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2012 in Races

After Jill posted her 2012 year end summary I feel compelled to make my own. So here we go!

1. Iditarod 350

Rainy Pass

Let’s start the year off easy … right? Nah. The ITI is a real adventure, dangerous, remote and with more character than Anthony Hopkins on a good day. This year it was a particular beast with trail conditions that pushed me quickly past disbelief and despair right to giggling laughter. Reports are here, here and here.

2. White Mountains 100

Almost like the ITI

Jill characterized the White Mountains as all the fun of the ITI without the drama, compressed into one day (on a bike at least). Only way to find out is to do both in the same year, just 3 weeks apart. And with a small snowstorm, the cool Cache Mountain divide, lots of overflow, sun, mild temperatures and soft and good trails and northern lights it pretty much is indeed as Jill said. Though the ITI drama is fun in its own way.

3. SBER 100 30

You sure this is the road?

The Santa Barbara Endurance Race happened to happen just during a nasty nasty storm … which turned trails into mudslides and flooded roads which led to the cancellation of the race. My friend Steve and I semi-purposely got lost early on with a few more runners and put in more distance than most. Just as well.

4. Highlands Ultra 70

Trail running heaven.

The main reason for me to run this race was to visit Tim Hewitt and Rick Freeman, the RDs and friends I made in the ITI. As it turns out, the race is held on a solid stretch of almost exclusive singletrack with nary a house to be seen – both surprising and exciting. The trails aren’t as bad as Massanuttens, but still technical. In an earlier ultra I had pulled a muscle in my butt which caused me some debilitating hip pain, so this race ended up to be a 60 mile limp with some of the most excrutiating pain I’ve experienced. However, I couldn’t let Tim down, unwise as it might have been … and pushed to the end. Ouch!

5. Hardrock 100

T’was a hard one. Photo by Jill Homer

Yay! The second time in 7 entries I had gotten into Hardrock, which was meant to be a good training run for the big adventures to come. We stayed with my friend Daniel who also paced me. After 30 miles, my stomach turned and it wouldn’t come back til the finish. I rarely ever throw up unless I have some acute food poisoning or such, but here I did throw up – quite a bit, and then some even when the stomach was empty. It was a slog of slogs, the last pass feeling almost impossible. But Daniel provided good support and honed his patience, and it was a great race anyways.

6. PTL

An easy section … they had a cable there. Photo by Daniel Benhammou.

The Petit Trot A Leon. Sounds cute, no? Let me just say so much: don’t trust the French. Seriously. This race had it all: rarely-used hard to find trails, exposure, days of rain, mud, sub-freezing temperatures, and a snow storm to boot. We (one races in teams of 2 or 3 persons for safety reasons) got re-routed just to find ourselves postholing cross-country over a pass. It was awesome. Little support, the course (190 miles and ~74000ft of climbing) and the adverse conditions made this one of the most formidable adventures I’ve had yet. Never mind I made a few stupid mistakes early on and lost the skin under both heels, which added some unexpected challenges to an already tough course.

7. TDG

White Limo on high volume = ass-kick-energy!

My third running of the TDG started just a week after the PTL finished. Just enough time for my heels to develop a thin layer of new skin. Starting took some great ignorance of the fact that my feet were not up to the task … surprisingly the first challenge turned out to be fatigue (and probably dehydration from a very hot day), and on the third pass (out of 24 …) I had cramps like never before, almost unable to descend. After that passed, my feet predictably started to issue the most elaborate pain messages to my brain. By km 100 I was ready to call it quits, miserable and beaten. Things took an unexpected turn right before the longest downhill in the race, a measly 8000ft in one go, when I put on some Foo Fighters and cranked up the angriest song I could find in my collection, “White Limo”. Miraculously I turned from crawling to flying and had a strong race after that, moving up over 100 places. My feet still hurt like hell, of course, but my spirits were lifted. The weather turned to some very very cold temps (15F or so) and ultimately the last 30k of the race were cancelled due to an iced up pass. While it’s one of the most scenic sections, it’s not a very hard one despite a last high pass, and I know I could have done this as well. We were still considered finishers, and all but very few runners were in the same boat.

8. Frog Hollow 25h

Riding into the sunset …

To prove to Jill I’m not just a one-trick pony I signed up again for the Frog Hollow, this time solo. Our friend Liehann was also there, and good times were had. Jill thought it’d be neat if I rode single speed which I promptly took as an excuse to build a full suspension single speed niner (the discerning older gentleman’s single speed). Of course two weeks before the race I managed to break a rib in a near-comical slow-motion uphill crash not being able to release from Liehann’s ill-maintained pedals (yes it was, indeed, Liehann’s fault!). But miraculously the rib fused up the night before the race – maybe my unwashed sleeping bag has some strange healing powers. I didn’t push it all too hard and took a looong nap but still managed 10 laps, which was my goal. I later kicked myself because with some solid effort I could have moved up maybe 2 spots onto the podium, though who knows. Guess I’ll have to find out next year!

9. The rest

I love running 50ks because it’s good fun to hang out with friends and interesting folks and I’m too lazy to train for long distances on my own!

– Crystal Springs

– Brooks Falls

– Steep Ravine

– Cinderella

– Ohlone

– Diablo 60k

– Steep Ravine (again!)

– Crystal Springs (again!)

– Berkley Trail Adventure

– Horseshoe Lake

– Mt Tam

– Coyote Ridge

– Woodside Ramble

The Bay Area does have its perks … and I only ran a fraction of the races here …

All in all about 1440 miles on foot.  I think I can say now with some authority that racing a lot does NOT make you any faster. But all in all it’s been a fantastic year!

7 comments to 2012 in Races

  • Danni

    You should figure out the percentage of your year spend racing.

    Also, you crack me up.

  • Naomi

    I’ve been searching for a new headlamp for Ultras and see you are wearing the Petzl MYO XP. I have been doing some reseach but would love a “real world” review from someone I know would be using it in a similar fashion. Love it? Anther you might recommend better? Thanks for your time.

    • Beat


      actually this is a Myo RXP – NOT a Myo XP. The difference is twofold – for one, the RXP is digitally controlled and programmable, but more importantly it works properly with Energizer Lithium batteries (which provide far superior battery life at half the weight and – um – like 5 times the cost unfortunately. Also alkalines don’t work in the cold as opposed to the lithiums). Most people don’t realize that most Petzl headlamps do not work properly with Lithium batteries due to lack of internal regulation (keeping the current constant, which is important since lithiums have somewhat different voltages and electrical properties). The package will explicitly say if they do. They won’t break outright but may get too hot and get poor battery life.

      That aside, I’ve been using a lot of different headlamps. I like the Fenix HP-10 as well. The Petz is to me a great compromise between lightness, battery life and it lets me set my light levels the way I want (however programming is complicated – I can only do it at home with the instructions) with it being plenty bright if I want it to be. I used to like very bright headlamps, but found that lower light levels actually work better for me as eyes adapt anyways, so now I usually run my RXP on a medium setting, often getting 15+ hours of runtime from a set of batteries. On fast descents I turn it up sometimes, but not usually.
      Another thing that should be said is that for technical running (without poles, of course), a handheld is an important addition to the headlamp. The reason is that with a headlamp the light source is close to your eyes, and as such you won’t be able to see shadows since they’re behind the objects you’re looking at – meaning that things tend to look a lot flatter than they really are. The effect is huge, though one can get used to headlamp-only as well (also on the alpine courses I run I end up going sort of slow later on anyways …).

      I can write a better review but overall the RXP has been a good lamp, as was the Fenix HP-10 (though the Petzl is more comfortable to wear for me) and it’s stood up to some good adventures. The Petzl is quite well thought through (with little things like a switch that doesn’t accidentally activate, if you ever took a lamp on the trail that turned on in your luggage you know why that’s good …) or a builtin diffuser which is useful in some situations where you want more broad illumination. It’s also been though lots of rain without problems.
      That said, you should always always bring a backup of course!

      Generally I think the differences between the good headlamps are pretty small, probably mostly in getting a few percent more battery life (thanks to new LED tech this gets better and better). There are probably some bad ones out there, too, and you want to make sure it’s regulated (meaning there’s electronics which controls the current). I’ve used the Princeton Tec Apex (AA, the CR123 version is too expensive to operate), Fenix HP-10 is a great one as well. The Fenix HP-20 which I thought would be great for winter adventures turned out to have durability issues (though you wouldn’t want to use it for regular running anyways, it’s too bulky). I would also stick with AA models just because those batteries are very easy to get in a pinch – there are super-awesome new lithium-ion rechargeable based headlamps that are useless after they’re discharged (who are they building these things for?). Also you do not need to spend more than $60 for a headlamp that gets you ANYWHERE in the world, despite the fact you can now buy $300+ headlamps (for a biker those would be neat, but there are better options). If you’re extremely light-hungry, go with Daniel Probst’s approach and buy yourself some Magicshine lights that output 1000 lumens for well under 200 bucks, though I think it’s total overkill. (Note Magicshine lights are of somewhat questionable quality. DiNotte makes mid-priced extremely good bike lights if you’re serious about it).

      You probably can’t go terribly wrong with any headlamp that gets good user reviews. It’s more important to know its characteristics (how to use it, how long the batteries last on which settings) and to practice running with its light output …

  • Naomi

    Thx for your thoughtful insight. I do some distance biking as well as night riding regularly in the fall so I have a great bike light. Unfortunately it is very uncomfortable as a head lamp. I am going for reasonably bright and especially long lasting battery life. Good info on the difference with the lithium batt’s as I had not researched that well enough. I also have a pretty good hand held, but hate things in my hands so it only comes out when the going gets really sketchy.

  • thanks for info i just need that

  • Anil

    Hey Beat,

    awesome roundup of all your adventures.. wow what a year its been! only a trip to Nome can beat this I suppose :), goodluck with that.

    I loved your detailed reports of TDG and ITR thanks for sharing in such vivid details. disappointing to read that TDG might not be continued.. it was on my wishlist for one of years.

    happy running and blogging