Friday, October 25, 2013

Trip to China: Good excuse for a break

I travelled to China last week on business.   The week before I was very heavily occupied with trip preparations;  at the same time it had dawned on me that my achilles tendons are not improving so it is time for a full-stop rest to allow the tendonitis to heal and the inflammation cycle to settle down.  I am now into a 2 week full stop rest.  I need now to discipline myself not to massage the achilles-  just let it be.

If ever I had to pick a week to NOT be running this was it.  Here is a lovely sunrise near I was staying last week in China:

Sunrise with PM2.5 in excess of 170ug/m^3
And a late afternoon view from my hotel....no, that is NOT mountain mist.  The PM2.5 level was greater than 170ug/m3 the whole time I was there.  This is 6 times the safe  24 limit according to US standards.  You do feel it-  its like breathing cigarette smoke.
Late afternoon view from my hotel
The last time I had an achilles tendonitis I took a full rest for 4-5 months and was able to resume running.  A hard lesson in 2004  was to stop fiddling with it:  No more cross frictions etc.  Back then (in 2004) I had kept the injury alive for several months  by doing various self-massage treatments and trying to run at a low level.

The impulse to "take control" and force the darned thing  to heal -  by massaging the heck out of it--  is very powerful (in me) but the reality is that I know from experience that these measures prolong the inflammation.  It is now time for me  to surrender to the process of healing.  I'll post how it goes.  My plan is to take a solid 4 week break...or until there is no pain when I pinch the tendon.  Then re-start and ramp back up very gradually.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

....and a fine barefoot run chaser

I had a great run around the neighborhood this morning running barefoot as I have been doing the last few weeks.  As has been the case the last few weeks, the achilles were fine on this run.  Again, go figure!  All I can say is that the run felt great.

My feet have developed a bit of callous where the longer barefoot runs had previously given me blisters.   I suppose the barefoot running on roads and sidewalks in the neighborhood is a bit of a form drill.  I run these flat barefoot runs at about a 9 minute per mile pace and keep my feet under me so to speak.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Mt Wilson, 20 miles

It was a beautiful fall morning in the San Gabriels...did the Mt Wilson walk up (2:39) run down (4:02 total) 20 miler today.  The achilles was acting up on the left.  Not sure what to do-- take a 2 month solid break?  or continue on as the achilles is neither getting better or worse.  Oddly,  after these 20 milers the achilles feels better, but then reverts to tenderness within a day or two.

This morning I hit the trail before sunrise and caught daybreak at I trudged up the Toll Road...

It was a clear and crisp morning..



Monday, October 7, 2013

Grand Canyon RRR & the government shutdown

We have had reservations for some months to drive out to the Grand Canyon this coming weekend to meet a group of friends from New Mexico to do a Canyon double crossing.  We had reserved an RV in Flagstaff to drive up to the South Rim, but have cancelled the reservation given that the political rhetoric over the shutdown shows no signs of abating.  All in all the arguments of the GOP seem reminiscent of the rhetoric used in the run up to the second gulf war.  Is this about Romney-Care ..er Obama-care ..or the deficit /debt limit or what?  I feel for the small business owner in Flagstaff that would have been renting the RV to us next weekend, this family is bleeding while Washington puts its dysfunction on display.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Mt Wilson loop

I hit the trail this morning at 6:30 and trudged up the Sam Merrill trail to Echo Mtn as the warm-up phase of  the 27 mile Mt Wilson loop.  I felt great.  Once at Echo Mnt (2.6 miles) the grade lessens so I ran from there.  The achilles were golden until Mt Wilson summit (12 miles) where I began to notice my left achilles.

 I started this run in my AscendGloves without socks;  by mile 15 or so I had to stop to put on socks as the right foot had developed a blister.  Later I stopped again and greased it.

The stream crossings within Eaton Canyon were completely dry-  I had anticipated this and had  lugged a lot of water from Wilson summit.  But it was a hot trudge up out of Idelhour.  I did the run in something like 6:15 today, far off the peak training 5:29 for the 29 mile version of this course.

The right achilles was solid the whole run;  the left was decidedly painful coming down the 5 mile Sam Merrill trail descent from Inspiration Point to the Cobb Estate.  I am icing it now and I expect it will be fine.

It was a sparklingly clear, dry day, and great to be out there.


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Barefoot again, and the official AC100 race report

Had a nice afternoon run barefoot around the neighborhood today...as before no pain in the achilles running barefoot.   The pads of my feet are a bit sore though! the run was a bit over an hour.  My eldest son accompanied me on his bike, it was really nice.  Tommorrow I will be doing the Mt Wilson loop; I had intended to to that this morning but my youngest son spiked a 103F fever so our Saturday plans were derailed.

Uncle Hal put up the 2013 AC100 race report recently - I read it today and was delighted to have been characterized in the report by this great man as "the likable"  Pete Sercel.  Thats a great way to be remembered.   Here is the race report:

http://www.ac100.com/2013info/run-article2013.pdf

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Starting to make sense...

Monday I ran barefoot again, this time up the trail in Sawcut Wash.   Achilles felt fine although within 2 1/2 miles I was done running on the gravel trail and so donned my shoes again.  The fact that barefoot running does not aggravate my achilles got me thinking.  Yesterday I took my pocket knife along with me over my lunchtime run.  I started my warm-up walk in my Ascend Gloves and noticed discomfort in the achilles.  So I stopped, took off my socks and shoes, and walked a bit as a test (an experimental "control")-  no pain.  So I cut the shoes vertically at the heel, deeper than I had cut them last week, put them and set off, et viola there was no pain:    

                               
With the heels cut so deep - all the way down to the molded rubber base-- the shoes still stay on just fine but feel a good bit looser at the heel.   The run today felt great.

This calls to mind that it had occurred to me while training this summer that perhaps the heel pain I had been experiencing was associated with too tight a heel, especially as it was worst while walking/running uphill at which time my feet tend to be pushed back towards the rear of the shoe.  Its not that the shoes are too small:  my big toe has a good 1 cm of room upfront;  conversely I can put one finger at the rear of my shoe behind my heel..  But I think the heel strapping is just a bit too tight / non resilient in these shoes at least in my present condition-  namely, sporting a tender achilles.  Its also recently dawned on me that wearing socks in the "barefoot" Merrells shoes may not be great - the liner is designed for skin, not socks; wearing socks,  my feet tend to slip within the shoe so that the heel slides back into the rear heel cup.  Running in the Ascend Gloves without socks is preferable in that my sockless feet do not slip -- resulting in less pressure on my achilles from being pushed against the heel cup.


As a sidenote I lost my left big-toe nail today...putting on my socks prior to run it peeled back.  It looked spectacularly painful but wasn't.  That caps the AC100 season I think.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Mt Wilson and some barefoot running


This morning I again did the meat-and-potatoes work out at Mt Wilson:  10 miles powerwalk up; reload at the summit and run down.  It was a beautiful morning, with a marine layer covering Pasadena, and a crisp bite in the air heralding the coming of fall. Absolutely spectacular:


 




I ran in the Skechers Gobionic Trail with inserted 1/4 inch Dr Sholl's heel lifts.  I have started doing this, as I had found 10 years ago that this helped me get through an achilles injury.  Today my right achilles was pain free but the left side (which was OK last week) was a bit painful both on the walk up and the run down.  It was a slowish workout:  2:45 up;  4:17 total.

I iced the achilles after the run and went about my day with the kids.  I took a midafternoon break-  which started out as a short walk around the block to loosen up and so I left the house barefoot.  It felt good so I started running.  I ended up going 4 miles, barefoot, and neither achilles hurt at all.  Go figure!   I am left wondering if the added heel support I ran in today was a move in the wrong direction, that perhaps I should go in the opposite direction and get the most stable platform (such as:  Concrete) under my feet.  Whatever the explanation the fact was clear, the barefoot run around the neighborhood on concrete sidewalks and asphalt felt great;  the run at Mt Wilson with foam heel lifts did not feel great.  I will try this again this week and see how it goes.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Mt Wilson

I did the Mt Wilson workout again today:  2:38 up;  4:08 total.  Significantly faster than last week.  The right achilles was nearly trouble free;  the left achilles had some discomfort on the run down but this eased up after about half way down the mountain.  The achilles feel good after the run but I iced them anyways just to be on the safe side.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

More on the achilles...what I am doing to heal achilles tendonitis

I have been running each day this week (on Tuesday I walked) and the achilles, while not 100%, are both feeling progressively better.  Here is a run down on what I am doing for them:


  1. I've been icing the achilles on both legs in the morning and evening.  I cannot always ice them after a run (I run at lunch at least half the days during the work week) but do so when I am able.  This makes the achilles feel better for hours afterwords.
  2.   I put on warm socks at night when I sleep.  I do this on the notion that it may improve circulation and therefore healing.
  3. I sleep typically on my stomach;  when I do so I leave my feet hanging over the edge of the bed so that the achilles is not compressed.
  4. I have increased my consumption of yogurt;  and I have been adding a packet of gelatine powder to my morning shakes.  
  5.  I had been using a race walking gait but lately am back into running.  Lately also I have been running in my Skechers Gobionic Trails in 4mm drop mode;  have been putting 1/4 inch heel inserts for running on flat ground to ease up on the achilles.
  6. Friction massage:  I have been doing this lately followed by icing:  http://saveyourself.ca/articles/frictions.php  and http://how2runfast.com/post/1524828190/how-to-fix-your-own-achilles-tendon  This is something to be done rarely, never more than one every few days.  My experience is that its very easy to irritate the tendon (or paratendon) so the key for me is to resist the temptation to overdo this.  (Note added later:  I've stopped doing this as I have found that while it brings immediate relief, it promotes achilles soreness).
  7. I have cut verticle slits in the heels of some of my older running shoes (and street shoes) to take all pressure off the achilles area while walking around and while running.
  8. Hamstring stretching helps.


I am looking forward to another 20 miler this weekend at Mt Wilson:  Walk up, run down.  I was a bit surprised how sore the legs were after last Saturday's Mt Wilson workout..  but there it is.  I get in shape quickly but out of shape just as quickly.   I am planning to do a Grand Canyon double crossing in October, time to get the mileage back up.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Achilles OK...

After the 20 miler at Mt Wilson  yesterday, my achilles felt quite a lot better.   Today I got up early to go climbing up at Horseflats with a friend.  My achilles were fine upon waking, hiking in, and climbing all day;  evidently, once again,  the Mt Wilson workout...powerwalk up 10 miles, run down... has served to bust up a lingering injury.  I will keep an update on how this progresses this week.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Running again...Mt Wilson, easy

This week I have been more consistent about my mileage after having laid low since the AC100 to rest my achilles tendons.  After the race the achilles on both legs were quite tender-  understandable considering the 100 mile beating I gave them;  but worrisome in that after 2-3 weeks I was still seeing little improvement while the muscle and foot soreness was long gone.   I decided to back off and take some rest last week and through last weekend.  I've been icing both sides and a couple weeks ago I did use a 3 inch diameter roller on them-  very carefully! -- this week I've been walking and race walking rather than full on running,  to keep the stress off the achilles.  With a smooth race walking gait, which places minimal stress on the joints and achilles, I can easily manage 10 minute miles on flat ground, so its satisfying.

Its seems to be paying off.  I did my usual walk up/run down at Mt Wilson, 19.8 miles from outside the Eaton Canyon  Nature Center.  It was slow, around 2:50 up and 4:30 total.  But the right achilles didn't bother me a bit;  the left made itself known but didn't really hurt.  Today I ran in the Skecher Gobionic Trails.  The big toe box and 4mm drop seemed a good idea with my achilles soreness; also the portion of the upper that contacts the achilles area is nice and loose and doesn't irritate the achilles.  Last week I took an old pair of Merrel TrailGloves and slit the heels-  the Merrell's uppers fabric around the heel has no stretch and little of the usual foam  padding found in "traditional" running shoes;  in this case   I think that the fabric in contact w/ my heel may be irritating my sore achilles.  It did feel better with the heels slit to relieve presssure on the achilles.

I am icing both sides as I write this having gotten home and showered off.

Postscript Saturday evening:  The achilles on the left side has no pain.  The right side feels good as well, but is a little sore on the lateral side.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Angeles Crest 100 race report: What a difference 22 years makes


My "100 miles in a day" buckle...YAY!
Last weekend I ran the Angeles Crest 100 for the second time after a 22 year hiatus from the race.   The race was everything I had hoped it would be:  Unlike in 1991, this time I ran strong the whole way through and finished uninjured.  The run was ecstatic, a dream come true:  I ran all day and all night long from Wrightwood to Pasadena and I was still running strong as I dropped down off the front range  into the lights of LA.  I fulfilled a 23 year old goal by Buckling with a finish time of 23:13;  and beyond expectations, I placed 7'th overall and won the Bronze Rhino, what other races call the master's division race of 40 and over.


 The week since the race has passed swiftly:  I've gone to work, gotten things done;  I have run and done some recovery walks.  All this is  radically different from the first time I ran this race in 1991 at age 25.  For two days after that race, which I finished in 28:34, I lay on the couch on the ground floor of the two story apartment I shared with my then girlfriend, now wife,  Stephanie, with a pee bottle setting next to the couch.  I had finished, but it was ugly:  I had joints swollen the size of grapefruit and it took me weeks to recover despite having trained hard at 100 miles per week.

This time it was different. What a difference 22 years makes!

But lets start at the beginning.

Last year I volunteered to help Steve Klenk  set up  the finish  area and then headed up to  Chilao to watch the fun and help out.  There I ran into co-race-director Ken Hamada, who asked me where I had been for the last 21 years and why hadn’t I been back?  “Work & family” I replied, and Ken just shook his head and said “Hey, you’re still a young man, you should think about doing this thing while you still can”.   I privately told myself “no way” as I had become too injury prone.  It was all I could do to run 30 miles per week without blowing out a calf.  I headed back down to Pasadena, got some sleep and then headed back to the finish on Sunday morning with my son.   Maybe because I was wearing my ’91 finishers 
in 2012 handing my pal John his finishers shirt
shirt, Steve asked me to be  the finish line greeter (the guy who greets the finishers and gives them their finisher's T-shirts)  and so  I was there when the last three finishers made it in just under the wire before 2:00pm and I cried tears of joy with them.  Run this again? Why not try.  I signed myself up for the 2013 race and started training.  And after a year of learning how to run again from scratch, about minimalist running to save my knees and how to prevent and rehab calf injuries, I found myself on Aug 1 having completed a 6 week training cycle of about 490 miles, tapered and ready to run.

Pre Race Drama:
I took off from work that Thursday before the race so that I could be  leisurely about packing up and get out to Wrightwood on a relaxed schedule --to avoid the stress of having to hurry to pack my family up and get to the medical check-in at Wrightwood on Friday morning.  I’d reserved a triple at the Best Western in Cajon Pass for my family and I-  same hotel Steph and I stayed at in 1991.  In addition, I’d reserved a single for Friday night in case my crew chief  Dale  and his son wanted to crash there.    

We left Pasadena around 5pm and drove up HWY 2 for a last look at the course and to show Steph the positions of the checkpoints.  We stopped at Newcomb’s Ranch restaurant for dinner, just before it closed and thankfully just in time to prevent kids’ meltdowns.  We made it up to  Mt Baden Powell by sunset and I was delighted to show the kids and Steph just how beautiful this place was that I had run just the last Sunday and was going to be running over again in a couple of days.  All was proceeding smoothly on plan and I felt very self-satisfied, if a bit irritable with the kids’ backseat bickering.  We got to the hotel, got our gear moved to the room; went to bed all on schedule.... and then I stared at  the ceiling all night unable to sleep, thinking about the race and work, the kids and everything in between... realizing all the while that if I didn’t sleep I was jeapardising my  race.  Visions of my 1991 slog up the Manzanita Ridge struggling to stay awake weren’t helping matters a bit.  Around 6 am I pulled out my old ipod nano, put on an Eckardt Tolle audio book, and finally started to zonk out.  I awoke around 8 am completely strung out.  Holy crap.

Off to the medical check in.  I clearly recall that in 1991 my blood pressure came in at 150/80 and the EMT who was taking my pulse asked me whether I had actually trained for the race.-- I was THAT nervous.  This year the b.p. was 101/60 even with an elevated pulse of 70 due to the  race jitters, and  the EMT congratulated me on my good health.  I  bought AC100 hats for my crew and said hello to Ken, who was completely exhausted,  and Uncle Hal, then got the hell out of there as the race vibe was making me nervous.   I drove the family back to the hotel for lunch and then the kids hopped in the pool.  I stayed out as a shingles outbreak the week before hadn’t yet cleared up.  Ah middle age!  Dale went off for a mountain ride on his road bike; I left the kids under Steph’s watchful eye and headed off for  the trail briefing.   There, in a standing-room-only crowd, I ran into a few friends I had made on the trail maintenance day.  One guy, a top contender in this years’ race,  asked me how I was doing.   “I feel OK”,  I lied, but then confessed “but I could really use some sleep”.  Putting his arm on my shoulders he replied “Me too,  but don’t worry,  you’ll be OK”.   I thought to myself, maybe, but man I gotta get some sleep tonight or I am just screwed.

Back to the hotel.  I finished my race preparations, laid out my race day clothes and gear in the spare hotel room as Dale had decided to camp at Mormon Rocks.   I talked with Dale and Steph about their roles; Dale’s job was to kick my ass out of aid stations when I got too friendly, Steph’s was to take care of the kids and help them be part of the race.   Then race goals:   While I was targeting Bon’s splits from her 22 hour finish in 2007,  my primary goal was to finish without permanent injury, death or disability;  that I felt I could buckle if I had a good day and if the Trail God smiled on me.   “Whoa! how ‘bout a little positive thinking here?” Dale chided.   “Hey, just sayin’...its a long run.”    

I wanted to chill out so Steph and Dale took the kids out to eat while I made a call to an old ultra friend that I needed to talk to,  and then sat in the dark room trying to collect myself.  Steph brought me back a monstrous take-out linguine;  I ate half and couldn’t finish the rest, I was nervous and in particular  very anxious about getting to sleep due to ...pre-race anxiety;  despite being already tired enough to feel myself coming  unglued -- of course all this is just self fulfilling.    

 At 7pm or so I lay down and Steph tried to get me to sleep by reading the Wikipidia article on the geology of the Grand Canyon.  It just wasn’t working.    My mind was racing and I was utterly frustrated at my inability to settle down despite my exhaustion.   I was looking at the   prospect of blowing a perfect opportunity with all the factors in place for a good run:  Training, cool weather, crew;  but here I was choking on pre-race anxiety.    I cut Steph off at the Vishnu Schist  and started talking about how I felt about the race and a bunch of other stuff.   Steph just listened non judgementally and eventually I settled down feeling cleansed.   She stepped out to look in on the kids and that was the last I remembered until I woke up at 1am. 

As a side note folks,  if you want to run a good ultra,  it helps to choose your spouse well.   I am often amazed at how fantastically lucky I have been in the fact that this woman agreed to marry me 21 years ago.  That people like me manage to be picked by the very best women in the world never ceases to amaze.  Steph’s listening skills  saved me that night, and saved my race.

When I awoke at 1am I felt refreshed and hungry.  I dug the leftover linguine out of the fridge and gobbled it down thinking, “Perfect! I’ll have time to digest this before the race”. Then I lay down again  and gave thanks, but I never quite got back  to sleep.  I’d set my watch alarm for 3am;  I got up ahead of it and got some coffee, ate my ritual pre-race banana and a bottle of Ensure with chia seeds  mixed in for symbolic power, and a pre-race vitamin pack from Succeed.   I met Dale outside as he was starting to  fill up race bottles.

Off to the start. Bathroom lines weren’t too bad and we got a few pre-race pix.  I powered up my GPS a few minutes before the start but it wasn’t locking the satellites, sitting as we were in the shadow of the Blue Ridge.  And then at last,  it was time to run!
Steph and I at the start, waiting for the race to begin

The Run:

I took off relatively fast as I didn’t want to get stuck in the conga-line marching single file up the Blue Ridge.  Up Acorn Trail I ran until the grade steepened and I started walking. As at Leona I found that my uphill walking pace was faster than my compadres’ that were running the grade.  We hit the trail and I steadily marched up.  Sunrise was a spectacular  palette and I momentarily regretted my decision not to carry an iphone or camera, it was so beautiful I teared up.  Up we went and finally I got the GPS to lock.  As expected at this stage in the race I felt fine and was moving well although my heels were hurting.  This had bugged me off and on through the high mileage phase of my running and I had hoped that the rest over the last few days before the race, coupled with hamstring and calf stretches I had been doing,  would allow it to quiet down; but no joy.

I ran through Inspiration Point (mile 9) without stopping and dropped my light with Dale.  He was covering solo as Steph had taken the kids back to get breakfast and pack up the room.  By Vincent Gap (mile 14) the heel pain was surprisingly still bugging me so I decided to switch from the Merrell Ascend Gloves to the Skecher GoBionic Trails for the climb up Mt Baden Powell.  My hope was that the GoBionics in 4mm drop mode would take some stress off the achilles attachments;  this plus the cushier ride I thought might help the heels settle down.  Dale looked askance at me for screwing around with gear like this but he got me fueled up for the long leg from Vincent gap to Islip Saddle (mile 26).
Me, dicking around with my shoes at Vincent Gap; oldest son and my daughter crewing



The climb  up Baden Powell is a long 2800 ft slog up to 9300 feet elevation;  I just relaxed and patiently settled into the hike.   After the race I checked the time -  it took me 1:12 which was  much slower than I had done it in training (1:05).  I saw Larry Gassan up at the Wadron Tree taking photos, and was glad to drop into a run along the ridge from the AC100 highpoint.  I felt fine and was grateful for the long pants I was wearing which kept the buckthorn overgrowing the trail from tearing up my legs.  The high trail follows a runnable contour past Mt. Burnham, Mt. Troop and Mt. Hawkins-  this is a lovely section of trail.  Running along I vaulted over a downed 3’ log - I felt so great.  After a while I developed a mild headache and a cough;  passing the turnoff for Little Jimmy I ran past a line of Asian hikers who all stood aside off the trail;  I was very relieved as I swung north around a ridge and Islip Saddle (mile 25) hued into sight.   I charged down off the ridge, crossed the highway and weighed in at 156lbs,  just 1 pound down.

My whole family was waiting;  I came in right on Suzanne Bon’s split as planned and I downed another Ensure with the symbolic Chia seeds and reloaded the water bottles.  I commented on the fact that my toes were getting a bit banged up in the Skechers-  the toe box is a bit tall in these shoes-  but Dale told me to get my butt on the trail and quit worrying the gear.  Check.   Off I went up Mt Williamson.  I remembered from 1991 that this climb was surprisingly long so I settled myself in for a long climb.  Up and up the sun exposed trail I went and passed a  couple guys, one of whom was having stomach problems.  It was extremely bright out and I was glad to be wearing my long white dress shirt, visor and sunglasses.  At last I crested and dropped down the other side. The trail down off Williamson was breathtaking.  I recall as I ran through a section of granite spires  thinking that it was really a very good thing afterall  that I had left my camera as certainly I would have lost a lot of time snapping shots of all the utterly fantastic scenery. It was just  gorgeous.  

Down to Kratka ridge and across the highway;  up another slope and then contouring along overlooking Hwy 2, I reached Eagles’ Roost (mile 30).  There I met my crew and reloaded.   At this point the race course runs on  highway 2 for about 3 miles due to  an area closure to protect the western yellow spotted frog.  For 0.8 mile the road ascends a gentle grade-  To my surprise I felt fine as I ran up it and made time on the guy up  ahead of me.  Cresting the highpoint I began the 2 mile downslope run.  I stopped a couple times to loosen the laces in my right shoe.  To keep my toes from banging the front of Skechers I had had  to tighten the laces but  on the right foot, the tendons on the top of my foot were beginning to get irritated.  Finally I reached the turnoff to Buckhorn camp and picked up the Burkhardt Trail. It was fabulous and as I descended into Cooper Canyon it became wooded and shady.   Crossing the creek and contouring along the stream the trail finally started to ascend.  

At this point I started to notice that my lungs were really sore and I was having a bit of trouble catching my breath.  By the time I reached the PCT which led up out of Cooper Canyon I was not feeling well at all, it really hurt to inhale and I was starved for air.  Nothing fun about that! I saw on my GPS that the elevation was around 5700 feet and I just couldn’t remember the elevation at Cloudburst Summit -  was it 7800 ft?   Man, did I have to climb up 2000 ft in this heat with my lungs this sore?  As I slogged up the grade in my misery, Tia passed me running as light as a wood elf on a spring morning in the Shire.  I remember thinking, "How can anyone look so fresh and be so gawdarned tough?"  I kept slogging and finally, Cloudburst Summit hewed into sight and thank God, it was only at 7000 ft, not 7800ft as I had misremembered.  My brother had hiked down a bit and asked what I needed-  “A complete overhaul” I replied but I couldn’t be more specific than that...the way I was feeling, unable to catch my breath or inhale deeply, I was having a  hard time seeing how I was going to make it to Pasadena, given that I was only 1/3 of the way into the race!  I was starting to think that a drop was inevitable.  I just had no power.
Running into Cloudburst Summit looking a whole lot better than I felt

As I rounded into the aid station (mile 37.5) the whole crew was there.  Dale washed my head down with ice water and rubbed it into my hair and shirt, it felt fantastic.  “I have two problems guys” I announced, “My feet are killing me but the big problem is that I just can’t catch my breath”.  I asked for an acetaminophen and a caffein tablet to deal with the foot pain; and thinking that the breathing problem might be due to smog, I asked for 500mgs of vitamin C and 400 iu of vitamin E.  “Thats all I can do for the lungs I guess”.  My brother mused “Wish we had some guaifenesin, that might help”.  Wait!  I had tossed a bottle of guaifenesin tablets - an over-the-counter expectorate, designed to loosen up mucous in the lungs-  into my first aid kit for the race, as I had had a dry cough the week before the race! My eldest son dug the bottle out and Joe directed me to take 2 tablets.  I sat down, took the legs off my Columbia pants as the trail for the next 20 miles was clear- and switched out the Skechers for my Merrell Ascend Gloves.   Up and out of the aid station I crossed the highway and started in on the gentle 5 mile descent to Three Points. 

Within a couple miles I was hacking out a lot of phlegm and feeling better.  While my feet still hurt, the toes weren’t being banged and the top of my feet felt fine in the Merrells.  I caught up with one fella who  was working through a rough patch and after making sure he didn’t need anything, I carried on.  I was feeling terrific.  I caught one more guy just before coming into Three Points (mile 42.7) and was excited to meet my crew as well as a co-worker,  Jonathan, who had ridden his motorcycle up for the day.  I was feeling great and was just amazed at the fact that I had come back from the death spiral I felt I was in at Cloudburst Summit.  There I had felt ready for a pine box;  here I felt that I had been resurrected.  Whether it was the lower elevation, the guaifenesin or what, I was back in the race.
Dale soaking me down with ice water at Three-Points. 

Heading out of Three-Points feeling strong
After Dale soaked my head with ice water again   I   reloaded,  and trotted out of the aid station with Brad, one of the friends I had made on the AC  trail maintenance crew.  Together we tore down the gentle grade to Sulphur Springs, chatting about our pace targets and how fun it was to be running so fast as we reeled in a couple more guys.  We were targeting the same race splits, although I told him “I’m just focussing on one section at a time, and I’ll let the Trail God sort out what to do with it”.  Hitting the blacktop heading to Mt Hillyer we caught  up with Tia.  Soon after,  I parted company from the two of them as I was feeling strong on the uphill.

As I reached Rosenita Saddle (mile 49) the aid station crew called out my name and one checkpoint guy asked, “So, did you really do this the last time in 1991?” “Yep,  its been a long time coming, I have some unfinished business!”  He laughed knowingly, told me I was looking strong and helped me with my bottles -- and off I ran to the summit pitch.

Cresting out, I  dropped down  into the weird managerie of  twisted rock formations that is  Horseflats, one of the top bouldering sites anywhere.  It was like mogul skiing, absolutely surreal and fantastic.  I’d explored this area last summer looking for good climbing sites for my son’s boy scout troop.  I passed a group of climbers and then rounded a corner and much to my surprise passed Jorge.  “You need anything?” I asked.  “Just a new pair of legs” the champion called back.  I ran on, sobered by the reminder that the AC course can level even the greatest runners.  Tearing on down the trail I passed my boys’ favorite rappelling spot, Romeo Void, and  I started to notice that the right IT band was getting painful.  This structure had blown up in 1991, and produced ultimately such an excruciating pain that I was reduced to a walk for the last 35 miles of the run.  My right calf also gave me a couple electric jolts as I cruised down this section.  I took a calcium carbonate chewable and a salt stick capsule and ran on.  I hit the road and jogged into Chilao, Mile 52.8,  at 4:15, just a few minutes off Bon’s splits. My weight was 2 pounds down-  just right.  Dale soaked my head with ice water again, popped open a can of Progresso chicken & rice soup which I drank cold.   I sat down to put the legs back on my Columbia pants in anticipation of the poodle dog bush overgrowing the trail between Chilao and Charleton.  I popped an acetaminophen and a caffeine tablet,  and  off   I went.  

While I was screwing around with all this I think Tia and her pacer passed me.   I cruised to Charleton and hit the ridge overlooking shortcut  far below with Mt Wilson off in the distance.  Down the sandy freefall I ran, being careful to rein in it.  My IT band was hurting and I very clearly recalled bombing down this ridge trail in 1991 with my pal Winston, stoned on endorphins, and destroying my quads and IT band in the process.  Finally  the trail bottomed out and I ran along the stream at the canyon bottom being careful to breath through my mouth.  Again, ghosts of the past:  In 1991 as Winston and I crossed the stream I inhaled a fly and proceeded to puke my guts out all over Winston’s shoes.  Ah, where do we find such friends?   That barf of undigested mango-plex probably saved my water-logged self that day (I’d been gaining weight during the race in 1991) but I was in no mind to repeat that unpleasant experience.  With some relief I started the uphill walk to Shortcut Saddle, congratulating myself that I had run the gauntlet that is Shortcut without puking this time.
Heading into Shortcut

Arriving at Shortcut  Saddle (Mile 59.3) my crew gave me one more Ensure and I  ate a popsicle.  At this point the thought of Gu Brew and Gu fizzy tablets was making me sick  so I asked for  a Coke and switched to filling my bottles with  diluted coke plus salt.  I drank down an Ensure and  Dale told me to get after it;   time to show some grit and get ‘er done.  Check.  I lurched into motion,   feeling like I had zombie legs with no knees, crossed the highway and started the long 5 mile drop down the fireroad to the West Fork -  but my legs were just shot!  Jose and his pacer quickly overhauled me and I just couldn’t respond.  The miles wended away on the downhill  and I marveled at the late afternoon beauty of the canyon I was dropping into.  There wasn’t a soul in sight.  I hit the stream crossing looking forward to the hike up to Newcomb’s Saddle to rest the quads.  I picked up steam and walked fast up the 2.5  mile grade, and towards the top I passed a young runner who was cashed after having run Hardrock  three weeks before.  In short order I  topped out and started running the trail into the check point.  It was still light and my legs were back-  I felt solid!  The guys at the checkpoint (mile 68) told me I was in the top ten at that point and one of the firefighters smiled and said “go get ‘em-  old guys rule!”  I drank some broth and some coke, got out my light and headed down into Santa Anita Canyon with the sun setting and the sky taking on the colors of  a rare steak.  It was gorgeous.   I couldn’t believe I’d reached Santa Anita canyon in the daylight.
At Newcomb's, photo by Gerry Walsh (I believe), by UAV


As I hit the technical trail I felt myself picking up strength and speed and my legs felt recharged.  As the 7 miles down into Chantry progressed, It occurred to me that while I was still hurting, the pain  just didn’t seem to matter and while I was running along precipices my every footfall was perfectly placed like I was being guided down the canyon in the dark.  I felt supercharged and in a flow state like I haven’t experienced in some years, and it was heartbreakingly magnificent.

I hit the climb up into the checkpoint at Chantry, Mile 74.55,  and there was my wife Steph and family, Dale,  my brother Joel, Joe my pacer,  and Richard and Rod, two pals from my son’s scout troop.  Hugs all around and then my 5 year old son gave me a cup of soup to drink while my 7 year old daughter went to get me a coke.  Thank you God, life doesn’t get better than this,  I thought. Dale helped me get changed into a dry capilene shirt; I donned a running pack to carry  a windbreaker, a warm hat and gloves and a couple of spare lights; more hugs and then off Joe and I  went into the night to the Upper Wintercreek trailhead.  I left the checkpoint at 9:34pm leaving over 7 hours to buckle.   I put it out of my mind but it was clear at this point that provided I didn’t blow up I could buckle.  
Hitting the trail with  Joe, the best pacer ever, out of Chantry

Brad and his pacer Ryan had caught me while I was getting fixed up at Chantry and had left the checkpoint ahead of me. Joe and I let them go, they were moving well, and we settled into an easy run/walk up the Wintercreek trail, making good time until we hit Hoegees.  At this point the trail leaves the stream and heads more aggressively up towards the toll road for a 2500 ft climb.  We settled into a steady powerwalk and slowly made time, catching another runner about midway up. As we neared the top I took another caffeine tablet and an acetaminophen thinking I would need these as we approached the witching hour;  soon we reached the Winton bypass. I was extremely grateful for the AC100 crews that put this in 1999.  I clearly recall the struggle I had in 1991 to climb the ridge trail, at 16% grade,  in the witching hours, as my strength and will were at their lowest ebb.   It had been the most difficult thing I had ever done in my young life up to that point.

Finally we hit the toll road, about mile 80, catching Brad and Ryan at the same  time.  After greetings and mutual checking in to make sure everyone was OK, Joe and I took off down the toll road and made good time cruising the 10% downgrade hitting  the Idlehour checkpoint (mile 84) just shy of midnight.  Reloading on Coke, we headed into the single track for the initial 1/2 mile uphill grade,   crested the ridge and began  the steep drop into Idlehour.  Like a runaway train we cruised the single track,  a free fall approaching 15-20% downslope at times, and caught Jose and his pacer.   Feeling  strong we hit the canyon bottom and started running the trail upstream.  Seeing a glow in the woods ahead we rounded a corner and heard “Pete! is that you!”   Backlit by the homey glow of a campfire three figures emerged from the woods who turned out to be none other than my compadres Al, Troy and Joel from  work-  these good friends had hiked in on Saturday to camp at Idlehour to watch the race!  “You look great Pete! How are you feeling?”  “I feeling F&*^ing great”  I replied.  “Thanks for coming out to see this guys-  gotta run!” and off we went.

Joe and I made good time up canyon and started the steep switchbacks on the west slope.  Periodically Joe reminded me to drink and eat.   Topping out we hit the downhill to the creek and ducked under the big log that Angela and I had dug out on trail day so we didn’t have to duck down too far.  Across the creek and we began the 2 mile climb up to Sam Merrill checkpoint (mile 89.25).   Rolling in there we reloaded on coke and Gu, and broke out the spare lights for the descent down Sam Merrill. 

I took point heading into the Sam Merrill single track.  After a mile or so contouring around to the west the trail rounds a point and descends kamakaze style down the front face to Echo Mountain.  To both our surprise I gave Joe his money’s worth as we raced down the single track, trying  hard not to look at the spectacular view of the  LA basin set before us lest I miss a switchback and take the fast way down.  I felt so strong cruising down the face!  It  didn’t even bother me when I kicked a rock good and hard and I  felt the bigtoe nail lift.  Just keep on running.

Reaching Echo Mountain we started up the gentle grade towards   the Mt Lowe railway bed and to my joy I found I was still able to run this.  Then to the Sunset Trail and another kamikaze descent into Millard Canyon.  Running through overgrown grass I was once again glad to be wearing long pants and a long shirt and it occurred to me it was getting hard to see the trail with the overgrowth blocking the flashlight beam.   As were were running the final descent into Millard my watch alarm went off -  3:02am -- I hadn’t reset it from Saturday morning-  and for the first time, doing the math,  I really believed we could make it in before the 24 hour cut-off.   Into the checkpoint (mile 95.8) at 3:09 and Joe pulled out a laminated card he’d made and said “Pete,  the cutoff time to leave here and still buckle is 4am. You could walk it in from here if you had to and still make it”.   I believed him but still feared what could happen on the El Prieto.  The last time I’d been in El Prieto it was on a mountain bike with my oldest son;  he had wanted to see the route and so I obliged and  we had rerouted our return on a ride up Brown Mountain from the Arroyo.  All had been well until I found myself flying ass-end over tea-kettle, somehow jumping clear as my bike tumbled downslope, and I’d landed on the front tire bending it pretty severely.  But on this night, with Joe in the lead we safely retraced that route moving surely, and I found myself thinking, “...this ain’t so bad!”  Soon we saw lights below and it became clear we were overtaking another runner.  We encountered a race official who said something about destroyed course markings, but we pressed on without any trouble.  Hitting the pavement Joe started to take off and I imagined myself on a tether being dragged by him;  we hit the cut path out of the Arroyo over to Altadena Drive and Lincoln.  I couldn’t believe it, we had done it!  Rounding a corner we cruised along in front of Loma Alta Park until an official waived us in and there it was-- the finish line!  We ran it in and oh my God, we had done it, 23:13, I had buckled, and there was Steph running up to hug me, and then  there was Dale and Joe and Rod.    
Photo:  From AC100 website

With my wife Steph at the finish...Thank you!
With my great friend Dale at the finish, best crew chief ever



I’m deeply moved as I write this.  Its hard to describe the elation I felt that morning and feel now. To have experienced the grace of running all day and all night with power, to have felt myself growing stronger as the run progressed, was a mind blowing, ecstatic experience.  My language fails me when I try to describe it and I just start laughing and tears well up.  A friend of mind who also ran well confessed to the same feeling so I am sure I am not alone in this.  

My friends and family came out and supported me whole heartedly and I am so grateful.  Dozens of people followed my run on facebook and the AC100 live site and as one friend put it on Facebook during the race,  "... probably more people than Pete knows are out there propagating positive waves".      I am so grateful to my crew Chief Dale who busted his ass all day to help me; to Joe for pacing and keeping me fed, hydrated and safe through the night; to my wife Steph for leapfrogging  me across the whole San Gabriel range to not only support me but to enable our kids to do so, to my children for their support; to my brother Joel, friends Richard and Rod, Al, Troy, Joel and Jonathan for coming out to show their support-  thank you all! And thank you to all the AC100 staff and volunteers...an amazing group of people that made the whole thing possible.

 After chatting a  bit at the finish and putting on some dry clothes, I went to the tent where my kids were sleeping and tried to get some shut-eye before sun-up.  I couldn’t sleep because I just hurt too badly.  After sunrise I got up and had omelettes with my son and my brother, we packed up and chilled out and then returned for the awards ceremony.  Someone asked me if I’d be running next year.  I told him I needed a decent interval to think about it.

The family vote was unanimous.  I signed up for the 2014 race on Tuesday.

_________________________
Appendix 1:  Race nutitrion and meds


I am adding a few notes before I forget on what I ate and drank during the race and what meds I used and why.

What I ate and drank:

Friday night-  Linguine and to bed at 8pm;


Saturday:
  • Pre-race:
    • Woke at 1am and finished half the linguine dinner left over from Friday night.
    • 3am:  1 bottle of Ensure-plus (350Cal version) with a tablespoon of chia seeds and a tablespoon of nutritional yeast mixed in  (it worked at Leona Divide and worked at AC100); 
    • Succeed pre-race vitamin pack.
    •  Drank Succeed Clip 2 until the race.
  • Race drinks  & electrolytes:
    • I carried typically 1x 21oz bottle of Gu Brew, one bottle of ice water for spraying my head and shoulders;  and 1-2 bottle of water with Gu fizz tablets- electrolytes but no sugar depending on the segment mileage. This regimen lasted up to mile 60 after which I switched out the Gu products for dilute Coke w/ salt.  I typically drank 2 bottles every hour or so.  I did NOT carry or drink Clip-2 during the race outside of checkpoints.  It tends to foam up when carried/shaken and fill my stomach with suds until I blerp it up.
    • Weigh-ins:  I was 1 pound down at Vincent Gap (25 miles), 2 pounds down at Chilao, and 2 pounds down at Chantry.  This is just about right.  I didn't pee much but I did pee a bit every 2-3 hours  throughout the day.
    • Electrolytes:  Typically took 1 S-cap or 1 Salt Stick cap every hour during the day, to supplement the fizz tabs which are a bit light on sodium (only 300mg).  The electrolyte caps are keyed to my drinking unless I feel muscle twinges.  
    • One three occasions that I recall I took 1 tums chewable calcium carbonate antacid:  Once during the Baden Powell- Islip Saddle leg;  once at Horseflats, once rolling down the north side of Shortcut, all due to concerns over muscle tightness or incipient cramping.  I would typically take these with a salt stick cap  which has Ca and Mg, to be on the safe side.
  • Food & supplements/meds:  Virtually all liquid.
    • Drank 1 bottle of ensure-plus (350 cal) with  chia seeds at mile 25
    • At Mile 37 Cloudburst Summit, I took one 200 mg caffiene tab, one acetaminophen tablet, 2 x 400mg guaifenesin tablets for lung congestion.  Also drank a cup of Clip-2 and sone briny cranberry juice.  500 mg chewable vitamin C and 400 iu of vitamin E in an attempt to address the lung inflammation I was experiencing due possibly to smog.
    • Mile 42, Three-Points:  I ate  half a Cliff bar and a Gu.
    • At Chilao (Mile 52) - 1 can of Progressso Chicken & rice soup, drunk cold;  plus one Ensure.  One acetaminophen and one guaifenesin tablet.  500 mg vitamin C.
    • Shortcut:  one popsickle, one Ensure-250; stopped taking electrolyte fizz tablets and Gu Brew.  Switched to drinking  a mix of 1 part coke, 2 parts water, plus 1/4 tsp salt into 21 oz bottle for the rest of the race:  No more fake-fruit-flavored beverages.
    • Newcomb:  Mile 67- More soup, some banana;  1 acetaminophen & 1 caffeine tab
    • Chantry, Mile 75:  Can of soup;  1 bottle of ensure; coke.
    • Top of Mt Wilson climb, Mile 80, 1 acetaminophen, 1 caffeine tab
  • Sam Merrill,   mile 89, 1 Gu, 1 acetaminophen & 1 caffeine tab
Notes on the OTC meds:  Disclaimer-  Every runner needs to make his/her own informed choice as the whether and what meds to use,  I do not recommend what I did here summarized below, I simply state it as "this is what I did and this was the result".


Caffeine:  I took this  to rev myself up when I was having breathing difficulty during the day section and experiencing low energy and foot pain; then I took one tab roughly every 3-4 hours starting at sundown to stay alert in the night sections.  I took less caffeine in the race than I typically drink as coffee during a workday.  The caffeine definitely seemed to help me and I never struggled with wakefulness as I had in 1991.  Note that I did test the caffeine tablets in training to be certain that my stomach could tolerate them.

Guaifenisen:  As noted in my race report, I took this over the counter expectorant at Cloudburst Summit because my lungs were clogged and I was having a hard time catching my breath, my lungs hurt due to smog or pollen or the high altitude segment over 9000 ft Mt. Baden Powell or whatever.  It seemed to work since within 20-30 minutes of taking the guafenesin I coughed up a lot of phlegm and started feeling better.  I took one more guaifenisen at Chilao before entering the poodle dog overgrown section.

Why did I  take acetaminophen (aka tylenol)?

First:   I carried no  NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and there was none in my crew first aid kit.   I know that NSAIDs are highly dangerous due to their role in magnifying the effect of ADH and contributing to hyponatremia and rhabdomyolysis.   Acetaminophen is not an NSAID contrary to what some recent books and articles on  ultrarunning state.    In fact, research has been done which specifically exonerates acetaminophen from contributing to hyponatremia  (for example see the guidelines here:  http://runrocknroll.competitor.com/medical/do-the-salt ) and furthermore, recent research suggests that acetaminophen may have a protective effect against Rhabdo: (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20133658;  http://www.mc.vanderbilt.edu/reporter/index.html?ID=8223).  So I carried a few acetaminophen tablets in my running pack and in the crew kit, deeming it as a safer analgesic if I needed one.  Because my feet were hurting from mile 13 through Mile 37, I took one, not two, as a trial.  My feet stopped hurting, or rather, the hurt in my feet stopped bothering me and thereby affecting my demeanor and my gait.  So I stuck with it because it seemed to be working.  I stayed below the max dose (2 tabs every 6 hours, max 8 tabs in 24 hrs)  by taking no more than 1 tab every 3-4 hrs;  total of 5 tabs during the race.   Exceeding the max dose of acetaminphen is a bad idea due to the danger of liver damage.  

Appendix 2:  Splits


Sunday, August 4, 2013

AC100 Aug 3-4 2013

I am runner 58:

http://www.ac100.com/live/MAP/58.htm

The race went well.  23:13!  100 miles in one day;

  7th place overall, and I won the Bronze Rhino (Master's awards for >40 year old runners):
  Thanks for all the good wishes, and thanks to my fabulous crew!  I will post a race report when I am a bit recovered.  My shoes (Merrell Ascend Gloves with my homemade lycra ninja dust covers) are recovering too:


PS:  Its Tuesday night now and I am very tired.  My lungs are sore-  aftermath of 100 miles run in the LA smog, high country notwithstanding.

I am still finding myself thinking back on the race and what it felt like to run all day, feel like dying and not know how I was going o make it another 65 miles, be resurrected, run fast some more, then run all night,  feeling so strong;  and I feel this belly laugh rise up and I just laugh out loud and I tear up at the  same time while I am laughing.  Perhaps that sounds strange;  but it was an amazing experience, and I feel like I experienced a bit of grace out there, running fast in the dark past precipices with nary a bad foot placement, it was magnificent.



Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Race week

This week I am resting, walking moderately at lunch, trying to stay rested and relaxed and to get a lot of sleep.

I got a bit of a curve ball last week.  A couple days after my last 30 miler,  a week ago last sunday,  I developed what I thought was a bit of poison oak or poodle dog rash on my back.  Hard to explain since I was running with a long sleeve dress shirt and a running pack.  Adding to the mystery of the unexplained poison oak was an extremely inflamed set of lymph nodes in my groin....so tender as to wake me up if I rolled onto my stomach while sleeping.    So I uncharacteristically made an appointment to see the doctor.  She took one look and pronounced, "Its not poison oak:  You have shingles".  Argh!  I started a prescription of valtrex immediately.  I've been feeling a bit run down and sleepy for the last week; the shingles spread along an arc from spine to belly button but have scabbed over now.   I must say the affected area hurts, its kept me awake some nights;  there is an odd sensory confusion between cold and pain such that my right side gets goose bumps at the slightest breeze of an air conditioner say, but these goose bumps hurt.  So this little bit of drama will just add to the overall character test that is the AC100.  What I can say is that on my runs last week and up Baden Powell, it did not bother me despite my fears of shirt chafing creating pain in the affected, highly sensitive shingles area.

What brought this on?  I dunno.  Its said that it can be  be brought on by stress but not necessarily so.    Work has been very demanding lately,   objectively stressful (I am an exec at a company that I co-founded, and its a tough globally competitive business we are in).  Certainly the training has been a physical stress, but this occurred as I was one week into my taper and feeling pretty darned strong.

In any event I am taking Thursday off to relax and will drive up to Wrightwood Thursday afternoon so as to go through the med checks Friday morning with a minimum of fuss and bother.  If you are reading this and are not a spamming robot, please send some positive vibes my way!

Its odd how deeply the AC00 has gotten into my psyche.  In some sense I feel that  I grew up on this course -  when I ran in 1991 coached by Jim OBrien, it was a formative experience.  I've run her trails many times over the years and know and love them;  I know and love many of the people involved and the stories of the champions.  I love this race but I also fear it.   I believe that approaching her with anything but a humble respect is a recipe for a real thrashing.    So tomorrow I will be off to my appointment with her,  for love or for a thrashing:  It may go well or I may blow up, and either way its all part of the fun.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Mt. Baden Powell, concluding a 50 mile taper week

I have not been to Mt Baden Powell since the last time I ran Angeles Crest in 1991.  I had clean forgotten what a fabulous, beautiful trail is the PCT in this area.  I woke up early to get out, get 'er done, so as to get home to the family.  I hit the trail from the Vincent Gap trailhead at 7:30 and made the high point of the AC100 in 1:05.  The amazing tree just beyond the summit trail/PCT junction is the Wally Waldron Tree, dated as 1500 years old.
The Wally Waldron Tree at the PCT/summit junction
 












View running back towards Mt Baden Powell.

Today I ran past the junction and on to 7.5 miles read out of the GPS, then turned around, ran back and hiked up to the summit.    I felt so strong.  The run was a bit slow though;  I hiked up Baden Powell, intentionally-  I have no intention of running a  2800ft climb above 6600ft on race day;  and hiked a lot of the uphills today. Most of the run was above 8500ft and I was sucking air, feeling the altitude.  Total time was 3:20 for 15.2 excluding photo stops (lots!) and water-bottle-screwing-around stops.

I ran in a pair of Merrell Ascend Gloves.  I made special ninja gaiters out of a retired pair of spandex shorts, to cover the front open mesh in order to keep the sand out.  The whole thing was covered with an oversized pair of Dirty Girl Gaiters (size 13).  It worked perfectly on the left  and so-so on the right (shown below) at keeping sand out of the shoe.

Ascend Gloves with ninja gaiters plus oversized Dirty Girl gaiters
The race plan will be to run in the standard Merrell Ascends* from the start, with the ninja gaiters.  Despite having to go to some lengths to keep the sand and grit out, the fit and feel of these shoes is perfect, I just love wearing them.  I will keep my Skechers GoBionic Trails for the later section of the course, most likely out of Chantry, where I may be wanting a bit more cushioned ride.

Anyways-  the training for AC100 is done;  I have run 480 miles in 6 weeks and feel great.  I didn't know that I could still do this kind of mileage.  Its been a great adventure learning how to do it.

*

 (as an aside, I had against my better judgement bought  a pair of Merrell's Ascend Glove Goretex to try to solve the grit problem-  these $160 shoes do keep grit out but they just do not breath enough for summer wear, at least in southern California;  my feet were soaked after a 6 mile noontime run.  I can't blame Merrell for that;  the Goretex shoes will just go in my closet for the winter season.  Ouch.  Chalk it up to an experiment, and I will use the shoes, just not for this race.)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Mt Wilson 30 mile loop for a 72 mile taper week

I ran the Mt Wilson loop today with some extra miles tacked on to make a 30.2 mile course.  I ran this in 5:29 (excluding stops to hunt for water, pump water etc).  It was a cool day -  high seventies with humidity 50-60%.  This probably  accounts for my speed on this course (compared to the June 29 workout it was 1/2 hour faster at the 27 mile point).    But part of this is the tapering,  I felt very strong today, the extra energy from the reduced training volume is flowing.   All systems were "go".  The only trouble spots were:  Backs of the ankles were sore at the achilles attachment points;  my abdominals are tender from the technical downhill running.  I got completely sodden in the humidity so there was some chaffing which just doesn't show in in the usual dry conditions we have in Pasadena..  Stayed on top of the hydration drinking about 2 of 21 oz bottles per hour.  Kept it clear and copious ...ahem.

Next week I'll ramp it down further to about 40-50 miles and watch those achilles attachments and do more situps and pushups to strengthen the abs.


Here are some pix from yesterday's taper "workout":
Boy Against the Sea
My son w/ a Red Rockfish
















My son and I had a great time.  He loves to fish the way I love to run.  Seriously, 10 hours standing on a boat is, I think, race specific training (time on the feet!).

Here is a pic from the north side of Mt Wilson this morning.  It was lovely.  I thought it might rain but it didn't.



Thursday, July 18, 2013

Starting the taper...

Conventional wisdom for the taper before a 100 mile race is to drop the mileage to 75% for the week ending 2 weeks before the event;  then drop to 50%;  then in the last week, just stay loose and run or walk nothing above what is required to stay limber.   The purpose is to heal up any injuries or damage left over from the high mileage training phase.

I've started my taper week.  Monday I did a walk/run of 4 miles and realized it was indeed time to taper.  My right ankle was extremely sore at the top of the foot-  dorsiflexion was extremely painful, to point of having to limp around afterwords.  This was leftover, I believe, from all the climbing over the weekend;  it may also be due to one fall I took where I caught my right toe and went down hard; I might have sprained it a bit;  just not sure.  (Fortunately I was carrying hand-air-bags, aka hand-strap running bottles.  One bottle of red juice exploded on impact with the ground, a small price to pay for uninjured hands).  I recall that after AC100 in 1991 this same joint/set of tendons on the right foot was swollen like a grapefruit.   Anyways, after my Monday recovery workout it was painful to walk;  I got home and iced it.  Tuesday I decided to rest completely and iced it again;  by Wednesday morning it felt fine and I ran 2x6mile double workout.

My plan is to run ~75 miles this week.  On Saturday I will be taking my son deep sea fishing, an annual trip we take with some friends on a chartered boat out of Oxnard.  This nice break with my son comes at a great time as it will force my taper!  The following week I'll likely run a bit more than 50% but we will see how I am feeling.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Mt Wilson and another 100 mile week; and a rather serious lesson

I awoke early today and  did my customary Sunday Mt Wilson work out:  Hike up 4700 ft in 10 miles, run down, total 20 miles, completing another 100mile week.   I did it fast-  2:35 up (walking the whole way, on purpose) and finished in 3:52, so I was tearing down the hill at a good clip.  I felt fine when I woke up -  no soreness-  and I felt fine during the course of the run.

It was, like yesterday, a warm and for California an exceptionally humid day.  I pushed 2 bottles on the way up, drank a bottle at the spigot at the summit, and refilled all the bottles;  I was taking electrolyte capsules at the rate of 1 per bottle.  I was drenched despite the fact that it wasn't too hot, due to the humidity.  I took an anemic dribble of a piss just after the summit and didn't think much of it;  then charged on down the hill (10 miles in 1:17).   At my car I drank two bottles of water and headed home.

(WARNING:  Reading on is not for the squeamish).

Off to the shower,  I weighed myself at 145lbs (huh?!  9 pounds down from normal weight?!)  then used the bathroom and ...yipes...I was peeing what looked like  cranberry juice...the dreaded blood in the urine.    I kept pushing the fluids and  kept peeing and the urine  cleared up  quickly  (thankfully!) so this seems to be "just" a case of a bruised bladder.  If you are unfamiliar with the urinary viscisitudes of ultramarathoning:  One thing that can happen in a long run is that, after getting dehydrated (first problem) and emptying the  bladder completely (second problem),  the bladder walls can get bruised due to the jostling of a hard run which can bang the bladder walls together.  This happened to me a few times in the nineties, but not due to heat.  Rather, I was running in Oregon in cool weather with too strong a drink mix (in order to get calories without overloading on fluids, or so I thought).  I learned from that  experience to be careful to watch the concentration of my running drinks,  and to be mindful of my piss habits while running;  specifically I learned to not empty the bladder completely when running...but today I forgot that old lesson.

One problem with all this is that there are other much more serious conditions that can cause blood in the urine and other much more serious conditions that look like blood in the urine... "rhabdo", or rhabdomyolysis,  being one very serious possibility.  This is, as I understand it, when muscle tissue breakdown due to the trauma of exercise, recent illness, electrolyte imbalances,  and /or possibly use of NSAIDs, releases the red muscle pigment myoglobin into the blood, from which it is filtered by the kidneys.  The problem is that myoglobin can clog the kidneys' filtration system...especially if NSAIDs like ibuprofen are being used, as NSAIDs reportedly interfere with kidney function.  This can  lead to kidney failure.   There have been a few high-profile ultrarunners hospitalized with this condition in the last few years...its a very serious, life-threatening condition.  So when the pee is red or rust colored, it merits ones full attention, full stop and deal with the issue, its not a joke.

Back in the day (eighties and nineties)  advice commonly given  to newbies (like then me) by the experienced guys,  was to take 800 mg of ibuprofen every 25-30  miles as a prophylactic against inflammation injuries;  another one I heard was, take an  ibuprofen every hour to ward off inflammation injuries.    The  experience with blood in my urine back in the nineties scared the hell out of me sufficiently that I woke up and realized the complete folly of such an approach.  I stopped using ibuprofen altogether during runs, ever,  for fear of rhabdo (despite the fact that what I had experienced was not rhabdo) as well as a concern about reports that NSAID use can predispose one to develop hyponatremia.    I look back on this practice that many followed, including me, and see it as utterly insane.  Today I realize:  If one needs meds to ward off "inflammation" injuries, then one is not running correctly.  Better stop and figure THAT out before ramping the mileage.

 Back to my case of a bruised bladder.  So what happened?
  1. I got dehydrated yesterday in my 31 mile, 14,200ft grinder.  Despite the fact that consumed 14 bottles yesterday, it was not enough given the humid conditions and the fact that I sweat excessively.   I need to focus on better hydration. 
  2. After the 30 miler yesterday, I didn't fully rehydrate afterwords.  After the run I ate and rehydrated my way back up to 150 pounds but this still left me down from my normal weight of 154lbs.  I just wasn't that hungry after a long hot run in the humid heat.   This set me up for the run this morning probably already dehydrated.
  3. I didn't take today's 20 miler seriously.  It was relatively short (!) and the first 10 miles  was a power walk.  I felt fine.   So when I had signs of inadequate fluid intake (inadequate urine production), I ignored it.  I should have stopped and corrected the problem.
  4. I emptied my bladder completely before embarking on the fast downhill charge down the mountain- and my bladder got bruised as a result.  I should have done what I know to do..always leave some urine in the bladder to prevent this type of injury.  The reason was...there just wasn't enough urine to leave in the bladder,  but hey, see #3.
  5. I was likely low on electrolytes.  It was not excessively hot so I didn't think I needed to watch this too carefully;  but it WAS very humid and I was drenched with sweat.  I underestimated the conditions.
Looks like I got off easy, no harm done, just a scare.  I did go to an urgent care facility to get a few things checked out (make sure my self-diagnosis was right).   I am a bit embarrassed by this set of mistakes but I put it out there for the possible benefit of anyone reading this that may be into high mileage running particularly in summer weather:  Hopefully you may learn from my mistakes and not  repeat them!  And if you find yourself with blood in your urine associated with running, remember that we are all different, so while the episode above applies to me,  it may not apply to you-   my suggestion is to get it checked out and take it very seriously- and  especially if your urination does not resume quickly to normalcy, seek medical attention to be safe.