Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wind(Fall) at the Rodeo Beach 50k

Last Saturday it was time to close out the 2009 season with the Rodeo Beach 50k. It was a chance to get one more ultra in (first one since August), to see some trailrunning friends and to once again enjoy the wonderful trails of the Marin Headlands.

The lady would join me at this race and meet me several times throughout the race (all three Tennessee Valley aid stops plus Rodeo Beach at the 30k mark). We got to the start rather early and, as usual, fueled by Peet's coffee. The second I got out of the car, I knew conditions would be tough. A cold and surprisingly strong wind was making everyone put on an extra layer. Brrrr!

Pre-race - all layered up

The course is typical Headlands fare: big hills (nearly 6,000 feet gain) with smooth, non-technical trails and, most of all, breathtaking views. I had provided my lady with an aggressive time-table of splits (5 hour pace; my 50k PR was 5:12). There was really no basis for this other than my race the previous weekend on almost the same course, which gave me plenty of confidence. In general, I was a bit undertrained (no runs of >20 miles since August), but my head was in the right place. And that's usually half the battle.

We took off from Rodeo to Tennessee Valley (TV) via the Miwok Trail. Strong headwinds made the first climb quite a chore. That 5 hour pace seemed ludicrous only two miles into the race. But somehow I emerged five minutes ahead of that pace at TV. Had I pushed too hard?

Next up was Pirates Cove, perhaps my most favorite of all Bay Area trails. It's a single track trail that runs along high ocean cliffs down into the cove and then back up. Crashing waves provide the backdrop. The winds continued to be very strong and made balancing a bit more precarious. Further, the strong head winds made climbing out of the cove along the already steep, steep trail even tougher than usual. Back at TV though, I was now 7.5 mins ahead.

It was time to take it a bit easier to the halfway point at around the Conzelman aid station. From here it's a long downhill back to Rodeo Valley. As usual, I was cruising on this trail. And then BOOM! I tripped and fell. Hard. I found myself with cramping hips, completely disoriented and a bit of shock laying on the trail. Thankfully, somebody behind me pulled me up and got me going again. In a haze, I continued to the 30k mark.

Over time, it became clear that nearly everything was hurting, in particular my right shoulder and wrist, which took the brunt of the fall. Then the wheels came off going up Miwok again. My legs just didn't seem to want to move. I had gone out too hard.

I rolled into TV aid completely demoralized. I strongly questioned how I was going to make it back up the Marincello let alone run another 13k. People were saying things to me, but I couldn't tell you what it was. I was in a complete daze. Five minutes later, I decided to try to walk up Marincello and somehow make it to the top. Moving slowly helped. And slowly I came to. Once I reached the top, I realized that it hadn't taken me all that long and that a PR was still possible. My spirits took a 180 degree turn. Time to get a move on!
The Marincello Trail. Treat it with the utmost respect or it will get you!

I couldn't believe that I got to Conzelman aid at 4:27. Only 6k to go! Could I break 5 hours? Despite the fall, the winds and my less than ideal state of mind? Why not! I seized the moment and ran as hard as I could to finish in 4:55. That's a 17 minute PR. What a way to end the season!

At the finish, I caught up with some of the other finishers and learned of the Nathan Yanko's brilliant performance (3:43:51) beating the blazing-fast Chikara Omine by a whole 13 minutes. It was a very fast field as a whole. A whopping 21 people finished in under five hours. While this may not be the most difficult (i.e., technical) course in the world, it's not exactly the easiest either. Them are some big climbs in the Headlands.

As usual, my thanks to Sarah, Wendell and all the volunteers who braved the elements and pulled off a another sold-out event without a hitch. Can't wait for 2010!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Running with Ken Burns at Muir Beach (18M)

Another frustrating non-race last weekend. Woke up sick the morning of the race. Not good timing particularly with finals upon me. It continued an awkward string of issues getting in the way of my racing this fall. BUT THEN:

I got an e-mail reminder about the Coastal Trail Runs and this weekend's race at Muir Beach. Forgot about those! I promptly decided to sign up for the 18 mile version of the race. It would be a decent warm-up for the season-ending Rodeo Beach 50k and a nice present to myself for finishing my penultimate semester of grad school at Cal.

Some of you may have seen Ken Burns' documentary on National Parks. It's BIG. BEAUTIFUL. AWE-INSPIRING. Of course, the series spends some time talking about John Muir for whom so many natural landmarks in California are named, including the start location of the race.

Anyhow, the show came on the night before the race. I started to watch, of course. And what can I say? It fired me up! Some people watch Rocky for inspiration others watch Chariots of Fire. I watch Ken Burns. (Yes, that's my wife in the background yelling: "Nerd!").

Some of you may know of the anecdote of John Muir sitting through a massive storm on the top branches of a 100 foot tree. I agree with Mr. Muir's sentiment that nature is best experienced during "bad" weather. And that's what we had for the Muir Beach 18 miler: rain and wind.

I bundled up well knowing that I'm not fully recovered from being sick yet. The idea was to get my legs moving at a decent pace for an extended period of time without killing myself in anticipation of Rodeo Beach next week. Jason Reed, who is quite the speedster and runs a LOT of races, lined up for the 18 miler as well. I figured he would win.

We took off and immediately hit Pirate's Cove, one of the most beautiful sections of trail in the Bay Area. You gotta love the sound of the crashing waves while trail running! I was cruising on the downhills but my legs felt a bit weak when going up (perhaps from being sick?). Jason and I hit Tennessee Valley together before he pulled away by a couple minutes on the uphill.

It was windy and raining with increasing intensity. But it was fun playing in the mud and listening to the little creeks that formed on the trails. At aid 2, Jason was about 2 minutes ahead, which I was able to halve on the ensuing downhill. Time to go up again (3,780 feet of gain in just 18 miles means a lot of up and down). Here I ran into a coyote right in the middle of the trail. I stopped and Mr. Coyote started to approach me. Time to whistle and make him move. I had a race to run!

This was also about the time I considered upgrading to the marathon. I wasn't going to catch Jason, but I would have a sizable lead in the marathon race. The switch was something I had discussed with people prior to the race, so I wasn't just being opportunistic! In the end, I decided to keep some juice in the tank for next week. Jason came in at 2:40 and I came in second a little under 2:43. A lot closer than I had anticipated!

As always thanks to Sarah and Wendell and all the volunteers for making this race happen in sub-ideal conditions! It is much appreciated

Onwards and upwards!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Know Anything About Running in China?

Over winter break (which is a nice side effect of grad school, btw), I will be going to China as part of school trip. (No, I am not just discriminating in favor of countries starting with "Chi").

I am wondering whether any of you have traveled to Shanghai or Beijing and gotten some running in. While in South America, I went on an amazing running sight seeing tour of Buenos Aires (something you can do in most US cities, too, btw). Something of that nature would be fun. Or any other tips you might have. There is one running tour group that I found in Beijing, but their runs seem awfully short.

Beijing at night
(sort of a surprising image, don't you think? - can't wait to explore!)

Any tips, advice, etc. would be very much appreciated!

Odds and Ends

I know, I know. I have been noticeably absent over the past couple of months. So what has happened? Here are some incomplete thoughts:
  • SF One Day was supposed to be my big race for the fall. A friend's wedding got in the way of that. Such is life. I wish there was a comparable race some time in the spring to make up for it. I'm still a bit bummed.
  • The kids (wait, they're my age) over at featured a blog entry of mine as a winner of the "My First Ultra" contest. Read it here. It won me the most comfortable sweater of all time. I wear it 8 or 9 days a week. Thanks to Brett Rivers, et al in making that happen. Visit their site, read their race reports and meet them at a race. Likely before or after, since their are all fast!
  • Cal football - Yes, football Saturdays make both race and long-run scheduling surprisingly difficult. Oh, well, at least it was worth it with the Bears living up to expectations this year. Oh wait, that's right. We only really good on paper. That helps. They must beat Stanford this weekend for this season to find a sweet ending, but I digress.

Best. Sports. Moment. (links to 45 sec. YouTube clip)
  • I loaded up heavy on academics this fall to have a bit more time for job search in the spring. That's kept me busy. That edumacation thing is pretty important, you know? 16 credit hours is a lot though.
  • Without any real races on the calendar, it's been hard to motivate myself to run much this fall. Been feeling both mentally and physically tired for a couple of months. It took me a while to realize that the lack of race goals may have contributed to that. I also need to get out more. I've fallen victim to running the same long run in Tilden over and over. Why? No idea. The Bay Area is trail heaven. I must be stupid for not having taken better advantage of that. Headlands this weekend. I'm making a change!
  • With school, job search, etc. I have really fallen behind on reading blogs, the other HUGE source of inspiration. I am slowly catching up, so don't be offended if I comment on a race you did in September. :)
  • I'm going to run Woodside and Rodeo Beach to finish the year out in style. And I cannot wait. See you all out there!!

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Twitterific Skyline Ridge Race Report

(Trying something different for this race)

6:10 - getting up...been awake since 3 a.m. Bleh.
6:17 - Not sure whether I can do 50k without proper training. 37k at a minimum today, right? right.
6:27 - at Peet's, getting the usual pre-race food (caramel latte, scone, muffin)
6:55 - crossing Bay Bridge. Golden Gate, the city, Marin....esp. gorgeous in this morning light
7:02 - still brooding over Cal's terrible loss...season down the drain
7:12 - wondering how walking all over Berkeley and standing all through the game last night will affect my legs. Likely not good.
7:35 - Arrive at race. Say hi to @BrianWyatt
7:36 - Brrrrr...I doubt it's even 40 degrees. very windy, too. Check in time. hug @SarahSpelt
8:00 - bio taken care of. Changing into race gear and keeping warm in car.
8:15 - Meeting some Floridians, including first time ultra-runner. Big day for him
8:24 - another bio break. wtf?
8:29 - Hello @RickGaston! Smile. Picture.
8:30 - Off...taking it easy.
8:33 - Super smooth trails.
8:40 - Relaxing big time
9:28 - Out and back...time to grunt my "g'd'job"s
9:29 - g'd'job!
9:30 - g'd'job! g'd'job!
9:31 - g'd'job! g'd'job! g'd'job!
9:37 - aid #1. Lamenting my out of shape self and the Golden Bears disappointment with @BrianWyatt
9:40 - Feeling GREAT!
9:55 - Running smoooooooth
10:12 - stomach acting up. It should be settled after two bio breaks before race
10:37 - Now, it's completely empty. bio break #3
10:38 - Desperately trying to eat at aid 2. Not working out so well.
10:42 - starting to eat another gel. Tastes terrible. Usually that's my favorite.
10:44 - stomach cramp. ugh
10:52 - cramp, cramp, cramp
11:02 - still trying to eat that gel. Not good.
11:24 - at aid#3. Have yet to finish gel. pretzels work better but not enough. stomach still cramping.
11:45 - can't run more than a quarter mile without stomach cramps. Legs are starting to feel ueber-weak b/c I have no calories in me. BAD
12:02 - walking way to much in order to try to settle stomach cramps.
12:08 - This is stupid. I'll take the 37k and call it a day.
12:15 - Pulling out of race. Realizing I'm in 4th and had a good pace. @Wendell looked surprised. I'm frustrated
12:20 - time for chili! @RickGaston is the cook
12:35 - saying my good-byes.
12:45 - driving home. Really wish I could have finished. Must return next year. Definitely some unfinished business.
2:02 - Back in Berkeley. Shower and off to the Spice of Life festival. Food, food, food right at my door step!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Psychedelic Climacteric 50k

Woah! What a name. Don't try looking it up online. It's a small run put on by Mike Palmer every year. Mike is a well-known figure in the Bay Area community who is also known for his in-the-know e-mail list.

12 of us gathered at the starting line on a small dirt track near (on?) the UC Berkeley campus. There were lots of hugs, smiles and laughter. A few speedsters were there. Mark Gilligan (1st TRT 50 mile), Joe Binder (3:47 at Skyline 50k) and Rob Silva (5th at Ruth Andersen 50mile). But no one was really there to race. We were all out to have a good time!

The PC is a tough course. 7000 feet of elevation will do that for ya. You get a course description, hope that there may be an aid station at mile 8 and perhaps a few ribbons and chalk arrows on the ground. Old school. And I like it that way. (It turned out that the course was pretty well marked actually.)

I settled in with Rob, who was returning from an injury. We got to Volmer Peak without any issues, passed the aid station and headed to one of my favorite spots in the area: Wildcat Peak. It usually has sweeping views of the entire Bay, but it was hazy that day. Bummer. We hung out for a bit anyways.
View towards the Bay on a clear day (with a bad camera).

Somewhere past the ensuing downhill things started to not go so well for Rob. We were slowing down considerably. Time to walk and see if I can get him out of the funk. But things were just getting worse and worse for Rob. After about two hours, Rob declared he was going to walk the whole way back to Lone Pine (another 2.5 miles or so). I decided it was time for me to move on. Rob had a cell phone, the next group of runners was going to happen upon us soon and we weren't too far from the Jewel Lake parking lot (to get picked up if necessary). We said our good-byes, and I took it up a notch.

I ran a couple of sub-8s without much effort. Bought some M&M's at Lake Anza and headed home. I was surprised at how relatively easy it felt going back up to Strawberry Canyon. Still running the uphills. Good stuff! I know the firetrail like the back of my hand and that energized me even further. In the end, I finished in 6:19. I ran the last 12 or 13 miles in 1:45 and felt very strong throughout the day. My summer training has definitely come together well. Now, it's time to take that into the fall.

My thanks to Mike, the aid station guy (sorry, didn't get your name) and whoever else helped in putting this event together. It was psychedelitastic!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Lessons Learned Sweeping the Headlands Hundred Course

This past Sunday, I volunteered at the Headlands Hundred. I took on the task of sweeping 17 miles of the 25 mile loop. Armed with a ton of podcasts, sunscreen and a camelback I set out to clean up the course that witnessed local Nathan Yanko take home the win in his very first 100. Nice job, Nathan!

Course Markings are Heavy!
It may have been the fact that this was an overnight race, but, sheesh, course markings are heavy. Course flags, clothespins, glow sticks, those little metal flag thingies, signs and tent stakes (!) add up quickly, especially on a course as well marked as this one was. Between the start at Rodeo Beach and and Tennessee Valley, I picked up at least 15 lbs worth of stuff (including a few gel wrappers). I was glad to leave those course markings at the Tennessee Valley aid station and head back out with an empty bag. (Btw, it was fun to hang out at an aid station for longer than 30 seconds for once. I enjoyed my 45 minutes there).

It Takes Longer Than You Think
With all that extra weight and the time it takes to pick everything up, it really takes some time to clean up a course. I ended up doing 20 miles (added some out-and-backs for good measure) in five hours. That's probably about two hours longer than it would have taken during a normal run.

Sweeping Is A Fantastic Workout
Boy, was I tired. You run 20 miles, but it's more like a 25-28 mile effort. I was BEAT afterwards.

You Become An Ambassador For The Sport
About 20 people must have stopped and asked me what the course markings were for. "A race" was my usual answer. The reactions were all over the board. Some were "just happy that people are finally cleaning up after themselves" while others (most) were completely taken aback by the distance (50/100 m) of the race. You end up talking a lot about your sport. "People run for that long?" Yes, sir, they do.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


As you were leaving great comments on why you deserve a free pair of running shoes, I started thinking about how to pick the winners. The dilemma I was faced with is that I know some entrants, which inherently introduces some bias. Not a fan of bias.

Soooo, what is an MBA student to do? What is it that they teach us to use to solve all of the world's problems with?* EXCEL! All you of you were assigned a number (in order of submission) and I entered you into a little Randomizer I put together (randbetween function for you excel geeks). That left each person with exactly a 21.43% chance of winning. Not bad!

Without further ado, here are the winners:

Ben, Robin and Leslie, please e-mail me at davidrschoenberg gmail dot com. I will put you in touch with the Vibram people, who will send you the shoes. You have until 8/14 to contact me. If I haven't heard from you by then, I will choose another winner as a replacement.


*(that's an exaggeration, of course)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Vibram Sole Review (and Shoe Give-Away!)

One of two things usually come to mind when you hear "Vibram": solid soles or those funny finger shoe things that are oh-so cool right now. (Keep reading, btw. I have three pairs of trail running shoes to give away).

I myself climbed the highest mountain in Colorado on the backs of Vibram soles. Naturally, I was excited when I heard that they were looking to get back into trail running. Vibram struck a partnership with Saucony and are featured as part of the Xodus shoe, which is earning very good reviews, btw.

My job was to review the soles, not the shoes. I took them out on all types of different terrain to see how they would perform.

First Impression
This is like running on air! Fantastic!

Smooth Single Track (10/10)
Perfect! I was flying on buttery, rolling single track. The soles handled small obstacles (small rocks, occasional root, etc.) with ease. The best part was that I was able to cut around sharp turns (such as switch backs) without having to worry about losing traction. That's a HUGE advantage. You can really make up some time here during races.

Rugged, Technical Single Track (8/10)
The soles definitely performed very well here, too, especially on the uphills. I was a little worried about sliding when traversing larger rocks or boulders. But I shouldn't be running those anyhow.

Rooty Trails
No complaints here. Exposed roots did not turn into slip'n'slides as they so often can.

Fire Road
Didn't I say something about flying earlier? You can FLY on fire roads with Vibram soles. Just enough grip to hold on to the dirt, but light enough to feel like you're running in road shoes. I was positively surprised!

Very Steep Inclines
Climbing was absolutely no problem. Perfect traction here. On very, very steep downhills (30%+), I did lose traction a couple times. But I have never not lost traction on these particular sections of trail. Gravity can be a pretty strong force (thanks, Newton!).

Sandy Trails (9/10)
There aren't too many around...unless, of course, you run a race that traverses a beach. No complaints here.

Road (10/10)

Yes, sometimes you have to traverse asphalt or, worse, concrete to get to a trail. No issues here.

Soooooo, here is the part you have all been waiting for. I have three (yes, THREE) pairs of Saucony Xodus' to give away, so you can try out the Vibram soles yourself. In order to enter, you have to answer one of two questions in the comments:
  • Why do you want a pair of free trail running shoes? OR
  • What is the wildest (or most unexpected) thing that has ever happened to you out on the trails?
Sign with your name and city. You have until 11:59 pm PST on August 7, 2009. I will pick the winners on August 8. Check back then, and contact me if you're one of the lucky ones. Good luck!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Instead of telling you how wonderful a time I had at the Salt Point 50k, I have to give you an injury update. Rats! My ankle was hurt bad enough that running 31 trail miles would not have been a good idea. I do value long term health (and my ability to run!) over short-term fun. With that I stayed home all weekend and worked. Yes, I'm busy as heck with my work and with the wedding coming up. It's all fun actually. Just get to do less blogging.

One interesting thing that happened was that my ankle/foot went numb some time during the middle of last week. Freaked me out a bit. Turns out that I had been icing it a little bit excessively. Imagine that: an ultra-runner going above and beyond what's required. :)

I have started to run again albeit lightly. The focus is now on the fall season, which will be busy, busy, busy!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Tale of a Short One at Sequoia

I was really looking forward to yesterday's Sequoia 30k. Not only was it supposed to serve as a final tune-up before the Salt Point 50k eight days later, but I was anxious to test out my racing legs. I had been training hard over the last month despite a twisted ankle three weeks ago, which had sidelined me for (fortunately only) four days.

The lady would again join me partaking in the challenging 10k version of the race. Her friend Meghan was also coming along for her very first (but not last!) trail race. We were running unusually late, and I got there 10 minutes before Wendell sent us on our way. It was just enough time to check in and say hello to some friends (Caitlin (50k), Will (20k) and Mark (50k)). Knowing these trails fairly well, I would know when to push and for which sections to conserve my energy. My goal for this race was to break 2:40, which would be challenging but attainable.

Mark and I are cute, aren't we?

From the start, I was running somewhere among the first seven runners between the two races (both the 50k and 30k started at the same time). Soon we hit the first aid (Moon Gate), and I was rushing through in an effort to catch up to Caitlin and/or Mark in order to pace with them. At Moon Gate, speedy Berkeley runner (and quasi neighbor) Bryan Wyatt said hello. It's always nice to see familiar faces at aid stations.

Runners taking off so fast, it was too much for the camera to handle

Then it was time to hit the single track. A very steep and technical trail (Tres Sendas?) connects over to the infamous French Trail. I've run down this trail many times and knew exactly what was coming. Charging down as fast as I did was simply stupid and my reward came quickly in the form of a nicely twisted ankle. Game over! Having twisted my ankles many, many times to varying degrees, I have the useful ability (I guess) of assessing very quickly how bad it is. I immediately knew the race was over for. This sprain was worse than the one three weeks ago (same ankle), but it wasn't nearly as bad as the one that severed three tendons and took me out of commission for two months almost two years ago.

The good news was that I was close to an aid station with road access. Only a half mile climb out of the ravine and I'd be on my way back to the start/finish area. Trailrunners being trailrunners I got lots and lots of "Are you OK?"s. Many of them stopped (some running in the top ten in their respective races). I felt bad about that knowing that I could make it back under my own power, so eventually I took off my race number (looking a bit more like a hiker).

Back at Moon Gate, I watched Will and Guillaume Hansel fly by as leaders of the 20k. It turned out to be a bad day for Will as well, and he would later drop out. The Moon Gate crew gave me some ice for my ankle and some M&M's for my soul, before Craig (?) drove me back to the start/finish.

Back at the finish, volunteers were scurrying about getting ready for the 10k runners to finish. I obviously couldn't help them, so I joined a group of about a dozen wives and husbands waiting for their loved ones while tending to dogs, kids or both. It was kinda nice to sit on the meadow and enjoy a gorgeous day. I really tried hard not to let the disappointment get to me. Keeping up my spirits got much more challenging once the first finishers came in though. I had hardly gotten a workout in! Ummph. Soon, I spotted Caitlin who opted to run just 20k instead of the planned 50k. The trails had been kicking her butt lately (literally!), and she was smart to listen to her body and drop out. We chatted some before Meghan and Melanie finished.

Despite the disappointment of a DNF, I really enjoyed myself out there. The trailrunning community pulled through once again. In many ways. How can you not enjoy yourself? Injuries are part of the game, and the trails aren't going anywhere, so you may as well enjoy yourself out there, even if things don't go your way.

Thank you, Wendell and Sarah (where were you?) for yet another great race and, of course, all the volunteers, especially the Moon Gate crew.

P.s. There is a chance I may run Salt Point this weekend and an even greater chance I won't. The ankle is still very sore.

Monday, June 22, 2009

What a day at the Angel Island 16k!

For two days now, I have been on a high from my experience at the Angel Island 16k. Sitting in the northern part of the Bay, Angel Island is east of Berkeley, just south of Tiburon and north of the city. You can see it from all of the major bridges (Golden Gate, Bay, Richmond) and from many of the trails here in the northern part of the East Bay as well as the Marin Headland. In other words, you see it A LOT. The Angel Island races (8k, 16k, 25k, 50k) were an opportunity to finally check this gem out from up close.

It's the one marked with an "A". (Thanks, Google!)

This race was a family affair for me. The lady was ready to take on her first Bay Area trail run (8k), my friend Will (fresh off a sizzling 2:32 at the L.A. Marathon) was ready to once again compete in the longest-distance-that-is-not-an-ultra category (25k in this case). He has three wins so far this year (I like to brag on him :)). Finally, his friend Pete was ready take on his first trail race (25k). With a 2:53 at L.A., Pete is very fast himself. I would compete in the 16k. Friends would join us throughout the day to picnic.

Having taken a bit of a breather since the Skyline to the Sea 50k, this race was supposed to be a litmus test to see how much fitness I had lost with all those 20-30 mile weeks and countless miles of travel over the past couple of months. The minimum goal was to break 90 minutes (otherwise I would really have my work cut out for me with the upcoming schedule). I would be happy with a time in the low 80s and thrilled to beat 80 minutes. Secretly, I really wanted to break 80 mins.
View of the city from Angel Island.

The race started out with the steepest section of the day. It wasn't very long, but intense enough for me to completely lose my breath. Similar to the Rucky Chucky and S2S races, I had breathing issues from the onset. However, running somewhere in the top 10, my legs felt really good, so I just motored along. I definitely got the "no way he can keep up this pace" look from people as I passed them. Maybe they would be right.

Or maybe not. Because once things flattened out a bit, I got into a good rythm and started to feel very good. At 37 mins, I passed the half way mark. Not a bad time for a hilly five miler. Five more to go, which tops out at at the highest point of the Island, Mt. Livermore (788 ft). I was happy to go back up, because the views of San Francisco, the Golden Gate and the Marin Headlands were absolutely spectacular! Really, it doesn't get much more stunning than this in terms of views. What a beautiful place Angel Island is!

No introduction needed.

Of course, this second major climb really would decide how well I was going to hold up. Soon, I saw a fellow runner about 50 yards ahead of me. Slowly but surely, I was able to reel him in. Just below the summit I passed and offered to "work together." He said something about "dead legs", which gave me a psychological boost, since I was still feeling good (my legs were tired, but definitely not dead). Didn't see many runners coming down from the summit (well, only one) and thought that I must be running somewhere in 6th or so place, which would be my best PCTR finish so far.

Then it was time to tackle the final downhill, which is my strength (I think). We were running into the back of the 8k race. Passing several dozen people on a narrow single track definitely led to some precarious situations. Lots of "on your left!"s for sure. All of the sudden, a fast moving runner appeared about 30 or so yards behind me. My goal was to keep him at bay, but he was flying. Eventually I happened upon a slow runner with headphones blearing. I literally had to stop and tap the dude on the shoulder, so I could pass. That was enough time for the other guy to catch up. He was faster anyways. Had him within sight the whole way in, but couldn't quite catch him without risking life and limb flying down the trail.

It didn't matter. Crossing the finish, I had reached all my goals. And then some: 1:17:53! Good enough for 3rd overall. The way it worked out, we all finished around the same time. The lady killed it and surprised herself (as I told her she would) with a strong, strong 49th overall at the 8k. So, so proud! Will won the 25k and Pete finished strong in 3rd overall. What a day for this crew!

We had set up a little picnic and enjoyed a few more hours of hanging out, throwing the football and, of course, eating. Also met friends old and new (hello, neighbor Brian!). A perfect day on the Island on easily one of the most scenic courses around. Thanks to Sarah, Wendell and all the volunteers for another perfectly organized race. We'll be back!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Mid-Year "Off-season" and Upcoming Races

Even before my final race of the spring season, the Skyline 2 Sea 50k, I started feeling a bit sluggish. It had been an intense (by my standards) race season with 150+ miles of racing in just 11 weeks. That's definitely more than I had ever raced before. It was also my most successful (half-) season with a couple of top-10s and a couple of PRs (spread over four separate races).

Give me a break! It's off-season. That means "eat ice-cream" where I'm from.

With my trip to Chile as well as a bunch of other travel (Pittsburgh, Vegas, Atlanta...phew!) looming in May and June, life has been pretty busy (oh yeah...I had finals, too!). May/June always looked like the perfect time to rest.

That's an Argentinian steak, Chilean wine and a Californian carnivore

I need the rest. Physically and emotionally. My runs have been very short (except for two 17ish mile efforts) and relaxing. Then last week it happened: I got a little spring in my step. My legs feel strong again! Without even thinking it, I easily ran 40+ miles this week (including some mountain running at high altitude. Not bad for "off-season." In all, I will have probably run around 250 miles during seven weeks of downtime, which officially ends June 15. (It's "official," because I say so!).

With that, I have also started signing up for a bunch of summer/fall races. Here is what's on the plate:
  • Angel Island 16k (June 20) - My first weekend back in the States. Nine miles...sort of like a long sprint. The lady will be running too. So will Will.
  • Sequoia 30k (July 18th) - I know the course and plan to run hard. This should also be a good long-run getting ready for the following week.
  • Salt Point 50k (July 26th) - Looking forward to running 50k's again. This can't come soon enough!
  • San Francisco One Day: 12 hour (Oct. 24) - A timed race will be a new experience for me. I do have a little adventure planned around this though, which the RD has already approved (thanks, Sarah!). More on that later.
  • California International Marathon (Dec. 6) - Haven't run a road marathon since 2004. Me thinks that the 3:47 PR should fall on this fast course. Curious to see how well I can do on the road after my five-year hiatus.
Other races under consideration (likelihood of me entering in %)
  • Pacifica 30k (5%) - July
  • Headlands 50k (30%) - August
  • Santa Cruz Mountains 50k (90%) - September
  • Dick Collins Firetrails - Marathon (75%) - October
  • Dick Collins Firetrails - 50 mile (15%) - October
  • Carmel Valley 50k (25%) - October
  • Rodeo Beach 50k (15%) - December
I may throw in another short race in November in order to get ready for CIM. I don't really know how to look those up efficiently anymore though. :)

And, yes, all races have been cross-referenced with Cal football home games...GO BEARS!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Running in Beautiful Buenos Aires

While down here in Santiago, our group decided to go on a weekend trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina. It's just as far south as the capital city of Chile, but on the other side of the continent, which means that the flight is a little over an hour: perfect for a weekend trip!

Practice your geography skills!
(and, yes, I'm really far from home)

As we were planning the trip, my friend C points out this "perfect" tourism tour for me: Urban Running Tours. As the name suggest, this isn't your ole' see-the-city-from-some-double-decker-bus, but a personalized running tour of the key sights in Buenos Aires. Sign me up!

Normally, the tours are about 10k. But I'm not normal people (and you are probably not either if you're reading this), so I contacted them to see whether I could combine several tours into one. That wasn't a problem, despite the crappy weather. It just meant that I got passed off like a baton between two guides. This allowed me to get two different perspectives on the city. Cool!

The guides were very knowledgeable and answered all the questions I had. Another cool thing about the tour is that they take pictures of you with the sights. Some of them you can see after the jump.

So, next time you find yourself in Buenos Aires and want to see the city in an active way (without breaking the bank, btw), you know where to go!

I forget the name of it, but that statue behind me is supposed to represent all the flowers in Argentina. It also closes at night, which this geeky runner finds pretty cool!

This park was donated by Los Alemanes and I had to pay my respects. The guide did not immediately know where the American counterpart was. I wish we could have made it here, too, because I unquestionably would have done the same thing there. :)

Looks a like Hamburg here in this picture. The building in the background to the right that looks like the Plaza Hotel in New York...that's the headquarters of the Argentinian military. Wouldn't have guessed that!

Women's bridge in the background celebrating all the achievements of women (cool!). The shape is inspired by the tango. Argentinians are really into design (clothes, building, furniture, etc.).

This is a suspension bridge and therefore bouncy as heck. Also, if I hadn't tilted my heads and arms ever so slightly, the picture would have been nearly symmetrical.

(There were more pictures, but my connection is not exactly speedy).

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

An Interview with Caitlin Smith

Catlin Smith has exploded onto the national ultra-scene this year. After easily winning her first ultra on her hometown trails at the Sequoia 50k, Caitlin made a name for herself on the national stage by winning the ├╝ber-competitive Way Too Cool 50k and a string of Bay Area ultras and remains unbeaten at the 50k distance.

Please talk about your evolution as a runner and how you got into ultrarunning.

I grew-up dancing, but in sixth grade the track coach insisted that I try running. He told me I was a distance runner and that I should try the mile. Ummm, yeah, 100 meters and I was literally out of breath and walking. I think I ran the 4x100 relay that year at a few meets, insisting that I was NOT a distance runner. In high school I continued to run track. Once again I had a coach that tried to get me to run farther and during workouts she would always have me run more miles than everyone else. It was in high school that I joined cross-country and truly started running farther and enjoying it. My track coach from sixth grade saw me out running one summer, pulled over, rolled down his window and said, "I thought you weren't a distance runner?" I just had to smile. I slowly started to really fall in love with running and obviously I've been doing it ever since. I ran two marathons, one in 2002 (Grandma's) and the other in 2003 (Boston). When I moved out to California that is when I found trail running, my escape from the chaos of city living. I ran my first trail run in 2006. I did a few more in 2007. A ton of 20k's in 2008. And, then bumped it up to 50k's and beyond this year. That's my evolution to ultrarunning.

It is widely known in the community that Will Gotthardt acts as your mentor and coach. How did this relationship get started?

Will ran behind me in a few races last year. He was doing the 50k's while I was doing the 20k's. We would find ourselves chatting here and there. He told me I would do really well at the ultras, which I had on my agenda for 2009. Then at the beginning of this year, Will gave me a ride to Pacifica, seeing that I don't have a car. My 30k didn't go so hot. I bonked in the last few miles and I had to walk a ton. On the ride back, Will told me that water, electrolytes, and fuel were going to change that (and yes, they did). I had a lot of doubt about my abilities and the transition, but Will really believed in me. His best question, "you know you're fast right?" My response, "umm well" (which pretty much means “no”). We started training together and he got my splits figured out for my first 50k, Sequoia. Ironically, I came in faster than all my splits and ended up passing Will during that race (neither planned, seriously). Now, we continue to run together and push each other. We're also just good friends.

Caitlin and Will Gotthardt

You have won not one (Way To Cool) but two (Miwok) automatic entries for Western States. However, you have decided not to enter. Tell us about your decision and whether WS is a goal race for you in the future.

I am not ready. My goal this year was not to do Western States. I just wanted to try ultrarunning. There are several reasons for my decision, but mainly I want to be prepared mentally and physically for that race. And, when I do run it, I want to run it really well. I think it will be a race in my future, but again not until my heart and body are in it 100%.

What does your average training week look like? What are you favorite cross-training activities?

I don't think I have an average training week. It seems to vary, somewhere between 60-90 miles. Some weeks I run 7 days, others more like 6 (as I learn that resting is good), and sometimes 5 with races and so forth. When I go out and run, I try to just pay attention to how my body feels. When it feels like going fast, I run fast and when I am dragging, I take it easy. I tend to follow the hard-easy rule. If you run hard one day, then next day you take it easy. As for cross-training, I don't own a car, so I walk and bike to work. I swim. And I practice yoga and pilates.

Please talk about how important yoga is to your running.

Yoga has transformed my running. My breathing, focus, flexibility both mentally and physically, awareness, and joy have all blossomed with yoga. Also, I tend to be a go-go kind of person, so yoga balances me out. It slows me down (at least a little). My yoga practice always reminds me how grateful I am to have a body that can move and run.

What are your favorite foods for training and running?

Ummm yeah, Clif Shot Bloks are basically a staple and honestly, I haven't found much else that works while I am actually running other than chocolate milk. I really like these things called Suncakes for pre-race meals along with yogurt and cereal. Overall, I am a vegetarian minus cheese, post-vegan, and possibly future carnivore. I just eat what my body craves and try to mix it up.

What runners do you admire?

All runners, really. Of course there are some that come to mind too like Bev Anderson-Abbs, Kami Semick, Ann Trason, and there are some guys on the list too, but I'll keep those to myself.

Caitlin competing with one of her idols, Bev Anderson-Abbs, at Way Too Cool

Do you have any advice for other runners looking to make the jump to ultras?

Be patient and consistent, listen to your body, have fun, be social, do yoga and pilates, cross-train, sleep, take naps, eat good food, rest, believe in your body and mind, find a training partner, breathe, swim, bike... and of course there are logistics, so talking with someone that has done one makes the transition much easier.

The SF Bay Area has a plethora of tails. What are your favorite trails/parks?

French Trail in Redwood Park is my ultimate favorite trail. [That sucker is hard. – The editor]. I love running and tend to run a lot in Redwood, Tilden, and Chabot, but put me on any trail and I am happy.

Caitlin finishing her first 50k (Sequoia)…beating the blog author by a solid hour in the process :)

What is your favorite race and why?

I try not to pick favorites and just try to enjoy them all.

What are your running plans and goals this fall, next year and in the long run (pun!)?

After Ohlone 50k [which Caitlin won in CR time this past weekend – The Editor], I am going to focus back on some shorter runs, which are part of La Sportiva's Mountain Cup. The finale of this year will be the North Face Endurance Challenge 50 miler. There is also potential that I will do the TransRockies run in August. But if not this year, possibly next.
Do you have any dream races?

Not a race, but I'd like to run across the United States via trails, ideally no roads.

Thank you for your time, Caitlin, good luck and keep smiling!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Running in Santiago de Chile

Hola! (Doing my best to assimilate).

As you may remember from an earlier post, I am on a school-work type thing in Santiago de Chile. In short, companies around the world hire Berkeley MBA students every year to consult on a variety of projects. Right now, we have people in places like Laos, Liberia, South Africa, Finland, Easter Island, Zambia,...., and, of course, here in Santiago. (If you want to read more, check out our class blog or this Wall Street Journal article).

On to the actual blog post. Anticipating this trip, I was very unsure of how much I would get to run down here. Unfamiliarity with South America in general and Santiago in particular fueled my concerns of potentially not being able to get in any miles (or very few). Fortunately, that has turned out to be not the case. There are several things I learned though.

No Runners
I have been here four full days now and live in a very busy neighborhood, however runners are basically non-existent (I can count the total number I have seen in four days on one hand...try that in any US city). People look at you like an alien when you're running. I have even had some schoolgirls mimic my running and giggle... None of that will stop me, of course.

Smog The air in this place is POLLUTED. There are no ifs and buts about it. Frankly, I have never seen anything like it. L.A. (which has the worst air pollution in the U.S.) is child's play compared to what's going on here. The smog has definitely caused me to slow down a bit, but it ain't gonna stop this runner.
This is a sunny day. I wish I were kidding.

Safety Not an issue. Whatsoever. I know plenty of US cities that are less safe to run in (comparing downtown areas). Atlanta is one of them.


In a city of seven million, there are an estimated one million stray dogs roaming the streets. For the most part, I have found them to be friendly (i.e. they won't attack, chase or bark). There was one exception, but I was crossing a construction site that probably wasn't supposed to be crossed. There, I had a couple of mean-looking doggies bark at me from about 100 yards. I yelled back, picked up a rock and got the heck out of there. Fortunately, they didn't follow.

Trails I have found trails! They are right near downtown, and I enjoyed some wonderful miles on them on Sunday. Of course, it's winter here, so it's still dark until I leave for work and dark when I get home. I won't be running them in the dark, since there are, well, no trail maps.

All in all, I am very happy that I get to run here, while my mileage will probably be moderate at best. That's better than no miles at all!

P.s. I have a very cool interview in store for you. Check back in a couple of days.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Pacing at the Beautiful Santa Cruz Half-Marathon

With a little delay I am finally getting a chance my report on the Santa Cruz Half-Marathon. This one was all about the lady. She had trained hard for many months to get ready for this event, and I was anxious to see her do well here.

We decided to drive down the morning of the event, making for a very early wake-up call. Somewhere near San Jose, it was finally late enough (6 a.m.) to score some coffee at Starbucks (not quite Peet's, but who cares?). As we arrived in Santa Cruz, I was quietly reminiscing about my college days when I went on a much talked about bike trip along part of the California coast. I distinctly remember not wanting to leave Santa Cruz.

We got there early enough to get a great parking spot and quickly got our numbers, which we pinned on ultra style (folded). You got to represent, ya know? My job today would be to pace the lady and more importantly keep her company. I took a ton of pictures, which I will just let speak for themselves (that's 1,000 words each!).
not used to crowds anymore...they're like picture-worthy

trail > pavement

The Lady ran the race very consistently and finished very, very strong for a PR leaving me in the dust as we approached the finish line (she finished five or six places ahead of me! :)).

In all, this is a fantastic race, part of which is even run on a trail. It doesn't get much flatter than this around here and the beauty of the race definitely rivals some trail runs.

P.s. Lots of travel and finals are eating up my time, so the entries and reports are going to have to be much shorter than usual.