Thursday, 27 August 2009

Badwater Interview on Channel 7 Brisbane June 2009

Now that i'm back in Australia i've finally had a chance to see my Channel 7 Video. I do cringe about the inaccuracies (there are a number starting with my age and going right through my employment status and the time i was hoping to do and various other things), however at least the pictures look good, don't know if it's just me but i hate my voice on TV !

A big thanks to Darren Curtis and all at Channel 7 Brisbane for at least giving Ultra Marathon running a TV presence and letting me tell my story

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Bulldog 50K Trail Run 22nd August 2009

With two weeks between races some people may have suspected that I was rested and fresh for the last race of my American Campaign the Bulldog 50KM Ultra at Malibu Creek State Park.
That was the theory but the fact was since Mt Disappointment i'd spent 9 days in Montreal, now I was told to expect cold weather and that i'd need to wear layers (rather difficult as i'd mailed a lot of clothes back home by now), what I come upon was a heat wave, whilst temperatures were only in the low 90's (30's ?), incredible humidity meant it felt way over 100 and pollens in the air gave me more problems than i've ever had before. Starting with a sore throat and escalating to sneezing coughing and seemingly a full blown cold. Not to say I didn't have fun in Montreal, went as far as Ottawa and the ski resort of Mount Morin (blessedly cooler on my last full day) as well as exploring the Old City and Olympic stadium as well as other trips shown around by Anna Maria (who i'd shown my sort of local place the Californian Central Coast to).
What it did mean though was I landed back in LA on the Wednesday, with a very sore throat and nose and sinuses blocked something shocking, it may not have been an actual cold but I was washed out so much that a 50K run 3 days later sounded like very wishful thinking.
At least back in LA (actually Calabasas only 3 miles from the race and 30 odd miles from LA City along the Ventura Freeway), it was consistently a dry heat, so maybe I could get my act back together in time. Wednesday was essentially a write off as I was jet lagged (getting out of bed at 3AM Canadian time – Midnight LA time) didn't help and by the time I got to my motel all I could do was sleep (and sneeze and cough).
Come Thursday I was freshened up and did the tourist thing going to Beverly Hills and Hollywood (and misplacing the car – all the backstreets of Hollywood look the same !), and exposure to sun and heat seemed to be doing the trick.
Friday I decided the best way to work out where I was running was to actually run to where the race would be, so I did and then ran a couple of easy nearby trails before heading back home, a good solid 2.5 Hour hitout and after a quick dip in the pool I was feeling reading for the next day.
I'd woken at 4:30 so that as usual I'd have breakfast (not my usual cereal but by now i'd grown begrudgingly used to American Cereals), but originally the plan had been to drive to the start, however a very mild morning made me decide that a better option would be to run there as the 3 mile run would be a perfect warm up as the first half loop seemed to be mainly uphill.
Arrived with a good half hour to spare, certainly the mild morning had potential to become a very hot day, just thankful we were only talking 50K's.
Large number of starters, the race itself was sold out but I assumed with a 25K (one loop as opposed to our 2 loops) our field would be noticeably smaller but with our race starting an hour earlier we appeared to have pretty impressive numbers (I was t find later that there were 185 Competitors Huge by Australian Standards).
With warmer weather it was time to retire the Buff Bandanna and go back to my old faithful red headband, so it was AURA singlet and my Nike shorts to complete my genuine summer ensemble as well as my Handheld with a couple of GU's and some S Caps.
Obviously I'd been here too long as I was starting to see the odd familiar face, including Deb the lady who had sorted me out in First Aid last time (was happy to see her at the start just did'nt want to see her post race again :-) ).
Soon we were off, local Guillermo was leading the way (race director Nancy had said early on that he was the man to follow as he did all his training here), and despite it initially being flat I could see quite decent hills ahead.
I'd settled in to a good comfortable pace but once we got into the hills I decided walking was the way to go as runners around me were not getting much further away and if I read the race notes correctly the first half was uphill the second half mainly downhill. First drink station soon appeared and all I really needed was a couple of cups of Gatorade was feeling good, from then on it was becoming hard work, clouds or smog were trying to hide incredible views but eventually I worked out I was looking at the Pacific Ocean and towards Catalina Island. After many ups finally some downhill and I cut lose for a while was chased by one fellow and we were having our own little war as we passed numerous runners, wasn't really sure whether this was good for me, but testosterone got the best of me.
Finally after a Brindabella like downhill section I felt the sciatic nerve giving problems, this could be interesting, after all I hadn't come all this way for a dud performance in one of my shorter runs, the next section was flatter and did my back more harm than good particularly on a creek crossing where I was desperate to keep my shoes dry (with a flight back in only two days), finally we finished our loop and if I heard correctly I think I was 18th.
Wasn't really looking forward to this second loop and I now new what was ahead of me and with the sciatica (or back or whatever) on bit of a razors edge I knew i'd have to run (and walk) a little smart.
By now I was in a pretty \familiar group and we'd been chatting for a while which at least took my mind of my pain, but I was also starting to get into my S Caps and handheld of Accelerade, so before the big climb filled the bottle and also had a biscuit and a hammer gel.
Walking wasn't losing me ground but it was tiring me as it seems to take more out than free flowing running on the flat so I was just making sure I had something left for the downhill by this point.
From the ego's point of view I was starting to enjoy the race as I was beginning to overtake the slower 25K runners and passing quantities of runners is always good. Next Aid Station I saw Deb helping out, we had a quick chat and I was off, didn't want her to see me looking pained again.
Finally i'd made it to the top and after a few hard rocky sections the beautiful downhill trails, now the question was whether I could hold my body together. Ultimately all was good and I chased down a number of the runners i'd been bunched with at the start of the second loop, but just in the distance was a fellow in a red singlet, just teasingly always the same distance ahead.
We were now back to the flat, thankfully the creek crossing seemed easier than previously, and I was soon at the last aid station, I knew I wasn't carrying much liquid but decided that instead of wasting time filling the bottle i'd just have a couple of cups of Gatorade as well as a couple of orange slices.
Really i'm not sure whether that was the correct strategy as towards the end I had my one gulp of remaining drink and then had a very hot uncovered section, seemingly going forever as we looped the carpark to the finish line. Ultimately I finished 17th in 4:58, to be second in my age group (sure enough the fellow in the red singlet just out of reach was also in my age group !!).
Now it was time to rehydrate and have pizza, as thankfully this was supplied.
After eating and drinking and receiving my trophy an hour or so had passed and it hit me I still had to get home, just thankful that I was offered a lift at that point I was still very flat (not as flat as the next day when I accidentally did a 8 hour hike through the Santa Monica Mountains but that's another story !).
By the time this tale is up on my blog i'll be back in Australia, i've typed this whilst recharging the laptop at LAX but with no internet access can't put online till i'm back home.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Mt Disappointment 50 Miler 8th August 2009

After last weeks trail run I was looking forward to a tougher course and a longer distance, as I felt that was really what I needed to get the best out of me.
As it happened there were two Californian Options the Headlands Hundred Miler
(and 50 Miler) just across the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin or the Mt Disappointment 50 Miler (and 50K) in Angeles Forest near LA. I was pretty convinced that a 100 miler so close to Badwater was going to be way less fun than a 50 Miler and I guess ego dictated I did the event where the 50 Miler was the major event.
As it worked out this was a good idea, as our road trip had continued another week and from the Castro Valley had gone down Freeway 101 and to places such as “The Pinnacles” (a US National Monument and very much like the Australian outback and having a fantastic hike requiring a torchlit walk through an underground cave) and Paso Robles before hitting the coast again and San Simeon and then Morro Bay, meaning we could hit LA via Highway 1 (culminating with a magnificent rising full moon over Malibu) and spend a couple days at my favourite South Bay places before dropping my travelling companion off at LAX on the Friday.
Reading Fridays emails it appeared the simplest way to get to the race start was simply to camp there, so with tent and sleeping bag I was fully prepared although frankly I was relying totally on my sat nav as I had no idea where I was heading.
After a beautiful drive up (would have been magnificent views except for the fog !), came upon Mount Wilson apparently home to numerous astronomy telescopes and huge power poles (and strange considering all the electricity etc around us no mobile phone reception), eventually quite a number of us made it there (although only three of us pitched tent, essentially the camping area was rocky car park) and we met the race director and got our race numbers and goodie bags.
Having brought food up with me I had no problems dinner wise but with no choice but a sloping campsite I did wonder just how I was going to sleep without rolling out (as the above picture shows at least my tent was sloping away from the cliff face !).

Good nights sleep except for the fact it had become really windy around 1 and later had got really cold, but was awaken by traffic controllers directing parking at 5:30AM. Bagels for breakfast (left overs from the previous days Hermosa Beach breakfast) and I then headed out, definitely cool so I decided to start in Moeben Sleeves with my Lululemon top as well as gloves and the Buff Bandanna.
Ultimately decided i'd be using my camelbak but instead of using the bladder would have both handhelds in it (as well as a myriad of energy food and clothing options).
Caught up with my Badwater Crew Matt and his girlfriend before race start and had our pictures taken and bit of a chat, I was my usual nervy self pre race especially on seeing it was a race with 100 odd starters (as well as another 150 in the 50K), a massive field to me.

A talk from race director Gary and then he called the Military (both serving and ex) Personnel up to lead the countdown (including former Marine Matt) to race start.
Apparently our first 5 Miles (all downhill) was now going to be road rather than trail as the RD had not been able to obtain a permit, no difference to me and to be honest a relief as a fast downhill trail start is not my specialty.

Had a chat as I ran with a few of the locals but I was really more focussed on getting to the trail section, absolute feast at the first aid station at Red Box, but at this point hadn't even given my bottles (filled with Accelerade) a thought was quite content just to use what was supplied.
By now the cold morning had warmed a little but I thought gloves were still the way to go as we finally made it onto some very nice trails. Was moving along nicely and enjoying some great views in this section and was soon at the next aid station (shortcut canyon) where I appeared to have my own cheer squad (not sure who was calling out to me by name was concentrating to much on getting up the hill).
Again a feast and I decided a Hammer Gel would top off real food quite well and also that I should finally drag one handheld out of the backpack as we were told it would be 7 miles to the next aid and noticeably warmer.

Lots of runners around me as at this point both races were still as one and really I had no idea who was in which, so every runner was a potential opponent.
Whilst the course was now getting harder i'll admit it was going by quickly as we got incredible views, the towering “Gotham City” of Los Angeles only 20 odd miles away looked incredibly different to the scenery around me but the view was so clear you could almost reach out and touch it !.

Spent quite a bit of time with another runner who'd done this before and he gave me a better idea of what the course ahead would be like. Another aid station and it was definitely getting warmer, was finally getting into my fluids and eventually decided Moeben sleeves and gloves were no longer needed, was actually beginning to work up a sweat.

Definitely getting warmer now and I was beginning to feel as though this would be a very tough workout so soon after Badwater as simply you can't tell just how well your body can handle heat so soon after an event such as that.
We soon hit the checkpoint that differentiated between the two distances, now there was only one way to go and I would be committed to completing the 50 Miler.
For a while we were now protected from the heat by lovely sheltered gullies, but soon I caught up with another runner who had done this before and gave details of what was ahead including the fact we would repeat some of this section on a 2 mile loop after the 28 mile aid station. It was soon after this that one of the leading runners suddenly popped out from off this loop and lead us the last mile into that aid station, apparently he wasn't even top 15 so it gave me a better idea of my standing at this point and a good reality check.
After a quick drink and fill up of my handheld it was off on the two mile loop, at least I now had a good idea just where I was going !.
Once returned we were told that the next section would not only be long but also essentially unshaded and hard so I filled both handhelds, and also adjusted my bandanna to make it more headband like as I knew i'd be sweating heavily soon.
A good section for me as I could see runners quite a way in front and could gauge that I was making good ground on them, however the heat was beginning to take its toll. Eventually we reached a turn which directed us to the next aid station manned by search and rescue, this one was a welcome relief but due to constraints in actually getting to it was not as well stocked and I was a little unhappy to find that only iced water was available (whilst water may be an acceptable beverage in the first 10 miles or so of an Ultra personally I find that after that it is way more of a danger than a help as it doesn't have the extra nutrients required and essentially is a waste of stomach space and a risk of hypnotraenia), in need of some fluids I reluctantly filled both bottles and headed off as I wasn't really sure just how far to the next real aid station.
Thankfully the next aid station at around 41 miles was only a couple of miles away so I tossed the remaining water from my bottles over my head and also made sure I had a lot of “real” sports fluids as well as Mountain Dew and Coke as well as a good feed on cakes and hammer gel, interesting warning sign as I left which mentioned that bears had been sighted in the last few days where we were now heading.
The next section appeared to be downhill so I was hoping to make up some ground on this part before the long haul uphill. Caught up with the fellow wearing the “San Diego Bad Rats” T Shirt who I had chatted with early on and I found that he had been to Australia and had been involved in the 2001 Trans Australia Race (as well as having “barhopped” with Aussie Multi Day legend – and now politician – Pat Farmer). We had quite a good chat which helped keep my mind off the long stretches of rough rocks that we crossed on river bed crossings, these were unpleasantly unexpected and I was finding these hard on my body.
Eventually I made it to the last checkpoint, this was the same one that we had seperated from the 50K runners previously and was a very long 2900 feet height gain over 4.5 Miles, this was definitely going to be tough.
Refueled but not really refreshed I headed onwards, I calculated that walking was pretty much the only option now as I didn't have enough left in me to run uphill.
At least we got to see heaps of runners as we were now catching up with the slower participants in the 50K's and certainly some of them looked quite distressed. By now I was pushing hard and breathing very heavily and probably due to this my sports drink was no longer really effective, instead of my body soaking it up I simply felt as though it was just sitting on my gut (I still blame the iced water section around 38 miles), so I decided that i'd risk dehydration and give up on the fluid intake and simply just look real bad at the finish line.
The last section seemed endless and by now I was feeling quite nauseous from the gut problems basically my main goal was to finish, at least now I had people to pass as many of the 50K's (I assumed) were now really suffering. Finally I could see some of the Mt Wilson Towers and my only navigational error an extra 100 metres towards the road, forgetting what colour marking tape I was meant to be following, with less than a mile to go.
Having sorted that out it was now simply a matter of putting one foot in front of the other and not cramping up (not having fluid that last section was always going to be a balancing act), finally over the line in 9:44 and 15th place, not to bad at all, although probably a little slower than my original aim.
My specialty of looking rubbish at finish lines certainly came to the fore and I was directed to the medical section where I was given soup and chips and soft drink, but typically for me I then had issues with getting too cold, so ended up under blankets shivering, don't really remember much of this (except for the kindliness of the medical stuff and also the fact they arranged a massage for me) as I was shocked to find 2 hours had passed when I returned to my car. A long day, now it was time for the post race feast of pizza, sandwiches and soft drink before the drive back down the mountain and accommodation somewhere (really wished I had left the tent up), but a very worthwhile one I was very glad I had done this race and look forward to doing it again some other trip.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Skyline 50K 2nd August 2009

After having done the Skyline 50K at Lake Chabot in the Castro Valley (not far from San Francisco near Oakland) last year i had been in a quandary as to whether i'd do this event again, i'd already entered the SF Marathon the week before and the Mt Disappointment 50 Miler the week after so really questioned whether three successive weeks so closely after Badwater was going to work. Ultimately i decided (one day before online entries closed) that i really needed a trail run before the 50 Miler as after all i wasn't travelling with my falling apart destructing Nike Frees.

During the week i'd been having a great road trip down the Californian central coast, Santa Cruz, Monterey, Carmel and areas down to Big Sur, heaps of hiking as well as a bike ride from Monterey down past Sand City (one of my favourite places) so was either going to be ultra fit or worn out. Had made a motel at Monterey our base for 3 days and returned at dusk on the Friday, not quite sure what the problem was (microwaved soup or microwaved pasta ??? or the fact i'd got very cold before my return - always a problem warm days and always out just that little too long and then i feel the cold), long story short went to bed at 9 and at 10 the next morning i was told horror stories by my travelling companion of me doing "Exorcist style" projectile vomitting, couldnt remember anything at all but vomit covered shoes and very sore carpet burnt knees (from trying to make my way to the bathroom) gave evidence of the night i'd had.
Ultimately i turned our 11AM checkout to a midday checkout (takes that little more to return from the dead), but the thought of a 100 Mile drive to the race area was my idea of hell. Ultimately we made it to Lake Chabot, first thing i needed to remember was "where is it ??", so satisfied (and still braindead and weak) checked into a nearby hotel, my biggest wish being a good nights sleep and to wake up in the morning feeling "normal".
Ultimately i did wake feeling normal, and things fell into place, leaving at just after 6 (continental breakfast wasn't supposed to start till 6 but we got some early things) was at the race area by 6:15, plenty of time to pick up my number and check out the weather as i was planning to wear my AURA singlet (as well as gloves and Buff Bandanna) and only carry one handheld.
Pleasant conditions at race start, off hand in the 60's and pretty clear but as we moved out of the flat ideal running conditions towards the hills before Grass Valley i found it was getting quite foggy and the cold was biting into me.
Real good trails, nothing too thin and technical (an issue for me in my Badwater ASICS DS Trainers) but i was beginning to feel that cold, so had minimal liquid at the first aid station (think the handheld was going to last the whole way on the one fill), bit of a downhill into the valley and then some steep uphill towards Boort Meadow, a few runners in front of me but ultimately i was holding my ground well.
A very nice run down to Big Bear but then a long haul up to Skyline Gate, main issue being the many cattle on the track (i like steaks but being surrounded by them can be worrying). Once at the top we had done the hardest parts but in some instances downhills are harder and this was one of them, by now at least i was regularly passing runners (including the second place lady who'd already fallen twice), so adrenaline was kicking in and finally i was getting warm as we got out of the fog of the highest sections.
Incredibly well stocked aid stations S Caps, Mini Brownies, Fruit and plenty of other goodies as well as coke, mountain dew and sports drink just had to make sure i didnt waste time chosing.
Back towards Bort Meadow and it was just like a day on Aussie trails as we were surrounded by Gum Trees, had chatted with a few runners as i went along even finding a fellow a minute slower than me at SF Marathon, and just like last year was just picking out people in front and then "nailing" them.
Once past Honker Bay (maybe named after all the geese there ??), it was an easy couple of miles alog mainly sealed tracks and plenty of opportunities to run down people, although hindered slightly by the number of people now having a day out (very popular area as evidenced the day before).
Ultimately i ended up 12th in 4:40:49 shaving 9 minutes of last years time (although missing out on an age group placing by less than a minute - could see two runners turn just in front of me).
Pretty happy with that, no effects from the previous day and now i could enjoy the BBQ.

San Francisco Marathon 26th July 2009

After running Badwater everything you do after seems a little bit of a let down and although i loved visiting San Diego i'd be honest and say that the thing i needed most was another race.
I'd entered the San Francisco Marathon a number of weeks after getting my Badwater start when i learnt that a Canadian friend was going to do it and i'd immediately thought "Road Trip" as with a race near LA on the eighth of August it meant i could rediscover some of my favourite parts of the Californian Central Coast.
After driving from San Diego the climate of San Francisco came as a rather unpleasant shock with fog rolling in at 2PM when i arrived (it was 80 degrees at San Jose shortly before and to come to less than 60 was not good at all !).
Think the rest of Thursday was spent wondering "why am i doing this ???", Friday was a little better but come Saturday morning i thought i should bite the bullet and do a 90 minute run in race gear (AURA singlet, shorts, gloves and Buff Bandanna), well to be honest it wasn't that bad although by my watch it dipped to 53 degrees by 9AM.

With a 5:30 start (so not to interfere with traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge), i left my hotel around 4:45 wrapped up like i was heading to the arctic (the yellow man - the infamous yellow tracksuit pants and yellow Melbourne Marathon windcheater).
I still hadn't put my racechip on and it still remained a mystery - essentially an orange band aid ??? - and was keen to get official help.
One less than pleasant surprise was that my timingchip didnt have a sticky part (like it should have) so that i'd have to put it under my shoe laces and hope it stayed on.
By now it was race start time, but thankfully the field of 5,000 was sent off in seperate waves and being in wave 1 i found it very easy to make my way to the front.
Before the race i was confident i'd cruise around the course in around 3:20 to 3:30 i just couldnt believe that 10 days after Badwater i'd have anything better than that in me.
Initially i was in front of the 3 Hour pace group but they breezed past at Cressy Field, now i was wondering just what i was capable of, finally up to the Golden Gate Bridge although cold and foggy above it was better than i'd anticipated and i was feeling comfortable, was shocked to hear an Aussie voice, a girl from Dubbo, just before the Marin turnaround but also a bit worried when she said she was in the second wave !!.
Think that spurred me on a little, once off the the bridge we had plenty of very easily runnable parkland (although i'd have loved more of the Presidio), and we were soon near the half marathon finish, bit confusing there as they sent one way and us another and a time clock (1:34 ?) seemed to be before half way. Still i was enjoying the scenery and also happy to be holding my ground against other runners.
At around 13.5 Miles i was surprised to see a sign "Beer ahead" but then realised this was the local Hash House Harriers Stand and there was actually beer, couldn't resist a drop although a little earlier than i'd normally like, it was a pleasant change from the tiny cups of Cytomax supplied so far (nevertheless still in a tiny cup - what are they cardboard medicine glasses ???).
For a moment or two regretted my drink as it bubbled in my stomach but from then on set out with renewed vigour, from then on it was the non tourist part of the course as we made our way through a factory area, mile markers seemingly making the course longer and longer, just thankful for the many posters with questions and answers along the course to take my mind off of this section.
Finally we were coming towards the port, and therefore the end, a couple of sharp turns (and one real good band) and we were passing the football ? stadium, now the end was in sight. Time to put in a little harder as i had no clue of the time i was doing, the odd high 5 i accepted but now it was time to finish it off.
With 200 yards or so to go i was gathered in by another runner so with nothing to lose it was a sprint finish now that i could see we'd be in in under 3:15, for the record just beat him and by the clock did 3:13:08, much better than i anticipated although the fact the gloves were still needed showed i was right in my clothes selection.
In short great, picturesque course for around 15 miles, very mundane next 4 miles and then the finish, probably as big a field as i really like i'm definitely not interested in fields of 20,000 and above.
As for my Canadian friend, i did see her come in (around 20 minutes later than planned), but lost her on the way through medals and goodies ultimately 3 hours later i was to find she spent much time in first aid on a drip, definetely not as good a day as mine.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

A race update

Apologies to all my readers, i've just been having more a holiday than a running trip the last couple of weeks. The Badwater report is slowly being written on my laptop and since then last Sundays San Francisco Marathon has been run and happily finished in 3:13 (and i owe another race report), since then i've been enjoying the sea and the fog of the Californian Central Coast.
Today i am in Oakland and the Castro Valley as tomorrow is the Skyline 50K Trail race that i did last year. Up until last night i was convinced i would run a really good race, but last night in Monterey i appear to have had food poisoning, in short i can recall nothing between eating at 8PM and 10AM this morning, but my travelling companion has given me a very graphic and scary description of the night, not sure if it was the soup (that she had as well and also felt a little queasy last night) or the pasta that she had only a spoonfull of. So folks don't expect too great a time tomorrow from me, still trust me i'll finish.