Frölicking trails since 2010

Frölicking trails since 2010
Frölicking trails since 2010

Monday, February 28, 2011

Hagg Lake 50K - Hagg Lake, OR - April 19 2011

Let me put it this way...the website for the race is
The first race of 2011! I was excited, especially since I was properly trained and eager to see some familiar faces. The weather leading up to the race was 5 days of rain, so the course was bound to be a muck fest. I've heard of people losing their shoes in this race! Bound to be the muddiest run of my life, there wasn't too much I could do about it aside from tying my shoes snug as a bug (New Balance MT 101).

Race morning I picked up my crazy friend Magda, who had only signed up for the race a few days prior. I never knew it was possible to wing an Ultramarathon, but she was going to give it a shot. I mean, for finisher socks, wouldn't anybody? We headed to Hagg Lake in time to see the sun rise over the Lake. The roads and parking lot had icy patches, and I almost ate shit at least 10 times when walking around. Despite the frosty morning, the weather forecast for the day was 100% Sunshine, something us Oregonians hadn't seen in a while!

Ready or not, Magda joined the Early Start crowd at the starting line. She didn't look too nervous, so I figured she'd do alright. Sometimes, the best thing for nerves is to start running the damn race, especially when it's freezing outside. With the early starters lined up, the race director gave her speech and gave them a modest countdown. When the race started, everyone ran in slow motion since the parking lot was slick with ice. They ran up the road for a quick out-n-back section before coming back through the start/finish area to begin lap 1 of 2 around Hagg Lake. Go Magda, Go!

After the early start, everyone started showing up for the 8:00 AM start time. I started chatting with John Lotts, and we talked race gibberish for a bit. I also ran into Gary Daubenspeck from the Columbia Gorge Running Club and Nathan Blair from the Trailfactor group. Ultra runners seriously are some of the coolest people ever. As we all lined up for the icy start in the parking lot,  I noticed the guy next to me wearing American Flag shorts. How do you NOT notice a guy like that? His name is Matt Carrell, and I can tell he was eager to run.


The race director counted us down, and slowly everyone shuffled across the icy parking lot. We turned up the road and continued up a gravel street, where we would climb uphill for 1.5 miles before turning around and heading towards the start/finish. I started out quick since this was going to be the steepest part of the course, and I also wanted to beat the crowd to the single track around the Lake. At the turnaround, I was in 7th place or so but got passed by a few runners on the downhill. Turnarounds are fun because you get to see everybody going up the hill as you're going down (and vice versa). I saw my friend Marta and a couple others before reaching the start/finish and the single track trail.

Only a 1/4 mile into the trail, I see a group of runners heading towards me. Huh? Oh! They missed the turn, and I did too (but I only had to backtrack 15'). I let the majority of them in front of me, since they were pushing the pace pretty hard. The trail section was definitely runnable, save for a few large puddle-muck sections. Captain America (Matt) wasn't too far ahead, and I made it a goal to keep him in site. The frontrunners were well ahead, and I was settling into my comfort zone. My goal for the race was to break 4 hours 30 minutes, and I was using the runners in front of me to keep my pace up. I wasn't running with a watch, so I was going by feel...Felt good so far!

After the first aid station, I lost site of the runners in front of me (I usually take my time at aid stations, it's like a snack buffet). I then reached a fork in the road and saw no trail markers anywhere. My instinct was to go straight, but I decided to try the left path for a little ways. After quickly reaching a dead end, I flipped a 180 and went down the path of truth...I really need to get better at reading the footprints in the ground, but this particular section was hardpacked and didn't leave much of a track (I can sometimes guess what shoes someone wears just by looking at the footprint...makes me feel like a true hunter).

The section of trail between Aid Station 2 and the Start/Finish was the muddiest I have ever seen. When you're looking down at the ground and getting blinded by the reflection of the sun, you know it's muddy. I did a decent job keeping on my feet, but traction was almost a complete zero. And running uphill was pointless, because half the time I would be running in place due to the mud. AHHHH!!!!! I was slightly frustrated. F-bomb here, F-bomb there...

Eventually I caught up to Matt and we finished the first lap at the same time. He was just coming off foot surgery from 4 months earlier, and he was still getting his fitness back. I was still feeling good and pulled ahead, trying my best to keep up a good pace. My first lap time was 2 hours 15 minutes, including the 3-mile out and back far my pace was on target!

The 2nd lap around Hagg Lake was rough, considering hundreds of runners had just run out the only sections of the trail that had any kind of traction. My energy was getting zapped by every destabilizing muddy step, and by the time I reached Aid Station 2, my pace slowed to a comfortable/cautious pace. This mud was relentless, and so I just kept it steady and tried not to wipe out. How many times did I wipe out? At least 3 times I all-out hit the ground. Other times my feet would give way and my hands would catch me, saving my attire from an extra layer of mud. A dirty glove can be ignored for a while...until you get to an aid station and throw a bunch of dirty m&m's in your mouth. Nom nom...nom...bleh.

Seeing the finish line area, I finished with a respectable pace. As I turned the final bend, I saw the giant race clock for the first time in hours. Holy Shnikees!

Results:     4:29:19 - 13th out of 211 Finishers

Pace:     8:41 min/mile

The fun thing about not wearing a watch is being pleasantly surprised at the finish line by whatever time you get. This occasion, I made my goal by 41 seconds...Needless to say, I was ecstatic! I quickly put on some overlayers and grabbed some food (granola bars, grilled cheese sandwiches, cookies, soup, etc). As people were finishing, I started chatting with anyone I recognized. I Love Ultras!

For a while I was chatting with Matt Wilson from Pennsylvania near the finish line. Great guy, him and his wife were in town visiting Portland and decided to run the 50K. When in Rome, right? As we were talking I saw my friend Magda finish! After 8 hours of running, I didn't think anybody could smile as much as she was...well done!

Overall, the course was fun and frustrating at the same time. Lots of people sign up for it, so you're bound to see someone you know either before or after the race. The race directors did an amazing job, and the volunteers prepped some awesome Aid Stations for the race. I'll probably sign up again next year, despite the muddy nightmares I had after the race.

Na zdrowie!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Rodeo Beach 50K - Sausalito, CA - December 2010

Growing up in California, I have a tendency to go home for the Holidays. This particular December, I decided to sign up for a 50K race in the hills just North of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Waking up at around 4:30 AM on a lovely Saturday Morning, Dad and I began our drive to San Francisco.  SF was a bit foggy, but that never seems to detract from the feeling of driving over the Golden Gate Bridge. We arrived at Rodeo Beach plenty early, and I was still trying to decide what to wear. The weather was low 50s with low overcast...Perfect running weather!

As soon as I had gathered my things from the car, Dad drove off to spend some quality time in a downtown Sausalito Starbucks. After I checked in, I walked around and got a good stretch in. A guy named David started talking to me, and he told me this was his first ultra. Awesome! I then learned that he didn't have a water bottle, which is an ESSENTIAL item to have! 50K races aren't simply a 5 mile jump up from a marathon, there's thousands of feet of elevation climb and fewer aid stations. This guy was a marathoner, and perhaps he didn't do his research. I gave him one of my spare water bottles and a couple GUs, and that made me feel a lot better. He was a great guy, I hope he did alright.

The race started with a hearty climb, and the overall pace was pretty strong. The 30K runners started with the 50K group, and so everyone was mixed in at the beginning. Much like the Forest Park 50K, it was hard to tell who was running which race, making it hard to pace with anybody. I just kept a comfortable stride running up the hill, playing the patience game. Whenever someone's breathing down my neck, though, I can get a little competitive and tend to run harder than I should.

The race reached a point of equilibrium, where runners stopped passing me and I stopped passing runners. My pace was consistent with another runner, and we started chatting. His name was Eric and an East Bay resident, and earlier that summer he had ran the Tahoe Rim 100 miler. So, I was excited to talk with him! We talked shoes, hydration, and general running stuff. He made good company, and we stuck together for half the race. He signed up for the 30K, so we eventually said farewell and went our separate ways.

After the 30K point, the course repeats itself with a shortcut that makes it into a 20K loop. At least I knew the course since I had just run it, but those hills kicked my butt the second time around. My training consisted of runs up to 3 hours, and so up until the 3 hour mark in the race, I felt great! After that, my legs labored up the hills and my pace was significantly slower. My downhill pace was okay, but nothing like my Bunker to Bonneville finish. I was essentially alone for the entire last 20K of the race, so there was no one to pace with or at least push me to run faster. That's fine, I was content going at my own pace.

With about 2 miles to go, the course crosses the road that leads to Rodeo Beach. Just before I crossed it, I  saw my Dad drive by! I tried waving, but he was already turning the bend. Good timing, though! Afterward I finished fairly strong, and feeling great aside from the fatigue. Dad was there to film it, as he does with all family occasions.

Results:     4:51:50 - 5th out of 57 Finishers

Pace:     9:25 min/mile

Finally, I broke the 5 hour mark for a 50K! I was pretty happy with how the day went, considering my training could have been better. The weather stayed consistent throughout the day, and I even ran a portion of the race without a shirt on. There was some misty rain, but nothing to worry about. The course was mixed single track and wide dirt road, and portions of it were mucky from the typical wet coastal winter weather. Overall, it's an incredibly runnable course with some great hill climbing. I can only imagine what the views would have been like on a clear day!


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Bunker to Bonneville 50K - Carson WA - September 2010

The Bunker to Bonneville (B2B) was one of the proudest races of my life, and my 2nd Ultra.

After hearing about this event only 2 days before the event, I signed up with very little expectations. My fitness wasn't perfect, but I could manage a 50K run. The race takes place along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), a point to point race from the Panther Creek Campground in Carson to the Hot Springs near Bonneville Dam. It looked like a great training run along a beautiful course, so that was reason enough to sign up for this small race ('bout 50 racers).

I arrived at the Hot Springs (the finish area) hours before the race began, just so I'd have some time to relax and chat with people before the race. My friend Mercedes was there, who co-directed the PCT 50 miler in 2010. It's always fun catching up with a friendly face at an ultra race! (<--Haiku). We hitched a ride with one of the local volunteers (Nicole) to the start of the race. Nicole made great company before the race, sparking all sorts of conversation. Her son rode in the back with us, and he mentioned how he once got 11 semi trucks to honk their horns in one road trip...needless to say, I was impressed. When we arrived at the Panther Creek Campground, they dropped us off and drove back into town. (Thanks again for the ride!)


The race eventually started, and I quickly squeezed into 6th place as we reached the single track PCT. Considering my last 50K was ran pretty conservatively, I decided to keep pace with the front runners and see what I can do. The course starts out relatively flat for a few miles before reaching the first big climb. The front runners stayed together throughout the climb, which was kind of nice.

As I quickly discovered, there were no porto-potty's at any of the aid stations. SO, at the 10 mile aid station I had to bail down a side road and find a nice quiet spot in the woods. Sadly, I chose a location that had no ideal TP anywhere, so I had to get creative. When I eventually got back on the PCT, there was ivy and leaves EVERYWHERE...shit, how did I find the only barren spot in the woods? Oh well, Live and learn...

After my short break, I had some catching up to do! It was the start of a long downhill at this point, so I pounded the trail hard to make up some ground. One by one, I passed at least 5 runners. When I reached the next aid station, they told me I was in 3rd! And my buddy Larry (2nd place) was just leaving the aid station. It makes the chase so much better when you know you're close behind the person in front of you. I set my sights on Larry as the next looong climb began.

As I mentioned earlier, I wasn't in the best my strategy was to go hard for 22 miles and let the last 9 miles of downhill carry me home. When that second hill started, though, all I could do was power hike. I rely on downhill sections to recover, but this hill didn't even have a flat section for miles! F! Hiking along, Larry eventually came into view. We kept the same pace and just plugged away at the trail, having some conversations here and there. As we reached the peak of the course (an out and back section to 3 Corner Rock), we saw the 1st place runner Ryan only a couple minutes ahead of us at the most. With about 9 miles of downhill left to go, I was feeling good and ready to jackhammer my legs down a good 3,000 feet descent....mother of God.

The downhill was a relief at first, since my body shifted to neutral and let gravity to all the work. Larry, being the good friend that he is, did nothing but encourage me the whole time. "You can catch him, Jason," he would say to me. "Shit...ok" said I. The last thing your body wants to hear after 20+ miles is to run HARDER...but what the hell? So I started leaning forward a little more and letting my legs pound the ground without mercy. Then I ate shit hard, stubbing my toe on a rock and flying like Superman. My water bottle was dropped, along with a few F-bombs. Lesson learned, PICK UP YOUR FEET!

Down, down, down the trail I went. The path eventually came to a clearing where Ryan (1st place) was only a stones throw away. After catching up to him, I tailed him for a bit...content to let him set the pace, but at the same time I was looking for some opportunity. With about 3 miles to go, the path widened and literally looked like a creek bed (rocks everywhere). Ryan was wearing the minimalist MT-100 trail shoes, which couldn't have felt too great on those rocks. My Columbia Ravenous had plenty of cushioning and protection, the rocks didn't slow me down and I pulled ahead of Ryan. After 5 minutes or so, I looked back and couldn't see him! With only 2 miles left to go, could I hold on to win this thing? All of a sudden, William Wallace's speech from Braveheart popped into my head...

"Aye, fight and you may die. Run, and you'll live... at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin' to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take... OUR FREEDOM!"

I definitely felt like dying in my bed at that moment, but having the lead with 2 miles to go in a 31 mile race...I decided I'd rather die running.

The downhill ended, and there was about 1 flat road mile left until the finish. As I reached the road, a gentleman was standing there (probably a scout). As soon as I passed  him, he got in his car, drove past me, and parked his car far enough ahead so he could get out his camera and take my picture or something. Lo and behold, he said Ryan was a quarter mile behind me. That sounds like a cushy lead with a mile to go, but my legs were spent! That downhill section was hard on the legs, and this last flat section felt like a death march. My pace was relatively slow, and the road was radiating heat that didn't exactly feel THAT great.

A minute after I was 'filmed' by the man, I looked back and saw Ryan closing in. He was A LOT closer than a quarter mile at that point. His light minimalist shoes are perfect for these long flat stretches, and I was running scared. WHERE'S THAT DAMN FINISH LINE?!?! I kept it 'steady as she goes' to the best of my ability, and FINALLY the home stretch came into view! Ryan wasn't too far behind me, but he wasn't going to catch me at this point. I saw that glorious finish line tape, raised my arms as high as I could, and accomplished something I never dreamed of an ultramarathon.

Results:     5:06:05 - 1st out of 48 Finishers

Pace:     9:52 min/mile

My finish time wasn't a course record, and it definitely doesn't rank with an 'elite' status, but damn it felt good! Ryan finished just 19 seconds behind me. In a 5+ hour race, it's amazing how close it was. My hat off to Ryan, he brought out the best in me that day. I hope we race again soon.

The rest of the day, I spent at the finish area hanging out and talking with people. For such a small running community, I saw a couple Western States shirts and learned that both race directors were both 100 mile Veterans! Turns out the Columbia Gorge Running Club is extremely active and has a tight-knit community with runners of ALL levels. I'm happy to say I'm still in touch with some of them today, and hopefully I'll get to run with them soon! Thanks again for putting on a great race!

All in all, that was a great day. Thanks to everyone who made the day possible, ESPECIALLY Larry. That guy definitely got me running faster than I otherwise would have.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Forest Park 50K - Portland, OR - May 2010

My first Ultra! What convinced me to sign up for such an event?! Here's the quick background...

After moving to the Portland Area, making friends was one of the things on my To Do list. So my search for friends came easiest with the running community. Through the group runs at Foot Traffic, I met some crazy people and heard some great stories! Such as, one of the guys I ran with had finished the Leadville 100! (A 100 mile race in the Rocky Mountain air is as tough as it gets, for most). The more I went to these group runs, the more I heard about the different races near Portland. One of those races being the Forest Park 50K. After some ultra encouragement from my friend Chris, I jumped in and signed up for my first Ultra!

Forest Park 50K

So there I was, warming up at the start of the Forest Park 50K. Shoe of choice, Columbia Ravenous. Food of choice, Dave's Killer Bread con Peanut Butter. Underwear of choice, None.......just kidding! The race started with a gradual uphill that lasted 4 miles or so. The 50K group started at the same time as the 20K group, so it was hard to tell which person was running which race...this made it hard to pace with anybody! Being my first ultra (and a hilly one, for me at least), I played the conservative game. Steady as she goes!

After the 20K runners reached their turnaround, the trail became less crowded and MUCH more peaceful. As soon as I felt alone on the trail, I began singing danger music and using my water bottle as a gun (I watched Predator the night before the race). The trail was amongst 2nd-growth forest greenery, completely hidden from city everything. The twists, turns, drops, and small climbs were so much fun, and the race became more of a meditative run. The meditation part came in the form of turning off the mind and focusing solely on foot placement on the dirt path...step step step step ZEN. Way different than any road race I had run before, especially since I was running mostly by myself.

The aid stations were phenomenal, stocked with gummi bears, PB&J sandwiches, pretzels, M&Ms, fruit, water, and some electrolyte beverage! Marathons mainly have GU energy gel for food, so the added variety seemed like a high class snack buffet. I mainly picked the red gummi bears and chased them down with a quarter PB&J. In between the aid stations, it was all about the GUs.

After the halfway point, my calves felt tight (moo), and my hamstrings were feeling a bit strained. I was able to keep a steady pace through the homestretch, passing 3 manly men and getting passed by nobody. The last 4 miles were all downhill, and I surprisingly was able to bomb the downhill with a ferocious pace! The last mile felt like a 6:00 pace as I sailed past another runner and finished strong.

Results:     5:01:13, 14 out of 86 finishers

Pace:     9:43 min/mile

Afterward, I stayed and talked with runners for hours while eating cookies, chili, and whatever else sounded good at the time. My legs felt a bit jostled (including a tight right IT band), but overall everything was still working fine! My feet had no issues, and my Columbia Shoes served me well.

Lessons learned: Running a trail 50K was much more enjoyable than a balls-to-the-walls road marathon. It's amazing how far you can run with relative ease if you slow down enough to enjoy the scenery.

Marathon - Party of 5

After the Missoula Half Marathon, I went on to run 5 marathons (Seattle '08-'09, Portland '09-'10, Yakima '10). Misery loves company, and I would like to thank my friends Scott (Seattle '08) and Spencer (Yakima '10) in joining me for their first marathons.

Scott and me
Marathons are never fun, but for some reason I keep feeling drawn to run them. There was excitement before and ecstatic relief afterwards...but during the race, I eventually reach a point where my feet get lazy, my legs feel weary, and my mind goes "ow, ow, ow, ow, ow" for the last 10 miles or so. Better training could probably help, but the only mental stimulation I found was in the audience, the aid station volunteers, and the occasional passing (hunting) of the person in front of me.

Aside from that, I have found other unique ways to inspire myself. Running the Seattle Marathon for a second time, my dear friend Taylor fell to injury and could not join me in the race due to a stress fracture (someday, you'll be invincible). So to entertain myself during the race, I ran the whole marathon with my Timbers Army scarf*...yet sadly, no one was offended by my scarf except for my friend Scott who later saw the photo.

*The Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders have had a blood thirsty soccer rivalry for centuries...

That same race, I had the urge to hit on a girl just for the sake of doing it during a marathon. So I asked this one girl for her bib number, and she totally gave it to me! Score!...and I never heard from her again.

Spencer and me
Yakima River Canyon Marathon
And do you ever wonder what it's like to be winning a race? At the Yakima Marathon I ran straight to the front and was winning for first 10 minutes. Afterward, I got tired and was passed by everybody. It's not all that great being in front, especially with the motorcycle escort spewing exhaust in front of you the whole time. My hat off to those who enjoy that feeling.

Oh, and there was another prompted shenanigan during my second Portland Marathon. Instead of putting my name on my bib, I opted for the word "Single". Yes, I think I'm pretty clever and quite suave for doing that. In the end, it rained the whole race, people yelled "go single!", and I bruised my right foot because I ran the race in trail shoes. Despite the setbacks, thousands of spectators now know my relationship status. It's only a matter of time...

All in all, Marathons are tough physically and mentally. They have helped me discover my passion in running, but that itch just hasn't been scratched yet...It's only gotten worse.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Spark - Missoula Half Marathon - Summer 2008

Honestly, the reason I'm running today is because my dear friend LP made me run a half marathon in her name. She had signed up for the Missoula Half Marathon, but later on she realized that she couldn't run it due to some change of circumstances. Was it fate? So she texted hella people asking who would run it for her, and I texted back "OMFG Ok whatever ill do it lol." Given that I had been playing 10-15 hours of pickup soccer every week, I felt in shape enough to accept this offer only 2-3 weeks prior to the event. The farthest I had ever run up to that point was 10 miles (by accident), and so this half marathon sounded like a beautiful challenge.

The Half Marathon!

Thanks to my running friend Becky who was my ride to Missoula, she picked up our racing bibs and kindly changed my gender to a 'male'. Arriving at the starting line area, I was overcome with a swelling feeling of anxiety...and I had to pee real bad. I found a Porto and took care of business, and then stretched for a bit. As the countdown began, I started my running playlist (Flogging Molly) and readied my timing device. The countdown eventually ended with a "GET ON YOUR HORSE!" (paraphrased from "go"), and I rode off into the sunrise!

Like in every race, my first few miles were ran waaaay too fast. All I remember from the first 3 miles was how fresh I felt while flying at a 6:00 min/mile was a surreal experience considering I was in the shape of my life and didn't know how my months of pickup soccer would affect my ability to run. I eventually slowed and settled into a comfortable pace, allowing people to pass me as they may. I memorized something about everyone that passed me, hoping that I would have the stamina to hunt them later on in the race.

Fatigue attacked my knees around the 10 mile point, likely from all the pavement pounding. My comfortable pace became uncomfortable, and the last few miles were a bit of a struggle. Turns out training for a road race on field turf was a poor way to prepare the joints for the beating. At one of the aid stations, I asked a volunteer how much farther I had to go..."Umm..2-3 miles maybe?". At that point in the race, 2 miles sounded I stuck with that.

Seeing the final homestretch, my legs found a burst of energy from an unknown place and carried me through the finish line like a tired bull trying to kill the Matador with one last charge. Looking at the time, I couldn't believe it. Prior to the race, I was hoping to break 2 hours, but instead I broke 1:30! So I asked someone what time it was, and he confirmed that I had indeed ran that half marathon at a 6:45 min/mile pace. Knowing that the Boston Marathon requires a 7:15 pace to qualify, a little seed was planted in my ecstatic little mind...

"I will qualify for Boston...Oh yes, I will qualify for Boston."

About the Race:

Missoula, Montana is a BEAUTIFUL town! The race itself was well organized and had a gorgeous course starting in the outskirts of town, going through countryside, residential neighborhoods, and eventually ending downtown. The Full Marathon itself starts more towards Frenchtown before joining the half marathon in town (I don't recall where the exact junction is). The Missoula Marathon was named Best Overall Marathon by Runner's World Magazine in 2010, and the reason is not too obvious. It is a beautiful course and was well organized, but so are many other marathons. Oh well, it's nice to see a 'small' Montana town get nationally recognized as the best marathon in the country. I would go back again in a heartbeat.