Quite a Day For It

While the entire trailrunning world seemed to be at the North Face 50 in San Francisco this past weekend, I opted to keep it local for a variety of reasons. Most importantly, I had school priorities that needed to get squared away. My good friend Josh Hickey smashed out another finish and described the jaunt across the Golden Gate Bridge as ‘epic’. While the overuse of ‘epic’ often undermines its real emphasis, this labeling was certainly appropriate for such a day. That being said, I signed up for the San Joaquin River Trail 50k to mark a definitive finish to my running year.

Matt and I carpooled, only to arrive to the race start fifteen minutes prior to the start. My goal for the day was to feel good. That’s it. Nothing more. Nothing less. While the last two races – Kodiak 100 & Cuyamaca 100K- were filled with amazing moments, those were counterbalanced by a multitude of frustrations. Those frustrations do pay dividends in the future. I think Saturday was one of those days where the patience paid off.

We started at 6:30 and took off on a climb. Right away the legs were burning and the lungs were churning as everybody jockeyed for position on the single-track. After mile 1, Matt made his move and bolted. I kept my distance. We turned a corner and there he was, stuck behind a herd of cattle. Myself and some others caught up. Having worked with and around cattle for the entirety of my youth, I was hoping to harness the old ‘Bax-to-the-max’ cowman mode and magically move them. That didn’t happen. Ha! We instead walked patiently and eventually they moved. Such is life as a muggle. It was a classic trail running moment, that signified the unimportance of what we were doing.

Matt then took off again. I followed, but at my own pace. After a while, he was gone. I had zero intentions of cat-and-mousing him all day, but it sure was great to have a carrot! The first aid station appeared around mile 6. After that, the next couple miles were uneventful. Feeling very relaxed, I carried on and kept running.

For 95% of the race, I was on my own. Concerns about others, albeit ahead or behind, sort of became irrelevant. That influenced my strategy as my number one priority was to keep it internal. By internal, I mean maintaining acuity through rhythmic breathing, steady movements, and pleasant thoughts. I like to call it the Triumvirate of Chill. This helped me better handle the geographical and emotional undulations that were inevitable.

Around mile 13, I turned a corner and was a bit startled. A human?!? I tripped on the side of the trail, only to attempt a suave tuck-and-roll. It was anything but that, as I lost control and sort of just rolled. I immediately sprung back to my feet and acted as though nothing had happened. I looked back towards the ground, acting like I had some sort of authority over it. It was like I was accusing it of tripping me. Funnily enough, there was nothing there. No big deal. It’s cool. I looked back up and there was a girl laughing. Having made a fool of myself, I laughed and carried on.

For the remainder of the run, I did my best to stick to the Triumvirate of Chill mode. It was not too difficult because the surrounding views were stunning and the weather was perfect. Yes, like idyllic-California-autumn-perfect. Human interaction was pretty low, so I used this to keep maintain stoke. My Ipod had enough battery life for one song. It wasn’t even a big deal because everything else was just AWESOME!

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I kept moving and grooving. At each aid station the volunteers cheered me on to Go Catch Matt! Yeah. Right….. Regardless, miles kept clicking off. The climbs didn’t seem as arduous as I had envisioned. Looking back, I know it was a special day because everything just sort of clicked. In terms of feeling, I had been yearning for a day like this for a loooong time. The patience and training paid off, leaving me chomping at the bit for some more. However, this time of the year is best for  unstructured fun and investing time towards other, oft-neglected responsibilities.

 

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Me, Nate Moore (Race Director) & Matt

 

 

Lessons Learned, Epiphanies Spawned, or Much-Needed Reminders

 

A. Nobody really cares. Not even the cattle.

  1. Take your pick: Coming to a halting stop because of some unconcerned cattle or trying to play it cool while falling on a near-flawless trail. I feel that these moments happen for a reason. I suppose that they are reminders for all of us to not take ourselves so seriously. Nobody (outside of you and your running friends) really cares about splits, mileage, or any of that stuff. All the more reason to let it rip and savor each experience.

B. Massive debt of gratitude to all involved

  1. Props to Nate Moore, the volunteers, and everybody else who helped make the SJRT 50K such a memorable experience. I literally had no expectations and this race operated like a well-oiled machine. He’s a great trail runner and a phenomenal human, so he knows how to put on an A+ race. And, if you are wondering this is not a paid endorsement. Ha! I highly encourage anybody to sign up for one of his races. Check em’ out at http://www.sanjoaquinrunning.com
  2. Also, a big thanks to my family and friends that have encouraged me in the last year. 2017 has been loaded with optimal moments and I am really, really fortunate to have such wonderful people in my life.

C. It feels good to feel good

  1. Finally! This was the day I had been hoping and working towards for quite some time. I don’t know if I have ever felt as good as I did on Saturday. From the start to the finish, the rhythm was there. It had been a big year for me and I was losing my fire for running. It wasn’t about numbers or any of that stuff, simply the feeling. My goal was to feel good and I felt great. This was the ideal way to end the year off and carry the mojo into the off-season. Well, carry the momentum until I will need it in next month’s Beer Mile.

 

 

Consumption (not that you’re interested, simply jotting it down as a reminder for the next-time around)

  • Pre Race
    • ½ Avocado, 1 tbsp. Almond Butter, & 1 Boiled egg
    • Coffee w/ coconut oil (for the road)
    • VESPA (20 minutes prior to race)
  • During
    • Water
    • Salt Tabs
    • A little bit of tailwind
    • Peanut M & Ms –à AMAZING!!!!
    • Light Fruit
      • à 2 slices of watermelon
      • ¾ a banana
      • Orange slice
    • Bacon (Yep, it hit the spot)
    • 2 handfuls of potato chips
  • After
    • Soup
    • Slice of Pizza
    • Americano (the caffeine charge-endorphin rush combination is one that I highly recommend. I felt like I was on another planet for the remainder of the day. Give it a shot, or two, or even three if we’re talking espresso).

 

And of course, the obligatory jingle. An all-time favorite of mine How to Fly by Sticky Fingers. Probably have listened to this more than any other song in that last 3 years. Cheers!

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Cuyamaca 100K Round II

Rather than inundate you with the minutiae of my 2017 Cuyamaca 100K, I’ve opted for a much less verbose recap. Cheers!

Night Before

  • Bunkhouse felt like Junior High Camp, except for the fact that we went to bed early.
  • Bunkhouse (2017) > sleeping in car (2016)

Morning of

  • Alarm
  • Up and at em’
  • Frigid
  • Dark
  • Double-check preparation
  • Packet Pickup
  • Packed house
  • Nervous Energy
  • Spend nearly 20 minutes trying to attach bib
  • Coffee + Brekkie
  • Triple-Check preparation
  • Bathroom
  • Startline

Loop 1

[Miles] 0 – 10

  • Go!
  • Moonlight
  • Thawing out
  • Keep it steady
  • Don’t press
  • Sunrise

10 – 20

  • Climbing
  • Talking
  • Focused
  • Drink
  • Eat
  • Relaxed

20 – 32

  • Music
  • Climbing
  • Downhill
  • Drink
  • Eat
  • Relaxed
  • Still feeling good

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Aid Station Buffet

Loop 2

32 – 39

  • Reload
  • Drink
  • Eat
  • Off we go
  • Brutal, exposed stretch
  • False flats (didn’t feel that way though)
  • Carried by two others here à The Synergy was strong
  • Janna (from Columbus) & Sam (from Ann Arbor/now Oakland)
  • Bone Dry in both bottles
  • Stopped Sweating = not good
  • Arrived at Gator Station (Florida Gator Fans/Alumni clad in jerseys & drinking beer while helping)
  • Lots of Stoke
  • Drink, Drink, Drink
  • Sun is full-on
  • Ice-cold Sponge rinse on head, face, & back

39 – 44

  • Solo
  • Feeling better
  • Maintain Composure
  • Playlist on point “Terrain” by Pg.lost (Shoutout Dave Kraina)

Loop 3

44 – 50

  • Speed through Aid Station (too quickly)
  • Adrenaline pumping
  • Adrenaline fading
  • GI issues
  • Head Fog
  • Weary legs
  • By myself
  • Pity party has officially commenced
  • Now Talking to myself
  • A lot
  • This sucks
  • Waaa, Waaaa, Waaa
  • Find something to laugh at
  • Seriously, quit taking yourself so seriously
  • Looking forward to pacer

50-ish Aid station

  • Jeff, friend and fellow classmate, eagerly waiting
    • (not to mention that this is Jeff’s longest run yet – Thumbs up!!)
  • The chair is calling
    • I am usually a staunch proponent of “beware the chair”, but not now
  • I needed five, but probably took ten or fifteen
  • Pickle Juice – A first for me & now i know why…
  • Laughs
  • Smiles
  • 12 to go
  • Stomach still whack
  • Need to rally
  • Colbie Caillat bumping in the background – Can’t beat that!
  • Onward
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The Chair….

50 – 56

  • Trudging
  • Others blowing by me
  • Now Slogging (Slow Jogging, aka walking…)
  • Jeff’s company is greatly appreciated during this stretch
  • Stunning views from high desert ridgeline
  • Downhill to Aid Station
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Getting passed in the heat of the afternoon action

56 Aid Station Oktoberfest theme (beers and margaritas are flowing)

  • Wanting to sit. Again…
  • The wonderful volunteers tell me No
  • Suck it up dude! Only 10K left! You’ve got some carrots dangling ahead of you!
  • Onward
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Beautiful stretch of scenery 

56 – 59

  • Still not finding my stride
  • Stomach still frustrated
  • Energy still zapped
  • Pace is slow, scenery is unbelievable
  • Jeff’s presence helping big time
  • At this point, I’m slower than last year
  • Okay, re-calibrate and get something out of the last 3 miles

59 – 61

  • Dusk is upon us
  • So is downhill
  • Jeff reminds me: It’s 6:00. There is a half hour left to bring it home in under 12 hours.
  • Okay
  • Silence falls upon us
  • Erratic footsteps turn into rhythmic footsteps
  • Pace picks up
  • Letting it all go
  • We’re moving faster

< 3/4 mile

  • Turning the corner, there’s a carrot
  • The mojo is back
  • Fully engaged, I go for it
  • Pain is taking a backseat
  • Don’t look back
  • I was lucky enough to make the pass
  • Feeling better and better
  • Thumbs up & a good job exchanged

< 1/2 mile remaining

  • Finish line in sight
  • Another carrot
  • Oh boy
  • Thumbs up
  • Feeling better
  • Matt & Katie waiting
  • High-fives exchanged
  • Deep breathe
  • Quick expression of gratitude to the Man upstairs
  • Game over
  • Done
  • Stoked
  • The adrenaline-fueled finish was like that one great shot in a bad round of golf.   I started the day in rhythm, then battled frustrations, and finished strong. It left me chomping at the bit
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We finished! 

Lessons, discoveries, epiphanies…  

  1. Course Familiarity is a DOUBLE BONUS
  2. Aid Station Volunteers rule! The Florida Gator-themed Station brought the juice. At the final aid station, appropriately named Oktoberfest (they had beer, margaritas…), a gal told me to suck it up and get moving.
  3. The other runners & pacers. The synergy from Janna and Ben pulled me through the difficulty of loop 2. Without their steadiness, I would have walked most of that stretch.
    1. Kudos to my friend Jeff who paced for the last 12 miles. It’s worth noting that, up to that point, 12 miles was his furthest run. During the last bit, he helped me get back on the horse. Many people might think these are solo efforts, be we all know they are not.
  4. Carry more water. This has been a theme for me lately. I have had a string of runs where running bone dry is part of it. That is usually followed by not sweating. It is foolish bordering on dangerous. It doesn’t need to be that way because it’s a variable that can be controlled. Nobody earns points for carrying less water… That being said, this was the last straw. Lesson learned…
  5. Too much sugar = gastrointestinal rollercoaster. After switching to a Fat Adapted protocol for Kodiak, I reverted back to my old ways. The objective? To see how I would feel. Long story short; it sucked! My stomach became wrecked from miles 40 – 50 and didn’t get much better until the last 3 miles. After reading more from dudes like Dr. Tim Noakes, Dr. Peter Attia, Dr. Dom D’Agostino and Dr. Stephen Finney, this is a change I still believe is worth exploring.
  6. It wasn’t the race I had envisioned, but that is okay. I’m not getting paid to do this and nobody really cares. A dose of reality always smacks me in the face when getting out of a vehicle for the first time after crossing the finish line.  It’s extremely satisfying and also hilarious hobbling through a gas station. People take notice like something is seriously wrong, but nope All good over here!
  7. Every single time I finish a race there is this immense + intense feeling of thankfulness that settles in. That feeling trumps the any muscle soreness felt shortly thereafter. The culmination of a long, hard effort outside puts things into perspective. That sense of smallness always brings me back to appreciating life’s simpler things.

Coupled with an incredible rush afterwards, the lasting lessons are the ones that come from being on the edge. Wrestling with uncertainty, doubt, and pain makes that ride home that much sweeter.

And, of course, here’s a little sliver of audio pleasure…

Koi Child “1-5-9”

The Puzzle: Part I

There are a lot of factors that go into a performance: nutrition (vegan, keto, intermittent fasting…), the physical (specificity, level of intensity, duration), sleep, recovery, attitude, emotion (highs and lows), and the mental. I liken the process to a puzzle.

When setting out for a goal, all of the pieces are right there, scattered about. At first, it is exciting. A few pieces attach here and a couple others connect there. The momentum begins to build. Then, the frustration sets in. With so many pieces, it’s easy to take notice of the work that remains. That is usually accompanied by a sense of being overwhelmed. That’s the nature of setting out for an ambitious undertaking. The excitement can dim quickly.

Sometimes a break helps reinvigorate or refine perspective. Patience and flexibility will help in puzzle piece positioning. Consider it can trial-and-error. Trial-and-error. Trial-and-error. There will be days when the weather sucks, and others when your heart just isn’t in it. I think those are the prime moments to step back and examine the entire puzzle and the progress that you have made. There’s need to beat yourself up for taking a day off. There is no need to compare. You’re on your own trajectory. The puzzle looks different for everybody. It’s a long journey. Those unused pieces certainly aren’t going anywhere.

 

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Magical Morning at Ford Ord. February 2017.

Weekly Musings

“It’s the little things…”

 

This past weekend, I helped crew/pace for my friend Chris at the Tahoe 200. Yep, that’s right, 200 miles. Chris and I met while traveling on the STRAY bus in New Zealand early 2015.  The trek around Lake Tahoe started at 9:00 AM Friday and culminated the following Tuesday afternoon. I arrived in Tahoe Saturday afternoon to link up with Chris at Heavenly, which also signified the 100-mile point. He recuperated, refueled and geared up for the dark, cold night ahead.

 

We left Heavenly around 6:30. There would be no aid station for another 20 miles. Chris’s ankles were taped and wrapped, but that didn’t quell his spirit for the trek ahead. We walked, shuffled, jogged and conversed as the day gave way to night. We would stop occasionally to in an effort to relieve the pressure caused by the bandages tightly-wound around his ankles. At times, we were accompanied by others, exchanging words of encouragement. As the hours got later and later, that ubiquitous sense of care becomes more evident.

 

The night got longer, colder, and darker. At times, the trail became rockier. Combine those factors with sheer silence and fatigue, and everything becomes a little more formidable. A half-mile felt like 4 miles. The night got longer and longer. Since we were power hiking, it was difficult to keep warm. Temps had now dropped into the low-40s. Coming from triple-digit temps, this felt bone chilling.

 

Also, it’s difficult to gauge progress at night because all you can see is the luminescent glow beaming from your headlight five feet in front of you. This makes it difficult to stimulate your mind. That lack of stimulation added in with extreme fatigue and you have a recipe for some serious mind games.

 

It was now nearing midnight. At times, the fatigue was evident when Chris whether or not we were on course or how much longer we had remaining until the aid station. I estimated we had nearly 3 more miles remaining. Mike, another participant in the race, claimed that we had at least 5 to go. This was the second time, Mike had estimated that there was more than what actually remained. This was deflating. Without missing a beat, Chris replied, You’re a real Debbie Downer man!

 

Whether it was due to fatigue or frustration, Mike didn’t reply. About 20 minutes later, we arrived at a sign that stated: Spooner Summit 3 miles. I laughed, probably because I didn’t know what else to do.

 

As the night wore on, so did our spirits. We inched closer and closer to Spooner Summit. It was now 1’clock. We needed Spooner Summit. Chris’s water supplies were low and, in addition to his ankles, his left knee was hurting. Switchback after switchback, I continued to reassure Chris that we were almost there. In reality, I had no idea. It was getting pretty grim.

 

Finally! At 1:45, I saw the light. There it is Chris! We’re going to get your ankles and knee looked at, some real food in ya, a quick nap and you’ll be ready to rock! We slowly entered Spooner Summit. Ahhhhhhh, yes!!!

 

The volunteers were outstanding. Almost immediately, they provided us blankets. There was another EZ-UP next to the aid station that had cots, yoga mats, blankets and chairs, all surrounding a propane heater. Other participants were gathered there. They were wrapped in blankets like burritos and probably deep in the REM cycle. Speaking of burritos, the wonderful volunteers made us some breakfast burritos and chicken broth. Double-bonus!

 

Since my duties as pacer/crew required a little extra focus, I had a heart-warming half-coffee, half-hot-chocolate combo. Wrapped in a blanket, I gingerly walked back to emanating heat with a burrito in one-hand and a coffee/hot-chocolate in the other. There was a spectator standing next to me. We both nodded and smiled.

 

It’s the little things isn’t it?

She replied, Oh yes, it most definitely is.

 

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Absolutely stunning sunrise over Tahoe Sunday Morning. This was captured about two hours after leaving Spooner Summit. 

Directly below the heater, Chris was passed out on a yoga mat next.  Slowly, I was warming up. Accompanied by some light Pearl Jam in the background, I smiled while savoring my caffeinated-hot chocolate. In that moment, I had all I needed: Warmth, a hot meal/drink, shelter, and support. It didn’t take too long before mind slid into a deep slumber.

 

This moment of respite is one I will not soon forget. It would have never happened without the remote darkness or frigid temperature or the mounting impatience. That’s what it took to make Spooner Summit feel better than any 5-Star Resort. There are plenty of lessons to pull from my pacing/crew duties in Tahoe; however, my lasting takeaway is that it really is the little things!

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Chris and I parting ways at the Tunnel Creek Cafe (Mile 140). He ended up finishing sometime late on Monday night. Kudos to him for sticking with it!!

 

 

Kodiak 100: BIG BEAR, CA

We had arrived! After a long stretch through arid desert, we were welcomed by a more temperate climate in Big Bear. We arrived at our studio Airbnb; it was packed with all the amenities that would ensure a restful night. Sweeeeeet!! In past races, the night before has comprised of attempts at sleeping under trees (only to awoken by sprinklers), camping in the rain, or uncomfortable sleeping in the car. This was a huge step up! Kudos to Matt for taking action.

From there, we went to the pre-race packet pick-up and pasta dinner. Yeah, say that five times. We received our bibs, some grub, and caught up with some friends (shout-out Nate Moore and Eric Chrisman – Chad’s brother) and then headed back.

I always find “the night before” to be amusing. The combination of nervous energy and chatter equals usually lends itself to an unneeded analysis. In terms of a social setting I usually don’t hang too long at these pre-night shindigs for two reasons: A. I have already made up my mind as to how I’m going to run and B. There is no amount of training or adjusting in 12 hours that can be overly advantageous. For some, those conversations are helpful and I think that awesome. As for me, I prefer to head back to my accommodation, double-check my provisions and dial in to the right headspace. Typically, that means either reading, listening to some Jack Johnson or watching a movie.

GO TIME: August 25, 2017

Coffee, Breakfast, Shower. After that, Matt and I were met by Randy VT and Scott K. at around 7:15 AM (meaning they left really early). I was stoked that they were coming to pace me. Not only did they pace, but they went above and beyond and crewed from start to finish. Without them, the overall experience would have lost its luster. It made for a wonderful team effort. I’ll touch more on this later…

We arrived at the starting line. Can we just start already? As per the rules of participating in this race, we were mandated to wear a SPOT tracking device. This device was to be ziptied on to us and it’s awkward size emulated the size of an early cellular phone. The intention for these devices was that those following along on a computer could accurately track us. Long story short, they didn’t.

9:00 AM

Go! Nothing really exciting happened at the beginning. We went up, then we went down. A sip of water here and small talk there; all in all, the first 15 miles were pretty vanilla. That’s okay because it allows me to find my groove.

After that aid station, Matt and I were running together. He had gone off course, which sucks, but it happens. Then, we weaved our way through paved roads, until the realization came that there weren’t any course markings. 10 minutes removed from the course and our frustration was evident.

Since it was early on, I was a tad bit concerned: if we were veering off-course this early, what would happen would happen at 3 in the morning?

Frustrating? No doubt. On the plus side, it was early on, meaning there would be plenty of time to make up for it. It was out of our control and in the past, but our attitudes were not. It was early, but we had a choice: dwell in frustration or press on. We opted for the latter.

We arrived at Sugarloaf (mile 19), refueled and refocused for the arduous climb ahead. 12-ish miles stood between us and the next fueling/aid station, which also happened to be this very same one. We hit 10,000 feet on this climb. Slowly making my way upward, I felt nauseated, like as though I was sucking air through a straw. My heart felt like it was beating out of my chest. As my body felt the climb, so, too, did my mind. And the negative thinking began to fester: This is beyond you. What are you doing? You’re not even 1/3 of the way done and you feel like this already. Just grueling. Every half mile or so, I leaned against a tree, took a breathe and tried to stay just where I was at. I stayed calmed and my thoughts slowly shifted. One step at a time and we’ll be to the top quickly…

Finally! I arrived at the top with a couple others. My water bottles were empty and my mind disoriented. But, we had downhill ahead of us. I looked over at a dude named Cameron That was gnarly. He sucked down the last of his water. We were bone dry at the top and not the only ones. It was grim at the top. We then jetted down the loose shale and unsteady rocks. GET WATER ASAP. En route back to Sugarloaf, Nate Moore – head of San Joaquin Running Tribe – blew by me. He recently completed a 100-miler up in Tahoe. Kudos to that guy! Stud.

Super parched, Cameron and I rolled back into Sugarloaf. Come to find out, Cameron is one of the owners of Stumblefoot Brewery in San Marcos. Their beer was waiting for us at the finish line. Having not had a beer in nearly 3 months, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on an IPA.

As we neared, I heard Willemina, Cody and my Mom cheering. I was so stoked to see them!. Also, Scott and Randy were there to refill my bottles and double-check if there was anything I needed. Matt’s wife – Kate – and daughter – Brooke – were also there with a ice cold bucket and a sponge. Matt had already gone through, so it was very kind of them to wait for me. They continued that throughout. Again, team effort. I slugged a V8, grabbed watermelon and trudged onward.

The next 10 miles consisted of uneven footing, more loose shale, and some short, punchy uphills, followed by rolling terrain. Basically, a little bit of everything. As the sun was now setting, I arrived at the mile 42 aid station “The Dump”. This would be the last time I would see my crew until mile 69. My lungs were exhausted and voice was waning. It had been a long day so far and I had yet to reach the halfway mark. I swapped hat for headlamp and tank top for tee shirt. On the eve of nightfall, I was now at the point where the senses become heightened and everything else becomes a little more visceral. I took off with a fellow participant named Jack. Jack is from New Orleans. We shared the next 3 hours with wide-ranging conversation and plenty of quiet moments.

 

We linked up with a guy named Chris. Together, we arrived at the mile 55 aid station. It was there that Jack and I split up. He decided to switch shoes and I carried on. For the next 2-3 hours, it was pitch black. I plugged in my tunes to help maintain focus. The stars were shining above a low-hanging crescent moon. The lights of greater Los Angeles were in the distance. This stretch was one of those periods where the magnitude of the moment becomes evident. I weaved through burnt forest, which made this stretch all the more formidable. The trees were sharp, jagged and pitch-black. I was on a trail at midnight in the mountains. Looking back on it, it’s quite surreal.

Finally, I saw a light. Aid station!!! Woohooo! I drank broth, met a dude named Jorge. Jorge just woke up from a 20-minute nap. They had had conveniently placed a couch behind their table. I was tempted to lie down, but made the decision at the beginning of the race to “beware the chair”. Jorge also just so happened to be an OG in the ultrarunning scene. I had no idea of this until immediately before the race. The cool thing is that I would have never guessed that when speaking with him. Understated and kind, it’s people like Jorge that make this sport rad.

Snow Valley – mile 69 – signified an important juncture of this race. For me, it was the point at which my pacers began to join me on the trail. From 69 to 87, I would be accompanied by Randy VT. Post-87, the duty belonged to Scott K.

It was 1:30 and I requested some broth. Part of the amenities offered by the race were chicken broth and veggie broth. Instead of broth, they offered me some lukewarm cup-o-noodles. Well, I didn’t sign up for this race to critique food and upload my YELP account. So be it. Randy and I carefully left the aid station through what was a very unconventional route that ran parallel between a chain-linked fence and highway.

We descended into Siberian Canyon. From there, it marked the final, big climb of the race. This climb was even more frustrating that the one before. It was one of the most annoying segments of a race I have ever experienced. The “trail” was sandy, slick and accompanied by low-hanging trees. At one point, I climbed on my hands and knees because the markings (at certain points) sort of just disappeared. There were ample, if any opportunities to run, so we trudged. I needed an attitude adjustment, a mental reset. Tyler, get over yourself. Suck it up. If I wanted to make the most of what remained, I had no choice but to accept how things presently existed.

We climbed and climbed and climbed. It was around 3:30-4:00 AM and my thinking brain had dissipated. Also, I was out of water (again, I know, what a clown). We turned the corner on this ridge and I saw something move about 15 yards ahead of me.

At this point, I was getting delusional, but I know I saw something. I stopped in my tracks:

Randy, did you see that?

No, what was it?

I was confused because at this point every shadow that moved with my headlamp looked like a black bear. This was different. It was distinct. Also, I saw a tail. Or at least I thought I did. The figure disappeared and went above us. We both looked for it.

There it is! Do you see it?

Where? Where? Oh. Yes.

A pair of green eyes… And they were locked in on us…

From above, no less…

We moved forward about another 100 yards.

We looked up again.

The eyes were again parallel with us and bearing down

We moved forward…

Same result.

Randy grabbed a big walking stick and I clutched on to a rock.

Again, I can’t fully verify what the animal was, but I know it was curious. For the sake of a good story, we’ll go with Mountain Lion. Seriously though, having seen one before and I didn’t see a bobbed-tail.

Of more importance, I am very thankful that I had a friend with me. I don’t know how I would’ve responded had I been solo.

We decided to jog a bit and speak in loud, audible tones. From there we stayed the course and rolled along the trail for a quite some time. After a while, Randy brought up the fact that there hadn’t been any markers for over an hour. Then one hour turned into almost two.

 

At this point, 5:40 AM, the sky was slowly morphing from black to a deep blue. I was too disoriented to conjure up the remote possibility that we had been going off-course for beyond two hours.

 

Nearing the 80th mile, not iota of me wanted to turn back. I was praying some sort of boost or a sign (literally and metaphorically). Just something.

 

Fortunately, we never had to entertain that option as an orange course marker FINALLY appeared. Yes!!! I just stopped, and stared at the sign with insurmountable relief.

Dude, a course marker… Finally.”

My fatigued tone certainly didn’t match the magnitude of the moment, but this was big-time.

 

When we went to the aid station, we informed them of the massive gap that lacked course markings. The lady explained, albeit in an authoritative tone, that they were on top of it and would soon figure out who didn’t do their job. I found that to be a bizarre response, given the fact there would be plenty of people who would soon encounter the same issue. A more helpful response might be sending somebody out there to mark it? Just a thought.

23 ½ hours after starting, we ended up making it to mile 87. Scott had been patiently waiting for us. I’m sure he was eager to get moving. I slammed some bacon and a cookie, my first real solid food yet.

 

Scott and I ran what I could. It was probably the slowest half-marathon of his life, but he never once exuded any negativity for the entirety of the closing miles. Randy was much the same. They both encouraged me throughout. Most of this last half-marathon comprised of going five yard down and twenty yards up. That ended up meaning lots of walking. The effects of elevation and fatigue had me yearning to just get this thing over with. Finally, we hit mile 97 and the what-was-promised-long-ago-downhill that I was very much looking forward to.

 

At about mile 99.5, we hit the pavement. The hay was in the barn. I heard the banter down below. Scott peeled off to the side and there it was! My body exhausted and spirit thankful, I crossed the finished line in 26 hours. I immediately tossed the SPOT tracker to the Race director at the finish.

 

You can keep that

 

Real quickly, Matt had finished in under 24 hours for a stellar 4th place overall position. He was paced by our good friend , Ben G, who will be running in his first 50 miler soon. To make it even better, Matt got to cross the finish with Katie (spouse) and Brooke (daughter). How epic! I exchanged high-fives with the crew. My mom’s friend (and pretty much family), Shana, and daughter, Astrid, even drove all the way from Ventura to watch the finish! I couldn’t believe it. I sat down and Matt mustered up a couple more steps and fetched both of us each a frosty Stumblefoot IPA. Ahhhhhh!!!! Satisfaction guaranteed!!! I kicked off my shoes to reveal filthy feet and a smile that couldn’t be fabricated. The job was done.

Ruminations, Musings, reflections….

 

Completing something that stretches you to your outer-limits is unique. There’s nothing quite like a long and difficult effort spent in the outdoors. Those moments where I’m called to tap deep into the well are the ones of great importance. This go-around, the only way I could move beyond those low points (miles 22-29, 74-78.5) was to remember that they’re inevitable.. You try to prepare your best for the lows in training. This requires simulating the terrain or conjuring up various scenarios to help you gauge your potential reaction(s). Despite the preparation and emulation, Plan A usually goes out the window. Moving forward from Plan A is neither good nor bad; but it leaves me with a choice. I can either fighting the present circumstances or accepting them. I’ve learned that by fighting the pain or dwelling on the negative chatter, it only exacerbates everything else. Everything. But, if I just accept the brutal climb, sketchy footing,, or overall discomfort, I can at least give myself a chance for something good to happen. There are no guarantees, but it seems like a chance worth taking.

 

 

 

 

Nutrition Change-up

Going into this race, I completely switched my nutrition to a High Fat Low Carb, almost Ketogenic style of nutrition. In case you were wondering, this was why I didn’t drink any beer for almost 3 months. Was it worth it? Absolutely.

In any case, this was a 360 from what my train of thought had previously been. I have dabbled in plant-based, vegetarian and pescatarian for various amounts of time in the past.

This meant completely eliminating grains, legumes, and/or wheat from my consumption. I’m certainly not an expert on nutrition, physiology or anything related, but it was fascinating to observe any noticeable changes.

First, I was always vehement that the HFLC (High Fat Low Carb) protocol is the most idiotic idea for endurance sports. It never made sense to me. Then, after my Dad brought it up to me. That was followed by multiple conversations with Randy VT, Peter Defty of VESPA, and my parent’s neighbor, Brian. Well, I figured the only way I can truly form an opinion on this is if I actually try it for myself. So that’s what I did.

It took a couple of weeks to get through what felt like a “mental fog”; however, after that, my body slowly became “fat-adapted” and things got much better. My palate changed. I even started eating cheese!

The goal for this race was to avoid any stomach-related issues or glycogen-spikes a.k.a. “bonking”. Over the summer, my energy levels were much steadier and I was able to run on a much lower caloric intake. By reducing the carbohydrate intake, my inflammation was dramatically reduced, which enabled me to train in a more optimal manner. Also, my goal was to not use gels because I have had such horrendous experiences with them, so I was stoked to not use them. I’m sure there were moments when they would have helped, but this was something I wanted to do sans-gels.

 

As far as the race went, I consumed:

 

VESPA product – 1 per every 2-2.5 hrs. This helped me in using “fat as fuel”

Watermelon

Broth

Cup Of Noodles Broth

3-4 V8

Perrier

Sip or two of Red Bull

3-4 cups of soda (near the end)

½ slice of Bacon

A cookie (very end of the race)

 

 

 

Will I continue with it? I’m not quite sure at the moment; I will go on the record and say that I do believe HFLC works for ultra-endurance sports. There are a bunch of tweaks I’d like to make for the next race, but I’m excited to see how this journey goes.

 

 

Lessons

  1. Family, Friends, and Co.
    1. I looked forward to seeing them at aid stations. They consistently encouraged me while assisting to my needs and provisions. They helped me get through my low points.
    2. More specifically, I thought of them when I was sucking air while climbing Sugarloaf and during the middle of the no-course-marking melee in the wee morning hours.
    3. Nietzche said that “He who has a why can live to bear almost any how”. For me, family and friends really accentuated the “why”. I privileged to be able to something I enjoy, while encouraged by the ones that mean the most to me.
    4. That type of enduring support stretches far beyond any specific moment or circumstance.
  2. Elevation is serious
  3. The mountains do not discriminate
  4. Bring an extra water bottle
    1. Or two
  5. Pacers are awesome.
    1. So is a crew.
  6. The journey lies in making it to the starting line. It’s all gravy after that.

And lastly, this was a song that Matt introduced me to on the drive down there. I loved it and for an added bonus, it was jingling in my head during the run!

Boston Revisited

Amid the rich history, iconic landmarks and throne atop the sporting world Bostonians exude a boundless passion; in addition, they are the true definition on friendly town folk (okay, the wicked awesome accent probably helps). This passion is accentuated even more so on Patriots Day. Needless to say, with Good Will Hunting being my favorite movie, the hype was more than real. If more than real is a thing.

While the marathon was my ticket there, the weekend was much bigger than that. It was an opportunity to explore a wonderful city that I’ve never seen. Even better, I had family & friends there to revel in the experience. Shoutout to Paul, Jacque, Cody, Mina, Luke & Haley.

We strolled around Fuenial hall, saw Bunker Hill, perused the the Boston Commons (even saw Bill Simmons eating Pizza), walked through the Cheers Bar, stood amid the cobblestone paths of Cambridge, stood atop the Green Monster, and devoured food in Irish and Italian neighborhoods. Having heard how fickle an East Coast spring can be, the flawless weather was an added bonus when we attended an outdoor Easter service! This was already a weekend for the books.

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Fast forward to Patriots Day where the weekend mood got amped up a few notches.

If you want the summary of  a short & sweet summary of the day

Nervous Energy / Hype / Bathroom / This is actually real-excitement / Relaxed / More Nerves / Bathroom…again / Full-on enthusiasm / Ready, Set, Go, Chaos / Avoid tripping  / high-fives / Pandemonium / Deafening cheers / Hills / More Hills / More high-fives / More People / More People / More People / Okay, is the whole city here? / Finish / Just Wow. Surreal.

 

The alarm rings. It’s go time. I grabbed the necessities, hopped on the shuttle, and carried antsy conversation with other excited runners. We loaded onto school busses like school children – a little bit of nostalgia to give some perspective. We were hauled 26-ish miles away from the finish line to the starting line at Hopkinton School. As we cruised the outskirts of Boston, I’ll never forget the image of rowers gliding along the Charles River at sunrise. It was a beautiful sunrise, one that I wouldn’t have seen had I not had a window seat.

45 minutes later, we arrived.

Upon exiting the bus at Hopkinton School, I started to feel the magnitude of the Boston Marathon. We cruised through the small town of Hopkinton. It was vintage classic-Americana houses spread in front of a forest. At the top of a hill, there was a quaint country school. We’re talking quintessential small-town New Northeast – very Rockwellian… That thought was brief as I descended down to a field filled with a whole lot of neon & pent-up energy waiting. Around 30,000 people to be exact.

We had tents to provide shade & all sorts of food. Having skipped breakfast, I needed to eat. Fortunately, bagels were provided. Unfortunately, there was nothing to add to the bagels. Note to those running Boston in the future: Bring a packet of some form of nut butter or something to add b/c a bagel, by itself is sad.

 

After lounging for a couple of hours, I saw my buddy Matt’s Dad – Al – & we discussed the usual pre-race stuff, except this wasn’t his first rodeo. Reading the newspaper, he was cool, calm and collected. This, I believe, was his 3rd Boston. Stud. He also informed me of the heightened security. I thought I was attentive, but he immediately pointed to snipers on top of the school. I couldn’t believe it. Crazy! It’s unfortunate that tragic circumstances led to this; however, there was a sense of re-assurance that this city won’t allow allow 2013 to happen again.

Finally, the bell tolled. Go time. 30,000 others & I walked this rural road between Civil War-era houses towards the starting line. It was eerily quiet, but you could feel the excitement. That lasted shortly when we arrived at a last-minute port-potty stop before the race. It was absolute chaos, lines zigged & zagged everywhere. When the porta-lines were too long, lines started developing behind bushes.

10 minutes to start. The starting gun went off. So, too did the elites and the other corrals ahead of me. Itching to get going, those in my corral had to wait for another 3-4 minutes until we officially crossed the starting line. Finally, we did. No more hype. No more waiting. No more nerves. No more anticipation. Game on.

Literally, the first 4-6 miles, everybody is jockeying for a position. The roads were packed with crowds. It was incomparable to anything I’d ever seen, and this was only the start. We’re talking about 10-20 people deep. I remember passing the first bar. Yes, it was opened and, yes, it was crawling with people. On Patriot’s Day in Boston, it is treated like a legit holiday. Hailing from California, I had never heard of it before. From what it looked like, most of these people seemed to be cheering along the course. I couldn’t believe how dense it was & I was only 1/6 of the way through it.

A little bit beyond the bar & I could hear “Sweet Caroline” blasting on loud speakers. The chorus was cranking & so were a couple hundred people (spectators & runners), belting out “so good, so good, so good” in unison! I am getting goosebumps just thinking about it.

Amidst the fanfare, I did my best to stay attuned to my breathing, hydration, pace and legs. Sure, I had a goal that was aimed at a specific time, but I really, really, really wanted to immerse myself in this experience. Most of the race, I would run right next to the crowds to feed off of the infectious energy. There were also plenty of high-fives exchanged throughout. Stoke, adrenaline, mojo, endorphins, positive energy… Call it what you want. It was raw. It was intense. It was everywhere. So dope.

I kept cruising, still trying to avoid running into people. Then we hit the halfway point and the crowds intensified, both in numbers and in enthusiasm. Yes, it is hard to believe. A little bit past the halfway point (maybe mile 14 ish) there was this mass scream that was undoubtedly louder than anything I had heard thus far. Oh yes, this noise was like a half-mile away. And no, I am not exaggerating. It (the noise) was comprised of students from the all-girls school – Wellesley College. As we neared, the screams were deafening. At this point, I had my headphones on, but clicked pause to see what this was all about. For what felt like a mile, I kept my arm extended for high-fives. Girls were screaming at all of the runners “Kiss Me, Kiss me” and sure enough, there were dudes around me that fulfilled those requests. Some of them were probably old enough to be fathers of these girls. I understand that social norms get thrown to the wayside during running races (public urination, loud self-deprecating expletives, and other forms of bizarre behavior that become “normal”), but this was strange.

Moving on, the rest of this race was a blur. Bars were packed. People cheered en masse. I took probably a dozen orange slices from strangers. I grabbed vasoline-on-a-stick and thought it was salt. Fortunately, when I grabbed it, I asked. The person shouted it wasn’t what I thought it was just as I was about to devour it. Whewwwwww! Glad that didn’t happen, things would have gotten weird.

At mile 18, I saw the November Project crew going bananas. This rad conglomerate of eccentrics brought the noise all day long. It was a much needed pick-me up, as I started to notice that I was starting to fade. I was entering the mode where you just hold on and see what’s left.

We went over some hills and the climbed the iconic Heartbreak Hill. I kept my rhythm, but it was a grind.

A couple miles later (mile 21.5), I was due for the inevitable bathroom break. I had about 4.5 miles and a little more than a half an hour remaining to achieve the goal (sub-3). I used this 45-second respite to have a quick conversation in a porta-potty, with myself. Again, that whole thing about social norms being thrown to the wayside… Don’t worry, this isn’t a “new normal” for me; it was just a moment to recalibrate. I knew the next bit was going to be intense, but I was exactly where I wanted to be.

I held pace. But I noticed my legs were moving slower. And then bam! Mile 23 – the wall. It slapped me across the face, reminding me of how grueling a marathon can be. The distance is 26.2 miles for a reason. For the next 3 miles, it was going to be a battle of mental/physical fatigue vs. the clock.

I saw others walking. More and more followed. When this happens, I do my best to stay in my own headspace and put my head down, otherwise it becomes alluring. And that allure doesn’t dissipate until crossing the Finish Line.

I held on, but was moving slower and slower. My energy was sapped. The crowds were now sweltering. I faded into the final corner. All I wanted to do was finish. No more steps please. Despite the agony, I admired the pageantry, tradition, and surreality of running down Boylston. I looked for my Family and didn’t see them, despite jogging by them at a mere 10-15 feet away. I crossed the finish line with 100% relief.

 

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I crossed the finish line and sat repeatedly every five steps until I received one of those stylish foil jackets. Then, they put the medal around my neck and I gingerly turned the corner to find my parents. We hugged, talked and then went back to the hotel for a much-needed shower, pizza, and an IPA.

The three of us sat in the hotel restaurant overlooking the water for a couple of hours simply enjoying each other’s company. The day wasn’t quite done. We were treated by a memorable scene that was one of the most visually stunning sunsets I have ever seen. The Man upstairs often provides some unique reminders of who really is in charge. From walking the hallowed ground of our forefathers to enjoying a stellar Easter service to Mile 23 to seeing a wounded veteran complete the marathon while carrying the flag and, to cap it off, a tranquil sunset that illuminated the water. There were so many it’s-not-about-you-moments that slow time down and I’m grateful for that. It was all made better because it was weekend shared with family. To me, it doesn’t get better than that!

 

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