It was 6:30 am and it must've been 27/28 degrees outside. My friends decided to do the early start for the annual Bizz Johnson marathon and they took off at 6. Since I didn't have a car, I told the guys not to worry about me and I was gonna just walk to the start. I had four layers on, but it apparently wasn't enough. I couldn't feel my toes and my fingers even though I wore thick gloves. Half way there, I walked by a house whose sprinklers were on full blast. The ground was very wet. I nearly slipped on the wet surface because it was icy.
The buses took us to the start of Bizz Johnson trail by 8:40. The sun finally came out and it was starting to get warm. Before long, it was the race briefing and it was time to strip down to the running layer. 9 am, off we went. Starting temperature couldn't be warmer than 33/34 degrees.
The first 6 miles of the race are uphill. We climb 300~400 ft before descending. I had a goal of running a 7:45 min/mile average, which was, in hindsight very ambitious given my lackluster training for the last two months after CCC. Given the uphill, I decided to dial back to 8 min/mile for the first 6. I kept the pace pretty well except it was FREAKING cold and I couldn't feel any of my fingers. The other thing I noticed was that my heart rate was up in the low 170s. That's not a good thing. Then I wrote it off as the altitude (the start was about 5300) was doing something to me. It was doing something alright. Mile 4, I wanted to refill my bottles and it took me more than 4 minutes to get out of the aid station because I kept on fumbling when trying to get the lid back on my water bottles.
Finally, we hit mile 6 and the downhill started. I kicked into gear and started doing 7:40ish. It felt great and I was happy. This was when I started passing a lot of people. I was able to maintain the pace without a lot of trouble so I kept pushing. I remember two months ago when I did a marathon pace run for 13 miles and I was able to maintain a 7:24 pace. I felt pretty beat and knew that I certainly couldn't maintain that pace for 26.2. Hence the 7:45 goal. Figuring lots of downhill and 20 seconds slower will do the trick. By now, mile 9 or so, I'd already pushed my pace down to 7:30. It didn't feel too laboring so I kept it there never thought twice about the long term effect. Then there were a couple of more frustration aid station experiences.
The Bizz Johnson trail was really quite something. It's a wide fire road like trail with pine trees lining the course. The scenary was very nice. Although it did get a little redundant for a few miles. At one point, I pulled up behind a group of runners who were going at a pretty good pace and all I heard was breathing, foot steps and the wind going through the forrest of pine trees. It was the coolest little moment. After enjoying that for a few minutes, I pushed on. I passed the half way point just below 1:45. I was quite happy, but was also concerned as the excessive pounding has caused my knees to really hurt. Moving forward.
I was on this stretch all by myself just pounding it downhill and saw a guy covered from head to toe walking up front. He made a sound and it sounded like my friend Ed, so I called out to him, "Ed." He turned around and acknolwedged. I stopped running and started walking with Ed. We chatted for a while. Larry, our other pal had ditched him at mile 5. He was going to be by his lonesome for the rest of the race. I walked with Ed for 2~3 minutes before saying bye and bolted downhill. Not even a mile afterwards, I started getting cramps in my calves. It started out with my right then left then both. It was pretty bad. My pushing hard early on was gonna cost me.
I limped out of the 16 mile aid station knowing that I was in trouble. I knew that I could no longer keep my 7:30 pace and would have to readjust my effort. The challenge was to decide what pace to run in. I tried to maintain an 8 min/mile pace, but my legs just wouldn't coorporate. Drumroll... I employed my first involuntary walk break. (Gasping for air.) Yes, it happened. After walking for .1 mile, I started to run again. It was so painfully slow, it might as well being walking. Within minutes, my sub 3:30 goal was gone. I was struggling to stay positive. I didn't want to hobble the rest of the way. Then it donned on me. I hadn't properly trained for two months other than an occasional long run. It was absolutely beautiful out here. Air is fresh and the trail was groomed. Plus, we were running down a beautiful mountain.
I made some mental changes to stop focusing on the time I was going to finish in rather how I could finish in decent shape without getting injured. I planned to continue my run/walk to mile 20. It would be painfully slow, but the time to recover will certainly help in the end. Between mile 18 and mile 20, all the people I passed earlier passed me back. It was quite a change from my normal endurance experience. I was always the conservative one, running the first half conservatively and push hard the second half. I am used to passing people in the second half and not used to getting passed. It was a big slice of humble pie.
Finally, the trail dumped us onto a bridge and we climbed up a small hill before dropping down a steep hill. After the swift descent, I faced the biggest climb in the race. A 50 feet climb over about 30 feet or so. I was so happy. I could finally walk without feeling bad. :) It took no time to get on that hill. After filling up at the aid station, I rushed out for the final descent of 6 miles. The last 6 miles were a lot prettier than the first. Susan river runs along this part of the trail. We crossed bridge after bridge and even went through two tunnels. My legs started to feel better around mile 22 and was able to pick up my pace a bit. I was running at 8:30 pace, but still needed the walk break every mile. When I passed the mile 25 mark, I was ready to get this run over and promptly kicked my pace down to sub 8. It was not easy, but I sucked it up and pushed on. I took on short walk break at 25.6 before charging the last .6 miles. I crossed the finishline at 3:54. It was such a relief to cross the finish line. John, Steve, Larry and Tim had all finished a while ago. We congratulated each other and waited for Ed to come in. Ed eventually came in around the 6:30 mark. We later found out that he had run the Cowtown marathon last week. What a crazy SOB! Great job Ed!
As tough as the race was for me, I finished in one piece without any injuries, which I am very thankful for. I learned a great lesson and enjoyed a beautiful run. From an expectation is concerned, the race was horrible for me. Then again, expectations are relative and the fact I survived to run another day was good enough for me. So, let's raise the pint to toast to a wonderful "man-pact" marathon.
A group of brave men, Larry, Ed, Steve and Tim formed a pact a couple of years ago that they will run a marathon together every year until someone's leg or some body parts give out. They did CIM for the last two years. John and I decided we would finally man up and join the "Man Pact" this year. This year, our marathon is the Bizz Johnson Trail marathon in Susanville, Ca which takes place tomorrow 10/12/08.
A little trivia about Susanville. It has a population of 18333, of which 11,000 are incarcerated in high security state prisons. My friend John said "if you hear any one saying 'ya sure got purty teeth' on the trail, run your ass off". Of the 18333 population, 1.14% is Asian. That's a grand total of 209. Yours truly stands out like a sore thumb. It's not as bad as my legendary Augusta, Maine story, but I did get a few stares as I ran this morning and walked back to our motel. The elevation for Susanville is just over 4200 feet. During my run this morning, I had to work pretty hard for my oxygen. It is different to say the least.
Nonetheless, all of us will run like men tomorrow. Bundled up men giving each other manly hugs to keep each other warm. Forecast has the temperature at 28 at 7:30 am and 34 at 9 am. 34 degrees. That's like Hawaii compare to 28. :) Yeeeeha!!! (with my cowboy twang.)
Just came back from Orlando, FL last night. I am pooped. It's very tiring to travel bi-coastal, I must say.
I went to visit my sister's family who recently moved to Orlando. It was my nephew Wyatt's first birthday. Yay!!! It was so much fun. He's an adorable little guy, energetic, charismatic and not to mention very very cute. I was most surprised by the fact that my sister has been feeding him normal foods like pasta, fried rice and etc on top of his formula stuff. It's amazing to watching him wolf down a big bowl of shell pasta or chicken fried rice all with just one tooth.
Saturday, we spent 6 hours walking around Epcot Center, mainly in the wonders of world section. It's a wonderful little loop where different cultures from around the world were featured through food, drinks, shops and performances. It took us 6 hours to walk around the 1 mile loop twice!!! That's how long it normally takes me to run a 50k in the mountains. Although, this was kind of an ultra in its own right as I drank my way around the World. 6 beers and 6 hours later, I was as tired as I was after a 50K. My legs hurt all the same.
Too bad, I could spend more time with little Wyatt. Can't wait to take him running when he gets a little older. He's already made great progress in that department, wobbling down the drive way like nobody's business.
i just deleted my race report for the santa cruz 29k. a little too tired to write it again. it'll have to be some time later this week. just a few stats.
my previous pr for 30k, 3:15 at pirates cove 30k. this one, 2:55.
my previous highest placement in a race 9th at pacifica 50k. this one, 6th over all and 2nd in my age group.
next up, bizz johnson marathon in two weeks.
It's damn near a month since I finished my 100 miler and I am just writing the last part of the race. :D
Enough slacking. Here we go.
It took me 40 minutes at Stampede Pass before Toni and Miki patched up my blistered feet. They did a great job as I ran on without any discomfort for quite a while. The sun started to set as I climbed out of Stampede Pass. Nobody was around me. All I heard was my breathing, the wind, the sound from the old growth. With the sun set in the backdrop, it was one of the most beautiful sights I've seen. (I saw a couple of more "most" beautiful sights later on in the race at Kachess Lake and on top of Thorp Mountain.) I was still not feeling normal, but it was starting to feel better than how I felt at mile 23. I kept running a decent pace on the gradual uphills, which this section had a lot of. I quickly caught up to a group of runners who left Stampede earlier. I ran behind them for a good stretch with no intention of passing rather some quiet company from each other. Not long after I started running behind the group, a woman in the group started throwing up projectile style. It wasn't pretty. I stopped to ask her if she needed some ginger chew since I had some. She declined and continued walking. It blows my mind every time when I see something like that happens in an ultra race. Ultra runners can look horrible or feel even worse, but we never stop moving forward no matter how slowly it might seem. :) I pulled ahead of that group and was alone again. The trail was going along side of the mountain and the sun set kept me distracted. Soon after that, the trail winded its way into the mountain and it was getting really dark. I flipped on my new Fenix flashlight and that baby lit the entire trail like daylight. :) I kept up my pace and tried to make up some of the time I lost at the aid stations. The trail really changed in this section. It became very technical. The smoother sections were so overgrown that you couldn't see where you are stepping. Then there were sections like one of those dried creek bed filled with loose rocks of all sizes. I took my time through the rocky sections. They lasted quite a while. It didn't take long for me to sprain my ankle for the first time. It felt like a low ankle sprain and it hurt like hell. I walked a while to feel things out. After a few minutes, it was still painful to put pressure on that leg. I limped for a few more minutes before I was able to run gingerly. It was the last thing I needed. I trekked along painfully. It was one of the less glamorous moments of my ultra career. After about 10 minutes or so, I was finally running semi-normally. The trail went up and down the mountains and the trail conditions changed quite a bit. As I climbed higher and higher, the trail got harder and harder to traverse. The trail was pretty wet as streams ran freely down the mountain. The sections of trail where water couldn't escape had mud puddles which were tricky to negotiate. A woman behind me fell half way into the mud and came out a different color. Then I saw these lighter color patches along the trail. Not knowing what the heck they were, I stepped on them and realized it was snow. We must be pretty high up to have snow patches late in August. The trail went from rocky to muddy to rocky to muddy. It turned so many times, I completely lost count. Just as I thought this section would never end, The trail took a turn and we were back in the woods with dry trail. yah!!! After a few more turns and few more downhill sections, I came out onto a fire road and the aid station was right down the road. One of the volunteers from Seattle Running Company filled my camel back as I ate a few pirogies with my hand. I would really regret that later as a diarrhea kicked into full swing after that aid station.
I left the aid station feeling much better and for the first time in miles, I had company. My buddy Chihping left the aid station with me. Chihping has a stress fracture in his hip so he really couldn't run the downhills. The down hill section after Meadow Mtn aid station was one of the worst I've run yet. It was rocky and overgrown at the same time. Not even a mile out, I twisted my ankle for the second time. This time was a high ankle sprain which was infinitely better than the first one. I kept on moving. Then we came onto a very steep downhill fire road. I ran gently down this stretch worrying about my ankle and quads. I found that it was actually harder to run that way because all the breaking was really hurting my knees. Thank goodness, it was a long stretch. The markers signaled the turn into the woods again. Then came the infamous rope section. The rope section was so steep, they put up ropes to help runners get down the hill. If it weren't for the ropes, I would've slid down that hill on my butt the entire way. As is, it took some serious help from the ropes to finally make it down to the fire road. Chihping had pulled ahead on the rope section while another friend, Don and I paired up entering the deserted train tunnel. The tunnel was about 2.5 miles long. The wind was blowing so hard, it was chilly in the tunnel. I employeed a 7/3 run/walk cycle. The first cycle was the hardest. I hadn't run for so long, my legs just didn't want to run at all. After willing myself to run through the first cycle, it was much easier the second and third cycles. By the time I caught up to Chihping, I was feeling pretty good aobut my run/walk cycle. We walked together for a while before I decided to make some time heading into the midway point at Hyak aid station, mile 53. Right before the aid station, I had to go again which was really messing up my backside.
I made into Hyak at exactly 1am. Toni greeted me with a big smile and a nice lounge chair. As I said there and ate a full peanut butter jelly sandwich, Toni got me something deliiiiiiicious. I had a cup of ramen soup. Ah, warmth and tasty!!! I enjoyed it so much that I asked for another cup. All good things come to an end. Don and I left Hyak about 10 minutes later.
The next section was a long 7 miles of uphill. It's all on this wide fire road. Don was such a great hiker that he was power walking at about 15 minute/mile 53 miles into the race. This was where my stomach really kick my butt. I had to do two more emergency road side bio breaks. It was pretty difficult. I ran this section with another pal I met along the way, Pete Preston from Connecticut. It was fun talking with Pete which helped passing time. Nothing interesting happened in this section. I did enjoy a great moon-lit run. I didn't spend much time at the next aid station. After getting my bottles filled, I headed right out.
The next 5+ miles were all downhill. I ran it to my best ability, 8/2 run walk cycle. It felt good. My legs were moving. I passed a bunch of people on this stretch. One of the guys I passed offered me Imodium after hearing about my diarrhea. That fixed it right up. It was awesome! Thanks, guys.
I again caught up to Chihping and we walked into Kachess Lake aid station together. The last half mile leading into Kachess was the worst for me as I was nearly falling asleep. My energy level was way down and all I wanted to do was to laid down somewhere and get some shut-eye. I again started formulating the reasons why I was going to drop at Kachess Lake. Then the real race began at Kachess...
This was by far the worst section of the race. I was glad it was over when I got to Kachess, but I had the infamous "trail from hell" to look forward to. Fun, fun, and more fun!!! :)