Frölicking trails since 2010

Frölicking trails since 2010
Frölicking trails since 2010

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Rodeo Beach 50K - Marin Headlands, San Francisco - December 31, 2011

Breathing Deep at Sea Level...
Rodeo Beach, the Family Tahoe at the Start
Mum and Dad drove to the start of the race with me. As we arrived, I had the Cowboys and Aliens intro theme song sharpening my wits through my headphones. My main goal for the race was to destroy my finishing time from last year. This is a laid back, low key race...maybe 50 runners were doing the 50k. The 30K runners were scheduled to start at the same time, so the number of people toeing the starting was a decent size. One of the race directors made an eloquent (not really) speech, quoting his friend Dave Mackey in saying that it's the responsibility of the runner to study the map prior to the race. Psshhh. As I happened to scan the crowd at the 10 second countdown, I saw a guy wearing Hoka shoes, a Hoka shirt, and a Clif Bar visor. Hey, that guy looks like Dave Mackey, I thought to myself.

3...2...1...JUMP ON IT!

Filled with anxiety and a week of carbo-loading on Christmas Cookies, I bolted up the first hill and took the lead. 30 seconds later, it dawned on me that I started too quickly. 1 minute later, it dawned on my muscles that I started too quickly. 90 seconds later, my ego caught on. Shit. I tried to pull a Matt Carrell and practically sprint up the hill regardless of how I felt, but in retrospect, it was a poor choice. Now I'm slowing down, and feel like such a young/eager fool. What will Dave Mackey think?! At the 1st mile mark, Dave Mackey trotted by as I was hiking to catch my breath. His judgmental silence I will never forget.

My turbo boosters were turning into farts, my throat was scratchy and sore from breathing deeply, and I was depressed. 2 miles in, I felt like I was at mile was bad. But at least I saw my parents at the top of the hill! This was the first ultra they've been able to attend, and they were hiking around with the dogs on Coastal Trail as I trotted by. Mom could see I was struggling, but I was still moving decently well. There were maybe 6 or 7 guys in front of me. I had no idea who was doing the 50k or the 30k, since the bibs were not obviously distinguishable between the different races. The 50k course follows a 30k route back to the start for the first loop of the course, so both races were running the exact same trails. Whatever. Any company is good company.

After the first aid station in Tennessee Valley (Aid Station #1), there were a couple guys who couldn't see any course markers. I didn't stop and chose a somewhat obvious trail at the unmarked fork in the road and kept going despite the lack of markers. This is how I caught 3 of the runners, as the doubt and frustration helped us bond as a group. There were about 5 of us, and only 1 actually studied the course map. So, he led the way for a bit and steered us true. At the same time, I kept looking for Mackey tracks. I found one Hoka footprint, which not only gave me confidence I was going the right direction, but it complimented my excellent tracking skills. I don't just race people...I hunt them (just humor me on that one). During this stretch of trail, I FINALLY was feeling better since blowing up in the first mile of the race! I dusted the guys I got 'lost' with, found a rhythm, kept my head up, and let my hair down. Want some? Get some!

Arriving back in Tennessee Valley (Aid Station #2), now begins the long gradual climb (2-3 miles) out of the valley. My legs were moving strong as an ox and steady as a river. My speed was found more on the downhills of this race, especially with the 6,000' of climb that was slowing me on the uphills. After the long gradual climb, there was some gorgeous scenery of the bay, Golden Gate Bridge, and skyline of San Francisco/Oakland. The Marin Headlands really are a treasure among the cities and roads of the Bay Area. Following the breathtaking ridge line views, I found Aid Station #3. Then 3.5 miles of downhill/flat trail later, I was back at the start. 30K done! I refilled my bottles and had to reach around a relaxed Dave Mackey to grab some cheese-its.

Me: "Good Luck next weekend!"
Mackey: "Huh? Uh, Thanks, you too!"
Me: ", thanks!"

Guess I caught him off guard. What I really meant was, good luck in getting 2nd place, because Yassine is going to win THE SHIT out of Bandera. God Speed, brotha! (Dave, if you ever happen to read this...please don't take it personally, I hear you're a good guy. I'm just a little biased).

The final 20K of the race follows the exact same course, minus the section between Tenessee Valley Aid stations 1 and 2. So, burnout hill...we meet again! This time, the climb was easier since I was warmed up and taking it steady. Run run run road? shit turn-around run run run ahA! run ON CORRECT TRAIL run run run. My legs were feeling a bit drained, and I was almost jogging at some of my low points in the race...almost. There was nobody in front of me or behind me, from what I could see. I had no idea what place I was in, nor did I really care at the time. I was fighting some side-stitch cramping, and concentrating on the hills to make up for my early self-destruction. My legs were pushing well over the last 20k, and I ran 97% of the hills. Not too shabby.

Arriving at the final Aid Station, someone finally mentioned to me that I was probably in 1st place. Exsqueeze me? Qu'est-ce que c'est? Score! The last 3.5 miles were then spent pounding downhill and looking frantically behind me for any possible pursuer. I was not expecting to be in this position, so I was a bit surprised by it. Regardless, I ran my butt off like a slow cheetah and ran the homestretch with my Mum and Dad cheering/recording as I crossed the finish line.

Results: 4:28:47 – 1st out of 33 Finishers
Pace: 8:40 min/mile
50K PR. Previous PR was 4:29:19 on a Flat Muddy course (Hagg Lake)

The Official "Race Director Hand Shake"

I'm happy with my 1st place finish, but it's nothing to get cocky about. Again, I did not expect this. First of all, my winning time would have only been good for 4th place at last year's race. Although, I did beat my previous time by about 25 minutes...which I'm very happy with. I ran a strong race, and I'm definitely getting faster. My confidence will grow with more experience, as it has over the past year. This win was simply a great day on a great course put on by a great group of people. The race itself is very ultra-esque, in that it's extremely casual with no real glory except for the reward for finishing and re-discovering the joy in running. The first half of the race I had to somehow keep reminding myself why I do runs like this...and I really don't have an answer yet. Maybe I run just because I get to blog about it? That's been fun. "Hey everyone, guess where I just ran!" Bah. My true happiness comes from what running has given me over the past year...Health, Friends, and Happiness. Whether 100 mile races are deemed "healthy", that's another story. This was a Hell of an end to a Hell of a year. Thanks to everyone who reads this damn thing! Your support is beyond appreciated. Happy end to 2011!

Afterthoughts: I probably won because I wore the Hagg Lake shirt/socks combo.

Race Fuel: Mainly used GELS, a couple handfuls of pretzels, a PB&J slice that almost killed me, and a dash of coke. Skipped 2 aid stations, didn't spend more than 10 seconds at most aid station stops, and re-filled my bottles once at the 30K mark.

Cheers! -Jbob

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

North Face 50 Mile Endurance Run - Marin Headlands, San Francisco - December 3, 2011


I signed up for the North Face 50 miler even before I completed the Cascade Crest 100 mile race. It looked like the perfect distance and difficulty in a warm wonderful place during the relatively harsh winter months of Portland. Without any real races on my schedule for September through November, my training was hardly as serious as my skinny jeans are fashionable. Miles weren't counted, consistency was inconsistent, and the days grew short. And apparently I'm scared of the dark, since every ambitious weeknight solo run often changes from 15 miles to MAYBE 5 miles. Hmm...Anyone have a dog that I can borrow?

In short, the past few months have involved lots of trail race volunteering (Portland Trail Series, Forest Park Marathon, Autumn Leaves 50m/50K/10K) and some random adventure runs. One of the best parts of being an ultrarunner is being able to say "okay, let's run around Mt. St. Helens in a couple weeks"...or "Run the Grand Canyon with team USA, a Leadman, and the Yassine Machine? Sure, I'll join you guys!"...or "yeah, I'd enjoy a 5 hour 23-mile night run/slog up Larch Mountain on a Friday night in 6-12 inches of fresh snow from 7:30 pm to 12:30 am! Count me in!" It's been a crazy few months indeed, especially with the birth of my first nephew and niece in November. Family, Friends, and running adventures, oh my!

Mt. St. Helens: Randy, Me, Kathleen, Amy, Shane, and Ellen (taking the photo)

Grand Canyon video with LeadmanYassine MachineChasing AmyJ-Bob, and The Queen

Yassine, about to punch me in the face because I wanted a photo (or 3).
Freezing at the top of Larch Mountain with Amy, Yassine, Shane, and Aaron.

Uncle J-Bob!


Onward to California! I was actually studying the course on my laptop as my airplane flew over the marin headlands and the Golden Gate Bridge. It didn't look so bad from up there! The worst part about the race was that it started at 5 AM on Saturday, which isn't the easiest time especially for out-of-towners. After about 4 hours of sleep, my alarm went off at 2:00 AM and I began the early drive from Santa Clara (Mum and Dad's house) to the Marin Headlands. I got there plenty early, sorted my GUs, shook Bryon Powell's hand, took care of business, and lined up for one of the most competitive races of the year.


A river of headlamps led the way down the road and onto the trailhead, and the gradual climb up Bobcat trail began. For the first mile I could recognize some of the runners around me, like Karl Meltzer, Tim Olson, Ellie Greenwood, Dakota Jones, Tsuyoshi Kaburaki, and Ian Sharman. Is this a sign that I was starting out too fast? Naaah...Then the uphill started. My stomach started to feel empty, and my running effort was turning into a calf burner. 2 miles in, I eased back into a comfortable pace, and ate the dust of what seemed like 50 elite runners. The wind blew hard, making my spit fly the opposite direction from which I spat. After cresting the top of the climb, the downhill pounded the rust from my muscles and loosened things up...but my stomach was battling nausea for a few downhill miles. After downing a GU Roctane and some M&Ms at the first aid station, my stomach problems surprisingly went away. *Ahhh*.

The ups and downs early on felt good, but I was still amazed at how fast the lead pack was running. Oh well! Running down to the Muir Beach Aid station, I threw my headlamp at Devon C-H and briefly introduced myself as I kept running "HEY I'M JASON AMY'S FRIEND SHE SAID I COULD LEAVE MY HEADLAMP WITH YOU THANKS!!!" I even wrote her a thank you note on my headlamp. Thanks again, Devon! Lord knows the weight of my headlamp would have added priceless minutes to my finish time...right? Right.
The Elites early on,
Sunrise over the hills

The long climb to Pantol Ranger Station was extremely runnable, and it was hard not to just blast up the switchbacks. Heeding Jason Hill's advice and knowing I still had a long way to go, I kept a steady pace and survived the climb as efficiently as I could. It definitely seemed to go on forever.

Cardiac Aid Station (mile 18) marked the end of the long-ass climb, and was the gateway to the fabled out-and-back section. Before I got to the out-and-back, I ran by a group of spectators walking along the road. It was JB Benna, Tony Krupicka, and some other guy wearing a bini. Pleasantly surprised, I yelled OH HEY WHAT UP?! The guy in the bini cheered back, YOU'RE RUNNING STRONG, DUDE!...What can I say? My guns don't lie.

After some winding trail that reminded me of Wildwood, I reached the fabeled out-and-back. As I started down the trail, no one was running towards me...yet. Then through the trees I see Some Guy, Dakota Jones, and Mike Wolf (with his bloody head) making their move and trying to split away from the chase group, shortly followed by Geoff Roes and other fast mother f*ckers.

Me: "Hey Geoff, which wallet is yours?"
Geoff: "The one that says Fast Mother F*cker"

Since this was an out and back section on single track, I had to dramatically dive out of everyone's way as they were running by. At the time, there were about 50 people in front of me. It got tiresome after a while. After the turn around, though, it was MY turn to rule the trail. I felt like royalty as everyone cleared my path. Eventually getting back onto the one-way trail, I had to stop and fix a side ache. Krissy Moehl ran by and told me to cough it out. *A-HOUGHABLAH*. Holy worked! And thus, the halfway point in the race was celebrated with an exaggerated awful sounding cough.

The downhill leading to Stenson Beach was my favorite part of the course! It was technical (roots, rocks, stairs), rapidly downhill, and reminded me of Predator for some reason (like everything else does). I was having a grand ol' time! And then I reached the bottom and struggled to find my uphill gear. The climb out of Stenson Beach was gradual at first, but then the stairs ate me up. I tried to run the trail space between the sets of stairs, but I was getting worn out. ENTER: Power Hiking.

During my hiking, I decided to take a quick bathroom break. This may not be a fascinating subject to anybody reading this, but I finally tried "going on the go". During CCC, I became impressed by a runner's ability to pee on the run, and so this was my first attempt at making forward progress whilst peeing. It was more of a walk, but I almost made it far enough for a first down. And for those who accuse my blog posts of TMI, you're welcome.

The climbing ended sooner than I anticipated, and I made up a lot of ground on the downhill. It's an apparent strength of mine, as I passed other 50 milers who dusted me on the hills early on. Then there were a few climbs that forced me mostly to a hike. Maybe my nutrition was inadequate, or maybe I just didn't want to run. Either way, if I were able to run I could have made up a lot of ground on a lot of people. <--Noted for next year.

Coming down the homestretch to the Old Inn Aid Station (mile 38.9), I caught up with the Queen as she was pacing Kami Semick. What an honor to run with her majesty again! Meghan paced me for a couple minutes before I took off on the downhill. Sad to say, Kami eventually dropped for one reason or another.

Climbing Out of
Muir Beach
This next section was mostly downhill to Muir Beach (mile 42.6), and nobody passed me beyond this point. The hill leading out of Muir Beach was runnable, but my legs were lacking enthusiasm. I instigated a walk 25 steps, run 100-200 steps routine that was extremely manageable. Looking back, I wish I had just sucked it up and ran every bit of that uphill. It really wasn't that bad. Hill perseverance is something I still need to work on, especially with less than 8 miles to go. At the very least, I was still running strong. And at this point in time, the tag in my shorts was beginning to itch my upper butt. If that's the biggest thing that's bothering me at 5 miles to go in a 50 mile race, then I'm having a good day.

After Tennessee Valley, the gradual uphill went by quickly and I began to recognize the sections of the course where Ellie Greenwood passed me and I almost threw up (unrelated events). The final downhill felt surprisingly good on my quads, and I was passing everybody (mostly 50K runners). The final half mile was bittersweet, having spent a perfect day on a challenging course. Smelling the finish line, I rounded the corner with a sprint.

Results: 8:05:58 sec – 45th out of  317 Finishers (360 started)
Pace: 9:44 min/mile

Rock on.

Fellow Oregonians! Jim and John (Hagg Lake Buddy) after finishing their 50K.
John had a 50K PR on this freakin' course! Unbelievable! 

Finished, happy and proud. But for putting forth my best 50 mile effort, I'm still amazed at placing 45th. Being that this is the first real race I've run with so many elite runners, I'm glad I have a standard where I can compare myself to the best of the best. If I ever hope to reach that level, I've got a long way to go. It's weird to keep finishing these races, and never being truly satisfied. Maybe I'm not so much addicted to running as I am addicted to improvement. As I keep seeing myself improve, I want to keep going. At the same time, I Love meeting people who are striving for the same thing; to get stronger, faster, and to eventually reach some kind of Euphoria that always seems out of reach. For some people, it's a marathon. For others, it's every marathon...or ultramarathon.

Whatever, the beer in my hand says I'm a winner. Cheers!

Dinner at home: Hunter stew, Perogies, Sierra Nevada, and a Festive Snowman.
It's good to be home!

Here's a summary video of how the race looked from the front. It gives a great look at the course, too.