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A hot halloween!

Hot and Fun! My Javelina Jundred 2007 report …

Javelina, on paper, is one of the fast and easy courses. 5200 ft of climb, ostly easy footing, lots of aid (every 5 miles), easy to navigate. Yet … less than 50% finished this year. Was it the 100k option alone? I don’t think so. Too many newbies? Possibly, but even some experienced 100 mile finishers had to drop this …

Last year, I quit this race because my legs hurt – my only total cop-out so far. This year I didn’t even want to start it – I had a rough time in the first 50 miles of SD100 just the weekend before, and then went pretty fast in the latter half – not exactly taking it easy.  I had already decided not to start: “Chuck, I had a good SD100 run, but I think it’s crazy to go for Javelina. I won’t even start. Do you want me to pace you?” “Well, you have one DNF already, and got the yellow bib, who cares about another one? Just try it” “Hmmm I guess I’ll go then.”

On race morning, it was pretty warm – surprisingly so for 5am. Hmmm. This year, a LOT of my bay area buddies were there, Sarah & Wendell, Chuck, Flora (doing her first 100), Mtn Man Steve, Harry Walter, Craig (who had just done 106 miles at San Francisco one day the weekend before) … Since we would see each other all the time, it was promising to be a blast. Just the weather forecast was a bit disconcerting – 90s. Hmmm.

The race pre-meeting was fun, meeting everyone. The race organizers gave out a whole bunch of small but useful prizes donated by the sponsors. To enter, you would just put your race number in a bucket with a size (for clothing prizes) – I put mine in the L bucket. There was tons of stuff, but of course I didn’t get anything … until a pair of pink arm warmers came up. Rodger: “Let’s hope this goes to a girl”. Me (thinking): “Wouldn’t it be just my luck if my number came up?”. My number came up – pink XS arm warmers, complimenting my pink (red) face. I did give them to Flora, no I don’t wear them in secret. Really.

The first lap went well – I started out with Sarah, putting in lots of walk breaks, not pushing it too hard. I was worried of course about my achilles which had hurt in SD100, and generally about runing too much. Later on I moved ahead, hooked up with some other tunners and finished Lap 1 in about 2:45. Not too bad. Wendell and Harry had pulled solidly ahead, Steven a bit (maybe 10 minutes), Sarah was just a bit behind, with Craig, Flora and Chuck taking it more easy further back. I figured the next lap would show what was really going on, as it was going to be HOT, without any shade at all. My right achilles bothered me a bit, but not too badly.
During the second lap, I figured out what would really bother me during this race – I had sprained the top of my left anke late in SD100, and it acted up. Not so bad I couldn’t run, but painful nonetheless. Otherwise I still felt very strong, and moved quickly through lap 2. About halfways I caught up to Steve, to my great surprise. It had warmed up by then. That really gave me a boost, since I thought I had to be doing pretty well so far. I figured he would pull away later. We ran a while together, finishing the second lap (I might have been close ahead). To my delight the other people ahead of me didn’t seem to pull away much more. The second lap was still strong, about 2:50.
Third lap proved to be HOT. HOT HOT HOT. Even the wind was hot. We saw about a dozen wild horses, drank and sweated like crazy. Still – I was moving pretty well. 3:?? for this lap. I was going strong! And oddly, I felt like I could go strong for a while. I also saw about a half dozen wild horses (tempting!!!!). My ankle hurt, but stayed at a bearable level. Notably Sarah had some popsicles and offered me one – she could have charged a hundred bucks and I’d have bought one! OH YES! I walked out of the aid station enjoying my popsicle and earning envious looks from my fellow runners. I was a little scared, actually …
Fourth was still hot up to about midpoint, when the sun started to go down. Steven was now about 1.5 miles behind, but Craig was pulling up strong! I thought he’d catch me. Harry was about the same distance ahead. I was able to keep my pace pretty fast, especially on the downhill, and did this lap in a strong 3:25.
After changing socks, putting some Biofreeze on my ankles/heels and refueling I went on to the last two full laps. My ascent out of the aid station was FAST – and somehow I paid for this pretty soon. After the next aid station I started to feel quite queasy, the cola nuun that I had used as a drink for the previous hours somehow didn’t go down well any longer, and I slowed down a lot. At this point I figured I was done. Finshed. Dreams of sub 24 started to diminish. When Wendell came towards me he asked “Are you feeling SD now?”. “Yeah, I’m hurting”. “Go on, I’m proud of you.” – That right there gave me some wind, not a minute too late. I dragged myself into the aid station. Soup, bit of food, different drink, salt tabs. Still didn’t feel great. Then … Mark Gilligan offered me some ice cold V8. I must have looked like a vampire feasting on bottled blood, or so I felt. It hit the spot just right. Tomato based juices just made it on my list of drop bag items!!
The sixth lap went better … and I started to think sub 24 might still be in the game. Even although it was now basically night, it didn’t really get cold at all, instead I still felt hot most of the time. Occasionally I would hit a cool breeze, but most of the course was still what felt like 70s … the moon was just beautiful, many people ran without lights at all, which is perfectly possible for most of the course. I kept my light on. About halfway into the loop I felt like I was back, and moved pretty reasonably. The last downhill section went by quickly (but painfully) and I started out my last lap. About a mile before the aid station Harry came towards me. “You’ll catch me, I am finished”. “What the hell are you talking about?”. “I can’t run, I can barely move”. “If I catch you I’ll kick your ass.” I was 2 miles + one aid station refill behind … how could I catch him?
20:40 so far – sub 24 looked pretty reasonable. I figured the last 8.8 or so miles would take at most 3 hours, maybe even a little less. I took off, running as much as I could, now wearing a glow-stick necklace-hoop thingy (oh yeah that felt great!). I power-hiked a lot of the uphill (which in the first lap seemed like it was flat …) and even overtook someone. I made good time to the aid station – it was now around 22 hours. I only had a little coke at the last aid station and off I went. If I hurried I might make sub-23!!!! Oh YEAH. I went fast, and the trail was easy, no rocks. There were very few trail markings, and occasionally I thought I might be off course, but didn’t dare to check. Oh yes, the next ribbon! At the bottom my foot and legs hurt like hell, and the trail flattened out – I was now seriously worried about being off course (it just looked like desert, sort of) –  until I hit the return trail! Turns out Craig would later go the wrong way here, which is beyond me. The trail goes somewhat like this:

                     |                     |
                 ^   |                     | |
                 |   |                     | V
                     |                     |
                     |                     |

He turns RIGHT at the X on his way back. Go figure.

Okay, so I am moving nicely, and it turns out walking hurts even more than running, so I run the last mile (X to the aid station) and finish in 22:38! the last loop took me less than 2 hours … I was only three minutes behind Harry! That is crazy!

Ok so what can one say about this race?

  • Prepare for heat!!!!!! Do not underestimate it. It was up to 95 during the day it turned out. Dry heat is not as bad? Sure, as long as you don’t run!
  • Most people who haven’t run it, think it’s a boring race (so did I), but when I ran it, I thought it was fun. You keep seeing the same people, can track the progress of everyone for most of the race.
  • The course is very easy, with only a somewhat technical section (which is mostly bad because you can run it fast, which then hurts the feet). There is only about 5500 ft of climbing altogether. You can be very fast on this course.
  • Although the course is easy, I don’t think the race is. Due to the heat many people feel very bad at some point, and it’s very easy to drop out – it is a different kind of challenge. Less than 50% of the starters finished this race. There were many rookies, but even some old-timers had troubles with the heat.

Plain tough!

Finished Plain in just about 32 hours. Tough. Fun. Beautiful …
Plain. I finished. They had a high finisher rate this year, partially because of good weather (although it was bitter cold at night), a serious field and I believe people are learning from mistakes others have made (navigation isn’t that difficult anymore).
That said, this is one tough race. About the race:

  • the course has some of the most gorgeous views I’ve seen. Amazing.
  • fine dust – ankle deep. Like smoking 10 packs of cigarettes (I imagine) all at once
  • the single longest and steepest climb in any hundred I’ve done so far – at the hot part of the day – with the heaviest load you’ll carry (because there’s no water for a long time). I think my pack was 18-20lbs at that point.
  • When you’re sick, there ain’t no soup. Just more gel or whatever you brought. Which is why I believe sick stomachs are one of the main reasons people have troubles with this race. It is very hard to get back to normal.
  • Estimatees on true length range from 104 to 108 miles (gps + accelerometer based). Let’ say it’s 108 !

My personal experience: I finished in just under 32 hours, I got lost once (duh), I stuck with a swiss guy and his friend (both adventure racers) for lots of the race (we finished together), didn’t eat enough at all (about 1/4 of what I brought, my stomach was grumbling all day – this made me feel pretty weak, I am super-lucky I didn’t get more nauseated, thank god I brought cola nuun!), always had way too much stuff in my pack (like that additional 32 ounces of water I’d dump out the next stream – like every time). Otherwise felt reasonably well, all in all definitely not harder in terms of the course itself than Hurt, but much more chance of messing up. Basically at Plain you pay bigtime for any mistake you make, and as you know, we all make some mistakes during a race … that makes it very hard. It’s a unique and worthy experience for sure.

Oh, and I already signed up for next year’s Plain.

It hurts! Really!

My HURT 100 race report from Hurt 07. I had a tough time at Hurt, and finished in an ok 33:32.
Little race report for you. Let me say that I think the race was probably comparable to many other years – for example, a bunch of people this year were very close to their last year’s performance. The high finisher rate probably shows the race has gotten more popular. I think without the 100k option more people would have finished (Miles for example, lazy bum, but he got a really sweet deal from his friend, ask him) That said, I still think it’s by far the hardest race to finish I have ever done – time is short here – read on.

Anyways, I didn’t run much before this race – just letting my legs rest and do lots of sauna. I actually was probably the slowest ever in my pre-race 50k and personal training runs. I also felt a little sick beforehand, and on Friday finally had solid congestion and sniffles, but no sore throat sat morning, so off I went. I don’t know if it affected anything, probably not.

Let me try to give you a concise report here:

– Weather: pretty nice. Warm but cool breeze on the ridges, I was mostly soaking wet from sweat/rain which kept me cool. Very humid. I drank TONS of liquids (>80 oz per leg at times) and sweated as much. The night seemed warmer than the day at times, very mild.
– Course: Especially the descent to Paradise was a MESS. Continued rain had the course being very muddy – it was MUCH worse than last year. Pretty slippery.
– Overall I thought conditions were tougher than last year, however Escobar and Scholz were very close to last year’s time. Then again, some dropped, some were better. Probably a wash.

– Timing: I wanted to go out slow, but at HURT you
have the following problems:
a) nearly 13 hours of night. And it slows you down. Using the daylight to MOVE is not a bad idea.
b) Hurt loops can take a LONG time. I just didn’t have to confidence to go slow – money in the bank.
So I did around this I think: 5, 5:50 (felt like
6:30), 7:25(?), 8:??, 7:??

– Things that went well: I drank like a crazy person. And it paid off, I think. I never got really sick, or dehydrated. I had a 100oz camelback which has pros and cons (pro: lots of ice fits, you can drink!, con: they fill it up sometimes and you carry 100oz!!!! – that’s heavy) and sometimes drank close to 80 oz a leg. I also kept running the downhills even when my legs started feeling stiff. I noticed in other races that it hurts for a while then goes well. Overall the legs held up!
– Aid stations: in and out. Only sat down once (or twice) for a very short time. Kept moving.

– Things that didn’t go well: Overall I felt tired (2 laps felt like 3 last year, towards the end of the 4th lap I felt SPENT – I could not IMAGINE finishing this whole thing) Eating too much at the aid station makes you sick, since every aid station is at the bottom of a grueling climb. I overate a few times, leading to sluggish uphills. Last loop I lived off Coke, SportBeans (good flavors, they’re yummy at that point) and ClifBloks.

Feet: Do not ask. I changed socks once, but I have blisters the size of texas, as well as a busted big toe. During the last loop I felt something “pop” under my left pinkie toe, and it hurt BAD! I was waiting for it to go numb, and after about an hour of breathtaking pain it did. When I took my shoes off at the end of the race it turned out all of the skin on the bottom of my toe (from foot to nailbed) was solidly detached – Miles said “I am going to vomit” when he saw it. That HURT a lot. I should have taken better care of my feet, but at least I toughed it out like an experienced guy – or an idiot.

Laps summary:
1st: everything seemed so much sooner than I remembered. “What, we’re here already” Andy Kumeda and I mused many times. I figured it would seem long enough soon.
2nd: Things get tougher. Really feels like we’re going much slower, still hanging with Andy. when we do 5:50 we’re stoked! Still I feel sluggish.
3rd: Ugh, tough! Now it starts feeling like I remember the 4th loop last year! Hmmm. The Paradise Park descent in the dark is frustrating. I barely dare check the time. This loops takes us over 7 hours. Still, we have lots of time left (people tell us we’re doing great). However if you believe the math of first 60 miles = last 40, it would put us over 36! Hmmm
4th: Slow. Tough. Short of breath. Things really hurt now. The mud. Sometimes I stand for 20 seconds before a foot deep step to jump down – and there are many of those, and they hurt every time. Slippery as hell. Argh! I’m mostly alone now, and I’m not in good shape. When I get to Jackass, I am scared. The time looks bad (I estimate maybe a 9 hr loop???) and that doesnt leave much time – and especially NO room for error – for the last loop. I freak out. People have overtaken me. I am too slow. The last leg it gets light and I really pick it up on the downhill. I have about 9:50 or so for the last loop left, phew.
5th: The fast running on that last leg took its toll, but the sun helps. Feet are now ridiculously in pain, legs are aching, but I figure what the hell. I DO NOT EVER WANT TO SEE THIS DAMN COURSE AGAIN, SO I HAVE TO FINISH. And I curse for signing up for Hardrock! Ack! The sun doesn’t make me feel fast, but I am doing better. Nearly fall off the cliff hanging on my backside heads down only hanging on to a bamboo (that woke me up!!!!) and do more damage to feet (see above). I promised Jimmy when I met him on my way back to the start “I’ll run the rest if it kills me” and I do. It hurts, but I just want it to be over. I am beyond emotion by now, more robotic. I finish an hour before my later estimates. When I am at the finish, I am too spent to eat or drink.

This is a tough course. At Wasatch, I was CRAWLING bc I felt sick, and with more climbing I was “slow” with <31 hrs. Here I never get sick, come in 16th and it still takes 33:30+ hrs. Time is really short here, and things do take longer than you think. But boy am I happy I finished it! Am I going to go back? Don’t ask yet …

2006 San Diego 100

Another little race report …

SD100 was nice again. The organization wasn’t as good as when Paul was RD (course not as well marked – bunch of runners got lost – etc) but still a fun race. Weather was perfect (sunny but with a cool wind during the day, cold but not very cold at night). Karl set an amazing course record (15:48) and the finisher rate was great (70%). They also removed a lot of loose rocks from the trail.

Now my story: I started out the race feeling ok. I didn’t get my usual pre-race massage (vacation), and my legs were still a bit complaining, but I felt pretty energetic. Early on I hooked up with Pete Reily, a triathlete (9:30 IM) doing his first 100m ultra. Really nice guy, fellow physicist. I mentioned a couple of times I would be too slow for him, but he thought it was good to pace. We ran together nearly 20 miles, at about a 20 hour pace – I bet you see where this is going. Pete btw finished in 22 something, great job! Anyways, I was at mile 32 in about 6:45 and would of course pay for that soon … I felt I had overdone it, and I was tired and my legs were quite achy. Worse, once I hit the downhills (the course is climb, rolling, drop, same back), my knee started hurting (not IT band initially, more like runner’s knee) significantly. I reached the turnaround in 10:45 – still 45 minutes faster than last year, however with serious knee issues, walking a lot of the downhill. At this point I guess I could have dropped, but I figured that if I dropped now, I really would have to do Javelina, and if I was injured (or the knee pain persisted), my chance of dropping there would be large, thus giving me two DNFs. No good. Anyways, go figure, I decided to try to tough it out on the way back. Uphill was pretty good. In the night I started feeling a bit nauseated, and I was very hesitant to run, bc now both my knees were hurting (left it was IT band, right it was the runner’s knee). I figured I slowed down a lot and totally lost the will to push it, but I still felt giving up was out of the question. Interestingly I met a nice guy I met at the Bear and felt immediately much stronger, but he lost me on a downhill where I fell into a walk, and I felt worse again. Clearly a pacer would have helped. Anyways, I walked nearly all of the second half, and the last 6 miles were very painful – not running made my legs quite stiff and hurting badly. I guess I would have felt better if I would have ran some of the downhill! Anyways, I finished in 27:25, just minutes ahead of Catra, nearly an hour slower than last year! But I think I am uninjured, and I am proud I pushed through this very tedious second half, maybe the hardest and most frustrating race so far! Catra was also impressed that I didn’t give up despite missing my  time goal (I was hoping for 25-26 hours), that felt nice! Of course she herself still had bladder problems and peed blood … and finished, crazy girl! Anyways, I was CERTAIN I would skip Javelina, since “my body is telling me it’s enough for now”, but 2 days later, I already forgot all the misery, and short of illness I will see some of you guys there!

The (almost) toughest race I’ll ever love …

Quick report on my 2006 run of the toughest race you’ll ever love – or hate 🙂

The Wasatch 100 course IS very tough – the worst for me was not the big climbs, but that there are dozens and dozens of short climbs that are not on the elevation chart, but still are very steep. Strangely the altitude didn’t seem to affect me as much as at TRT (or maybe what DID affect me at TRT was the heat, not sure). We had perfect weather – not too hot (except for a few spots) in the day, relatively mild at night.

The run didn’t go totally my way, however I still finished it nicely. (Note that on the very last part I did it nearly 10 mins faster than Wendell (all on the downhill) and was able to sprint into the finish). First mistake was I went out too slow in the beginning – something that I believe didn’t actually help me feel better, since I still got very nauseated at mile 35 or so – couldn’t eat much, ran out of energy. My heart rate was just way too low. Then, I got nauseated. At mile 50ish, Paul Schmidt (former SD100 race director) took very good care of me (he had to drop out with a back injury, sadly) – he fixed my salt intake (Endurolytes are no good!) and made me eat (I didn’t know grilled cheese sandwiches could be THAT good!). Afterwards, my energy was back, and I started moving better. Thw third issue was that I believe I got some tendonitis issues with the lower attachment of my hamstring (behind the knee). It freaked me out a LOT, and I ended up not running a lot where I could have gone faster (ergo the strong finish). However, it didn’t get too bad, and actually fast downhill running was easier on it than going slow … I ended up running practically all of the downhills late in the race, including the plunge (more sliding than running) …

I got in and out of Brighton fine (now I know WHY people drop there though – so warm & toasty!). On the last 25 miles I took about 30 mins back off Wendells time, so I was moving ok. I thought through the race he was farther ahead, else I might have tried to catch him.

In the end – a VERY tough and VERY beautiful race. I liked the organization. I think sub-30 is – if things go ok for me – feasible as well. I decided early in the race not to go for speed, since I wasn’t even sure if I was recovered enough to finish it, which made the race more fun for sure! Overall I liked it a lot. Unfortunately next year there will be a lottery as well…

Tahoe Rim Trail 2006

Great views, and a deceptive course…
I did TRT 100 last weekend. Not quite as impressive as the HR folks, but quite a challenge in its own right. Here’s a report:

So I drove up to Carson City on Friday morning, and after lots of driving, arrived for the drop bag drop/weigh-in/race briefing. Man it was HOT. 100+. I made sure I’m as light as possible for the weigh-in, met Jasper (I told him he’d win the race, btw! Of course he said “there are 10 runners who could feasibly win this race” … he won by an hour! Drop bags are easy at TRT, most aid stations are visited 4 times, one even 6 times. Still I overpacked, of course …

Sat 5am – start. Easy to get to, it’s a tiny bit chilly, not really as I expected though (it’s at 7000 ft, after all). Anyways, the first 11 miles are interesting, one sees some beautiful views of a bunch of lakes and lake tahoe. The trails are like highways (single track, but soft, sometimes a bit sandy, and not technical at all). And it appears all oh so runnable. No real major climbing. At mile 11 we enter the “Red House Loop”. It’s a short rather steep descent, some straight running (we were fast, so got to the loop before the worst heat), then a long gradual up and a short steep climb. Nothing too serious, really – even the second time around. At that point it got quite warm, and the sun was burning down – the course is mostly exposed. After mile 17, I never would feel quite good again. My stomach was giving me issues, needing to control nausea, and I felt I was starting to drag and slow down. For some weird reason – although the trail was soft and easy, my feet hurt worse than at MMT, and bc it was so sandy stuff got into my shoes despite gaiters. I pushed on and Jasper eventually came towards me (he said something nice like I was flying, which gave me my only lift in the race). The return from mile 25 was followed by more dragging, and I felt slower and slower, my legs started hurting – every ache I ever seemed to have appeared. Everything felt as if I could tear something any minute. Argh. My fingers were swollen like sausages, and so were my feet.

I still reached mile 50 in 11:34 (after a 10 minute detour) – way too fast, as it turned out. At that point I was done, feeling like after 100 miles, spent and exhausted, aching. Going out for the second loop was nothing I looked forward to, but I kept going.

On the second loop I was slooow. I teamed up a little with Chris Perry, who I ran with at the Bear and CCC, and we both were very down and felt slow, dragging and much too tired. We got lost once more – very briefly – both times it was not due to bad course marking but just sheer tiredness. Chris had a heel injury from Bighorn, and I eventually lost him. The night came and was not as cold as anticipated. My legs kept feeling more stiff, until a fun dude I went with who was paced by Kathy D’Onoforio got his second wind and started hammering the downhills (he would take 40 minutes off me on the last 15 or so miles). I decided to keep it up a little and found it actually relaxed my legs a bit. I pushed as much as I could to the finish, mostly alone. Towards the morning I started hallucinating a lot (which I’ve never before), it was kinda fun, seeing a lot of men in suits and other weird things. I finished 27:06, 15th place (huh?) and utterly spent (the next person was nearly an hour after me I think, and I was just 10 minutes behind the winning female). I didn’t even stick around for anyone else to come but went to the hotel and slept.

I didn’t have the usual ups and downs but just a long down, and many others had similar experiences. I think the heat and altitude made quite a difference, along with the deceptively easy course that makes you run way too fast in the beginning. I think 20000ft of climbing is over-estimated, but the course has a lot of rolling up and down where one is very tempted to overdo it. Come to think of it, while I felt a lot of down, I never got AS down as on other runs either – and especially not as frustrated – which is probably due to exhaustion and the lack of highly technical or challenging stretches.

Anyways, a good run overall. The views were breathtaking for sure, and it was a hard challenge! Congratulations to Sarah Dillingham to tough it out – this course is NOT easy.

Fight Erosion

Massanutten 2006 report.

Good race for me, but those rocks are laughing in your face saying – how tough are you really, hmmm?
Sooo. A week ago, things didn’t look so good. DNF in Hawaii, complaining about supposed injury, then didn’t even complete one of Wendell’s easiest 50k – where was Beat? Was he getting soft? Was he soft all along, just took him a while to figure it out? What was going on? I know that’s what you guys asked yourselves! Given that, the week before MMT I was naturally feeling freaked out. I had even more than my usual share of pre-race pains (including some spectacular foot-weirdness – walking in the office. Go figure). In the good old Chuck travel tradition I did the shortest trip I could figure – red-eye on thursday night – which left me a bit tired. (I don’t think I’ll do that again!). Ok, here’s what you really want to know: How was the race?
For the people who know it: Well, for one the course was a bit easier than in previous years – the finishing times and numbers clearly show it. Not too much easier, I’d say, and a bunch of veterans didn’t do as well as in previous years either (including Sue, Todd Walker and Estes). The weather was – for sub-30 finishers, at least – PERFECT. Overcast coolish but not cold in the day, a little cooler but very moderate at night – NO rain. Monday morning was pouring buckets – phew!

For the people who don’t: I would say >50% of MMT is about – the terrible problem called erosion. MMT rocks are:

  1. Hard
  2. Jagged
  3. Some are fixed, some are LOOSE
  4. All over the place
  5. Sometimes hidden under loose foliage (I call it MMT roulette)
  6. Come in every angle possible
  7. Did I mention they’re hard and jagged?

Most of it because I presume any sort of soil around lots of those rocks has gone away a long time ago. After about 20 miles, my feet said ENOUGH. No more rocks. I also agree with Wendell that it does a little number on your stomach. I felt nauseated from about mile 20 for 15 miles or so, but fortunately got it under control, and I happened to developed a taste for the HEED they served at the aid stations – but I didn’t really eat well in this race. Also the second half of the race is clearly much more grueling than the first – not because you’re tired, either. They throw in a couple of short (1000 ft) but steep climbs at the end (this year they had a VERY steep 800ft climb after mile 97. I mean punch-in-the-stomach steep. In previous years they used switchbacks for this section, but to shorten it, they just picked a path straight up. Insulting.). More importantly though the course becomes  even more technical. It’s definitely worth being fast, because the last 11 miles are not too bad, so the more of that you hit in darkness the better. Anyways, for anyone attempting the MMT, here’s what I think of it: – It’s the most punishing course I’ve done (including HURT) bc your feet don’t really get a break. That said, while they hurt like mile 80 in other races after about 20 miles, it didn’t really get much worse for me, so I sort of got used to it. – It’s the most technical (HURT is slower because it’s more slippery (according to Karl Meltzer, btw:). MMT rocks are probably not too terrible even wet, but at HURT you get wetness even if it doesn’t rain). I didn’t fall, but had numerous hamstring-threatening acrobatic near-falls… – The question is not if you turn your ankle, but how often and how severe. Hans-Dieter dropped very early with a bad ankle, and veterans like Bethany (who won in previous races) had bad problems as well. My ankles were aching a lot after the race. – To be fast, I guess you need to risk falling. I talked to Todd Walker, and he thought some sections I thought were completely unrunnable were quite ok. He also mentioned “I always assume the rocks are stationary” and that he fell 8 times. If I go back, I’ll try to run more on the technical flat sections, of which there are MANY, which I have walked this time.

Personally, the race was – despite the grueling course – a great experience. After about 20 or so miles a couple of runners bonded – Rande being one of them (also a Chuck victim) – which I think had a huge effect in my ability to finish and the time I got. I’ll tell you the stories in person sometimes, but until nightfall we had a LOT of fun, and GREAT!!! company, and we pushed each other. We reached 50m in about 11:30hrs. When Hans heard that, he had a brief statisfied smirk his face and the pressure was ON (I couldn’t let him down!!!). After nightfall the other guys/girls picked up their pacers (also I should mention Rande’s crew – his wife and friends of theirs – were really helpful to me) we separated and I finished the race alone. There were some demoralizingly slow technical sections, but apart from that I was closely following Diana (one of our little team) and being closely followed by Rande, which kept me moving fast! I kept feeling fairly good – I developed some stiffness in my leg at short mountain, just where I got injured and starting to have similar symptoms, but was able to massage it out and after a few miles it became clear it wouldn’t get bad. I was able to overtake a bunch of people in those sections by putting on a very strong power-hike over the non-runnable stuff – that turned out very well. At the very end I had still lots of energy and was able to take 3 mins off a guy I overtook about half (or maybe one?) a mile before the finish. I guess I didn’t go hard enough before …

Anyways, long story short – 22nd out of 113 finishers/151 starters, 26:22:45. My personal best in a hundred. I guess now I’m glad I didn’t try to run Diablo 50! Rande also did extremely well – just a few minutes more, improving his last year’s time nearly 4 hrs, and Diana same thing – improving her time 6 hrs!

Btw, the new PCTR Gaiters are WAY better than the Joe Trailman ones because of the additional velcro on the side and the inverted hook (very smart). They stay on no matter what. I changed my socks only once (at which point I introduced a very small rock into my shoe – duh. Too lazy to take it out though). Only one insignificant blister …

Also I am FINALLY sick of being the guy with the biggest ridiculous pack out there. It’s heavy. People overfill my GIGANTIC bladder. Hans (who also crewed after he had to drop very early) reprimanded me. I used nearly NOTHING in my pack. Ok. I WILL SLIM IT DOWN. I don’t want to be the trail clown ANY MORE!

I am still thinking I should try Ohlone next sunday. Maybe I’ll see you there!

A cold and wet bear-hug

The Bear 2005 – man did I have a tough time doing that one … read about my epic battle 🙂
Wow! This was one race!!! Remember when I thought CCC was sort of easy because I never felt down? This was the true test for me. NOW I feel like an ultra runner 😉

Things went GREAT up to about mile 50. I think my split was 12 hours (way too fast, which may have something to do with my later problems). The colors on the course were AMAZING. I very very highly recommend this race. I have never seen anything even remotely like it. I took a bunch of pictures, but I doubt they’ll do reality justice!

Now right before mile 50 I had some bad foot pain (I think it was a pinched nerve in my metatarsal area – I could barely walk uphills and even downhills it occasionally hirt very badly). The kind of pain you can’t ignore, I even wondered if I had broken a small bone. This shook my confidence massively, and I learned firsthand how your confidence and your condition are linked. I was really worried this might prevent me from finishing. Around that time I developed some nausea as well, although there may be other causes. Fortunately the pain was better after I massaged my foot (also ascertaining nothing serious is wrong) and later in the race it disappeared.

But this was just the beginning. I left the Paris aid station, which is 7.8 miles from the next one (Dry (yeah) Basin) and consitutes the handle of the course (later we would do this part back) into rain (even light hail/snow) and lightning (which struck at one time quite close to me) and after the first climb the course was one whole mudslide – and I am not kidding. Falling was impossible to avoid (now I realize I could have saved a lot of time not trying to avoid it). In addition my nausea was getting worse, and I didn’t have very warm clothing either (I thought it would only get cold after the next aid station). I had a rwater-repellent (but not -proof) jacket, and I also had a trashbag in my pack (with holes already cut out) – and I didn’t put the trashbag on! Duh! The 7.8 miles took a whopping 3.5 hours to complete – for most people who had to deal with the mud. At the Dry Basin aid station I was severly hypothermic, extremely nauseated (I tried to throw up earlier but nothing was in my stomach) and demoralized, because I knew the rest of the course would be like this. Fortunately I had already bought a bear logo hat, which I wouldn’t be able to wear if I didn’t finish, so I carried on. The next hours up to mile 82 were filled with nausea, pain and despair. I would fill up, warm up and eat at each aid station, be ok for a little bit, then get nauseated about midway to the next one … I was very close to despair many times. Even worse, because I was unable to maintain a constant effort, I had troubles keeping myself at a good temperature – I would sweat, get wet, then cool down … brrr. At some point I could barely move and would tell myself “I’ll go 10 yards, then sit down”. After ten yards, I’d say “ok, there’s no dry spot to sit down here, let’s go 10 more” and so on. I had a few good strong phases, but probably only like 10% of the time. I went through nearly all of this alone (I think a pacer would have helped there – so I am glad I didn’t have one!) Finally, at mile 82 it became light again (no sun though for the rest of the race, and it stayed very chilly), and I was able to come back and do the 7.8 mile return very strong, overtaking three runners! After that the race was basically mostly downhill, and nothing major happened. At the very end I had a good mile on the road to the finish – for some reason I thought it would be fun to finish under 31, so I ran very fast, and jumped through the finish line – of course, since I didn’t go fast all night and my legs were thus still ok 🙂 In the aftermath I don’t feel too bad, although my feet are badly trashed (and while my new Montrails did good with my arches, they couldn’t prevent enormous blisters on my heels – no wonder, running 50 miles with wet and muddy socks). Note btw that even although my legs did feel tired after only a few miles in the race (well there’s a GIGANTIC climb at the beginning) and they burned, I don’t think that I would have done much better if I hadn’t run CCC before – I believe a lot about the recovery aspect is mental and the problem that you may have a bad attitude or be more asily inclined to DNF if you did a finish shortly beforehand. At least THAT wasn’t a problem for me (actually I REALLY didn’t want to DNF this one).

I will send out some pictures soon, and write a race report (along with my CCC one;)!

Anyways, although I didn’t get the sub-30 buckle, I a actually very happy because I found out I can go through a very bad (for me) race, and even although I know Hardrock is many times more miserable, I feel like I might have a chance 😉 I am certain that if I pace myself better, am smarter about eating (I think I got so disorganized I just stopped thinking and made a lot of mistakes) I should be able to do much better, maybe even sub-29.

Also Hans-Dieter suggested I do San Diego. That one is a bit easier, and I am seriously thinking about it (He sort of discouraged me from HURT which I was thinking about – he thinks they use an unfair cut-off to make the race artificially hard, and I would think Hans knows what he’s talking about …) Anyone else interested? 🙂 Hans is of course going to be there …

2005 Cascade Crest Classic

This is the report of my very first 100, the Cascade Crest Classic. What a fun course!

The Race:

The Cascade Crest 100M is one of the harder endurance runs of its kind – 21500 ft up/down (more up than Western States), a good amount of very technical terrain, a long night (start is at 10am, so most people run through the whole night), and sections called “trail from hell”, “rope section” and “cardiac needles”. Generally people say it’s a bit harder than WS, but with 32 hrs of time quite doable. Still usually only 70% make it.


There are two kinds of people who can finish such a race. Either you’re a good, but crazy, runner, or you’re completely nuts. I belong to the latter category. Always up for a stupid idea, after having done only one 50m race, I let my friends (Chuck Wilson – stay away from this guy unless … and Michele Santilhano – she is outright dangerous!) talk me into signing up for my first 100. And of course, it couldn’t be an “easy” one (that’s an oxymoron anyways, talking about 100m). Before the bad influence, I thought it would be years before I’d even think about trying … Moreover, Chuck proclaimed I could finish in about 27 hours at CCC – whatever!
Anyways, after I sent off my application I started realizing what I’d  done (immediately followed by multiple trips to the restroom). So how do you prepare for a 100 miler? First, read everything on Then be scared. Then do lots of long runs. I ended up doing a 50k trail race every other week, followed by 2-3h of running the next day. My overall weekly mileage wasn’t that high, but I did lots of climbing and descending.

Anyways, I started tapering about 2 weeks beforehand, and as usual all sorts of things started hurting (just a week before the race I developed some weird pain in my hamstring – fortunately it didn’t affect my running too much, but it hurt a lot walking (go figure)), and my knees were bothering me, as always. Half of it is probably just psychological, since in the end none of this bothered me at all in the race, but I also visited an excellent massage therapist a few times, who worked with me on my IT band, amongst other things. I attribute the other half of the missing problems during the race to his work 🙂

Our travel arrangements were pretty tight, since I teamed up with Chuck, and he does so many of those races he usually doesn’t want to miss any work. So our schedule was to leave from SFO friday afternoon, arrive in Seattle, go grab dinner, pick up some supplies, sleep, race, have another dinner, sleep a little and leave on Monday morning at 6am back to SFO (which means we’d have to get up at 2:30am – the hotel was at least one hour from the airport). Well, so it happened, and now let’s finally get to the race itself.


After checking in, having some Boost for breakfast and being generally extremely nervous, I finally found myself lined up at the start. My hydration pack was pretty full, and I carried a water-bottle filled with Boost to keep me well fed (that turned out to be a very good thing). Finally, at 10am, we all started! Everyone got into a trot, and about 500 yards into it my pack opened and distributed all its contents over the dirt road we were on. Duh! A friend helped me pick it up, and I learned lesson #1 – if you have a pocket with 2 zippers, and it’s full, zip them up so there are no forces on the zippers making them open. Ok, slighlty red-faced I continued and caught up with my friends …

The first 49 miles – the easy part

The beginning of the race is a monstrous climb of about 3000 or so feet up to the Cole Butte aid station, followed by a dip down and more climbing to Blowout Mountain. The aid stations were usually around 6-7 miles apart, which means you have to carry quite a bit of water and food inbetween. Anyways, things went pretty smoothly, I felt good but went on a little slower than I felt I could have gone. After Blowout Mountain we ran downhill for quite a bit, and the trail hit the Pacific Crest Trail slightly earlier than I expected. We would stay on the PCT for about 30 miles after that. The PCT is a well-traveled nice trail without anything too extreme. The only thing was that – except for a few key sections – it was completely unmarked, which made me wonder more than once if I was on the right trail (I was alone by then). Once I even stopped for a few minutes and waited for some other runners to catch up. Hey, before you know it you might end up in Canada!
Towards the end of the first 49 miles it got flashlight dark, and for the first time in my life I ran a trail at night. Fortunately my choice of Headlamp – the Petzl Myo XP – proved to be excellent, since it is extremely bright. Nevertheless, the trail was quite rocky at times, and running proved to be somewhat of a challenge …

The Rope Section And The Tunnel

After the Ollie Meadow Aid station I knew I would encounter the famous rope section, a piece of trail that was so steep that ropes were available to help navigate. This section proved to be great fun. The trail to this section left the PCT and became significantly more rocky. The second lesson I learned there was that one shouldn’t look to the side in the middle of the night running a very rocky trail, since that made me have my one and only fall in the whole race. Fortunately I didn’t hurt myself apart from a small cramp in my calf, which disappeared quickly, but I landed on my Boost-filled bottle and got myself covered in boost. Well, at least I knew that if I would run low on food, I could just lick off my jacket … Anyways, the rope section is FUN! First one has to navigate basically through a forest (in complete darkness, which I would not have thought would be my thing) and finally arrive at the ropes (and yeah, you need the ropes!). At the bottom of the ropes, someone directed me towards another main attraction of this run – the tunnel! Yes, an abandoned 2.3 mile railroad tunnel. In the middle I turned off my lights for a little while (the ground was very flat and without obstacles) and yeah – it’s pitch black. To be cool, I ran the whole thing, which turned out to be another mistake, since my left quad started hurting – and not stop doing so until the end of the race. After the tunnel, I encountered some pavement, which hurt my feet a lot, so I ended up mostly walking the pavement (despite it being downhill) to the Hyak aid station at mile 54. My time was just below 13 hours, which was an excellent pace (and faster than my previous 50 mile run!). At this point, I had run more than I ever had. Moreover, I was so fast, that I knew I could walk the rest and still finish within 32 hours!

Up and Down

One of the mean things about this race is that the second half of the race is harder than the first – and not because you’re tired! I had arrived at Hyak feeling reasonably good (a little chilled, but I changed into something dry), had some chicken soup broth (at night, that’s some serious performance-enhancing stuff, I can tell you) and was soon back on the road. The next section was the only boring part of the race, since it’s one loooong climb (in the dark) up a wide dirt road. To my delight, about halfways up this climb I met a pacer (Lisa Bliss) who lost her pacee (she had an ankle injury, so took it easy) and we spent the next few hours chatting and climbing/descending together. She happens to be the medical director of Badwater and tried to sell me on this race (ok Lisa, I WILL do it someday!) and it was good to have someone to talk to. We reached the top and then went down the same kind of dirt road to the next aid station, Kachess Lake, doing a long downhill run. Now you may think running downhill is easy, but it turns out it’s not. It hurts your quads, and you cannot control your energy expenditure as well as going uphill, and most importantly it is just so tempting to run a little too fast, so often one feels much more worn out after a downhill than after an uphill section.  So I reached the Kachess Aid Station (mile 69) not feeling that great, and I started to get worried about how my quads would hold up …

The Trail From Hell

After leaving that aid station followed another highlight (yet it was still night) of the course – the Trail from Hell. To navigate to the trail from hell, you had to pass a small foresty section via what the RD calls “a makeshift trail”. Yeah! What happens here is that they put some ribbons and glow-sticks randomly in the woods, and you have to navigate from one marker to the other. You spot the next one, then – carefully – navigate there, and so on – above and under trees, through bushes, … No running here! Then, finally, one hits a short runnable section just to get to the “trail from hell”. A sign stating “most difficult” indicates what’s to come. Let’s just say – running is not advisable. It’s a very rocky, rooty trail with frequent hand-use. And btw easy to get lost. I nearly tried to climb up a unwholesome cliff, before I noticed I had left the trail … and some sections are rather slippery, inviting you for a dip in the lake below. This part of the trail was fun, but also seemed to go on forever, so I was glad that in the middle someone caught up with me – being teamed up seemed a lot safer here. Finally we reached the end, and after another section of more runnable trail (with some creek crossings) we got to the Mineral Creek aid station (mile 75).

Only 25 miles to go …

So one might think that with 75 miles done, you’re nearly there, right? Yeah. No. At the mineral creek aid station we were finally able to shed our lights and some clothing, but we had just a small 3000-foot climb ahead! I felt like I wouldn’t do too well on this climb, so I took my time, changed my socks and got some soup at the aid station (I even sat in a chair!!).
Initially the climb felt hard, but I surprisingly felt better – probably helped by the sunrise and some beautiful scenery. I pushed up the climb at a strong pace, and even was able to overtake someone, which gave me even more energy! Finally I came to the top of the hill and to the next manned aid station at mile 80. I stripped more clothing, put on sunscreen, and felt quite happy going on to the next section.

Cardiac needles

So Chuck said “yeah, the cardiac needles aren’t that hard”. Cardiac needles? Well, so the next ten miles would contain a few sections of trail, where someone just appears to have left out the switchbacks. The sections are not long – but long enough to completely deplete you of energy. And they are STEEP. So steep that if you want to move at all it’s hard. I have not seen any trail as steep as this in this area (not that long, at least). Wow. In the middle of this section, at mile 85, we also had a quick stint up to to a lookout (another half mile steep climb), but got rewarded for that with an unbelievably beautiful view of Mt. Rainier and the whole area. Anyways, The downhills in this sections were often too steep and rocky to run well (which is VERY hard on the quads), and I was glad when I reached the French Cabin aid station at mile 88. Interestingly, the whole way I felt like my legs should give out right now – but there was always more energy left.

Finish …

When I reached mile 88, it seemed like a sub-28 hour finish would be possible if I moved quickly. I followed some other runners and after a final nasty climb, we came to a nice runnable long downhill section. Despite some burning quads we were flying down this section, running very fast … until we hit the last downhill mile, just before the 95 mile aid station. All of the sudden the trail became barely runnable rocky STEEP downhill, slowing us down a lot. I guess I could have passed my colleagues but didn’t feel mentally up to it. This was the most frustrating section, since it seemed to go on forever, and every step was painful for quads and feet. I finally broke out cursing swiss-german – something that doesn’t happen very often. Worse, we knew the aid station was at the “bottom”, yet we were following at the side of a canyon which seemed to get deeper and deeper the more we descended, with no end in sight. Fortunately it turned out that we didn’t have to get to the bottom of the canyon, and we reached the 95 mile aid station. We knew it’d be 5 flat and partially road miles from here. The time was 26:10 by now, so if I would run a 10 minute mile I could even finish below 27 hours. I barely spent any time and sped away, just to find out that those 5 miles were very very long … At this part my emotions started going up and down, and I walked parts, ran parts until we reached a road section – yes! – and I started running. To my dismay there were some u-turns and things that made the stretch seem to just go on forever, but finally I saw Chuck waiting (he had to drop out because of an injury in his calf muscle) – and I knew I finished! 26:58, just under 27 hours, 3 hours better than I would have hoped and place 29 out of 66 finishers (and 96 starters).


Wow. I had done it. I never felt really bad, I was well hydrated, despite some slight nausea was able to eat continuously (mostly Boost Plus)! It could not have been any better (and subsequent 100s would confirm that :). At the finish I received the coveted brass belt buckle in a beautiful wood box.