Friday, December 28, 2012

Running into the New Year, follow me!

I'm bringing in 2013 and closing 2012 with a 100 mile attempt at Across the Years 24 hour race in Phoenix,Az!

I'd love for you to follow my progress, and you can do so here:


Live results:

General updates of the race:

Send me your positive thoughts, healthy thoughts and prayers!!

Happy New Year everyone!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Lake Hodges 50k Race 2012

 What should have been my easiest 50k to date , turned out to cause the most injuries of all of them. I have been waiting to write this blog post until I had visited a doctor. I finally went to one yesterday to get my foot x-rayed...luckily no fractures, but I am now on a pair of crutches and cannot walk on my right foot until whatever is wrong with it heals up.

Based on the bum knees, hips, right foot and left glute you would think that I had a disastrous race day. It was quite the opposite!!
I was feeling pretty good going into it except for my sore left knee from the Mt. Williamson trip and being sleep deprived.

The 50k race kicked off at 7 am with over 160 runners hitting the trails. The overall field was quite quick, not a surprise given the relatively low elevation gains of the trails. I had the fortune of a friend of mine wanting to run at the same pace for as long as possible, so Mark and I headed out on the first leg of the trails towards the first turnaround. It was freezing cold in the morning so we kept a brisk pace of around 8:30 min/mile.
  The picture below is around the 1 mile marker, coming across the bridge

 At the first turnaround and aid station of the day, the currently #1 gal caught up and didn't get anything from the station. She passed me and started doubling back on the trail we just came down.

 The sun came up as we were doubling back towards the bridge which gave me a mental boost as my pace was starting to slip to 9 min/mile. As I reached the bridge Mark caught back up to me and we started to keep the pace between 8:30 and 8:45. We were both being passed by lots and lots of people and felt like we were going to be last place, with everyone getting sub 4 hour times! Once we reached the super flat section of the course by some agricultural farms, a lot of those people began to slow and we were finally able to do some passing. That gave us the boost we needed to bring us to the aid station at mile 13. I stuck with a very basic nutritional approach to the aid stations and ate only Chia Surge packets and electrolyte drink. This allowed me to maximize my running time since I was able to eat the stuff while running, as opposed to eating regular food items while walking. I believe I ate a total of 12 packets of the stuff during the race. With my fast turnaround at the aid station, I decided to leave my friend there as he figured out what he was refueling with. I began my climb up raptor ridge where I was able to gain a few more spots as some of the runners appeared to be getting a beat down from the short climb. After cresting the top and heading down the backside of the ridge we ran along farmland all the way until the final turnaround and aid station at mile 19. Because of the out and back nature of the trail, I was able to get an idea of how far ahead most of the field was. I spent between 10 and 15 seconds at the turnaround aid station before beginning my mission to catch up to 2 of the gals who were about a mile ahead and another who was about a half mile ahead.  I received another mental boost when I saw my friends Jeremy and Mark running towards the turnaround together. They were about a mile behind me, based on my calculations with the gps watch.

  The building heat from the sun on the backside of raptor ridge took a lot out of me  and I was unsure whether I was going to be able to maintain my average pace of 8:58 for the remainder of the race. I attacked the backside of raptor ridge very conservatively and hiked up it, giving my hips the much needed break they needed. Feeling a bit dehydrated at the top, I decided to make a very quick sprint like decent down the mountain to the mile 24.5 aid station. I passed the #2 gal on the way down and quickly re-hydrated with electrolytes and avoided filling up my camelbak once more. I stuffed 3 Chia surge packets in my pockets and went blazing down the trail after being kicked out of there by my buddy Carlos. I kept a 7:30 pace for about a half mile to narrow the gap of a man and #1 gal that was ahead of me. It took me another mile to catch up to them and pass. I started to build a nice .25 mile lead over them, but lost it leading up to the last aid station at mile 28.9.  I heard the volunteers shout out to her that she was the number one female. I decided to make an attempt at not being chicked in the race, and I passed right through the aid station without refueling. Camelbak was dried out, I had no food, and I had  5k to go. She was right on my tail all the way unto the very end. We had slowed a bit from the last climb in the intense heat of the day but quickly picked up into a very fast pace to finish out the race in a respectable 4:50 time in 18th and 19th place. She was only around 20 seconds behind!

  After crossing the finish line, it was like a switch was flipped and I was unable to walk or move!!!

2nd in my age group, 18th overall, 31.89 miles with a 4:50 time, average pace of around 9:05

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Mt. Williamson 2012 : My first DNF?

  Yep, that is it, Mt. Williamson , 2nd tallest mountain in California, standing at over 14k ft elevation, overlooking the Owens valley.
  Despite popular belief, I want to confirm that is my index finger in the picture, not me making an obscene gesture at the Mountain.

To quote the accomplished ultra runner, Kilian Jornet, in a recent interview he said: " There are days when you take so many risks, and you feel stupid, and nothing happens. Messner says mountains are not fair or unfair, just dangerous. It is true. We know they’re risky, and that maybe we will lose our lives there. But we do not stop for this reason, because life is about keeping dreams. The more bad experiences you have in the mountain, more you feel unsafe, more you pay attention when you’re there. But you continue to go."

I finally got to experience some risk in the Eastern Sierra mountains this last weekend. I feel like I have been so sheltered in the past with well maintained trails on my hikes and runs. Our Mt. Williamson attempt, to me at least, was very humbling. Here's a small part of the story:

First off, let me heed you the same warning that I read and ignored off a trip report by about attempting Williamson in a day:
"Before I tell you all about how I hiked 30 miles, to the top of the 2nd highest peak in California and back, in 19 hours, you need to promise me you’ll never try this."

  We hit Shepherds pass trail at 12 midnight on Sunday after driving for 6 hours and being up since 6 am on Saturday. So, at the beginning point of the day, me and my friend Jeremy had already been awake for 18 hours after a crappy night sleep on Friday night. We were both tired but still extremely confident in our ability to get up and down the Mountain in a day's time. I had already done a few 50k's and also been up to the summit of Mt. Whitney before.
The issues started early on for both of us, Jeremy was having trouble regulating his temperature in the cold weather and I was having a sharp pain in my left hip, all in the first few miles!
Here's Jeremy with some early sun protection in the middle of the night :-)

  We were keeping a very nice pace all the way up to Anvil Camp, which is around 10k feet elevation. We had now climbed 4879 feet in 8.8 miles, in about 4 hours. We topped off our water supply at the Anvil Camp creek crossing with Jeremy's new UV filtration bottle. After a short break,some side planking for my pushup group on facebook, and a few gear adjustments, we pressed on through the 30deg weather onto the next section of trails. We had a bit of trouble finding the start of the technical, non maintained trail heading up to Shepherds Pass. After a bit of wandering in the dark,we split up to find the trail, and I found that we had to cross another stream to hook up with the trail.

  Shepherds pass really kicked our butt's in that high elevation. We spent almost 2 hours climbing the pass in the dark, trying to beat the sunrise at around 6:30. The temperature outside reached its low point once we reached the top of the pass. The low temperature, combined with being awake for 24 hours, caused us to hit a low point in our hike. Jeremy was insisting on us taking a short nap at the pass before pushing onward, but I did not feel comfortable with this since we were both shivering and losing feeling in our feet. In the end, we pressed on, trying to find a route to the Williamson bowl.

  We hiked in the only direction that appeared to have a trail, which was pushing us in the wrong direction and towards the Great Western Divide. Those jagged ridge lines were some of the most beautiful mountains that I have ever seen.

  In the panorama picture above, that is Mt. Tyndall to the right and the crest of the hill leading into the Bowl. The 3 pictures below are after we dropped down the first large hill of boulders, overlooking the boulder field. We were happy to get this far, but we quickly realized that we had no idea where we were going down there. Mt. Williamson had so many chutes going up it, but all of them seemed impossible with their steep inclines, loose rocks and cliffs. I spent the better part of an hour wandering around, attempting to find cell signal so that I could get on the internet to do a little research. The best info I could find in my zombie like state was a picture that someone took, looking down one of the chutes onto one of the alpine lakes. At this point we only saw 2 of the lakes.


   According to the summit post I found, we had to cross the entire boulder field and locate the lake called Lake Saint Helen of Troy. With a renewed purpose, we traversed the boulder field. What no one described in the summit posts online was that the boulder field was far from flat. After about 3 hours of route finding through canyons and ridge lines of boulders, we came to what we thought was Lake Saint Helen of Troy and the black stain on Williamson:

When looking at the picture above of the lake, if looking at the mountain ahead, which is Williamson, we were going to attempt going up just to the right of that middle slope. This is the best picture we took that gives a good representation of what the climb looked like. From the base to the top, the slopes rise over 2000' ! From this point it took us almost an hour of bouldering to reach the foot steps of the mountain. Once we got to the "right spot," we wasted no time in giving it a go. The mountain gave us a good smack down almost immediately. We split apart as to not dislodge any rocks onto the other persons head, and started climbing. We were expecting a steep incline, but did not anticipate a scramble up the mountain side, requiring solid hand and foot holdings to get any forward momentum. After about 20 minutes or so of climbing, I had progressed fairly far up and to the left of Jeremy. All of a sudden I got to a spot where there was only 1 poor grip to hold onto, and the hillside on each side of me was giving way, including my foot hold. I quickly wrapped my arms around the one anchored rock and held on for dear life. I had a bit of a panic attack and was yelling out to Jeremy that I was in a bad situation. He could not see me and had no way to get across to where I was. My choices were to stay there forever and risk rocks falling on my helmetless head, let go of my hold, slide down to a safer spot and risk tumbling out of control to my death or broken bones, and the last option was to risk a quick scramble over the loose scree to a ledge that was about 10' away. None of those seemed like good options, but I went for the ledge and lucked out getting a hand grip on it. I was able to pull myself up there and got to stand up for the first and only time on the hillside. After getting myself calmed down, I decided to work laterally across the mountain to above where Jeremy was. We had to yell up and down to each other in order to have a discussion about what we were going to do, because the route was obviously way above our ability level. Jeremy said he was at a point where it would be too dangerous to go up and we did not know at this point whether we could reach the summit from this way. I told him to stay put and that I would climb a little bit higher to see if the route got any safer. I went up another 50 feet or so and saw that it was possibly getting worse. With the distance between us and the increasing winds, it was almost impossible to hear one another by yelling. After a short discussion, we decided reaching the summit was not worth dying over and that we needed to just find a way to descend safely......

Defeated!!! This is the first time I had to concede and not finish a physical challenge I started!

 It was reaching a point in the day where we could not attempt another route and be out of the boulder field before dark. It was a hard decision to make, a smart one I'm sure, but it is also one I am now regretting!

Getting down the steep scree slope proved to be more difficult and dangerous then going up. We decided to descend with our backs to the mountain and control our descent with our feet, putting our arms out to the side to stabilize us. After reaching the boulder field, instead of finding another route up the mountain, we decided to travel the 15 difficult miles back to the car as fast as possible. We took an extremely direct route across the boulder field, hitting several dead ends that required jumping off 6 ft ledges. It took us a total of 2 hours to get across, going at max speed and almost no breaks.

  These photos are from the last bit of the climb out of the bowl . It was warmed up to around 40+ degrees when we were climbing out. The last of the major climbs, included a wrong route back to the pass, which tacked on a few hundred more feet of climbing up a steep loose mountainside. Once at the top we saw another wicked boulder field and did not want to deal with that, so we turned back around and had to find another way around. Once reaching the trail for the pass, we took a short break before descending. I was pretty beat up, but I was still thinking clearly and able to try and reason with my hallucinating friend, who was seeing signs, cars, trash, people and roads that did not exist. After debating whether a sign was in the distance for about 15 minutes, we were up and moving again. Going down Shepherds pass was a time for me.....I fell a total of 5 times in about a 3 miles time. Jeremy had one good fall, but he was no longer wearing gloves!

Looking down the pass during our descent.

             Nice view of the canyons on the way out.

 Once we reached Anvil camp we refilled our depleted water bottles and realized that we had not replenished our water in about 10 hours. I'm sure we were severely dehydrated but too tired to even realize it. At Anvil camp, we had been awake for about 33 hours and took another break. I took off my shoes for the first time in 14 hours and dipped my feet into the ice cold stream. We had trouble getting moving again since it felt so good to rest by the stream among the large trees. Eventually we got moving again down the terrain we were getting to see for the first time. I began having problems with focusing on anything far away, the hillsides appeared to be moving constantly further away and they were in a wave pattern like a flag. I decided it was best to just focus on the few feet in front of me, as to not veer off into one of the ravines due to a misstep. After clearing the technical terrain we even ran for one of the remaining 8 miles. Before reaching the 4 mile-to-go mark we hit the last incline of the day, a short but  steep 500 ft gain grade. During the final ascending grade we were treated with the company of Jeremy's dad and friend who were headed up to hopefully meet us. They helped us keep a good pace on the final 4 miles and helped us negotiate the final 4 stream crossings.

We finally made it back to the car! Our minds were in a fog, our bodies were beaten down, and we began to shut down after being up for 39+ hours. We hiked a total of 30 miles, over some not very friendly terrain and  recorded almost 11k feet of elevation gain. For both of us it was our longest and most difficult hike.

  We gave it our all, took some risks, but in the end came up just a little short. If we had been smart and took 2 days, we would of definitely found a way to summit the mountain. Next summer I will have my revenge here.... Until then I will have to accept my first DNF (did not finish) on the trails.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

2012 Endure the Bear 50k and my new Hoka's

   I was fortunate enough this last weekend to participate in and finish my second ultra marathon, Endure the Bear 50k. Like the Cuyamaca 3 peaks race, Endure the Bear took place in the mountains, except these mountains stood about 2000 feet higher then Cuyamaca Peak. The race took place in elevations of 7k to 8k ft.
We headed up there after work on Friday night before the race to catch as much sleep as I could. After a 3 hour drive and several hours of restless sleep, we got up at 5am to begin getting
ready to be out the door by 5:40. After gear experimentation at the last 50k I made a few changes. I bought a camelbak that was 20 oz larger (70oz), ditched the thigh compression sleeves that caused intense chaffing, and added my new Hoka Stinson Evo shoes. I went against conventional wisdom by wearing shoes I had never been on the trail with before. The shoes had only seen the road in the 2 weeks that I owned them.

   After check in at 6am we hung out until the prompt race time of 7am. I placed myself in the middle of the pack before the horn blew. The run began on a steep paved street from Bear Village that led to the trails. I quickly got ahead of most everyone except the insanely fast front runners. I started to conserve my energy and started doing some fast hiking like everyone else. After a few miles of hiking and running I was out there in the wilderness with just one person in front of me and one behind me. The lady in front of me seemed to know what she was doing so I started to use her as my unofficial pacer. Every time she would hike I would hike and when she ran I would run.

 (View looking out from lower section of trails)

   For 5 miles or so I continued to keep her within a 50 ft distance ahead of me. Eventually I was close enough that she said to me that she was impressed that I could keep up with her hiking. We chatted it up for awhile when we were hiking and I came to learn she was Keira Henninger, the race director of Leona Divide 50 miler and a very talented ultra-marathoner.

   I followed her through the complete first loop of the course, which consisted of fire roads, a lot of single track trails and a few technical sections. I was originally planning on taking breaks at the aid stations and not running every flat and downhill sections. I really wanted to keep up with her and she did
not eat anything the entire time, which meant that I had to grab food and try to eat it while running to close the gap between us.

   My injured feet were holding up thus far with minimal pain in the new Hoka shoes. They had unreal traction that I was not used to and never once lost traction in the race, even when I was flying down some of the steep technical sections. The shoes were very comfortable for most of the race and helped minimize fatigue on my body.

  After running for a few hours with just the two of us, we finally caught up with someone, and a  person behind us caught up as well. At mile 18 we all took a short break to refuel and we learned that we had cleared the first 18 miles in less then 3 hours.One of the runners proceeded to ask me in a serious but possibly joking tone about whether I was planning to run the rest of the course as a negative split. I just laughed it off and didn't respond.......
 I ended up heading out from the aid station before the others, to get ahead a bit, but that
did not last long since I hit my first major wall. The reality of not being able to hold that impressive pace for the rest of the race finally set in and I was starting to recognize the fatigue of my body. It took me quite a while to get past this mental and physical wall I was facing. In the meantime Keira came from behind and rocketed forward as if it was only the start of the race. I guess it truly was but a training run for her!

  After a mile or two of hiking uphill on the second loop with someone else I met up with on the trail we began to run on some nice single track amongst the big pine trees. After running for a few miles
we reached one of the many aid stations (there were 14 total?) . Thinking that I must getting close to the end I asked the volunteers what marker I was at. They told me I was at 38k! It was about 10:30 at this point, so if I only had about 8 miles to go, I knew I would be able to do that distance in  under 2 hours and get a 5 hour time. I was re-energized after hearing this, so I put on my music and started to run through the building pain in my hips and feet(Hokas can only help my injuries so much). I ran for several miles at a very fast pace by myself not seeing anyone except a gal who was occasionally catching up to me on the single track.

   About 45 minutes later I started to fade near an aid station I tried to get an update on my mileage, they told me I was at 38k!!! After disagreeing with them that they must be wrong
I continued on up the steep rocky technical trail for the second time. I was in denial for the next few miles, hitting my next big wall as I realized they were right. Eventually I made it to the next aid
station after walking for 45 minutes and asked what marker I was at and they told me 42k. 8k to go and it was around noon, so I had just under an hour to do a 8k run in the mountains if I wanted
that sub 6 hour mark(my primary goal). The gal who was on my heels earlier caught up and I decided to ignore the growing pain in my hips and feet, and begin running again. After charging all of the last major hills with sprints, in a attempt to get the last 4 miles done before 1pm with 30 minutes to go(not sure why I thought I could run 7:15 minute pace out there) my hips finally completely gave out . She passed me, and I slowed down after realizing I was not
going to try and pass her again(chicked for the 4th and final time in the race). Knowing I could not meet my primary goal, I walked the last few miles in pain, losing all sense of determination to press on. My secondary goal was to shave off an hour from my previous 50k attempt. After a painful descent down the the last trail I finally made it back to the paved road, the final stretch to the finish. As I hobbled towards the finish line, a lady began to jog past me, she may of been running the 30k, but I was not going to take the chance of being chicked one last time, so I ran the last 1/8th of a mile stretch to the finish line...passing her in the process ;-)

                                                               Results:      Time      Pace     

                             17th 6:12:40 12:00  

 I shaved off a hour and 7 minutes off my last 50k time, so I met my secondary goal!! The sub 6 hour time on a mountain 50k race eluded me this time, but I will be back!

Final thoughts on the Endure the Bear 2012 50k:

- Most beautiful trails I have run on thus far(not hiked on), lots and lots of huge pine trees and views of mountains/lakes.
-Great mix of single track, fire roads and technical trails, you get a little of everything!
-Brutal elevation for running at if you train and live in the flat lands... 7k to 8k feet peaks.
-Trails are in full use by the public during the event, which is ok except for the very fast mountain bikers blazing the trail.
-Very small racing field, so if you like to be alone out there on the trails, this one is for you.
-The 50k course is a trail that leads you up the mountain and connects you with a large 2 loop section that comprises most of the course, then you reconnect with the trail that led you up the initial ascent.
-Over 5000 ft of elevation gain in the thin air :-)

Thoughts on the Hokay Stinson Evo's:

- The Hoka's were extremely stable across a variety of terrain, I did not roll my ankle even once. Typically I roll my ankle at least twice on a run like this. The traction was much better then any shoe I have used before as well.
- The great cushion in the shoes help you run on even the most painful of injuries,but still have great ground feel for traversing technical terrain.
- They run a bit narrower then I need and the speed lacing caused them to get loose, which caused some nasty blisters all around both ankles. This could be fixed by installing the regular laces they supplied.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Training, revamped! Races added.

With the addition of 2 Ultra Marathons in this calendar year, I have decided to revamp my training regimen. The last time I took my training more serious was from December to February. The focus then was on functional strength, mixed with a little running. I would use the weight vest to do my run/lunge/burpee regimen. After a bunch of leg injuries, I ran less and less....then being in a car accident in April I had to give up upper body workouts, road biking and running. As the pain weaned, I started to mix some of those back in for training, which allowed me to do okay at the Spartan beast in Utah and the 50k.

I have created a new running and strength training schedule that I have been trying out this week. The training was going well until the day after a strength training session in the gym.... trying to run 5 miles the day after a first day back in the gym in over a year was not the best idea. My running form was really sloppy and I may have worsened some of my leg and foot injuries. It is too painful to even foam roll right now!

Taking 2 days now to focus on core strength and flexibility. I plan to go  for  a tough running session on Saturday with people doing the Cuyamaca 100k.

Should be a great weekend if my legs and feet hold up! Looking forward to try out the new Camelbak and possibly shoes, if they show up in the mail on Friday :-)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cuyamaca 3 Peaks 50k, My first long distance race!

 July 14th, 2012:

 It is hard to know where to begin on this write-up. The Cuyamaca 3 Peaks 50k race this last Saturday was quite the event! Me and my friend Jeremy got to the race at around 4:50 am to ensure we got a parking spot. It was great to see off the early start group at 5am, but we were a bit jealous of the extra hour of cool weather running they were going to get. After checking in, we spent the hour leading up to the race by eating snacks, stretching, and applying sunscreen(first time I have ever applied sunscreen in the dark.) We also got to enjoy a beautiful sunrise over Mt. Laguna.

This was the first race since I began running last November that I had no projected time of completion or if I would even be able to complete it. For those unfamiliar with how far the 50k distance is, it is just over 31 miles. This particular one, has 6288 feet of elevation gain and a total elevation change of 12,585.

With a 10 hour cutoff it seemed almost impossible with those extreme inclines. The longest hike I had ever done was 22 miles in one day and the longest trail run I had completed was 12 miles. Given my conditioning, this was obviously a very ambitious and what many would probably consider a very foolish attempt at one's first Ultra Race. Nevertheless I lined up toe to toe at 6am with some of the best and most experienced Ultra Runners in the area.

  We were off! In the cool of the morning we got a nice 3 mile warmup around Cuyamaca lake and through a beautiful valley with tall grass landscape before hitting the first major incline, up the back side of Stonewall Peak. After switching from running to my fast hiking pace, I caught up with my friend Jeremy on the incline. We hiked up to the top together and were already sweating profusely. The first decent of the race was glorious and a great chance to catch our breath. After hitting the bottom of Stonewall we came to our first aid station at mile 6.7 . What a difference in aid stations between a regular foot race and an Ultra race. The assortment of snacks,fruit, gel packets and drinks were plentiful. The volunteers were also the best and most helpful of any race I have been to. After tanking up at the station, we decided to continue running together to the next station. We made impeccable time through the Azalea fire road trail up Middle Peak and down it to the 2nd aid station.

Jeremy kept telling me that he was in a world of hurt and he was not looking too good. I was still feeling very good at this point after the very long downhill and did not want to waste much time resting. Here came my first big mistake of the race......I had the young girl who was volunteering fill up my camel back for the hardest section of the race that was to come. My mistake was that I left the bladder squished in the pack with all my other stuff and thought she overfilled it, so I emptied some out so I could drop my electrolyte tablets in it. I told Jeremy I was going to start the incline back up the hill we just came down and I left in a hurry. About halfway up from the Half Marathon checkpoint and 1 mile into the 6 mile uphill section I ran out of fluid. After scratching my head for several minutes wondering why I was sucking air, I realized the mistake I had made. There was no way that I was going to turn around so I had to push through the next 5 miles of incline in the humid heat. I was feeling great climbing back to the top of middle peak and running down it to the Cuyamaca peak connecting road. When I reached the interchange I was approached by an old lady who told me I had gone the wrong direction and was suppose to turn off of the big Middle Peak incline before reaching the top. She goes on to tell me as I rejoined the correct trail that I probably added about 1 mile to the race..... JUST GREAT was what I was thinking!! Just what I needed as a amateur Ultra runner.... more distance!

  Without any liquid to rehydrate and cool my core temperature, along with the temperature climbing outside, I was in a world of hurt and started to become delirious. I trying to force myself to hike as fast as possible to make it to the top. I must give thanks to 2 people that gave me a sip of their water on the way up.... it may not have cured my dehydration but it was just enough to give me the drive to push hard to the top. After a hard climb through very rocky/boulder terrain , I finally had the 3rd aid station in sight. A big banner stretched across it saying "The Beach." I was a bit delirious but I remember a girl in bikini running down to me with a cup of water. That was the best cup of water I have ever had! My memory of the top is a bit blurry, but I remember eating a popsicle, being misted with water by some guy and having them take care of all my hydration needs for the next section.

On the road again.... I hit the trail really hard on the way down Cuyamaca peak and felt unstoppable. Another run caught up to me on the downhill, Jeff was his name. I had just looked at the time on my cell phone for the first time, 10:30!! I was only 4.5 hours into the race and at over 21 miles in! I had to have him check his watch to make sure I was not imagining the time I had just seen. The time was correct, only 10 miles to go of mostly downhill and flat sections. I was on track for a 6 or sub 6 hour finish! I was so encouraged by this that I took up an even faster pace with Jeff down the hill. After reaching the bottom of the mountain and entering into a campground area I noticed we hadn't seen a trail marker in awhile. We were so focused on our speed and conversation that we didn't bother to check for them every few minutes. We continued on for a bit more and confirmed we were indeed on the wrong trail after talking to some of the campers. I suddenly felt like I just got punched in the stomach....two wrong turns in one race?! Trying to stay positive, we hoped that we had just missed the trail by a little bit, so we trekked up a bit higher up the steep grade and asked some more campers if they had seen any runners, they hadn't. I was feeling defeated but I was not ready to throw in the towel just yet. I remembered that the day before I said my goal was to just finish; this was still easily attainable despite the setback. I have not yet been able to confirm the length of the detour, but I know the detour cost me about 40 minutes and about 20 positions in the race.
mile 25: 

After finding the split in the road we missed, I joined back up with some people I had passed earlier in the race before each detour. The trail was extremely rugged through this section, very overgrown with various plants and there was some felled trees across the trail. I was doing well and running at a very fast pace with my new friend John until I ran out of water again. I barely made it to aid station 4 before I collapsed to the ground in a squatting position. Even after tanking up on lots of liquids and getting sprayed down with water, I was not the same after this station. It was mile 25.3 and there was only about 6.5 miles to go, but my body was broken when I stood back up.
station 4:

  I was at 5 hours and 45 minutes coming into this station and still confident of a sub 7 hour finish. An hour and fifteen minutes to finish out a fairly easy 6.5 miles on Cold Stream trail, around base of Stonewall peak, and along the shores of Cuyamaca Lake. After crossing Highway 79 I attempted to jog but my body just wouldn't have it!  The hamstring tendon behind my left knee felt like it was about to rupture and both hips were burning with every step. So I spent the next 3 miles hiking as fast as possible before I got extremely frustrated......... I still had boundless energy but my tendons and supporting tissues were not conditioned for this extreme distance. I decided it was time to take out the iPod and crank up some motivational tunes. I went with "Impossible" by Da'Truth. The music helped my mind be distracted from the pain and I was able to run again, at a very fast pace! I cranked out about 2 fast miles on the trail, passing 3 people, until the pain couldn't be ignored anymore. I was next to the lake and had less then a mile left, but it was now almost impossible to just walk.

  With the end in my sights now, it helped me push on to finish this thing. It was a very emotional end for me since I was fighting extreme pain and dehydration. I joined up with the wife and my family before the finish line and went back into a strong run with her to finish off the race.

Total distance(w/detours): ~34 miles
Official Finishing time: 7:19:01
Placement: 40th

The experience was truly unforgettable and I'd do it all over again once I am healed up ;-) The people I met were really nice and all had great stories to swap about other Ultra races they had done. The Ultra Racing community appeared to me as the closest knit in the world of running; I really like that aspect of it!!

I guess now is a good time to announce my running and racing goal of 2013. After careful consideration of what I'd like to achieve physically, I have decided I want to compete at the Leona Divide 50 mile race in April 2013. This is quite a step up in distance from the 50k, so I had better get off the computer and start recovering and training right now!

Some of the highlights include:
  • 39.5 miles of PCT
  • 10.5 miles of fire roads
  • 10 aid stations, some with crew access
  • 13 hour finish-line cutoff
  • 8900 feet of elevation gain