Tuesday, September 25, 2007



The race day started early. Chihping and I were sharing a hotel room. We got our race gear together and met the rest of the Ultraholics in the parking lot. At about 5:30 we all headed off to the Cavitt School starting area. There, we gathered around while Norm gave his briefing for those running in the concurrent 53 mile Sierra Nevada Run.

I joined Rajeev, Anil and others for some race photos - as they were being taken, we noticed the crowd was moving. The race had started! So off we went.

I started up the trail from the school, following the runners ahead of me. Slowly, I started passing people here and there. Soon I saw a green shirt ahead - it was Chihping. He and I had a similar race plan, so I joined him and we ran together for awhile snapping photos of each other. After a bit, I noticed I was pulling away from him. I ended up catching a couple other runners. We ran together and soon exited a trail. I was in the lead but I reached a fork in the path and didn't know which way to go. A runner beind me said "Left", so I went left and followed him. He was doing the Sierra Nevada 53 miler (his 5th one) so I figured he knew which way to go.

Pretty soon we got to the first aid station. I filled up my water bottles and headed up the trail. The trail was soft dirt among the trees. Soon, off to the right, the lake came into view (actually, it was in plain view earlier, but it was too dark to see). Then this runner passed me who looked familiar. I said "Is your name Ray?" He told me it was. The runner was Ray Sanchez - he and I suffered miles 50 through 56 together at Tahoe Rim Trail. I joined his pace and we ran together for awhile. Ray is very interesting - a multiple Golden Gloves winner in boxing, he is a former Olympic trialist. Ray was running strong but I stayed with him. At one point, we went through fields that had these plants with bristles scrapping our legs.

Cuts and Scratches from the Thorns

As we approached the 10 mile point, I noticed that my joints were hurting. My ankles, my knees, my elbows and shoulders. My small of my back was hurting. Worse yet, I was feeling really sleepy. This was not only worrisome, it was so strange. I have never felt this way before in any race. And here it was only 10% into my 100 miler.

Despite the way I was feeling, I kept pushing forward. After awhile, I let Ray pass me by and disappear. Soon I approached 15 miles shortly after the power station. My stomach was feeling uneasy. Then, at one point I was forced to turn to the edge of the trail and throw up. This was really bad. At Quicksilver 50 I had stomach issues, but I was running while fighting a cold/flu bug then. Here, I just couldn't explain it. In addition to throwing up, I was getting more drowsy, my joints were throbbing and I had a slight headache. Fun times!

I kept running and soon came to the base of Cardiac Hill. This was a tough climb. A lot of rocky single track with many switchbacks. I was really hurting here and figured that my 5 hour marathon goal would be missed by an hour as I was being passed by runner after runner (I later found out many of these were in the 53 miler). At the top of the hill, I was wiped out. But we ran next to an aquaduct and the scenery was very pretty so that helped (plus, I wasn't struggling up Cardiac Hill anymore). At the half way point, there was another aid station. There I fueled up and continue don along the trail. Soon, this exited the trail and entered a paved road in Auburn. My body just said "Enough". I walked most of the road to the next aid station.

This aid station was the Auburn Dam Overlook and I was weighed in. My weight was 1 pound lighter than my start weight. Then I started running again and dropped down in a heavily wooded area. The path kept dropping down and I started to feel a little better. I passed a sign and noticed that it read "WS Trail". I was on the Western States Trail! Ever since first hearing of the WS 100 race, I had wanted to run it - now here I was on the WS trail. I thought that was pretty cool.

The trail continued down and was dropping down some steep declines. Soon, near a waterfall, the leader of the 53 miler came back at me. We exchanged "hellos" and I kept running. I had to hop across a small stream (about the 3rd stream crossing, each so shallow my feet were staying dry). I was getting a bit of a second wind now and continued picking up my pace. As I rounded a corner, Peter Lubbers (my TRT100 co-finisher) came towards me in a strong 2nd place in the 53 miler. We high fived and he kept going.

Now, the trail was leveling out a bit and I was running along a river. It was beautiful. I saw two bridges in the distance. I noticed more runners coming back and realized that the nearer bridge must be No Hands. Again, this is a WS 100 fixture so it was kind of a thrill to run on it. I got to the aid station at the end of No Hands. My time was 4:45. This was slightly over a marathon and my goal was 5 hours. Wow! I was surprised. Considering how horrible I was feeling, I couldn't believe I made my target time.

Another runner joined me and she and I started up the trail. Now, when I say up, that is a bit of an understatement. This was K2 and it was a hell of a climb with about 7 false summits. Luckily it was relatively short (about 1.5 miles gaining over 1000 feet). At the top, I started running again. I was feeling a bit better, but my stomach was acting up again. I tried to take a gu and ended up barfing it along the trail. Gross.

But, I kept going along a trail that went through fields and meadows. At the point where the trail turned sharply right towards Cool Fire Station, the leader (John Olson) came running at me. He gave me some words of encouragement. I told him he looked strong - he was flying and showed little effort. Soon, the path exited the field and woods and climbed a bit towards the Cool Fire Station. As I approached I heard my name. Rashmi was there handing me a sandwich (which I turned down knowing that there was no way it would stay in my stomach). I tried an Ensure and that seemed to work. I was weighed in and was at my start weight.

I then started running on a nice country trail through pastures and meadows called the Olmstead Loop. After about 1 mile though, my stomach was turning again and I almost lost my Ensure. I was forced to walk and jog a bit. But after about 1/2 mile, I was feeling better and started running. I was actually feeling about as strong as I ever felt and began to pick up the pace. I dropped down the trail and crossed a wide stream crossing - again keeping my feet dry. Then it was up to the next aid station. After that station, it was a little over a mile back to the Fire Station. I got back and thought that I should change my shirt as I was getting cold from the constant drizzle. Unfortunately, I didn't have any dry shirts in my bag. I did pull off my bandanna and my sunglasses as I realized that I would not need those due to the weather. I decided to try some solid food and took 2 slices of cheese pizza without the cheese. This was around 37 miles into the race.

I then started running back. I got back on the path and was jogging a steady pace. So far the pizza crust had managed to stay in my stomach. I was heading up the trail and saw Anil coming towards me. I quickly snapped his photo. Behind him was Rajeev and another runner. I mentioned how bad I was feeling. Rajeev offered me some ginger, but I declined. He mentioned I should back off my pace and we wished each other luck and continued. One high part of 100 milers is seeing your friends and crew. So much of the race is mental, it takes these mental boosts to help one run.

I then reached the point in the trail where I had seen Jon Olsen earlier in the day. Here, instead of heading back to K2, the trail dropped down. It was a fun and very beautiful descent down to No Hands bridge. There it was the 40.5 mile aid station. Then it was back across the bridge and up the trail again. I only made it about a mile up the trail when I began to feel bad again. Once again, I was running out of steam - my legs were heavy and my stomach and head hurting. Soon I was slowed to a walk and jog. Heading back up this trail was tough. After what seemed like forever, I made it up the last miles of the WS 100 trail and entered the Dam Overlook station. Here Anu rushed out to help me. I told her how horrible I was feeling and she looked really concerned. I weighed in (about 1 pound light) and sat down. I put my head in my hands. I could not believe how plain horrible I was feeling. I decided to change shirts into my sleeveless race top. I took off my fuel belt and put it down. I decided to put on my Oakley Thumps to listen to some music and hoped it would help.

After awhile I grabbed some aspirin and started running again. I made it up to the aquaduct and was actually feeling a bit better. I managed to run the first section of the aquaduct and thinking how pretty it was. I went to take a photo and then realized that I never put my fuel belt back on - I had left it at the Overlook station! So I made it to mile 46 at Maidu aid station. I told them about my belt and they called back to the Auburn Dam Overllok station to make sure that Anu got my bag. I was really disappointed as now not only did I loose my 3rd bottle (Behind the back - I still had my 2 hand carry ones),my salt tablets and my gu packs, also I didn't have my camera any more.

After Maidu I finished running along the aquaduct and started down Cardiac Hill. There were portions too steep for me to run, so I had to walk down it. At the bottom I was feeling a bit better again and kept running. Soon I was back on the trail with the thorns. At one point I looked down and saw a HUGE tarantula walking down the path. I saw a runner getting close behind me and expected him to catch me. But after awhile I entered the power station water stop. My time was 10 hours 12 minutes. This was 52.89 miles - WOW!! I had blasted away my 10 hour 50 mile goal. The runner behind me caught up and we started running together. Soon, I passed him and headed towards the next aid station at mile 55 at Rattlesnake Bar. I checked in - the people there were very friendly. I was weighed in (down about 1 pound) and refueled. I grabbed more aspirin and headed out on the trail again. I turned my music up and enjoyed the run along the trail. I saw some deer running to my right (definitely a hell of a lot faster than me).

I was really feeling the best I had felt all day. The time at the Power Station had given me a boost, the aspirin was kicking in, and I hadn't thrown up for a few hours. My ankles, small of my back and head still hurt a bit though.

I entered the last aid station before the school. This was Twin Rocks at 63 miles. I was told I was around 10th place overall in the 100! Holy smokes! I couldn't believe this. I started running the last 4 miles towards the school. Now, however, the lows started creeping in. I was starting to get a bit cold. Then, my Thump died when the charge was exhausted. It was also getting dark and I didn't have my lights yet (they were at the school). About half way to the school the fatigue and general bad physical feelings had returned.

Finally, I saw the school and entered the playground. I was directed to the weigh in station. My time: 13 hours 45 minutes (I had wanted to do 14 hours). Still on pace, but I was already drained. I was offered my half a Subway sandwich (vegi delite - no cheese) which I decided to try. I changed shirts and grabbed my night time lights. I also applied some icy-hot to my feet. Rajeev Char was there and offered me words of support. Soon a runner came in and I looked - it was Ray Sanchez! I could not believe that I was ahead of him. Poor Ray had a crappy day - he had been lost a few times and this time was off the trail for over an hour and half!

After about 15 minutes, I decided that I better hit the trail. I had 10 hours to go 33 miles - a brisk walk and I had my sub 24 hour goal! Or did I?

I headed out of the school and back to the trail. Then it was a sharp right towards the lake. Norm was out there and slapped me on the back and wished me luck. I got to a levee and then headed out. It was dark now and I had my headlamp on and a flashlight in my hand. After a bit, the path dropped down into a forested path. I tried to jog, but often found myself walking. After awhile, I passed by some camping sights - the campers watching me go by probably wondering why all these crazy people were out running at night. Soon, the trail rose and ended onto a paved road. I followed this road as it curved around and entered the next aid station. It was around mile 70. I checked my watch and was disappointed at how long it took for me to get there. So, off I went again.

This time I followed the road (it was actually a very wide and divided lane bike path). Soon, our signs took us off the path and down a trail. It was pretty dark and I had a little trouble finding the signs/flags and glow sticks but eventually was running. Soon I saw lights coming at me and Jon Olson and his pacer came running towards me. I shouted "Congrats. Great Run." and said some nice words of encouragement and off again I went.

After a short time, Ray came up behind me and we chatted a bit. Then he took off. He was running, I was walking/jogging. Soon we entered the 75 mile aid station. I was disgusted. It took me 2 hours to go 5 miles. My sub-24 was in major danger. I had 8 hours to do a marathon - seems like the easiest thing in the world. But at that moment I had my doubts.

The path then went up into a rocky forested area. The paths were hard on the feet with constant uneven and unsteady footing. Then it dropped down. After about an hour or so, I saw another runner coming towards me. It was Mark Tanaka - one of the Ultraholics! He was in a strong second place and I shouted good luck to him. Then I continued on down the path.

Soon it exited and I was on a paved road. I knew that I would be coming up on Hazel Bluff. I was really thankful as I was shivering - my mesh running top was soaked with rain and sweat. My feet also were hurting and I was looking forward to switching shoes to see if that would help my feet. I was also looking forward to seeing the crew - I needed that mental boost. I kept following the path. As we approached a power station I saw flags on the fence around the bend, so I rounded the bend and followed the flags up under an overpass and then up to a bridge. I kept expecting to see Hazel Bluff. But I never did. I followed the markings across the bridge and dropped down towards this marina type area.

Still, no Hazel Bluff. I was getting frustrated as I really wanted to get warm and get to that aid station. After the marina I rounded a parking lot and entered another trail. As we rounded a bend I was sure that Hazel Bluff had to be there. It wasn't. "Where the F is it?!" I almost shouted out loud. I kept going on a path. I checked my watch and realized that if I still wasn't at Hazel Bluff then I was going almost 40 minute miles. I knew I was hurting and had dropped almost to a pure walk. But 40 minutes! That was so disheartening. I simply sat down on the side of the path and dropped my head into my hands. I was so cold, I was shivering, my feet throbbing and I was exhausted. My pace was non-existent and I was forced to sit there and watch runners pass me by.

After about 10 minutes I stood up and continued walking up the path again. The path kept going, driving my spirits even lower. Finally, after an eternity I saw Hazel Bluff in the distance. I got there and the aid station worker said "Welcome to Willow Creek".!! I just stared at him. "What?" He repeated it and I asked "What happened to Hazel Bluff?" The worker laughed and said that was 4 miles back - and that I was joking. I think he saw the look in my eyes and realized that I was not joking.

I just collapsed on the ground. Sitting there shaking my head. Somehow, I had walked right past the aid station. I kept repeating "How could I have missed it?" I followed the signs, the flags and the lights. I never got lost, there was never a break in the flags and chalk marks.

I was so f'n cold. But if I went back to Hazel Bluff and then came back - that would add 8 more miles to my race. I had no choice - I had to continue. The aid station workers at Willow Creek were awesome. They tried to cheer me up. One called Hazel Bluff and told them that I had passed through Hazel Bluff without checking in - they OK'd it (at least I wasn't DQ'ed). I didn't know it at the time, but my crew was very worried as they had no idea where I was and I hadn't checked into Hazel Bluff. I tried some coke to see if it would help me get some energy and almost instantly threw it up.

I left Willow Creek and slowly headed up the path. I was struggling. My spirits were never so low. Although I now knew I wasn't doing 40 minute miles, my pace had deteriorated so bad I knew my sub 24 was impossible. But at that point I couldn't care. My teeth was chattering, I had my arms crossed across my chest trying to stay warm. I was going too slow to generate enough body heat.

After awhile, I saw lights coming down and it was Ray. He asked me how much further to the aid station and I said it was less than a mile. He continued on. I later learned that he later got lost yet again - probably the 4th time and at Hazel Bluff decided to call it a day.

A lot of the trail towards to turn around at Mountain Lion Knoll (83.63 miles) went on and off of paved roads. Finally, it dropped down to a path along the water. I heard voices ahead and climbed a bit to the turn around. Here, I just collapsed into a chair. I knew I had to keep going - I just lost all drive. I was too f'n cold, hurting too much and less than zero energy levels. The aid station volunteers lept into motion - they were unbelievably awesome. I found myself with one blanket wrapped around me, then a sleeping bag. Another worker pulled out a space heater and directed it at my feet. He then took off a thin running jacket and told me to wear it back. I was so overcome with gratitude (and exhaustion) tears clouded my eyes. They offered me food, but I couldn't take any. My stomach was still dry heaving.

I headed back to Willow Creek. My left foot was really beginning to hurt and I was limping a bit. But I was warmer and eventually made it into Willow Creek. There I was re-weighed (down 2 pounds). I sat down and massaged my legs. I looked at my watch - In theory I had 3 hours to do a half marathon. But I knew I couldn't do it. There was just too much climbing back to the school. So, I got up and began my death march shuffle back down the hill. Near the marina area, I saw Chihping approaching. We exchanged hellos. He had a day very similar to mine and was walking much of the course too. I told him my 24 hour was gone, but maybe I could get 26 hours. So we said good bye and headed in opposite directions.

I got to the base of the bridge and someone said "Alan?" It was Rajeev Char. He was pacing Gary and they were relieved to see me. They told me that the otehrs were worried that I hadn't checked into Hazel Bluff. He used his cell phone and we called in to tell them where I was. I told them how bad I was feeling and what my day had been like. Raj offered to pace me back. But I declined - he was there to help Gary and I wasn't going to take him away. I was very appreciative but headed off. In about 15 minutes I came across Anil and Rajeev Patel. We also discussed how we were doing and then wished each other luck and headed off.

I climbed up the path near the bridge and down the other side. Then I saw the trail that I missed heading up a hill. I climbed it and got to the top. I collapsed in a chair. Finally, I changed my clothes and shoes. I tried to eat, but only downed some pretzels. I teamed up with my pacer and off we went.

So together we headed down the bluff and back to the trails. There, it was a constant stop and go. I kept having to stop. At least 4 times, I leaned against a rock or tree and dozed off for a few minutes. My pacer waited for me and gently prompted me to move forward.

As we approached the long climb up the hill, a runner came up behind us. It was Gordy! Running shirtless he wished us well and headed up the trail. We continued up the trail and soon the path started dropping down to the Negro Bar aid station at mile 95. Again, I dropped into a chair. I got a cup of cola to drink. As I sat there, I dozed off and the cup fell from my hand and splashed all over my legs. After a bit, we went off again. We headed out the bike path and headed to the last aid station. My left foot was really hurting and I kept having to stretch out my leg and adjust my shoe to see if I could relieve the pain.

Eventually, we came into the final aid station at Folsom Dam Park (97.18 miles). We struggled out of the station and headed out to the bike path. Soon, we dropped back down in the path and headed towards the levee. By now, 26 hours was also history. So we decided to see if I could get a new Personal Best. My TRT 100 was 27 hours 50 minutes 45 seconds. That was my next target.

We slowly headed the last 2 miles towards the school. It was a very slow pace (due solely to me). But finally we reached the final trail head leading to the school. At this point, I had about 6 minutes left to break my 100 mile P.R.. We started to jog and we got to the school fence. We round around the two corners and I headed down the finishing shoot - at a very slow shuffle/jog. Finally I crossed the finish line. Time was 27 hours 46 minutes and some change. (40th place overall out of 100 starters).

In hindsight, I am very happy with the race. Through 70 miles, I was dead on my goals. I know for certain I can break 24 hours using my target times in a future race. RDL just wasn't meant to be for me - it wasn't my weekend. My body was never in the race - breaking down 10 miles into a 100 miler is a bad way to start :) I am so thankful for my friends who ran and offered support. We Ultraholics have an unbelievable group of supporters who come out and give us the BEST crew support ever. My pacer's company and support was and is something I am so thankful for - I don't know if I could have done those last 9 miles without such support.

About one minute after I crossed the finish line, Michael Kanning crossed. Michael was the 15 year old Ultraholic who finished one place ahead of me at Stevens Creek 50k. He ran RDL 100 to raise funds for cancer research and finished his first 100 miler in a great time. Chihping, Anil, Gary and Rajeev all also finished the race under the official cut-off. What a day! We each got our finishers trophy - an eagle landing on a tree limb. And I got an extra finishers' gift: a new blood blister on my right heel:


anil said...

Oh man! What a day and couple of hours! amazing effort Alan. Its unfortunate you had stomach issues early On. C was such a great support, way to go.

Have a good recovery. I love the trophy :). shoot for sub 24next at RDL again :)


Alan said...

Hey - you too Anil. We all fought through the miles and the associate pain and fatigue. Congrats on your second 100 mile finish!

Chihping Fu 傅治平 (超馬阿爸) said...


Thanks for such a wonderful report that speaks my struggle as well.

I was concerned and confused, when I was told at Hazel Bluff that we lost contact of you after the school. After "long" time (I was at my toughest moment too), I met you and knew you missed it and had to run 8 mile stretch in very low mental and suffering cold. You went though it. This is very impressive! Everyone has the tough moment that breaks down the self. Only then you can rebuild yourself.

Indeed cold and rain are really difficult factors in the nightly run during a 100 miler.

Rest and recover well!


Alan said...


Thanks - yes, it was definitely a low mental state. Unlike you, this wasn't my 5th 100 miler in just a few months - so you have a solid reason for your fatigue. I'll just use old age as my excuse :)

I am just trying to rest my foot now so it is ready for Quad Dipsea, NYC marathon, Fear & Loathing 50 and the Sunmart 50. It is wrapped now, hoping the compresion and aspirin helps.

Congrats on yet another 100 mile finish my friend.


Michael Kanning said...

Go Alan!!! You did awesome pushing through the pain if you were hurting at mile 10. Enjoy the recovery and you'll get that sub-24 soon!


Peter Lubbers said...

Wow, Alan. Way to gut it out, man.
WHen I saw yout overall time was only 10 minutes under our TRT time, I knew something must have been wrong. What a story though. Hopefully the next one will be completely different.
Take care and rest up,

Alan said...

Michael and Peter:

Congrats to both of you too (Michael on your first 100, Peter on your victory). Despite the pain and fatigue, I was happy - I finished. Plus, I do think I validated my sub-24 hour race plan. See you at the next race!


ultrailnakaman said...

Ship hattens, and alright, my "you're sub-20 right?" was off. I'm very glad your weren't DQ'd (you still ran more than 100 miles). Very nice working through GI issues, then cold, pure fatigue and despair-- doesn't it makes the finisher's award that much more meaningful? I am confident you can sub-24 this in the future. Great job!

Alan said...


Yes, I sure wasn't sub-20 :) Never expected to be though. Hey, it was only my second 100 miler and as I said, I am happy to have finished. I will get that sub-24 hour one day. Congrats on your awesome race and 2nd place finish! Great going - see you at the next one.


Rajeev said...


You are one helluva tough cookie. Most would have crumbled going through what you went through. You held up though but had to dig deep to do so. Your sub-24 will come sooner than you think.

Congratulations my friend.