American River 50-mile 2014: a smarter race - It was my 95th ultra since 2006 and 7th consecutive American River, although I had miserable asthma crisis in the first editions which I have been thankful...
Monday, November 26, 2007
Back in the mid-1980's when I did my first couple of Escape From Alcatraz triathlons, the run was the Double Dipsea. This the 7.1 mile run from Mill Valley, over Mt. Tamalpias down to Stinson Beach...and back. Each direction has about 2200 feet of vertical climbing plus it starts and ends with about 600+ stairs.
In the Quad Dipsea, as the name implies, it is an out and back and out and back course.
Here is a link to a Google Earth fly-over of the course: Course
I got to the race start. I had heard this was an informal event, but it was both larger and more organized than I expected. It isn't so much informal, as low-key and down-to-earth. Everyone was so friendly and helpful. In fact, it was very well organized. At the start I saw a few faces I recognized including Eric Clifton and Mark Tanaka. In the following race starting line shot, you will see Eric Clifton in his trademark loud tights standing next to eventual winner Erik Skaggs of Oregon (who was only the second person ever to run the Quad in sub-4 hours).
The weather was cold, clear and calm. It was perfect. Then the starting gun went off and we took off. Skaggs was flying up the hill with Clifton right behind him. We reached the stairs. These are quad crunching never-ending stairs.
Once we crested the stairs, it was a short run through a cul de sac and then down some stairs to a road. We were told to go about a quarter mile and then re-enter the trail by some mailboxes. Once we re-entered the Dipsea Trail, it was steps leading down towards Muir Woods. We crossed a parking lot and came to a small foot bridge crossing a stream. Here is the video from this race of the lead runners crosisng that bridge (I am at 57 seconds into the video): Bridge Video
The woods were beautiful. By now I had moved up and was somewhere into the top 10 or so runners. I was feeling great. The sun was peaking through the Redwood trees in Muir Woods.
Then it was a climb out of the woods up Cardiac Hill.
The trail got steep, but I plodded on. Every now and then I'd pass some one, but I was also passed every now and then. At one point I was behind a runner from Texas and he missed the trail fork. So I shouted to him and he came back and we ran up the trail together. We reached the first aid station on top of Cardiac hill (about 4.4 miles into the race). The views were stunning (all photos on my blog can be enlarged for better detail by simply clicking them):
The trail started to drop back down now. It started with a mild decline, then quickly became steep switch-backs and finally series of stairs that were almost completely vertical at points. I finally reached the bottom. By me was the second place female runner - I found out her name was Jamie (because everyone was saying "Hi Jamie" when they passed her). Then we started up a short incline which Jamie informed me was called Little Insult. After cresting that, we had a full view of the Pacific Ocean and Stinson Beach.
About this point, the lead runners began approaching. Way out front with Erik Skaggs - he was flying and making it look easy. Soon, Eric Clifton came running towards me: I shouted hello and he did the same.
Jamie and I continued on. we were in the top 20, probably somewhere around 18th. Then we dropped down to the second aid station at Stinson Beach. We were 1 hour 8 minutes into the race. Working this aid station (among others) was ultra-legend Ann Trason. I was very pleased with my pace and how I was feeling and turned around to head back onto the trail.
As the trail started back up towards Cardiac, Jamie started to pull about a minute ahead of me. The third place woman came up from behind me. Her name was Kate and we chatted a bit as we ran. Finally, the trail leveled off and I started off to the Cardiac Hill aid station. Again, the views were amazing as the morning fog had burned away:
After the aid station, it was a downhill run. I started flying and was soon picking off runners here and there. Soon I passed Jamie. I kept going and passed another few runners. As I was really tearing down the mountain, I had to keep watching the trail for roots, rocks, holes and uneven ground. At one point I knew that I must be getting close to Muir Woods. The trail kept going down and I kept running. I hadn't seen a runner for a bit. Soon I crossed a road and continued on a trail. After about 1/4 mile I came to a planked foot bridge. I immediately realized that I had not seen that before - I had gotten lost. So, I turned around and headed back. After 1/4 mile I saw a sign that said Dipsea Trail 0.5 Mile. #$%&*!! That meant I had added nearly 2 miles to my Quad. I knew my race was over at that point. I headed up the trail cursing at myself. I must have missed the fork in the trail while watching my footing.
As I continued up, I looked around. Despite being lost, the scenery was very pretty. One benefit of being so far from the 100's of other runners, the local wildlife was not scared away (look carefully and you'll see a mother doe and a fawn):
Soon I came back to the trail and followed it down to Muir Woods. I cursed myself all the way back to Old Mill Park at the start. I saw Eric, Mark, Jamie, Kate and other runners pass me in ther direction already on their 3rd lap. When I got to the park, I guess my mood was evident as one of the volunteers looked at me and said "Welcome to Old Mill Park Mr. Cheerful".
I didn't know wheter to even continue the race. This was my 3rd marathon or longer race in 5 weeks. I really didn't have to prove that I could finish the distance. I didn't know why I would bother bashing my legs now that I was out of "race mode". But I had never DNF'ed a race, so I decided to move forward. As I headed back up the stairs, a runner passed me and said "Hi there doctor." I look at him and it was Mario - one of the two runners who had run the last 20 miles of Quicksilver 50 with me. He was fighting cramps, but was still running. I chatted with him for a bit. Soon, we got separated, but I would see him again later as we crossed paths near the top of Little Insult: Mario Sans Shirt means Business!
As I exited Muir Woods and began the climb up towards Cardiac, I passed the point of my wrong turn. I took the Road Less Traveled to the right...others took the Road Nore Traveled to the Left (they did slightly better than I):
Once I got to the Cardiac Aid Station, I decided to stop and sit down. I took that opportunity to snap a few photos:
I stood back up and started running again. It was the downhill section towards Stinson Beach (with the exception of Little Insult) so I was feeling pretty good. Soon the race leaders came towards me. The first woman was Beth Vitalis - the same woman with whom I ran a lot of the Stevens Creek 50km. I saw Mark Tanaka looking strong also. Then I saw Eric Clifton approaching. I stopped and got a good position to snap his photo. He shouted: "You don't appear to be in a hurry" as he passed. Behind Eric was Krissy Moehl, one of the best female ultra runners in the country.
I reached the turn-around and headed back. By the time I got to Muir Woods (yes, I made the correct turn this time) my legs were feeling a bit tired from the pounding. But I started jogging and went up the last flight of stairs up towards the cul de sac:
I then got to the finishing line after flying down those 600+ steps. Final time: 6 hours 15 minutes 40 seconds. Getting lost sure added time to my run....but it sure allowed me to enjoy the scenery more and take a few extra (and less blurry) photos. Hopefully it also added to my base and speed for the Sunmart 50 miler in 2 weeks.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Last Sunday I ran the New York Marathon. As there was only 6 days between winning the 50km Fear & Loathing race and the NYC Marathon, I was not hopeful for a fast time. All week my legs were tired and heavy. I predicted my worst marathon time - maybe something in the 3:30 to 3:45 range.
As I was staying in Morristown, NJ I had to take the train to Penn Station. Once there at 6:30am, I headed down to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal....with tens of thousands of my closest friends :)
Then we crowded onto the Ferry (actually, the below decks were not crowded at all.) If you ever go to NYC, the Staten Island Ferry is a gret deal - it is FREE and it cruises by Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty plus provides you great city views. Here are some shots I snapped heading to the start line via the ferry.
Statue of Liberty
Some ugly guy in front of the Statue of Liberty
Once at the start, we headed to the Verazano-Narrows Bridge. There we all waited for a bit. There was plenty of food and drinks waiting for us. The weather was cool, but not cold - it was actually perfect racing weather.
It really was an international marathon. I noticed huge groups of runners from France, from Norway, from Italy, from England, from Swden and from Japan.
After awhile, the runners headed to the start lines. The start was grouped by race numbers. I was pleased to learn that my qualifying time put me in the very first starting group behind the men's elite.
Soon the starting gun went off. Here, some photos start getting a bit blurry as I was snapping them "on the run".
Running the first mile on the V-N Bridge.
I passed through mile 1 at 7:47. Wow - this was going to be a slow marathon I thought. But about that time, the incline of the V-N Bridge flattened and became a decline to the city. I exited and came through mile 2 at 13:15. Much better I thought.
The course took the runners past Brooklyn. The crowds were awesome - screaming from overpasses and along the streets. The crowds here really rival Boston Marathon crowds.
At around the 3 mile point, our group starting merging with other running groups (some runners started earlier on the top of the V-N Bridge). We all continued to run through Brooklyn.
I was really surprised how well I was feeling. My legs were tired, but I wasn't really breathing hard and was really enjoying myself.
Soon I approached the 10km mark. As I passed over the timing chip I galnced at my watch. 41:00. Wow! I was going about 6 minute 35 second miles. This would be around 2:53 marathon. That would be right around my 3rd fastest marathon. But I knew that I wasn't going to hold this pace, I could definitely feel last week's 50km race in my legs.
YIKES!!! I have to remember to turn the camera around when I snap these photos.
Soon the course entered a Little Italy area section but can't remember where. Too early for Manhattan or the Bronx Little Italies - maybe upper Brooklyn?
Pretty soon we approached a bridge. Shortly after climbing the bridge, the Half-Marathon mark appeared. My time: 1:26:47. Again, I was pleased. My legs were tiring, but overall I felt good and wasn't breathing heavy.
After dropping down off the bridge, we entered Queens. We kept running through Queens and approached mile 15 at the Queensboro Bridge.
The views of the city were nice, but it was starting to get a bit cooler.
Soon we dropped off the bridge, and entered Manhattan's Upper East Side. Here, the course continued for about 4 miles. Screaming crowds lined the street the entire way.
After running through the Bronx, we re-entered the city at mile 21 - Harlem. Here my time was 2 Hours 42 minutes and a few seconds. That would be a hair under 3 hours for the marathon. But now my legs said enough was enough. So I stopped and stretched a bit. I knew I did not have a sub-3 in me, so I decided to try and keep it under 3:15.
The course then headed up towards Central Park. The cruel part of this race is miles 21 through around 25 are uphill (not a major hill, but a constant incline). Then we entered Central Park.
I continued my run now and approached the finish line. I crossed in 3 hours 9 minutes 50 seconds. YIKES!!! Did it again...must remember that the lens faces forward (finish line shot).
I followed the other runners over and changed into my warmer clothes
and to grab a post race meal perfect for NYC
This was definitely a fun race. I was really pleased with my 3:09 on the heels of the 50km race. Plus, NYC Marathon certainly loads runners up with plenty of goodies.
Monday, November 5, 2007
OK - I got my camera photos developed today. They are a "bit better" than my Blackberry shots (like all photos hosted on my blog, they can be viewed in more detail by simply clicking them).
EVENTUAL WINNER RYAN HALL WALKING TO START
LEAD PACK RUNNING DOWN CENTRAL PARK
HALL'S BREAKWAY ON FINAL LAP (NOTE THE ABSENCE OF ANY OTHER RUNNERS BEHIND HIM IN VIEW)
RITZ ON HIS WAY TO 2ND PLACE
SELL ON HIS WAY TO 3RD AND THE FINAL OLYMPIC TEAM SPOT (WHAT AN AWESOME RACE HE RAN - TO PICK OFF THOSE IN FRONT OF HIM IN THE LAST 2 LAPS)
KHALID WITH HIS 4TH PLACE FINISHING LAP
OLYMPIC SILVER MEDALIST MARATHONER MEB FINISHING THE TRIALS
SELL POST-RACE WITH HIS TEAM'S FLAG
KHALID AND SOME UGLY GUY
MEB AND SOME UGLY GUY
UGLY GUY AND ABDI
UGLY GUY AND SELL
HALL....THINKING "IF I HAD ONLY RUN A 2:07, I PROBABLY WOULD HAVE AVOIDED THIS UGLY GUY"