Saturday, June 30, 2007

Western States- A week later

Thanks to all of you that have left comments in my support and many others that have e-mailed me. Dealing with a DNF is tough to deal with but as always I try to remain positive and look forward to many more adventures and great times ahead. I thought I might share a little more on the positive time I had at the race.
I had tried to maintain an Eastern time schedule the week I was out West and it helped to that I woke up on race morning at the time I would usually be getting up for work at home. After eating a light breakfast and a cup of coffee, I headed over to the Olympic Center to await the start. It was 37F so I waited inside with most of the others until about 15 minutes before the start. I was surprised that it was that cold but it felt more like about 55 would back home. I was reminded of last August in Leadville when I was comfortable sitting for hours with just a light jacket on the porch when it was 40F. Summer at altitude rocks. I know where I'll be spending my summers in retirement. I saw the Finkles along with John Straub and Dave Bursler at the start. I lined up with Barbara but we hadn't planned to run together. The altitude had been affecting her more and I knew she would start slower than me.
Soon the race started and as I passed under the clock and begin the climb up the ski slopes I had to choke back tears of joy at being there. After about 10 minutes I noticed I was beside Gordy Ainsleigh, the man that started it all. I was very happy that both he and Cowman would both be running the year I finally was in. I would like to have talked to him some but it is a long steady climb over 2,000ft in the 1st 3.5 miles so I concentrated on just maintaining a strong pace. I hoped we might have a chance to talk later but as soon as we hit the top he went flying down the hill like he was shot out of a cannon and I never saw him again.
After finally making the climb over the Escarpment I stood and took in the view all around. I was in awe of the beauty surrounding me. I had heard it was special and I was not disappointed. As an added bonus, due to the lack of snow this year, we were treated to an amazing display of wildflowers along the back slope of the mountain. There would be acres more in all the alpine meadows for most of the course that I saw.
The rest of the section over to Lyon Ridge was amazing with views of the Sierrra's as we passed through the Granite Chief Wilderness. I was afraid there may be a lot of mud but we only passed a couple of short sections. Actually dust was more of a problem. A large portion of the course would be very dusty and by mid-day I resembled Pig Pen from Peanuts as did most of the other runners. By the time I would drop out, my legs from the knee down were completely black and my white shirt was mostly brown.
Some of the climbs between Lyon ridge and Red Star Ridge were very impressive and steep although not too long. I was surprised to see that we climbed over Cougar Rock. I thought from the map we would pass by it but we got to scramble over it. That was very cool and I'm glad I got a couple of photos from there. A helicoptor was passing by covering the race making it seem a bit surreal, a very unusual trail ultra experience for me.
I was expecting the run through Duncan Canyon to be a lot tougher but the trail was in really good shape. Hundreds of volunteer hours have been spent the past year removing hundreds of downed trees and grooming the trail. With the lower temperatures this year the exposure was not a problem either. Seeing the vast size of some of the logs stacked up was amazing. It was sad to see the devastation of the Star fire but also inspiring to see the re-birth already taking place.
By the time I reached Last Chance, we were out of the high mountains and at a bit lower elevation but the course was still pretty and just as scenic. I was a bit surprised at the steepness of the canyon that I knew I would soon be descending and the ruggedness. At times the trail come precariously close to some very steep drop-offs. I thought about how it would be a bit uncomfortable to stub a toe and take a fall along here so I was very cautious. A person could fall off the trail there and not be found for a very long time.
After I dropped at Devil's Thumb I was quickly offered a ride to the Foresthill aid station where most crews and pacers would be waiting. We crammed 8 runners in with the driver for the drive over. I was very lucky that a local, James Harrison from San Jose was in the car. He and his wife were kind enough to give me a ride back to pick up my car from Squaw Valley. After getting my car I drove back to Auburn to check on Barbara and the Finkles. I was happy to see they were still on the course. After watching Nikki Kimball win the women's race I went back to nap in the car for a few hours.
I was back on the track before sunrise and went back to check again on there progress. Then I went to finally take a shower and got a great massage. I had breakfast and then had the pleasure of talking to Cowman for nearly an hour as we watched others finishing. He is a very friendly guy and seems genuinely interested in listening to others. He struck up a conversation with just about everyone that passed by the whole morning. You just have to love a guy named Cowman A Moo Ha.
I got to see Dave Bursler finish and a little while later, fellow NC runner and former multiple top ten finisher Joe Schlereth. Joe was in pain and leaning the last 22 miles but toughed it out in what he claims is his last WS. Finally Barbara came onto the track looking great with her pacer Cindy Goh that had joined her at Foresthill. I was so happy for her in finishing the hardest race ever for her. We were all surprised to learn later that she had won her age-group. Not far behind her were the Finkles finishing hand in hand.
The whole thing was truly an amazing experience. Obviously I was very disappointed not to finish. The hardest part was watching everyone getting their buckles and knowing I would have to wait another couple of years before getting another chance.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Western States, or how I DNF'd my summer vacation

You're a third of the way the safety runner said as he passed me sitting on a rock. A third of what I asked? A third of the way to the top. His words were meant to be encouraging but it actually just let the remaining air out of my already deflating balloon. I had thought I was at least halfway up this climb to Devil's Thumb. I struggled another 100 yards and collapsed yet again onto another rock, heart pounding as my chest heaved to try and gather enough oxygen to recover enough to climb yet again.
My mind was numb. How could this be happening? I had planned so long. My training had been going great. I was setting course PR's all Spring and I had tapered well. But now my race was done. I just had to drag my exhausted body out of this canyon and make it official. Once again I rose to my feet and inched my way slowly forward. Even through the mental fog and the pain, both physical and emotional I had a glimmer of my sense of humor still alive. I had a mental image of myself as Manuel, the Barcelonan Bellman from Fawlty Towers. He had gone out drinking on his birthday and was having the worst hangover imaginable, crawling on the floor. Basil was trying to get him up but Manuel just lies on the floor and says, "no, I die here."That was me trying to make it to the aid station. I just wanted to lie down on the trail and not have to go another step.
I thought of all of my family and friends that were at home tracking me on the webcast. I tried to draw on their energy but it was too late. I think it hurt letting them down as much as anything because they mean so much to me. I finally made it up after sitting at least 10 times on the way. The volunteers tried to coax me onto the scales but I just slowly walked past them, barely able to keep from falling and collapsed into a chair. And it was over. The medical leader came over and asked what was wrong and why I was dropping with 8 minutes left before the cut-off. I could only answer as truthfully as I could at the time, still gasping. "I have nothing left"
I thought there would be tears as he cut off my wristband but instead I felt a combination of relief and confusion. Relief that I would not have to run another step, but confusion as to why.
It would be a couple of days before I finally figured it out. I had no injuries during the run. I did have a couple of cramps but they were not a factor. The conditions were nearly perfect. I had no nausea although at times I didn't feel like putting anything in my stomach. My weight never was more than a pound off my starting weight so what happened?
Early in the race I was taking in plenty of calories but somewhere between Red Star Ridge and Duncan Canyon I began feeling bad. The altitude, dust and terrain may have something to do with it but I normally have a bad spell about that point in my races so I was not too concerned. I knew I was slowing down as I was being passed by quite a few people. I didn't really pay much attention at the aid station to my time and unfortunately I really didn't eat anything. When I got to Robinson Flat, for the first time I realized my pace had dropped below the 30 hour pace. I was really surprised by this thinking I was probably closer to 27 hour pace at this point. I changed my socks and hurried on my way.
This was the true beginning of my downfall. In my preparations, I had not paid any attention to the 30 hr and absolute cut-offs times and was having a hard time getting a grasp of the situation. From that point on I was running scared and unfortunately not eating and re-grouping as I needed to be doing. I did begin to feel a little better on the run down to Miller's Defeat and Dusty Corners but still not eating and trying to make sense of the split times. And even though I felt I had run better over that stretch by the time I got into Last Chance, I was still losing time on the 30 hour pace. It was here at Last Chance (how prophetic a name) that I finished myself off. Had I realized at the time that the cut-offs would be more liberal after Devil's Thumb, I would have taken the time to eat and recover there before heading down into the canyon. But all I could think of was that I had to make up time so I hurried away and sealed my fate.
To finally add insult to injury, two days after I arrived home I was doing my laundry. I emptied the pockets of my shorts from the race and under the extra pair off socks I was carrying were four gels. My heart sank and I felt a wave of nausea. Why had I not realized they were there as I headed down the canyon? If only I had taken them then I may have had enough energy and blood sugar to the brain to think clearly enough to continue.
So what did I learn? It was a great race and a great experience in spite of the dnf. Next time I will do better because I will understand the cut-off times better and will do a better job of taking care of my self. And in my training I will try to make a few more trips to run in the mountains to prepare for the climbs. And next time during the race I will check my pockets.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Western States Photos

I'm home. Here are the photos I took from the race. I will post a short report soon and try to explain why I didn't finish.

Here are a few more photos I took in the days before the race while touring the area

Friday, June 22, 2007

Friday before the race

Lots of excitement in the air today. I was up early before the sun again but late for Eastern Time. After a couple of cups of coffee I ventured out to the Olympic Village for medical check-in and packet pick-up. I was surprised to find a long line already. I went through the line with Dave Yeakel and it took us about an hour. Barbara was inside volunteering with the medical team and she was actually the one to check my BP and pulse and put on my wrist-band. Everyone was in town by now and I was able to see lots of friends and aquaintences. Annette and Anne were being interviewed with the other elites for a video. Young fast and beautiful Krissy Moehl was working the Nathan booth at the expo. Saw Dave Bursler and Rick Palmer in line. Xy Weiss was coming out of her room as I was headed over to put out my drop bags. As expected she has the most fashionable drop bags, lavender leopard skin.
I rested in my room for a while and then it was time for the mandatory pre-race briefing. Barbara had not had a chance to eat all day and I had just had a cinnamon bun early so we were starving so when it looked like the meeting was about done we went over to Fireside Pizza in the Village. Probably the best pizza I have ever had. Sarah Lowell was there and will be crewing and pacing a friend and we had a nice chat for a while. After eating Barbara headed back to her room but I had too much energy and went for a walk. Ran into the Finkles who had just finished getting tested for the heart study so I walked with them to sit while they ate pizza.
After a nice time we went for another walk and bumped into Scott Ludwig from the Darkside Running Club outside Ben and Jerry's. I had met Scott a couple of years ago when I ran the 8 hour track run in Peachtree City GA. He was with the same group as Sarah.
After getting some Chunky Monkey I headed back here to the Lodge with the Finkles. While sitting here Dave and Rick came through and then Sean and Jack Andrish and Mike Weidemeyer from the VHTRC. This is just much too cool.
But, now I must go to bed. Looking for some big time fun in the morning. I want to RUN and JUMP and SEE BIG FIRES!!!!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Greetings from Squaw Valley-updated Fri am

I got into Squaw Valley early this morning, about 10am pdt and it is absolutely gorgeous. The weather is wonderful. Don't know the temp but is very pleasant, dry air and a nice breeze. I made my arrival in Reno Monday night late and went to bed soon after checking in. Tuesday am I decided to head over to Auburn and check out the finish area and then take a look around some of the last 3rd of the course that I hope to be running through in darkness on race day. Went over to No Hands Bridge and then over to Foresthill, the 62 mile point. I went for about a 4 mile easy run on the trail there. Very dusty, hot and humid as it was the middle of the day by the time I was running there. Fortunately it looks like cooler weather by the weekend and not the oppressive heat of last year is expected.
I got a surprise call from Barbara Mack on the way back to Reno. She changed plans and would be arriving in Reno Tuesday evening instead of Thursday night so I planned to pick her up at the airport. It would be nice to have some company over the next few days. Unfortunantly she didn't have a reservation and the casino's were all booked with bowlers and rodeo attendee's but we eventually found her a room a couple of miles from where I was staying.
Wednesday we headed over Rose Mountain to check out Lake Tahoe and find a place for another easy 4 mile run. It was just as beautiful as I had imagined it would be. We found a not too steep trail/jeep road overlooking the lake and got in our run. Afterwards we went down to the lake at King's Beach which is on the North Shore. We rented a kayak and had a nice relaxing paddle over to some interesting rocks naturally piled in a row in the shallow water. The water was refreshing and there was a steady breeze making for a most pleasant experience. If I could just hit the big numbers in the lottery I would spend every summer here and kiss NC humidity good-bye. But I'd have to return for our spectacular Spring and Fall.
Just as we checked into The Squaw Valley Lodge, Jay and Anita Finkle drove up. We contemplated going up to Emigrant Pass for the flag raising ceremony but we didn't want to make the long climb and descent just two days before the race. The other option was to take the tram but at $20 per to ride, we chose to pass on that. Barbara and I went for another easy 4 mile run on the bike path along the Squaw Valley road. The Finkles decided not to join us and went to rest since they had not gotten into Reno until after midnight. Although it's not too hot, the sun really bears down on you here. After the run we checked out the area and walked through the WS store.
Then it was time to check out the blister clinic. Jay and Anita took a nap and didn't attend. Not much info for me at the clinic. Lots of talk about taping feet and other things I don't need. I usually don't have blisters as long as I make sure to keep the grit out of my socks. And my Dirty Girls do a great job of that. I noticed I was getting very hungry. We are trying to stay on an Eastern Time schedule and I noticed it was almost dinnertime back home and we hadn't had lunch. Barbara was hungry too so we went in search of a place to eat. Decided on the Blue Coyote Grille. It was nice, good food but expensive. That's what you get in a resort area though. We sat on the patio with a view straight up the ski slope, the one we have to hike up on race day. Very pretty, impressive and a bit intimidating.
After eating we walked over for the trail clinic. This was a bit more useful as a couple of trail veterans gave a detailed description of the course between each aid station. I sat next to the Finkles. Also saw John and Debbie Straub. I met them at Promise Land this year. A nice young ultarunning couple. They had recognized me from reading this blog and introduced themselves. That is one of the greatest things about this blog is that I meet lots of nice people that I may not meet at races. After the clinic I was introduced to Dave Yeakel, a VHTRC member I had not met before.
After the clinic I decided to take a nice soak in the spa and then it was off to bed.

Got to go now. Maybe more later if I can get on the computer her again.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Why Western States?

Photo by : Nick Ham

Currently there are over thirty-five 100 mile races in the US and Canada so why I'm I choosing to go to California and run Western States for my vacation? Some would argue that it's not that big a deal. It is over-hyped, there are other races just a well-organized and less expensive. Other races are more scenic. Others are easier. Others are more of a challenge. Yes, you can argue all those points.
You would have a hard time saying that WS is any better organized than some I have already run. Leadville, Massanutten, Vermont, Umstead, Rocky Raccoon are all superb events with terrific volunteers course marking and aid stations. Even Old Dominion with it's small field and low-key atmosphere was terrific.
Well, if not for Western States, I may have never run any of those other races or even become an ultrarunner. When I began running 30 years ago, I was really not aware of anyone running outside of school track and field teams, the Olympics and the Boston Marathon. I assumed outside of those , the only other people running were a few folks like me trying to get a little fitness. It wasn't until a few months later,September I think that I found an issue of Runner's World at the newstand in North Hills SC. I learned that everyday people like me actually ran in fun runs and there were road races in some cities and towns. I even saw where there was going to be a 10K fun run in Winston-Salem the next March. It sounded like fun to me since I was regularly running 3 miles. Maybe if I trained a little harder I could do that.
But we're talking about ultra's aren't we? Well, in one of those early issues of RW, I saw a report of a 100 mile trail race called the Western States Endurance Run. My first thought was like so many people now when they first hear you say you are running a 100 miles. That's not possible! No way anyone can run that far. See,1977 the year I began running was the first year that WS was held as an official trail race for humans. Gordy Ainsleigh had run the course the first time in 1974 with the horses in the Tevis Cup. Cowman Shirk repeated the feat in 1976 and in 1977 the race was born. Although I could hardly believe what I was reading, I was already thinking that one day I too would run 100 miles and do it in 24 hours. Over the next couple of years I read all I could find on the sport but it took another 25 years before I ran my first ultra. That's another story though. I have now run several 100's and have gone under 24 hours 3 times. That may be much harder at WS. Of course it is for everyone that runs WS since 1986. That year the course was found to be way short of 100 miles and was remeasured now to be 100.2 so all records have been since 1986.
So that is why WS. It was the race that planted the seed that eventually made me what I am today. An ultrarunner. Ultraman Joey. And next week a dream will finally come true. I am very Blessed and fortunate to have the health and ability to do these things that bring such satifaction. In the first year I began running I had three basic goals, break 40 minutes for 10K, run the Boston Marathon and run Western States. Breaking 40 was the easiest and came in 1983. It would not be until 2006 that I was finally able to make the trip to Boston with the help of my friends. (The Boston story) And now I am one week away from #3.

Check out the WS race website here

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A little more history

With the passing of my 30th running anniversary I have spent a little more time reflecting on what led me to begin running. Like most young boys, I loved everything to do with sports and guy things growing up. I remember watching the Olympics on TV at a very early age in the 60's. I'm sure we watched the little bit of coverage that was available for the Rome 1960 and Tokyo 1964 but I don't remember any details. By the 1968 Mexico Olympics I was 12 years old and have a lot of memories from that year. It was also the first year I saw them in color. I had watched the track meets on weekends leading up to those games and was familiar with all the Americans entered. I was especially eager to watch Jim Ryun in the 1,500m
1968 is also the year that the Aerobics book by Dr. Cooper came out. My brother and I measured a 7 lap to the mile course around our parents 2 acre yard with a yardstick. For most of that summer we competed for points in running walking basketball and any other thing that the book said would earn points in the charts. That lasted a few weeks before we moved on to other things.
By the time the 1972 Olympics rolled around I was in my early teens and had began to be distracted by other things besides sports. I was also going through a rebellious period and was beginning a lifestyle that let's just say, was detrimental to my good health. Even through that time I vividly remember much of the 1972 Munich Olympics and watching an American, Frank Shorter win the Marathon. The thought of running 26 miles I found mind boggling.
Most of the next 4 years I will not discuss in this forum so we will fast forward to 1976. I was now married and realizing that my health was not good and my life was on the wrong track and as previously mentioned, smoking two to three packs a day. One day at work my boss showed me a magazine article on the running boom. I had know idea what they were talking about but a picture of Jerome Drayton leading the pack and eventually winning the 1976 Boston Marathon stirred something inside. I was living in a duplex apt off of New Bern Ave in Southeast Raleigh at the time. I had been trying to cut back on smoking using all kinds of filters and low tar and nicotine brands but kept going back to my previous level of smoking. So inspired by the article I measured a mile around the neighborhood. It was hot and muggy, I had no running clothes and was running in Dime store basketball shoes. I think this probably lasted about 3 weeks before I gave it up. It would be another year before that June 8th day on Lenoir St. 30 years ago that I tried again and stuck with it.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Weekend Running.

We had my little 30th Anniversary run Friday evening. A small group but that was OK because the ones that showed up are my best friends and that's what best friends are for. Jenn surprised me with the little cake. No, I'm not 30 years old, just lucky enough to be able to enjoy running that long. It was a very hot day, still about 92F and muggy when we ran but it was great little trip down memory lane. We took a short break during the run to check out the old house I lived in at the time I started.

Saturday Morning was the Race for the Cure 5K. I ran with Karla again and her husband Frank and Jenn ran with us this year. Jerry decided not to join in this year. It is always so inspirational to see the survivors and so many supporters at this event. And especially sharing the run with Karla. Last year she was in the middle of chemo so she was feeling a lot better this year. She was over 6 minutes faster than last year and her fastest run a long time. She'll be back better than ever before long. Jenn ran with us and then walked with her mother, another survivor in the women's only event and then ran the open with her Dad.

I just goofed off and rested the remainder of the weekend. I felt fine and had plenty of time but I'm trying to stick to an easy schedule and a proper taper for WSER. More on that later.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

30 Years and still running

This Friday, June the 8th will be the completion of 30 years of running. On that day in 1977, I measured a course around a couple of blocks and struggled run/walking a mile. At that moment I had no clue how my life would be forever changed. I was 21 years old and scrawny(that hasn't changed) and smoking two to three packs a day. My boss and mentor, John White the pharmacist at the downtown Raleigh drug store I was working for had gotten me interested in body-building and we were working out at work and I had a set of weights in my apartment. I had remembered the book " Aerobics" by
Kenneth Cooper written in 1968. My brother and I had read the book and were competing for the most points but like most things from childhood, it didn't last long. I re-read the book and decided to use it and collect points walking and running. This was mainly to help with the body-building and add an aerobic component to my training. I was also hoping it would help me to stop smoking.
Before long after that first run I was soon able to cover a whole mile without walking. I then moeved up to 1.5 miles. Within weeks I had measured a new 3 mile lop course in Southeast Raleigh. The photo was taken in 1978. I was doing my Prefontaine imitation.
This Friday at 6:30, I have invited members of my running clubs to join me in a celebration of running on that 3 mile loop. At the time I was living in a basement Apt on Lenoir St, just a few blocks from Downtown Raleigh. From the house the course goes on Boylan Ave. to Western Blvd. Turns right on Ashe Ave. by Pullen Park. Turn right on Hillsborough St and then bear right as it becomes Morgan St. Then a right turn on Boylan and back to the corner of Lenoir St.

I'll have a report in a couple of days.

This photo is from the 1980 Virginia 10 miler. It was my favorite race and I ran it 15 years in a row.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Stranger to shoe stores

Seems everything you read , or hear about shoe life says to replace them every 300 to 400 miles to prevent injury. I used to believe it myself, but since I've been running ultra's and doubling my mileage from years ago, that seemed like a lot of shoes every year. Maybe running mostly on the trails and bridle paths of Umstead have helped but now I don't have any problem extending the life of my shoes.

From left to right- front row Asics 2100-815 miles, Ran Rocky Raccoon 100 with these after they had 700 miles, 2100-709 miles, 2100-839 miles. Just wore these last at Promise Land 50K.
Back row l to r. Asics 2110, 279 miles, 2110, 680 miles. Wore these at Capon Valley 50K last month. 2120- 125 miles. These are the newbies. I'll wear them at WSER. Not Pictured is another pair of 2110's with 674 miles I'll wear for tomorrow's workout. I still wear all of these in the rotation. I've been injury free except for a 2.5 week layoff with a swollen knee, unrelated to the shoes since I began running ultra's in 2002. You can't tell too much from the photo but if I put them in the washing machine they look almost new even after running some of the rockiest, rootiest trails in the east as well as at Leadville last year.
Obviously I am a big fan of the Asics 2000, 2100 series shoes. I've tried a couple of other shoes but haven't bought anything but these since 2001. If anyone every asked for advice about what shoes they should try my advice is, don't ask another runner. Everyone you ask will have a different answer and everyone has different needs in a shoe. Ask an expert. It may take a while but you will one day find the right shoe. Then my advice is stick with what works. I am amused with how much discussion about shoes is on the ultralist on a regular basis. Why ask a group of strangers over the internet about a shoe? Your going to get a dozen answers and none are probably right. For every person that loves a shoe, there is another person that hates it. Who do you believe? Use common sense.
One question I really get a laugh about is, I'm running such and such race. What shoe should I wear? My answer is always the same. Wear the shoe you normally do unless you are getting injured. If you are getting injured, try another shoe. Then stick with it. Common Sense.
It is also obvious I don't wear trail shoes. Why? I take my own advice. If the shoe is working why change? Not once in over 45 ultras run and 29 years of running on trails have I ever thought while I was running," Man I wish I was wearing a different shoe right now".