Losing My Religion

It’s been almost three weeks since my double race weekend. I know a lot of my running friends do races on Saturday and Sunday on a regular basis, but I never have… until now.

Running at 9000 feet is never easy anyway. Add obstacles and ice water and mud and electric shock and you have Tough Mudder. My goal was to finish and keep something in the tank for my race the next day. There were some tough climbs and some really tough climbs. Going trough mud and over logs and up walls and ladders really worked my arms. I have very little in the way of upper body strength and I did not spend any time in the gym getting ready for the obstacles that I would face. I had to skip a couple of the later obstacles that required all arms and I also skipped the 20 foot jump into the 12 foot mud bath, since I’m not a strong swimmer. There were a couple of ladder wall climbs where I could use my legs to help my arms. The Arctic Enema and the Electro Shock Therapy obstacles were the biggest psychologically. Jumping into a giant ice bath and duking under water literally takes your breath away. Just when I thought I had done all I could, I’m faced with the 50 foot curtain of electric wires to run through. Just before running through, they spray you with ice cold water. Not all of the wires are the same voltage. The first shock was a twinge on my arm. The second made me dodge slightly left. The third threw me to the ground like a rag doll, slamming my face into the mud. When I stood up I couldn’t see, but I forced myself to stagger forward to the finish. I soon discovered that my contacts were somehow shriveled up by the 10,000 volts of electric current I had been zapped with.

I woke up early Sunday morning more sore than I could have imagined. We made the drive part way down the hill to Fresh Pond. I had signed up for the 20 mile run. I wanted to know if I was recovered enough from my injuries from the year before (Plantar Fasciitis, Achilles) and if I had worked my way back to ultra strength after taking time off to heal. My goal was to run the 20 mile course in 5-ish hours and then sign up for a 50 miler the end of September.

6 hours later I made my way across the finish line, pleased I had finished, but disappointed in my time and how tired my legs were.


I love the trails around Jenkinson Lake and the views that you get there, but the trail is tough and I now had to re-evaluate if i could be ready for a 50 miler in 6 weeks.

The Achilles was very sore and my legs were just dead. After taking an entire week off, I came to the disappointing decision to not sign up for the Sac River Trail Run 50 in Redding. I realized that I just wasn’t going to get enough miles in before then.

Unfortunately, I have not felt like running much since then. I have run a couple of 2-3 mile runs and a 7 mile run.

Truth be told, I don’t really feel like a runner right now. I’m starting to not look like one either. It seems my weight comes back at the same rate my motivation disappears. I hope I get the desire back soon… I feel like I’m losing my religion.

Form Focus, aka: Starting Over

midridgepanIt really feels like I’m starting over from the beginning. I try not to care about pace, but when I am falling further behind those I used to run with, it’s really difficult to not care. I have three choices at this point; run with slower runners, run faster, enjoy the solitude. I’m trying to do the latter, but I’m doing some of the first as well.

I have made a few mistakes in my recuperation, but I think I’ve done some things right too. First thing I did wrong was my resting strategy. For plantar fasciitis, complete rest is a bad idea. The muscles will heal tighter and cause other injuries later when running is resumed. THAT explains the Achilles problems! I should have used more massage and continued running shorter distances. What I did was to rest during the week and continue the long runs on the weekends. I should have reversed that.

I’ve tried rotating my shoes. This was not a completely bad idea, but the Mafates (Hoka), with their additional cushioning, provide a much more comfortable ride and less Achilles pain. Playing soccer in Luna sandals was a bad idea (two broken toes). Shorter runs in the Cascadias (Brooks) are ok, but the Mix Master Move (Merrell) and Lunas are too flat and do not provide enough cushioning. The Mix Master actually has the same drop as the Mafate, but the cushion difference is significant. When I am completely healed, I hope to run more in the Lunas and the Merrels, but running without pain is more important.

Meanwhile… focusing on chi running and improving my form. I have found that it quickly becomes more natural to me. I have developed a habit of rotating my focus. Mid-foot strike/ lean, posture, breathing, cadence… repeat. I find that my lean determines my speed with much less effort than trying to move my feet faster. I try to keep a steady cadence and adjust speed with lean. I’m not very good at it yet, I forget to lean and my pace is slow. As I improve, my cadence will increase slightly and my lean will improve. My next race is a 10 mile trail run that I’ve run before, so it will be a good test of my progress.

Mental recovery is more difficult. Over training was my nemesis last year. I am not going to be able to return to old form and condition by forcing myself to run further or more often. It will only cause me to prolong my recovery or injure myself in other ways.


always happy to run


kids on mid ridge

So I run short runs with slower runners… these slower runners. They won’t be slower for long, but I love running with them.  the conversations usually go like this:

“Sean, do you want to go run?”

Gabriela: “I do, I do!”

Georgia all smiles at the Twilight Run

Georgia all smiles at the Twilight Run

Sean: “I guess. How far?”

Me: “Not too far. Georgia, do you want to go?”

Georgia: “No.”

Me: “Well, you’re going any way.”

And we go. And they love it. Although Georgia will never admit it.

These runs are shorter and there is no pressure to keep any given pace. It gives me an opportunity to spend time with my kids and focus just on form and breathing.

I still love running with my friends, even though I can’t keep up for very long. I am finding sly1trackthat I can maintain pace a little longer now and I don’t get as far behind as I was a couple of months ago. The key, mentally, is to not let it bother me that I am running behind.

Single track running through the trees with no one but God is the ultimate in trail running. Sometimes I have music, but other times I enjoy the solitude and the quiet.

I can work more on cadence and lean on these runs. Sometimes I get so into the running that find myself on unfamiliar trail (read: “lost”), but I have found my way back… eventually.

For any of my readers who have been with me for a while, you may remember my post from the beginning of the year (For The Love). I am re-finding the joy of running in these moments.

jenklakepanTruth be told, sometimes its best to slow down and look around; enjoy the moment, enjoy the view. Speed may or may not return. My faster friends don’t seem to mind that I can’t keep up and I still get to the end in time for watermelon and beer… that’s why we run anyway.

Learning to run… again

When I was in high school, my track coach told me that I had one of the most natural strides for a miler he had ever seen. As a sophomore, I was told that I was expected to be in the state meet as a senior. Unfortunately, my lack of dedication and subsequent deficient work ethic got in the way and my high school track career was not what it might have been.

Years later I had been in and out of running, but each time I started running again I found a natural, comfortable stride came back to me.

Then I got hurt. A seriously bruised knee, from a fall. A sprained ankle. Plantar fasciitis. Everything changed. My stride became one of compensating and over-compensating… favoring and avoiding.

I spent most of the last year trying to recover without stopping running. Over analyzing my stride. Trying to rest during the week and go on long runs on the weekend. Trying to keep up my rigorous race schedule.

I saw my times increasing. My recovery took longer. I started to feel less and less interested in running, but not running was worse.

It was time to do something different!

I started reading. I started studying the way others run and paying attention to the way I run.

The first book I read (recommended by my friend Matt), was Quiet the Noise, The Trail Runner’s Guide To Finding God. Rami Odeh shares his personal journeyquietNoise with us as he discovers a closer relationship with God by spending his time in God’s creation appreciating and communing with Him. I realized that my joy of running was waning because I was paying too much attention to what was wrong and not enjoying the run for the run’s sake. I wrote more about this as I finished that book in Oh For The Love.

born2runAs I was getting ready for AR50, I started reading Born To Run. To me, the theme of this story is the escape from the commercialization of our sport. It is about running because we love to run. I got just enough of this before AR50 to really enjoy that race, even though I was slower than my target pace. Reading about Caballo Blanco, Barefoot Ted and Luis Escobar and the Tarahumara Indians in Copper Canyon, Mexico, I was captivated. Next year I WILL run the Born To Run Ultra in Los Olivos and the Caballo Blanco Ultra in Copper Canyon is on my bucket list (all it takes is money). The connection with this book is very strong for me because it starts with the same question I have: “Why does my foot hurt?”

Finally, it was time for what I knew was coming since last September… STOP running! I needed a break! I needed to heal. I needed to rest and refocus. This was a good time tochiRunning do it. No big races coming up and a good break until Blood Sweat and Beers at the end of July. I started reading Chi Running. I started thinking about this several months prior and I bought the book for my iPad, but I wanted to read Born To Run first. I’m glad I did because it set me up for Chi Running as the next step. I started doing a little bit of Tai Chi and then, after a 3 week hiatus, started run/walking again, very short distances. I was completely starting over. I had to relearn how to LET MYSELF run, rather than trying to force it.

I took my 10 year old son out to run a little, thinking I would help him learn to run correctly now, to avoid injuries, but he does it naturally. This was an epiphany for me. I took off my shoes and ran barefoot in the grass. This worked really well until I stepped on a beemono_mgt_black_ribbon2_grande… and then another bee. Had I known my new Luna sandals were in the mailbox at home it might have been better. As I apply the principles of Chi to my running, I find that my form is returning. I am striking mid foot. I am not having any pain. I am ready to get back on the trails and run. I had to simply let happen what I had done my entire life. I have to run like a child, with the joy a child has when they run.

Truth be told, that’s how I fell in love with running in the first place.

Time to rest…

Since the first weekend in December, I have been doing this all wrong! In my feeble attempt to stay in condition while nursing my Plantar Fasciitis at the same time, I have reduced my weekday running to almost nothing. On the weekends, however, I have been getting my long runs in. Although this this has kept me from losing as much conditioning as it might have, I have still lost quite a bit and I have not really given my PF a chance to really heal.

Since the first of the year, I have participated in 9 races totaling 190.4 miles, but only trained 16 days for a total of 153.6 miles… and I feel it. My biggest mistake has been not taking enough time off from running after the AR 50.

I completed the Dirty Secret Trail Run, in Cool, this past weekend. This is one of my favorite trails and it was my first real trail run, so I use it to gauge my progress. I was 10 minutes slower over the 10.5 miles than I was last year. I attribute this, mostly, to not being fully recovered and lack of training. It was still fun and I love running with these amazing people… ftrSecretbut I could feel my legs after just a couple of miles and I just couldn’t make them move any faster.

My plan now is to not run for about three or 4 weeks and then start up again… slowly. I’m concerned about my condition because I don’t really enjoy anything but running and mountain biking. Meanwhile, my caloric intake hasn’t really subsided with the decrease in running and that takes a toll on me as well. My next race will be Blood, Sweat and Beers on July 27th and I don’t plan to run at all until June. I wonder how fat I’ll be by then. I am planning on volunteering at Western States 100 and possibly another race or two between now and then. I will also be climbing Half Dome two days before Blood Sweat and Beers, so that should be interesting.

Truth be told, sometimes you just need to rest and recover. I hope I can do so without too much loss.

What’s New Pussycat?

meowFor my second, ever, adventure run, I signed up for the MeOw! Marathons in the Trinity National Forest, near Whiskeytown Lake. This run is inspired by the Barkley Marathons and MeOw, in turn, inspired the Euchre Bar Massacre, which I participated in last October. The idea of these runs, for those who haven’t heard, is that you carry all of your own supplies, a map, and cryptic directions that guide you to successive checkpoints. At each checkpoint, the runners remove a page from a book that corresponds to their race number. There are no aid stations (although there is a water drop). There are no sweepers or safety patrol. There often is no trail.PO protection

At Euchre Bar I learned to be better prepared for poison oak and to bring a compass and better light, so I started out with a larger pack holding more clothes and food, two head lamps, as well as said compass. It soon became too warm for this and I decided to lose the arm sleeves and the long pants at the top of the first crest.

We left camp together, but it was easy to see quickly who wanted to win this and who was hoping to finish. The wear and tear on my legs from too many races and not enough proper recovery, soon had me at the back of the pack and I watched Ginny and Eric pull away from me up the first climb.

go up

See you later, Eric and Ginny!

converging creek beds

Converging creek beds

Lorelei was right behind me and we found the “converging dry creeks” that was the first natural land mark as Alex and Gerad caught up to us. They had missed a turn and so had to find their way back.

Here is a sample of the directions from this section:

“Begin climbing cross-country by going up the small ridge or spine just east of the easterly of the two creek beds (there is another creek bed 100 yards east of here, stay west of it and east of the two conjoined creeks). Keep going up this spine in a generally SW direction. Your route is simple- always go uphill. Choosing a path path of least resistance keep going up on or near the spine. This is Spinal Tap. The Poison Oak is ubiquitous, but easy to see, Avoid as much as you can.

Cats sleep 16 to 18 hours per day.”

Yes, that was part of the directions. Mark likes to throw in interesting facts for no apparent reason.

We soon came to a parting of the ways, as Lorelei and Alex chose to go up more, while I conjoined creeksubiquitous POspinal tapwas concerned that the new creek I saw was the one to stay west of. As it turns out, I should have stayed with them. They reached the first book 20 minutes ahead of me and I never did make up that time (almost, but that comes later). Looking back, I’m sure these are the conjoined creeks and I had some steep climbing to do, through the poison oak, to get back up to the spine.

book1After 2 hours and 41 minutes, and several false peaks, I finally found the first book. I thought I would be clever and set a way point on the GPS since I needed to come back to this location later. I took an extra few minutes to search for (and find) my phone, which had fallen out of my pack when I pulled out the GPS. I then took another moment to admire the view from the top of this first climb before I started planning my way down.

Top of Spinal Tap

Top of Spinal Tap

Scrambling, sliding, and falling down towards the Papoose Trail, I was thrilled to find something I could actually run on.

papoose trail papoose trail2

I had three miles of run-able trail and then a climb (still on run-able trail) to the falls and the second book.

The water in the falls was the cleanest and coldest and best tasting water I have ever had. upperBoulder Creek Falls book2Back to the trail and down the road until I reached the trail head.

As I faced Beverly Blvd, I, at first wondered why this abandoned trail was labeled as “the easiest section to get lost or hurt.”Beverly Blvd I soon found out, as the trail disappeared into an ample supply of poison oak that reached as high as my waist. Beverly Blvd?

Apparently, I should have veered right, but I veered left and ended up on the wrong side of the myriad of ravines. I was pretty sure I had chosen the wrong path when I found myself belly crawling under manzanita… repeatedly. Every “trail” I found ended abruptly into thick stands of the stuff and the compass told me I was too far west and I fought through the bush, trying to get back on the proper heading.lost ravine

Although I was wondering around in the bush, I never felt lost like I did at Euchre Bar last year. I never had the sense of panic (frustration, yes, but not panic). I knew which direction I needed to go and I knew I would get there.

I crossed over the correct course and found a maintenance road that took me to the water drop. In the mean time, I ate up too much time being off course and even though I had found my back to the proper course, I had missed the third book and used up too much time to make the cutoff.

It was time to call it a day! I caught a ride back to camp from the water drop and enjoyed the sunset and a cigar and a beer as I waited for my friends to come in. Lorelei and Alex came in shortly after I did. They had found book 3, but had also lost a lot of time searching. I had probably been wondering around to the west of them when they were searching for the book. Had I stayed with them, we may have all been able to finish. Gerad came in as the first finisher, but had missed the last book. Jesse Tebbutt came in first with Jesse Beck just two minutes behind. Joel had run the last two miles with his shoe untied in order to hold Jesse off.

Joel Tebbutt - 1st place

Joel Tebbutt – 1st place

Jesse Beck - 2nd place

Jesse Beck – 2nd place

My buddy, Starchy, from Euchre Bar, came in after shortening his plan from the double to the single. Other finishers came in throughout the night, but there were only 4 finishers of the single and 6 of the double before the time limit. My vitals were 9.95 miles and almost 2800 feet of elevation gain in 6:37.

Talking to Alex back at camp he commented that if we finished everything we started the first attempt, we would take the joy of accomplishment out of it. I added that if we finished everything we attempted the first time, we weren’t challenging ourselves.

This time I learned that I should stick with others as long as I can and I will add a topographical map to my collection. I still need to plan better and limit what I carry with me, although I don’t think the extra weight and larger pack was a real factor. I also learned the value of Tecnu!

finish lineTruth be told, I will finish one of these runs one of these days, but even if I don’t I will continue to run them as long as I am able. Until then, the elusive MeOw finish line will remain out of reach. Euchre Bar is only 5 months from today!sunset from camp

It’s not about me…

FLTR6aIt was nice to be back on my home trails this week. It’s amazing how good we have it with all these beautiful trails so close to home. I wasn’t really thinking of this as a race, as much as a fully supported long run.

I started out a little fast, but settled into a fairly consistent pace after that and, although the plantar fasciitis started FLT1bothering me after 14 miles and my legs were screaming at me because of the amount of long runs I have been doing lately, it was a great run. Inside Trail did a wonderful job with the aid stations and marking the course. If they can keep me from getting lost, it’s a good day! Aid stations were extremely well stocked and they had just what I needed all along the way.

I enjoyed running with Diane and Ron for a while and seeing friends at aid stations and along the course. Crystal and Hassan always make any race a good race. Finally meeting Alisyn face to face and running somewhere increasingly behind Diana really made me feel like I was just out for a run with friends. I also had some quality solitude time on the way back as I found my comfort zone and just cruised along with no one passing me and me passing no one for quite a while.FLTR5 I tired at the end (again 3rd race in 4 weeks and still really recovering) and I thoroughly enjoyed the post race massage offered by The Traveling Masseuse.

Some of my FTR friends finished their first 50k at this race, so congratulations to Damin and Jen on their great runs. Once you go ultra – you never go back! Jen won her age group and Damin took 3rd in his. As it turned out, I took 3rd in my age group, as well. This was likely due to the fact that there were only three in my age group, but I’ll take the extra medal.

But that’s enough about me, because this race was about these guys…FLTR4

I have been truly honored to be asked by several senior students at Sheldon High School (where I teach math) to mentor them in running related senior projects. Earlier this year, Anna completed a marathon, running her first ever race (a 5k) in the process of her training, as her second race ever. Emily completed a half marathon in March. Nick and Carla finished half marathons on Saturday (Carla on road and Nick trail), while Diamond volunteered instead of running due to injury. At the same time. Abdul, Xavier and Taylor ran the 35k with me. Well, I was with them for the first half mile.

Since it was an out and back course, I got to see them again, still very close together, when they were on the way back and I was not quite to the turn around point. They ended up finishing 4th, 5th and 15th overall and 1st, 2nd and 5th in their age group. At every aid station the volunteers told me how impressed they were with these young men and how strong they looked.










The best part came today, however, when one of them came in to see me and told me how much he enjoyed the run and that he would like to do more.

I’m so impressed with these young men and women facing difficult challenges, pushing through and accomplishing their goals. I feel amazingly privileged that they asked me to be a part of it.

Truth be told, the more I do this, the more I learn it isn’t about me at all. It never was!

A Long and Winding Road

It’s a great treat to get to run a new trail once in a while. I’m extremely fortunate to have so many amazing trail close to home in the Folsom-El Dorado-Auburn-Cool area, but traveling a little further affords me the opportunity to see some completely different trails.

I’ve gone on plenty of motorcycle rides in the Mokuolomne River area and the scenery from the road is beautiful, but it doesn’t come close to the beauty from the trail. I got to run the upper part of the trail a few weeks ago and experience a trail called the Longest Mile, to which name it lives up to very well. The Mokuolomne River 50k covered the lower end of this same trail. I would have had to run the 50 miler to get the full effect, but I’m not ready for another one of those just yet.

The extra distance meant waking extra early, so I made most of my preparations the night before. Two water bottles (one with diluted gatorade), my spi-belt with a couple extra gu packs, and my Conner shorts (RypWear) and Patagonia tek shirt… I was going minimal today. I ended up more minimal than I had expected! Bolting out the door at 4 am to meet up with Edd, I forgot my water bottles and my trail permit. Yes, I said trail permit. Apparently East Bay MUD requires that you pay for and carry with you a trail permit, as well as pay for parking. I thought I would be clever and pre-purchase mine, but I left it at home. Fortunately Edd had cash and fronted me both fees, as well as a spare water bottle.

FTRs running and volunteering

FTRs running and volunteering

At the start we learned that the second aid station would not be there and that the water drop at the halfway point may also not be available. Again, lucky for me, a fellow FTR (thanks Lisa) was working an aid station and had an extra water bottle I could use. Two bottles should still be enough if I managed to not get lost.

Oh! Did I say the “L” word?

Edd and I started together, neither of us really in a hurry, just taking a pleasant run on

take a picture on the run

take a picture on the run

these beautiful trails. I stopped too often to take pictures. and got a little behind, but we were maintaining a pretty even pace. The first aid station was manned by FTR peeps, Carina, Hassan, and Lisa (aforementioned water bottle donor), so I filled up and continued on towards the next aid, 8 miles away.

Trotting along, a little behind Edd, I could still see him

mystery mine entrance

mystery mine entrance

just a curve or two ahead of me and I seemed to be gaining on him. Our plan was to just run the whole thing together and enjoy the day. I caught up to another runner and we talked for a while as we looked out over the river and the canyon at the mine entrances and caves on the other side. We came to a T in the road and noticed there were no ribbons. In fact, we hadn’t seen any ribbons in a while. We started back the way we had come until we saw the left turn we were supposed to make when we were looking right. A bonus 1.2 miles and now I was considerably behind Edd. Time to turn on the music and enjoy the trail on my own.

It had started out a little brisk at the 6:30 start (OK, 6:45 because for some reason it started late) so I had on a Hoo-Rag and some arm-warmers that were a little too large for

canyon views

canyon views

my lack of biceps, but they were free. The temps were rising quickly, however, and I soon had both looped through my spi-belt. The Mokulomne trails are made by cattle, rather than intentionally made by equestrians or mountain bikers like those around Sacramento, so they have a lot more up and down. I enjoy that kind of running and I found myself in and out of the shade. I ran out of water about a mile from the aid station and I was feeling hungry, in spite of sucking down a gu on the way. I was grateful for the out and back feature of the course because I came across Paulo on his return trip (I swear he doesn’t even touch the ground when he runs) and I got a better idea of how far I had to go. I gobbled down some chips and some peanut butter on tortilla sandwiches, as well as a salt tab and coke. They were already out of potatoes and gu, even though this was only the second aid and everyone needed to pass through it twice. Even if I was DFL (and I wasn’t) they still had served only half the traffic.

The next 8 (approximately) miles saw the turn-around, the non-existent water drop, and

The OK Corral - no, really!

The OK Corral – no, really!

everyone else in the race (including Edd) as I either passed them on their way back if they were ahead or my way back, if they were behind. I hit the turn-around point at 15.66 miles, which would be perfect, except that I had done that 1.2 bonus and so this wasn’t a full 50k. It doesn’t really matter because, in trail races, the variation in terrain is so great that you can’t really compare one race to another.

It was warmer now and I was a little concerned about water, since the final aid was 8 miles away, but I wanted to keep moving because I thought I might still have a chance to catch Edd. A couple shots of coke, fill up on water, some electrolytes and another peanut butter sandwich and I was on my way. My legs were burning and I was tired from the week of touring San Diego, but I felt really good and hoped to pick up the pace a little.

Top of the world view!

Top of the world view!

I didn’t! The downhills were tough on my toenails and the uphills were killing my quads, but I was moving and feeling good for the most part. I ran out of water again about a mile short

orange smiles

orange smiles

of the aid station and I had to stop like a bear in the woods. The too-large arm warmer came in handy there as I had not yet seen Ben’s t.p. trick… like I said – they were free anyway. By the time I got to the aid station and saw Lisa, Carina and Hassan again, I was starving and dehydrated. I filled up on water, electrolytes, coke, oranges… and PIZZA!

They said I was still about 30 minutes behind

PIZZA! The perfect aid station food!

PIZZA! The perfect aid station food!

Edd, so I got on the move again. I may have been further behind than that, because I finished 45 minutes behind him.

My only time goal was to finish ahead of the 50 milers who were going almost 20 miles further. I knew Ben would catch me with my extra 1.2 miles and he did. Half a mile to go and Ben went by me going up hill like I was standing still. I checked! I wasn’t… quite.

Truth be told, I was really happy with this race. I’m still recovering from AR50. My plantar fasciitis did not bother me. The trail was beautiful. The time I spent with friends was great. The time I spent alone with nature, with my music, and talking to God was ideal. Most of all, I am much closer to my goal of running for the love of running again.

If you would like to read about the 50 miler and a much faster pace, check out Ben’s Blog. Also, check out his post on trail t.p.


I’ll Never Do This Again… Until next year


It seems that I can never get to a start line on time! I left my house early and picked up my buddy, Dave. We made the usual Starbuck’s stop, still thinking we had plenty of time, and arrived at Brown’s Ravine Marina 30 minutes before our wave 2 start and 15 minutes before the start of the 1st wave. Unfortunately, they closed the gate to vehicle traffic at 5:40, five minutes before we got there. I dropped off Dave and went to park the truck.

earlyfinishI found a space at the Burger Hut, about 1.5 miles from the start line. I made it to the start with only 2 minutes until the start of my wave and my drop bag had ended up in the wrong pile. As the wave started I watched the runners go by while I got my drop bags properly placed and hustled over to the start line at the back of the pack.

Dave, my new friend Dan, and I crossed the timing strip about 5 minutes after the clock started. We shuffled up to the pack and passed a few early walkers before we reached the marina bathrooms (hadn’t had time for that tradition either). By the time we turned off the pavement onto the dirt, it was already light enough that I didn’t need my head lamp.

The trail from Brown’s Ravine to the levy is one I am very familiar with and quickly fell into a comfortable rhythm running along the lake. Crossing the levy and weaving around Folsom Point, I was feeling loose and warming up. The Hokas were doing their job and I was shedding the Hoo Rags and the arm-sleaves I had started the race with. We continued on to the road and I had lost sight of Dave and Dan, but we met up at aid stations throughout the race. We had run past the walkers (don’t know why someone would sign up for a 50 mile race to walk it, but they do) and I had settled in with a group that matched my intended pace. I would see the same people off and on for the next 12 hours. The next several miles were on the road and then on the American River Bike Trail pavement. I had considered wearing road shoes for the first part of the race, but there was enough trail that I preferred to be in trail shoes the whole way. Besides, the Hoka cushion was kind to my plantar fascia.

The morning run around lake Natoma was familiar territory and went quickly. It was mostly downhill and I had to keep reminding myself to slow down so I would have something leftbouncybridge for the uphill part of the race. I ran into the aid station at Willow Creek and noticed some runners were sitting and, obviously, planning on a long break. My goal for aid stations this race was to be in and out quickly. I have found that my eye automatically draws towards what my body needs. I found what was working for me this time was a shot of Pepsi, a shot of electrolytes, a shot of Sprite, grab a quarter peanut butter sandwich and go! I had enough water in my Camelback. My first walk/jog came on Hazel up out of the Aquatic Center. Followed by a straight walk up the first dirt hill. Cheered on by a guy with a megaphone, I headed down the back of the hill and curled back onto the paved bike path for a while. I was thinking about the level of encouragement that takes place at these races, especially when compared to adventure runs, where it seems to be a game for the RD to tell participants that they can’t make it.

I headed up from Main Bar to the Bluffs and another favorite trail. This time I’m thinking bluffshow great it is to be running on so many of my favorite trails and running into so many runners that I run with on a regular basis, which I did here and ran with them for a while. When running with others, I turn the music off, just in case we decide to chat. Once on my own again, I put on the music and get lost in my combination of rock, contemporary Christian, blues, classical, jazz and country music that I keep on my iPod.I came upon the FTR aid station at Negro Bar sooner than I expected and met up with Dave and Dan once again. I also loved seeing all the people I know from the best running group anywhere and honestly felt completely rejuvenated. the only person missing was Steve Godfry, who I can usually count on to yell at me to keep me going at some point during almost every race, usually when I least expect it. This is one of the 3 aid stations I had predetermined ftraidthat I would spend a little bit of extra time. I refilled my water pack, grabbed some potatoes with salt and my liquid cocktail of pepsi, electrolytes and sprite. A quick picture with FTR friends, grab a quarter sandwich and on my way.

Shortly out of the FTR aid station I got my first surprise when I llamalook up to see a woman walking towards me, walking her… LLAMA?? WHAT? I didn’t even think to get out my phone to take a picture, so I’m glad someone else caught it. I pushed, now on a slight uphill, on the paved bike trail, looking forward to Beals Point, picking biketrailup my pacer and dirt trails to the finish. I made eye contact with a young dear that was bounding along the trail and stopped to look at me as I went by, before bounding away, followed by his brother giving chase.

I felt like crossing Folsom Dam Road was a key milestone and that I was practically at Beals, but that short stretch seemed longer than it was. Somewhere in here I started feeling hungry and ate one of my Gu packs. My shorts were starting to chafe and I was looking forward to changing into the RypWear Conner shorts I had waiting for me in my drop bag. Coming into Beals I got a burst of energy when I saw belasignAlessandra and my kids waiting for me with signs and cheers. I ran into Dave and Dan again, but we all left at different times.

At Beals I changed shorts, dumped my Hoo Rags and arm sleeves, put on a visor and got some more nutrition. Two quarter sandwiches, chicken noodle soup, fruit, fill up the water, pepsi, electrolytes, sprite, potato and salt. I gave my drop bag to Alessandra so I wouldn’t have to worry about it later. I also got to pick up a pacer at Beals. One more quarter peanut butter sandwich and Stephanie and I headed out to the trail.

Half done and I really was feeling great at this point. Tired legs, but otherwise good. The plantar fasciitis was reminding me it was there from time to time, but it wasn’t unbearable. the rolling hills up to Twin Rocks and through the grinders gave some good opportunities to run easily through the shaded trail, but also required some hiking and power walking. I love running through technical trails and hopping off of rocks. I was frequently hit with stephbursts of energy and could run stretches at a 12-13 min/mile pace. My favorite part of trail running is when my legs go numb and I’m moving fast enough to get a little breeze in my face. I got a lot of that here. Stephanie was exactly what I needed here. During the walking stretches we exchanged stories about running and growing up and I almost forgot that I was running 50 miles… almost. A few times I had to turn on music so that I would stop talking and run a while, but the rest I got in the walking stretches was exactly what I needed at the time. The next great surprise was at Buzzard Cove Aid Station… Ice Cream!! It was supposed to be an express station with nothing but water and electrolytes, but as we came in they offered ice cream. After eating a little bit, I covered the rest with some Pepsi and made a float. According to them, I was the only one to do that. It seemed obvious to me!

singletrackRolling hills to Horseshoe Bar and on to Rattlesnake Bar; somewhere in there I looked at my Garmin and saw I had run 33 miles… the furthest I had ever run… and I had PR’d my 50k time… new territory from here on out. It was time to drop off Stephanie and pick up Matt to get me the last 10 miles. Rattlesnake was my last ‘long stop’ aid station and I took in more soup, sandwiches and oranges. Water was ok so I left that alone for now, but did get some more fluids and grabbed a piece of candy bar and peanut butter sandwich.

Matt got me going again and was also an awesome pacer. He gave me the perfect mattbalance of “you look great” and “let’s keep going.” He occasionally sprinted ahead and snapped some pics, but I couldn’t find one of him, so I stole one form another run.

Again we had a gradual uphill, but with run able rolling hills. I was still feeling good, but the legs were definitely tired. I was starting to feel the burning quads on the up hills and my

Garmin battery had died so I really had no idea what pace I was going. I knew two things… I was ahead of the cutoff and I thought I had enough water to make it to the finish.

Ahead we heard yelling and thought we were coming up on an aid station, but it seemed to soon. We came around a bend in the trail and saw people stopped in the trail and

skunkmilling about back and forth. Then we saw why! This guy had taken position on the trail and was not letting anyone pass. Sadly, he was sick and likely died later that day (later runners reported that he was convulsing). A rabid skunk is nothing to mess around with so we traversed up the hill and around him.


I took in some oranges and potato at Dowdin’s Post and skipped the water refill. Knowing that the last hill was 3 miles of serious up that I would probably mostly hike, I tried to run as much as I could. The motivational signs are always fun to read and something I look forward to on any long run,and they did not disappoint this year.






I barely made it into Last Gasp, water-wise, and it was starting to cool down a little, as the sun started going down. I got a splash refill on the water pack and started the hike up the last hill. The quads were burning now and I was concerned about getting cold and tightening up. With Matt’s encouragement, I power-walked up the hill and started running again when the hill flattened out a little. I caught up to Sarah, who I met at Way Too Cool.3miles She is a fellow teacher who was running her second ultra (WTC being her first) in honor of her father who no longer runs due to physical ailment. It was an honor to get to meet him as well, since we had talked about him quite a bit in Cool.

Running up the last little rise and onto the street, I turned the final corner and sprinted (or as close as I could get to that at this point). As I approached the finish, there was Steve, already finished, wrapped in a blanket with a beer, yelling at me to kick it in. Now my race was complete.

A couple of things I learned: a 100 mile race is so far out of my comfort zone that I don’t want to consider it. 50 miles is a little further than I really want to go. The support of FTR, and especially Matt Brayton, Stephanie Jacobs, Edd Ligsay made this possible. Alessandra bringing my kids and them holding up signs truly made my day! I really love these people that I run with, these trails that I run on and running, in general. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to pace for someone else. I can’t think of any way to show my appreciation for what they did for me.

Truth be told, I’m looking forward to doing this race again next year. I think I can finish under 12 hours. I know, I said 50 was too far, but that was race day and this 4 days later. I had more fun running this race than any I have done before and this is the first time I have ever been smiling at the end.

By the way; Burger Hut was closed, but I did eventually get my post race burger. I had to make it myself and it was the next day, but it was awesome!burger

First 50

Saturday I’ll be running my first 50 mile race, the American River 50 Miler. A multitude of

Official-Course-Map-AR50-2014thoughts are passing through my mind this week. Among them are “what the heck was I thinking!” Three years ago I said I would never run anything further than 5 miles. Now, 2 marathons, 3 50k’s and several 10 mile races and an adventure run of about 30 miles later and I am stepping up to a whole new level.

Of course, I feel woefully unprepared! I have not put in the miles that I had hoped up to this point. I have been recovering, I think, from plantar fasciitis. I have changed shoes, inserts and socks and I am hoping I have the right combination to run 50 miles with a minimum of pain. I am running a slower pace now than I was last year and yet, I am still planning on picking it up on Saturday and running the best race of my life.

I have the amazing support of my family and my running group. Folsom Trail Runners have been nothing short of amazing in the advice and encouragement I have received. My pacers, Matt and Stephanie are ready to get me through the last half of the race and I am simply hoping to get to them before they get bored and leave (just kidding, I know they wouldn’t… I hope… I think).

I have paid more attention to my nutrition (still lots of room for improvement there) and my cross training (even more room for improvement there). I have worked on running form and relaxing during the run. I have focused more on mental preparation than physical preparation and, I think, that will be more important for this race.

Today I will pack up my drop bags and make final preparations for the run. I might go run an easy 2-3 miles, just to calm my nerves.

I’m not going to win, but I do have the goal to improve my overall age group ranking. I’m not even sure how they figure that out, but I’d like to see the number improve. I’m pretty much a “back of the middle of the pack” runner and I hope to improve that a little. Mostly, I want to make sure I finish before the cut off.

My plan this year was to run fewer races, but longer distances. I’m getting part of that… the next month is going to be interesting, as what used to be long runs turns into training runs. My schedule the next seven weeks includes:

Mokelumne River 50K
Folsom Lake Trail Run 35K
MeOw Marathons Adventure Run (single or double marathon – not sure yet)
Dirty Secret Trail Run 10 Mile
Race Behind Bars (my first mountain bike race)

Truth be told, I am loving this! This will be the race of my life, no matter how long it takes!

Way Too Cool Two

Saturday was my second start at Way Too Cool and my 3rd attempt at the 50k distance. Running 31.2 miles as slowly as I do gave me a lot of time to think about and, at least part of, it consisted of things some runners might find beneficial. So, I have a lot to report. For those of you who just want to get the general idea, I finished. I was able to improve my time on my last 50k and that is the first time I have improved over any distance since last July. Scroll to the end if you just have to know my time… full race report follows.


Training, or lack thereof:

Recovering (or not) from plantar fasciitis greatly affected my training since the Sly 50k in August. Since CIM in December my training consisted of doing nearly nothing during the week and running a long (ish) run on the weekends. On race day I was feeling pretty good, but I knew the lack of training was going to have an impact on my endurance. My last couple of training runs have been in the 15 min/mile range, whereas last summer I was pretty consistently around 12. None the less, thinking of the 50 miler (maybe two – AR50 and MeOw Marathons) that I have coming up, I decided to press on and test my limits. I think I found them.

I arrived later than I had hoped and parked more than a mile from the Ultra Village. I saw my FTR family at the start, but I had missed the traditional group photo op and still had to get my bib and check in, and, of course, the obligatory pre-race porta potty stop. The race is run in two waves (8am and 8:10 start times) and slow folk, like me, are scheduled for the second, but the porta potty line put me to the start line at 8:17. Thankful for chip timing, I started my Garmin with two others in our own “3rd Wave” and pursued the others already several minutes ahead. I caught the back of the second wave pack before I hit the dirt at mile 1.5 and started picking off runners on my way to Knickerbocker Creek. The creek was just below the knees this year and I have no desire to wait in a single file line to rock hop across in a feeble attempt to stay dry, so I splashed my way across and skirt past a few more runners. At this early stage I’m still running up hills and felt lucky to get in a conga line that matched my pace on the Secret trail. Despite the crowds, the slip and slide trail conditions and a first class back splash covering my back side in mud, I reached the Cool Firehouse at mile 8 in an 1:41, 4 minutes ahead of my goal pace.

I set three goals for every race. First, my ‘it would be awesome if I could do this’ goal. Then my ‘this is what I really think I can do’ target, and finally, my ‘I’ll be really disappointed if I can’t do this’ goal. For this race, my dream was under 7 hours. I had broken the race into three 8 mile sections, the first one down in under 1:45 meant I was on pace for sub 7 hours, but the hills were yet to come.

Leaving Cool and heading toward Hwy 49 is usually a fairly fast section and I did get some stretches of bounding downhill, leaping off of rocks. The slippery conditions and the over crowded trails however slowed me down a bit. Another porta potty stop and the first significant climb put me at mile 16 one minute behind my ideal pace, but still well within my second target of 7:30. This is where my lack of training became evident as my legs just quit. If was even going to finish this race, it would not be because of my legs, but in spite of them.

At about the same time, I started having stomach cramps that I couldn’t identify. It wasn’t intestinal. I tried different food at the aid stations, but that wasn’t it either. It took me several miles before I realized that I was using my abs more (something I have been working on) and they were sore. By the time I finished I felt like I had been doing crunches the whole time.

Another thing I have been working on is Chi running. I don’t know very much about it yet, but I have been applying the basics because I have heard two things about it. First, the style of running reduces injury and uses less energy to move forward. Second, the joy of running on the verge of out of control has always been the best for me and I am trying to get more of that. As my legs gave out, I knew I would need some force to keep me moving to the finish; gravity never stops! I’ll write more on this as I learn more.

Reaching the aid station at mile 21 I felt good. Tired, but good. I refueled and stepped into new territory, as that is where I dropped last year. After a peanut butter sandwich and some electrolytes, I took off the shirt and the arm sleeves and threaded them on my spi-belt, refilled my water bottles and leaned down the hill from the aid station. The next 4 miles were mostly about enjoying the solitude and preparing my head for Goat Hill, the steepest and most infamous section of the course. I really enjoyed this section, although fatigue had thoroughly set in, letting gravity pull me down the downgrades and pushing up the rises, it was slow going, but beautiful single track in the trees with perfect running weather.

I pushed my way up Goat Hill and made the final 5 miles on the winding single track mostly alone, which was fine for me this day. I could see my second goal slipping away, but, considering the lack of training and the fact that I have actually put on some weight (all on my gut – don’t judge me!) I was starting to feel lucky if I even made my drop dead goal of 8 hours. I made it to the last aid station and only needed a splash of water to make it the last 1.4 miles. There is an immediate climb that I have run many times, but not this time. Water was running down it like a small stream and it was as muddy and slippery as I was tired. I walked that stretch and then trotted the last bit, making sure I could run to the finish line.

I finished at 7:52, chip time, and came across feeling pretty good. My bib number was 747 so I felt compelled to spread my wings and fly across the finish like a very slow moving airliner. They handed me a medal and a water. I kept the medal, but quickly traded the water for an ice-cold amber ale Matt had saved for me. Hanging around with my FTR friends, talking about the course and the great accomplishments of some of our members and all of our great finishes was the best part of the day.

Gear and Nutrition:

Although my training was poor, to say the least, I had very good luck with my gear and nutrition. The spaghetti feed carb load the night before, oatmeal and a banana for breakfast and my traditional Starbucks pre-race got me started. I always carry a couple of Gu packs just in case, but I try to rely on the aid stations because NoCal Ultras always does such a great job of taking care of the runners. Even after the long Facebook discussion on hydration, in which I was a proponent of the back pack over the water bottles, I opted for the double 20oz bottles anyway because the aid stations were close enough together to refill often and quickly. I also knew it would be warm later and I might want to go shirtless and that would not be possible with the pack. I converted one of my water bottles to electrolytes around mile 4 with a drop-in tab (can’t remember the brand). I didn’t like the taste and I used up all the water so I  just made do until mile 8. I refilled the bottles with water and electrolytes, respectively and that combination seemed to work. I am a firm believer in eating what my body seems to crave at aid stations and took potatoes and salt, a cookie, peanut butter sandwich quarters and salt tablets at each station. At mile 21 I took two s-tabs (I wish I hadn’t but they handed them to me and I took them both) and switched to two bottles of water because I had run out at mile 19. Fortunately there were some spectators right there who had ice and flat coke… Perfect! I looked at the pizza at the last aid station, but by then I just wanted to finish and time was slipping away. There would be pizza in 1.4 miles, and a cupcake!

I started with a Hoo-Rag around my neck, but decided it was too warm and put it in my truck a 1.4 miles. I kept the nike running cap, Balega short trail socks, and arm warmers. The shorts are Conner Trail Shorts from local company RypWear. These are a seamless short that are extremely comfortable and provide with almost no chafing (properly and amply applied Glide helps too) and absolutely none of the cutting and binding caused by the typical built in liner in most running shorts. I wore the Patagonia shirt that was given at last year’s WTC and this is the most comfortable shirt I own. I was pleased to see that they supplied us with another of the same this year in a different color. Thank you Julie! I took off the shirt and arm sleeves at 21. Threading the spi-belt through was a bit of brilliance I came up with because I was tired of losing things I hang in my belt. The spi-belt is light and holds several Gu packs and some Chomps in the pocket with virtually no weight.

Finally the shoes. I have been running trails in Brooks Cascadias and they fit me wonderfully. The plantar fasciitis, however, finally compelled me to try the Hoka Mafate 2 (I got mine at Running Warehouse, but you could also try Gold Country Run and Sport if you are local. The extra cushion provided by Team Marshmallow has been amazing. Especially on the downhills I feel like I am floating. It took me a while to get used to the raised profile and I wish the tongue was a little wider at the top because the lace creates a blister when I use the heal lock eyelet, which I need to do. I haven’t checked the changes in the new Mafate 3 yet.

With all this amazing gear and the nutrition working well, you’d think I have a better time, but 5-7 extra pounds around the waist and no training during the week for 4 months will cost time.

Truth be told, I’m happy to be able to run this distance without pain. Now, let’s get ready for 50 miles!