Monday, December 31, 2007


I recently discovered a new location to do some trail running in the bay area. It is San Bruno Mountain State and County Park. The trails aren't very long, but by stringing some together one can put in some very nice distances with good climbs and fantastic views.

My favorite trails are the Summit Loop and the Ridge Trail. The Summit Loop goes from the park entrance up to the summit (creative name - uh?) at 1314 feet elevation.

It offers some fantastic views.

Here, a couple of Red Tail hawks study some ugly guy running by.

From there, one can then run out along the Ridge Trail which, as the equally creative name implies, runs along the ridge of the San Bruno mountains terminating at Oyster Point.

Here the Ridge Trail runs to the horizon with Mt. Diablo (elev. 3849) being faintly visible through the fog on the other side of the San Francisco bay.

Great views of the south bay, east bay and downtown San Francisco.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

DOUBLE DOWN IN TEXAS - The Sunmart 50 Miler plus the Dallas Marathon


I had to be in Texas for work this past week and it coincided with the Sunmart Endurance Runs - 50km and 50 miler. I decided to run the 50 mile race and see if I could get a new p.r. for that distance (needed to break 8 hours 31 minutes). The course was out in Huntsville State Park in Texas, site of the Rocky Raccoon 100 which I will run in February.

At SFO while waiting for my plane, a guy looks at me and asked if I ran the Ruth Anderson races. I mentioned I did and it turned out that he and I ran some of the race together. His name was Thomas Reiss and he won the Ruth Anderson 50 miler (sub 6 hours). He also won the Tahoe Rim Trail 50 miler (8:10:13) and the Quicksilver 50k (4:04:37) and was a past winner of the Tahoe Triple where he ran a sub 3 hour marathon each day for 3 straight days. He is a German national living in California and was selected to represent Germany at the Sunmart 50's international ultramarathon 50 mile trail championship. Needless to say, I wasn't exactly going to threaten him for the win at Sunmart :) Here is an advertisement in UltraRunning magazine profiling him:

It just so happened that the race headquarters was at the exact same hotel where I stay on all my Houston business trips. So Tom and I went there. The next morning I ran a nice 4 mile run on a nearby trail. Then I checked in. The amount of scwag that Sunmart 50 gives is amazing. You get a gym bag and then proceed down two tables to fill it with shirts, hats, pens, water bottles, stuffed bears, etc.

That night we met back at the hotel (I had to work that day) and there had a fantastic dinner put on by the race. I sat with Tom and his German team mate and coach.

Then the pre-race meeting started with guest speaker Peter Snell, the Olympic gold medal mile runner from Australia speaking to the runners (look closely, he's in this dark photo). We were informed that the next day was expected to be hot, very humid and generally miserable.

The next morning when I went out to get my car it was hot, very humid and threatened to be miserable. The first 3 seconds outside the hotel, my glasses fogged up and my shirt started sticking to my skin. At 6:00 am it was already 75 degrees with 90% humidity. Fun times ahead!

It was about an hour drive to the race. I had my rental car, but there were shuttle buses too. The international teams were in their own shuttle.

Once at the Huntsville state park, I started to get ready. In addition to hidden roots, loose rocks, heat and humidity....certain signs warned of a possible new risk to the ultramarathoner who ventured off the path:

As I approached the start line I saw Vinod Viswanath who had paced Raj and Anil at Tahoe Rim trail and who had just completed the Cactus Rose 100 miler. He was helping pace a friend through his first 50km. With him was a group of Asha runners.

Then all the 50 mile runners got ready and lined up at the start line (the 50km runners were to start 30 minutes later).

Then we were off. 50 miles of trails, heat and humidity ahead.

The run started with some fun paths that would vary from nearly single track to wide open, often they were covered in leaves which hid roots quite well. In the first mile I saw 3 runners go down from the roots.

My goal at Sunmart was to break my previous 50 mile best time (8 hours 31 minutes) which was also coincidentally my first ever Ultra. I also wanted to go below 8 hours. However, as I approached the end of lap 1 the effects if the heat and humidity were telling me that my goals might be tough ones. According to weather sites, temps broke 84 degrees and humidity broke 95%. I was constantly pouring water on my head trying to stay cool (there was no ice at the aid stations as they did not expect the weather). Unfortunately, the water was soak my clothes and shoes. By the end of the race, I had 5 blisters on my left foot and 6 on my right. Chafing was horrible too...especially under my arms/sides of my torso and along my groin due to the wet liner of my shorts. Ouch.

I expected this race to be flat....after all it was in Texas. Well, it certainly wasn't the Tahoe Rim Trail, but I wouldn't call it flat. In fact, it was constant rolling hills. The trail went around the lake and was very pretty in most parts.

The trail also had these "bridges" that were fun to run on, often on the lake's edge.

At one point, the 50 mile runners converged with the 50km runners. It was here that I saw Vinod and a bunch of his friends.

By the third lap, I knew my goals were shot. But, I was still on pace to finish around 8:45 or so. But during the 4th lap my piriformis started acting up again. This has bothered me off and on during certain races. But this was the first time in a while. It was hobbling me and slowed my pace considerably. Oh well, during my last lap and a half, I met this runner named Larry from Texas. Like me, he will be back at Huntsville in February for the Rocky Raccoon 100 miler.

Soon, I finished the final climb and headed back down to the finish line. I saw Vinod and his friends (and Larry who finished ahead of me) cheering me on. I crossed in 9:06 and promptly fell to the ground. Ouch - that really hurt. My splits are below:

46 Alan Geraldi #82 M/43 AG finish 4 Time: 9:06:04.90 10:55
Lap 1 1:47:44.00 8:37/M 12.500
Lap 2 1:56:59.35 9:22/M 25.000
Lap 3 2:26:42.20 11:44/M 37.500
Lap 4 2:54:39.35 13:58/M 50.000 miles

After the race, I joined Vinod and his family and friends. They shared some awesome Indian food including the best lentil soup I have ever had. We cheered on his friends as they finished their 50km.


Since I had to be in Texas over the weekend and had meetings in Dallas on Monday, a friend of mine with whom I work suggested as a joke that I join him for the Dallas Marathon the day after my 50 miler. I laughed at first, but then thought "what the hell" - it would be good training for my 100 miler. So I agreed.

I drove up to Dallas from Huntsville after the race. It was a tough drive....I was very tired and the scenery got a bit boring. Finally I got to my friend John Beach's house around 8:30. There we carbo-loaded (beer and pasta). My plan was to hang with John as long as possible (he wanted to go sub-4 hours). But the next morning my piriformis was still aching. I stretched and stretched it and hoped for the best.

The day before I was dealing with 80's and high humidity. The morning of the marathon was 45 degrees and cold, windy and rainy. We hooked up with a couple of John's friends and drove to the start. I actually went back and grabbed some gloves and long sleeves. Then we waited for the start.

The first mile went by OK, my legs were stiff and sore. I stopped and stretched the piriformis and caught back up to Beach and snapped a blurry picture of him running.

I ended up stopping and stretching at least once or twice every mile. By mile 5, Beach was just a dot in the distance. I met up with one of his friends, but by mile 7 he too was gone. The run went through some nice neighborhoods and then out around a lake.

I was feeling OK at mile 9 and thought maybe I could try and catch Beach again, but by mile 10 I knew that was not going to happen. My leg was just hurting too much. I thought about dropping out at the half marathon. In fact, for the first time ever I decided to DNF a race. But, when I hit the half-marathon mark I decided to keep going.

Soon I was approaching mile 14 and there was Vinod and his friends! I stopped and chatted with them and they shared this great potato pancake with me. Yum! They always have such great food, I think I should hire them to crew for me in all my races. :)

After leaving Vinod and friends, I continued along the lake. Boy was it cold. The temperature had actually dropped since the race start and fell as low as 39 degrees.

Soon we exited the lake and the wind died down a bit.

At around mile 18 or so, there was an aid station sponsored by Hooters and run by Hooters girls. Shortly after that was another aid station - with beer. Since I wasn't really "running" this marathon, I decided to grab one.

At mile 23 there was another beer station - and Vinod was helping out there. So he gave me a couple of brews before I headed on. Soon I approached the downtown area.
I crossed the finish line around 5 hours and 15 minutes.

I met Beach and found out he finished well under his goal of 4 hours.

Two days, two races, two very tired legs, 76.2 miles.

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.