rocky….oh….and up hill; depending on your direction of course. I wanted rain, didn’t get it yet; I remember running Chimera in the rain here and it seemed to take my mind off the run, I ran the whole thing that day. After awhile I reached the Trabuco A/S and was greeted by Keith Swiatkowski….again!, man that guy is kicking some ass out here volunteering..really cool to see him – go INKnBURN!.

I was looking forward to Trabuco Trail, it’s covered and oh…key point...DOWNHILL. Seemed very rocky this time though and once you reach the exposed areas it turns to shale, each rock seeking your ankle! I passed a runner that decided to turn around…a major victim of the WALL…. Not a good place to be. Checked if he needed anything…he had taken salt and had fluids left.. the A/S were notified by shortwave.

At the bottom after hopping over a stream we turned to tackle …. Horsethief Trail…. If you haven’t experienced this trail you should just … hmm .. cant even explain it, just think steep never ending rocky trail that seems to go on and on and on….. I actually said I’d try run the whole thing ha ha ha dumb ass! We’ll skip ahead to the top.

Marisa Willment met me at the top Horse thief A/S, It was great to see another InB Burner, she was in typical good spirits as she began her return down the Main Divide to Blue Jay. I chased her along the Main Divide, through the Trabuco A/S and caught her on the downhill to Blue Jay, I wanted to stay behind awhile longer (much better view that way)  but continued on into Blue Jay to the finish! Immediately grabbed a beer and sat down to have a few more laughs with friends, that’s the great thing about trail running…..there are so many good people here, fast …slow it really doesn’t matter we’re all friends.

In Summary, there were many many friends that were out there and I apologize if you weren’t mentioned… your all great, but I go on and on as is. So….Great trail, Great Day, Great SJ50k put on by BAZ and his support teams…P.S you all know how valuable you are. I would definitely give this run a shot if you haven’t, it’ll be worth it; and I’ll drink a beer with you at the end…no problem. 

Twin Peaks 50miler - up up and away.

February 12, 2010
This is a little long winded but it WAS a 50 miler......

This race for me had a history; over a period of time I've heard many things about the Twin Peaks 50/50 race. Some good, some not so good, it was because of this that I didnt have to many expectations for it to be monumental. I was however planning on it being tough because no matter how you look at it; the mountains not coming down for you no matter who organized this one; its 17,000 feet of gut check; one way or the other….

With everything prepaired and handhelds in place I set out casually ( ok, I wasn't quite ready at race start but I didnt feel the urgency to just go when they said go....after all its 50 miles. In the beginning of this run I had forgotten to turn on my brain, as a result I followed some of the front runners as they made their way through the neighborhood....I blindly followed them until they stopped, confused, and turned around to run the RIGHT way!...Oh my, how’s the rest of the race gonna go.

I continue to press on feeling good, feeling strong. Before I knew it I was in front heading up Indian Truck Trail....after about 5.5 miles I was quite a bit ahead and on my own, but not for long...a light turned on behind me......turned on? Sneaky...the old don't scare him to run faster trick!!! ha ha ha after awhile I watched him pass; after all I had a long way to go...I was settling in to feeling comfortable and definitely not going to chase anyone right now.

As I approached the Main divide I was now in 3rd and feeling good, it was on to W. Horsethief. Wheres the A/S … oh there it is… a pile of boxed up water…..oh well, It felt good to fly downhill, I had to watch my speed as I dance on the large rocks that live here on this trail and by the time I reached Holy Jim A/S I was feeling tired but good, it can be to easy to pound your legs going down that one. Good to see a familiar face as I was greeted by George Puente Valasco, I shed layers here and enjoyed some calories and laughter as I joked around, ok, ok it’s been long off I went again to tackle the Holy Jim Ascent. As I approached the lower streams I enjoyed the mental break in scenery as I balance across logs or hopped from rock to rock across the stream. It was here that I felt my Hip Flexor quietly remind me of a past injury, I chose to slow down, to moderate and see how it was going to play out. I also think that it was here that I mentally chose to run this race more casually and try to enjoy myself I did.

I reached the top of Holy Jim and was surprised at how informal it was… a few boy scout types hanging around, a small table off to the left about 15 yards with some lone water jugs and such, I could’ve even missed the table if I had my head down and continued up Santiago. Hey! But waters water! I gulped down half a bottle and filled both handhelds back to full. I then began my assault of Santiago peak - well strong walking assault I guess. I think that my future races will be more disciplined in sections of running and walking I need to work on that I guess J . The trip up Santiago was slow, it seems that once I start walking my legs feel more like weights than anything; I actually feel better jogging up. ( I tell you that in hindsight……I still walked up quite a bit ). When I get done with this I’m gonna focus on my quick hiking skills, I’m getting passed up and its starting to piss me off….. me and my less than long legs ha ha ha. By the time I reach the top of Santiago I’m feeling good, the snow cooled me down and thoughts of me laying in it making snow angels cheered me up a bit.

The Santiago Aid station was stocked and I sat down and joked around a bit again, Damn socializings gonna cost me ha ha ha….. quick rock from shoe removal and I was out of there. The day was amazing and the temperatures were great, its amazing up here and I’m happy to be living in an area with such running opportunity. I sailed down Santiago and before I knew it I was bouncing down Upper Holy Jim trail, with the latest rains this area was a series of jumping from once side to another to avoid the water and mountain bike torn path. At the bottom I searched for guidance, arrows, signs but it was only my past experience of the area and route study that lead my direction, I was worried that other 50mers might continue left on the divide in confusion.

Back to the water table at the top of Holy Jim and down! Down! Down! I remembered chasing LT down this and sailed to the bottom catching a few runners as I did. I began to run into friends on this trail as they were ascending like my Grand Canyon Brother David Cristof who was his cheerfull self, always good to see David. I past by the man himself Greg Hardesty and the energizer bunny Lorraine Gersitz who was running up Holy Jim….very nice. I ran into another friend coming up David Colwick, man, I’m seeing everyone now and it helps boost me. David mentions another friend who was supposed to be here today.. Maura Priest, I was concerned at first until I found out that she got lost and couldn’t find the start of the race ….man…bummer!. Ha ha ha …. Sorry just remembered, as I was running through the lower portions of Holy Jim theres a section where the brush has formed a tunnel over the trail….. I was sailing through here and saw some hikers with kids on the other side, I was feeling good so I picked up my pace (yes – to impress) …… didn’t see that a branch was hanging lower than usual….almost scalped me; blew my hat right off and clipped the top of my head ha ha……”man, you ok!” said a hiker….”oh, yeah…didn’t really hit me” I said. Wrong!, my head was ringing….I’m such a dumbass ha ha Got what I deserved. Always run with caution and humility or nature will remind you were you really are!.

As I approached the Lower Holy Jim A/S I was greeted by a few runners that hadn’t set out yet; I joked around again this time about wanting a helicopter or something, can’t remember now. I was glad to see my drop bag and the goodies that it contained, gulped down a chocolate milk ensure and was good to go. If I hadn’t mentioned this before….I don’t like W. Horsethief trail; particularly the going up part so as I headed out, I was in a battle that was more mental than physical and it continued till I got to the top. Of course on my way up I met with Andy Kumeda and Catra Korbet who seemed to have more vigor here than I; Catra turned down my request for a piggy back ride to the top….dang! ( that was with her giving ME a ride to the top) Wheres the dang elevator!

At the top of Horsethief I was glad to see that they had set up a small ez-up and were manning and womaning this area, It would have been a big boost though to see my friend Steve here…….. well, gotta push on. Moving along the Main Divide was nice, I’ve run this so many times that I felt pretty comfortable cruising along and before I knew it I was at the Indian Truck Trail A/S……talking, joking around, sitting down…wasting time ha ha…. And with a pat on the back there was Keith Swiatkowski!, great to see him! And then Beiyi Zheng and Carmela….Hey it’s a party! Guess I need another Dr.Pepper! but with a few more laughs realization began to sink in as they all began to leave for the top of Santiago again……. Wait…hey….but…..Dang…..After suggesting that the A/S be supplied with cots and getting laughs (I was serious though) I took off again. Keith had mentioned having beer in his car… hhmm… I could just run down Indian Truck Trail right now…call it a day and give up my domino – or – continue my pain and hit Santiago one more time; Damn, Keith has the car keys and he’s left already……so I chased him.

I hit Santiago harder this time, my body had understood that I was going to fight through this one and It gave in to me and my TrailHeadz mentality so I ran and ran…. Passing By Beiyi and Carmela again I joked around took some pictures and headed up stronger than the first time. Once I reached to top I sucked down some warm soup and watched to sun set….AHHHH. Other runners were suiting back up as the temperatures dropped and now with my headlamp in place I headed out just after Keith again. With the mountains in covered in dusks light I ran down Santiago without my headamp on, almost in a trance, the focus can be so intense that you feel like you are aware of every stone before you…. You take in the whole road beneath and ahead of you without looking at anything in particular and just sail; it was amazing.

I headed down Upper Holy Jim and with my Headlamp on now I bounced again from side to side, passing a few runners on the way, I approached one runner that didn’t have his headlamp and felt sorry for him, whatever the reason he was going to have problems unless he had nightvision.

At the Indian Truck Trail A/S I downed another Dr.Pepper and joked with Keith again about my drive to aid him with any drinking of beer that might be done after we finish and with a laugh he again was off “see ya at the bottom”….. a few final jokes and thanks to the crew I was gone once more, this time for good. I ran the final Length of the Indian Truck Trail feeling really good, I remember chasing Greg Hardesty down here on a training run a few weeks prior, had a great time then and looked forward to my run down. This time I was chasing Keith; I passed a runner on my way and had gotten pretty close to Keith when suddenly a rock came out of nowhere and grabbed my big toe sending me wildly sprawling in long strides…I went down on my right handheld and thanked the powers that be. I didn’t eat it; somehow. I went back to pick up my remaining bottle that ejected in my spastitude and I continued on…… I looked down the dark hill and spotted Keiths light in the distance… I wondered if he’d seen my light fly around as I did my downhill lunge techniques.

I gained ground after time and soon was just behind Keith as we passed by Andy Kumeda and Catra Korbet, both great runners and people. Joking around about my extra fast food weight assisting me on the downhills we were off in pursuit of the finish now. It was dark, very dark but the temperatures were not that bad and I was in rhythm now heading downhill, I ran behind Keith as we headed toward the finish and stayed there until the end, In a long race like this, not sure if it’s just me……but near the end I noticed a light behind me trying to gain ground. I was hoping to push Keith with me behind him to stay in front of whom ever it was; Keith being the strong runner he is kept with a faster pace until we crossed…….now my point. I just feel that out of a certain respect for the actual distance, if you are running a 50 mile race and you are within say….200-300 yards from the finish….I personally am just going to keep my place as long as the person ahead of me is running strong. I’m not going to try to sprint at the last moment to move up a place…..not sure if there is a name for it; but that’s just not me. Anyway as far as Keith is concerned he wouldn’t have made it easy for me if I would’ve tried that move anyway… ha ha ha.

Sitting down and thinking about the race at the end, looking at my Medal – not domino, I was thank full that I ran it……not as much for the race but for me….on to the next one. Better and stronger next time!

Overall observations:

Early morning A/S were not set up as I had hoped, but I was ready for that. As the day went on these issues were corrected and the aid stations were stocked with all that was needed. The volunteers were great and appreciated! As always.

Directions………..the surveyor – or whomever they were that went up to assist in the guidance left much for improvement…..I’m very familiar with the trail and I studied the course before I ran it like ALL should do. There were moments of insecurity for me even with preparation due to lack of signage but again…. Everyone that deems themselves prepared to try on a race of this distance should be prepared both physically and mentally which means that they ashould be aware of the course changes and know the general routes prior to running. With the google earth and images given there is really no sympathy for someone making long distance critical errors in direction.

The runner tracking option for this race was a waste of energy that could have gone to something else….my family tried to track me and had nothing but confusion; maybe given time….just not now it was a innovative attempt but unless your sure it’s going to be effective….don’t do it.

Great day, great friends……overall….a Great day…………..