Sunday, June 29, 2008


This weekend I decided to get in some miles while also relaxing a bit for my upcoming Badwater 135 miles Ultramarathon attempt.

So Saturday, Cori and I hit Huddert Park - a wonderful Redwood Forest park in San Mateo county. The views were awesome - redwood trees higher than buildings and trails that made the ultrarunner weep.

It was a warm day and the hike was wonderful. It gave me a chance to view my trails at a slower pace while also training my legs for the eventual walking that I would face during my ultras.

Then today, I woke up and put in some hefty miles at San Bruno Mountain state and county park. I started running and immediately noted the beautiful flowers in bloom.

Every step I took chased bumble bees ahead of me, like dolphins in the wake of a bow, they led my way happy to get to the next blossom and exchange the burden of pollen for the engorgement of nectar.

I noticed quite often the ripe wild blackberries along the trail.

So much so, that I returned that evening with Cori, Connor and Connor's friend Max to gather blackberries.

As I ran, I was able to view beautiful valleys and wonderful wild growth.

Then, I left the Summit Loop Trail and entered the Ridge Trail. Here was evidence of a 300+ acre fire a week or so earlier. It made me think of Jean, Chihping and the other ultrarunners who just lost out on Western States 100 due to wildfire threats.

As I approached the crest of the burnt trails, I noticed around 25 or more ravens sitting on the crest, catching an updraft or merely staring at me. I don't know if they were there for the view, to find barbequed carrion or to blend into the black ashes. No matter what, they joined me for my run for a bit.

It is sad to think about the wildlife that was lost in the flames. But soon, I came upon a small bunny that was nibbling on some greens... ....and a hummingbird darting through the flowers (try to find him below - I dare you) Nature it seems has balance all figured out.

Monday, June 23, 2008


As a runner in the Badwater 135 race, I (along with all other runners) were given a complimentary pair of BAR High Performance shoes. I received mine a week before my planned Death Valley Training Run, but unfortunately the size was just off. I spoke with the distributer and they were kind enough to overnight a pair to Los Angeles office where I was working the day before my Death Valley training run.

I had only planned on running 5 or 10 miles in them since they were brand new. However, they were so comfortable I did the entire 50km run in them. The toe box was extra wide (giving the shoe a unique look) allowing my toes room so there was no rubbing between them and thus no blisters on my toes. Also, the toes didn't rub on the side of the shoes either, so no blisters there.

The insoles were soft yet firm, especially under the arch. I found they gave an almost "rolling" feeling. While they are firm shoes, they also absorbed the road shock and had thick soles to help absorb the heat from the road so that my feet didn't cook. The extra room in toe box did also allow my feet to swell slightly from the heat while still not feeling cramped.

After the run, the bottom of the soles looked no worse even after the 50km on the hot Death Valley asphalt. The laces held the shoe snug but never caused any pain on the top of my feet.

I did develop two blisters, one very small and the other hard to even see. They were on the "bump" on the side of the foot below the base of the big toe. But nothing like I got at the Keys 100 miler (total of 23 blisters). So now I know where I need to tape. The first pair I received that were too small were a bright red. My replacement pair was white. I prefer the white.

Overall I would give these shoes a 9 out of 10.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Last Friday I did a 50km training run in prep for my Badwater 135 attempt. I had wanted to start at 8:00am but for various reasons, started at almost 9:30. I had arrived in Los Angeles the day before. My legs were pretty tired after some long miles and, more so, after some fast (for me) training runs. I did a short jog Thursday and my legs just felt dead. Hopefully they would feel better. (note: all photos can be enlarged for full detail by clicking on them)

My friend Daryl and I arrived at Badwater in the Death Valley basin. After snapping a few photos, I started to get ready.

The sun was very bright and it was certainly warm - already cracking the 100 degree mark. I filled my two water bottles (one with water and the other with Gu2O). I put on my sunglasses and desert hat. I was wearing my brand new BAR running shoes that were complimentary to all Badwater runners. The BAR company was awesome - they actually overnighted the shoes to me in Los Angeles so that I would have them for my training run.

After covering myself with suntan lotion, I downed some salt tablets and started running. I had forgotten my Kool Off bandanna so decided to roll ice into a small towel and wrap that around my neck - it seemed to work fairly well.

My legs still felt tired, but a little better than the day before. I seemed to have trouble getting a comfortable breathing pattern too. But I kept going forward. The heat was very strong but not unbearable.....yet.

Daryl and I agreed that he would drive ahead 1.5 to 2 miles and wait for me. I would stop and refill the bottles, down some water melon and other food and sometimes enter the car to cool down.

I was running around 9 to 10 minute miles, drinking a lot and peeing routinely (about 1 to 2 times an hour). Every now and then cars would pass by with drivers giving me a thumbs up, shaking their head in disbelief and the occasional short honk followed by words of encouragement. One car slowed and the driver asked if I wanted some water. During the whole run, drivers took photos of me at least 5 times.

The roads sometimes seemed to go on forever.

The scenery is amazing. Complete desolation - but beautiful too. The colors of the mountains and the erosion all around were spectacular. But after awhile the heat made me forget about the scenery.

Early on I passed the Devils Gold Course - a golf course with no grass, just a wide open patch of desert. My legs were covered in high SPF lotion, but they felt as if there was a large magnifying glass on them. At one stop I decided to don a pair of long white pants I had brought along. I got these on clearance from REI - they were SPF 55 and actually sold as long underwear. The material was very thin - almost identical to my shirt. After putting these on I started running and it felt as if the temps had dropped by at least 5 to 10 degrees....but still hot.

The road was not flat but had constant uphills and downhills. As I climbed one long stretch around 17 miles into my run, I saw a building in the distance. It was the Furnace Creek Resort.

I thought we were to stop there for ice and water refills, but that is actually about 0.5 mile before Furnace Creek itself. I ran down hill to Furnace Creek and Daryl and I went into the general store. It was full with at least 40 German tourists.

There we picked up more bags of ice, water and some food. We also paid the day fee for being in the park and got gas. For anyone else doing Badwater - be sure to budget for the fuel costs. At Shoshone (entrance to Death Valley) all 3 gas grades were in the $5 to $5.75 per gallon range. By Furnace Creek the low grade was in the high $5 range. And by Panamint Springs all 3 grades were $6 or higher per gallon with premium almost hitting $7.

I started running again along a nice path next to the road. Here the road climbed a bit. I was feeling a bit better after cooling myself off in the air conditioned car at Furnace Creek. But by about mile 21 the heat was at 120 degrees and the wind coming off the desert plains were even hotter.

I was drenching myself in ice water and trying to drink. I was religious about taking electrolyte tablets. But the frequency of my urination was slowing and I was finding myself getting nauseous again. My stops in the car were getting longer as I was cooling my body and by mile 27 I had the dry heaves.

I continued on though - "enjoying" my training run. I had originally wanted to do at least 30 miles with the goal of doing a 50km or 35 mile run. But as I had to get to the airport that evening and the run was taking longer than I had hoped, I decided to stop at 50km. It had taking me 7 hours and 5 minutes to do that 50km (including all stops in the car, Furnace Creek, etc.) Definitely my slowest and hardest 50km.

But it was a valuable training run. I was able to experience the high heat of Death Valley. I also tested the SPF "pants" and they worked great. Also, I tested my new pair of BAR shoes - I will post a full review of these shoes, but in summary they were great. I did the whole 31 miles in the pair I received the day before and they were super comfortable. I am also grateful that my official start time at Badwater will be 6:00am - allowing me slightly more than 3 additional hours to get my butt out of the valley.

All in all, it gave me some confidence about Badwater now that I know what to expect, that I have good shoes and sun protection and get to start 3 hours earlier. But I am also very nervous. That was one tough run....and over 100 miles shorter than the actual race that will include substantial climbing. I still need to address my stomach issues too. Hopefully I have not bitten off more than I can chew with regard to Badwater 135.

Monday, June 16, 2008


My friend Rajeev Patel "tagged" me with the list of 5 questions. So I better answer them and tag my 5 victims fast:

1. How would I describe my running 10 years ago?
In the mid 80's I was running a lot of marathons and even considering ultras when I got into triathlons. Then came law school and my career so I did nothing for a few years. Ten years ago I was actually just getting back into running again after being more involved with cycling, a lot of weight lifting and Brazilian jiu-jitsu the few years prior. A friend talked me into doing Escape From Alcatraz triathlon again so I increased my running and I decided to see if I could qualify for Boston again (I did two more times). I continued running but mostly as part of my Ironman training.

2. What is your best and worst race experience?
Those are difficult to answer. Each experience is "best" in its own way. I have my first ultra finish (SF 1 Day), my first 100 mile finish (TRT100), my best placing in Ultras (Ruth Anderson, Fear & Loathing and Keys Ultra), my fastest 100 (Keys 100), etc. But some of the best thing about a race is not so much the race itself but the people. I have forged new friendships, felt incredibly lucky to meet and share experiences with fellow runners, have been humbled by gratitude felt towards some of the best crews and volunteers, and have been in awe of some of the great runners I have witnessed compete.

Worst experience - well, going dehydrated and needing 2 IV's at American River was no picnic. Neither was not being able to hold anything down the last 30 miles and getting 23 blisters at Keys Ultra. But in a way, those were also valuable lessons. To date, the worst I have ever felt was when I realized that I had no choice but to record my first ever DNF at mile 80 of Rocky Raccoon 100.

3. Why do you run?
Four words: I love to run.

4. What is the best or worst piece of advice you've been given about running?
Best: Wow, I have been given some great advice by more experienced runners(some I listen to, others I foolishly ignored). But I was advised to take the initial climb at TRT100 nice and easy and I did. I felt great at the top and ended up passing a lot of people shortly after that.
Worst: Trying new inserts in my shoes - they ended up killing my feet during long runs.

5. Tell us something surprising about yourself that not many people would know.
I like to play poker, cook (I make a mean wild mushroom risotto) and go fishing. Oh, and while in high school and early undergrad I had long hair past my shoulders and headbanged to heavy metal. Motorhead! Rock on!!!!


Michael Kanning
Jean Pommier
Adam Blum
Baldwyn Chieh
Sean Lang

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


With the price of regular unleaded in the SF Bay Area right around $4.50, I decided to use my ultrarunning training as a way to decrease my gas bills - I ran into the office today. My fellow Ultraholic Mark Tanaka coined this: Ultracommuting.

I started in Daly City (SF's closest neighbor south). I work in Redwood City and if I take El Camino Real - an historic California road (see the history of it here: ECR) it is roughly 18 miles. But I decided to take the El Camino Real only as far south as San Francisco Internal Airport and then head east and pick up the Bay Trail (SF Bay Trail). This would be longer (23 miles) but much prettier as the trail literally runs along most of the bay shore.

I had my blackberry, drivers license, credit card and two water bottles with me. Out the door I went. After a short time I entered Colma - the city of cemeteries. There are almost 20 cemeteries in this small SF suburb. Even Wyatt Earp is buried there.

Then I entered South San Francisco. Passing through there I stopped at a Taco Bell and used their soda dispenser to fill ice and water into my bottles. I headed back out and onto the road. Then I entered San Bruno. There I passed a station's sign that explained one main reason I was Ultracommuting:
Yes - those are the gas prices (the car wash costs more).

I could see jets taking off from SFO to my left so I knew I was close to my turn. I entered Millbrae and soon turned east. As I passed over Highway 101 I saw another great benefit of Ultracommuting - avoiding this every morning:

Once on the other side, I crossed over to the shoreline and started on the Bay Trail.

The view was much better. I could see SFO and the jets taking off and landing. Mt. Diablo was clearly visible on the other side of the bay.

I followed the trail along the water's edge through Burlingame. I came across this restored ship called The Sherman. This was first built in 1922 in North Carolina. It has served as an army transfer ship, military liaison ship, cruise ship and, now, as a restaurant.

After leaving the Sherman, I came up along Coyote Point. This is a small beach area that has seen many an open water triathlon training swim by me and my friends such as Rajeev Char, Tandy and others. I refilled my water bottles here.

Coyote Point is also a county and regional park. I started to climb a small hill overlooking the rocky coastline. Along the trail there were all these purple wildflowers in bloom.

At the top of the hill there is memorial for Merchant Marines killed during World War II.

After coming down the hill, I passed the Coyote Point Marina and continued on the Bay Trail near the shore. Soon, as I was approaching Foster City, the San Mateo bridge came into view.

It was really starting to get warm with temps approaching 90 degrees in Foster City. Good "warm up" for my Death Valley training run next week - forecasts at 111 degrees.

After passing under the bridge I continued on my run. Soon, I could see the towers at Oracle's global headquarters. My office is very near to them. The trail starts to move a bit away from the bay here but still hugs along the wetlands.

I pass by the city of Oracle and enter Redwood Shores. Then into my building. After a quick shower and change of clothes, it was back at the salt mines. I have decided to do this once or twice every week and at least once a month do the return trip after work too so as to make it about a 50 mile day. Take that gas companies!