Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 final thoughts

Its new year's eve, 2016;  Today I ran for the first time in about two weeks, having gotten hit by a flu or cold that progressed into bronchitis.   I was laid out for a good two weeks.  I felt well enough today to give running a try despite the rain and I felt surprisingly good.  The run helped me clear out my chest I think;  I felt good enough to do a much needed core workout afterwords.

Looking back on my running in 2016, I certainly had some great runs training for SD100 and learned a lot working through the issues last spring associated with my hip injury.  Unfortunately SD100 was a DNF for me, the short explanation for which was that I disrespected  the course:  I went into a race with record 100+F heat with a fixation on time.  The mountains get the last laugh always;  it was a good lesson for me.

Later in the summer I took an extended break to allow things to heal up from about 4 years of pretty solid training.  I took the time saved to spend with my family, and I worked, a lot, on some theoretical physics problems that an old friend and research collaborator had asked me to look at.  It was fantastic, rewarding work, of a kind I haven't done for fifteen or so years and I'd forgotten how much I loved that sort of  work.  It was also as difficult and consuming as ultra running and just as rewarding, if in a different way.

Having started running again the last few months the break seems to have paid dividends;  I am running in the minimalist Merrells again without any toe issues and the achilles and hip are solid.
I'm looking forward to 2017 and I plan to enter the SD100 lottery for a shot at correcting the mistakes I made last year.

Happy new year to you, reader, and best wishes that you achieve the goals you set for yourself in this new year!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Bear encounter in Monrovia Canyon Park

Today on my lunch time run I had to cut my run short due to a bear encounter.  Having just entered Monrovia Canyon Park from the Sawpit Wash  trail, there were two bear cubs walking up the road about 50 feet in front of me.  Just ahead of me, maybe 20 feet, there was a gap in a chainlink fence through which mama bear was just ambling...I stopped, backed up slowly, then more quickly, then I turned around and ran back the way I had come.

Just yesterday I had read an article on a bear attack in New Mexico on the iRunFar website.   A runner had the bad luck to get between two cubs and their mother bear.   Good timing.  I'm glad I was slow today as it kept me from winding up between the mama and her cubs.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

July 2016 recap

After about a week of dead rest, this morning I got up and did a 20 miler up  Mt. Wilson:  Walk up, run down, total time 4:18.  I felt pretty good.  I had taken most of the week off as a dead rest to allow my left calf to heal after pinging it the previous week running on a treadmill in Wuhan China.

July started off well as I had gotten in some great running while on vacation with the family visiting various national parks in Utah, Colorado and Arizona.  I  had a great 28 miler on July 2 to prepare myself to pace Greg Frye at the the Santa Barbara 100 on July 8-9.  That Friday night I drove out to Santa Barbara and up into the mountains, arriving at  Cold Spring Saddle around 10:30pm.
Cold Springs Saddle, mile 30 at SB100

Greg came through a bit before midnight.  Seeing him off I drove down a rutted dirt road in my Honda (not recommended) to Romero Camuesa, mile 42, where I caught a catnap before waking up at 3am to get ready to pace.  We left the aid station around 4am and had a great run together down to the 50 mile turnaround.  Sunrise was awesome:
Greg Frye running through the dawn at SB100
The trip back to to Romero  was a steady climb and it was getting hot.  Finally clearing Romero we hit single track on the route down to Montecito.  The single track was great but quite overgrown with nettles and poison oak -- despite the heat I was glad to be wearing long pants and a long shirt.  We hit a fire road and did some fast running down to the aid station.  From there, as the heat and humidity built, we started the long ascent back up to Cold Springs.  This climb seemed to violate certain laws of physics as it just seemed to go on forever-  and Greg was clearly suffering although not giving voice to it.  His stoicism and determination was an experience to witness and I am glad to have been able to be a part his run as his pacer.

Greg's pal Jonathan took over pacing duties from Cold Spring while I got lost on the twisty backcountry roads trying to get to the next aid station.  I finally met up with my family at White Oak, where the boys and I had a dip in the Santa Ynes River while waiting for Greg.  We just got out of the water when Greg came through.  Helping him with some hot spots on one foot, we then headed out for dinner and returned to the course to see him finish.

The following week I flew to China for business.  Extreme  heat and humidity kept  me indoors for most of my running and I got in a couple fast 10ks  on the hotel treadmill.  On Thursday morning I got up to do a treadmill workout but was pushed for time. I cut my warm-up short and started running fast after only walking about 5 minutes.  Unfortunately I got a knot in my calf about 2 miles into the run and had to cut it short.  I rested  the next two days, and back in  California went out on Mt Wilson last Sunday-  but that calf knotted up again about 5 miles in.  I turned around and ran back which aggravated it further.  A walk on Monday and a short run on Tuesday convinced me that I needed to rest completely and focus on trigger point work with a foam roller and a tennis ball.  This seemed to have worked as I had no issues with the calf on my 20 miler this morning.

I've been considering ramping my mileage and running something in September, maybe Kodiak, however this plan is contingent on my work travel schedule and takes second priority to getting out with my kids to have some summer fun.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Runs on a driving vacation across the west

My family and I set out last week on a driving vacation to see national parks in Utah, Colorado and Arizona.

We set out on Tuesday up the I-15 to Las Vegas.  Driving past the Ivanpah solar thermal power station was cool:

We arrived in Hurricane, Utah, our staging point to visit Zion National Park.  The hikes in Zion were fabulous but it was very crowded.  My boys and I did a short hike /wade up the Narrows -- I waited for a gap in the throng to take this cool picture:
When we got back to the hotel, at Sand Hollow, I set out for a quick 6 miler on jeep trails in the desert.  It was a beautiful sunset:
The next morning I got up at 5am to head out into the desert in the other direction for a 7 mile wake-up run:

Then we were off to Bryce for a car tour-  lovely trails, wish I had had time there to run them-- and drove through Escalante.  Back in 1992 I did a fantastic backpacking trip there with a pal down Coyote Gulch to Steven's Arch on the Escalante.  We drove through that day all the way to Moab and got in late.  The next day we went to Mills Canyon to see Dinosaur footprints:

We did a driving tour through Canyonlands and then on to Arches National Park: Just fabulous.
The next day I woke at 5am again to run on a local trail in Moab, the left hand of the Mills Creek Trail.  It was a bit of a bush-wack and slow going but there were beautiful pools and waterfalls:  I covered 6 miles in 2 hours (!):

Later that morning I took the boys to swim  in the creek and then we were off to Cortez Colorado: There I found a great mountain biking trail in the Carpenter Natural Area just a mile from our hotel.  I ran 5 miles that evening.  The next morning I woke at 5am for a 10 mile Father's day run on those trails before the family woke up.  The trails were twisty and fabulous, the designer of the trail system was a genius:

That day we headed out to Mesa Verde:  The kids and I did the walk through the Balcony House. The pic below is a different pueblo.  The Balcony House tour was crowded but the kids had fun on the ladders and tunnel.  The walk up the cliff steps was a bit scary.
Then on to Gallup New Mexico-  our hotel was only three miles from the High Desert Trail system where I put in a fun sunrise 10 miler before the family woke up:

Onwards to visit the mining museum in Grants, NM and then through the Pertified Forest.  We made our way to Payson where we stayed near the Highline trail.  I put in 9 miles running on dirt roads before the kids woke up, before I actually found the Highline Trail-  so we'll have to go back, it looked beautiful.
 Later that morning I took the family for a  short hike on the Highline Trail, then we went on to hike at Water Wheel where we found a nice pool to cool off in:

That afternoon we drove to Phoenix.  I got up late and went out to get breakfast fixings before the kids woke up.  I drove out to Dreamy Draw to run on my old stomping grounds out of Dreamy Draw out behind Piestewa Peak (originally Squaw Peak) near where I grew up.  An 8:30am start was a bit late -- I carried 80 oz of water and kept my shirt wet the whole run. I ran from Dreamy Draw through the back side of Piestewa Peak and on to the Piestewa Peak trailheads for more water and returned.  

 The trails were beautiful but the heat was oppressive. At the end of the 10 miler, the car thermometer registered 114F:  I don't knowhow I did it, but as a teenager, I used to run long distances on those trails and I never carried water.  Last weekend several Phoenix hikers and mountain bikers died in that heat, its no joke.
 Later that day we visited my old high-school.  I showed the kids one of the plaques my cross-county team had won after a third place finish in the Skyline Divisional in 1981.  Over the last thirty years I guess they lost the other trophies we won!  I was also a bit sad to see that my brother's 800m record of 1:55 had finally been broken in 2012, after 29 years.
 The last day of our trip I did a 9 mile run circumnavigating Piestewa Peak out of Dreamy Draw.  I started early and it was only 105F when I finished!  Back in my day, none of these trails were marked;  now its mapped out with trail blazes.   The City parks people have done a great job preserving the desert and improving the trail system.
It was a great trip and its good to be back in Pasadena.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

SD100 DNF - Race report and reflections

My friend Mark Moromisato commented to me at the SD100 that ultra runners tend to be a pretty humble lot because the sport takes us all to our limits.  There isn't much room for egotism when we're laid out by the mountains.  This experience is universal  if we've been in the sport long enough and it keeps us in right perspective.

I found my limits at the SD100 this weekend.  I dropped at mile 55;  my first race DNF.

The short version of what happened is that, unacclimated to heat given the recent weeks of cool weather in SoCal, I went out too fast given the conditions.  Despite fair warning from the race director at the pre-race briefings, I got sucked dry by the dry wind  and  didn't keep up my hydration and electrolytes until it was too late.  Heat cramps turned the race into a death march by mile 35.  I dropped at 55 to avoid being hobbled.  Nevertheless  it was a great, beautiful day, full of lessons and inspiring performances by my fellows --  Greg, Tim, Skye, Will and many others who showed greater patience and humility than I did -- I look forward to giving it another try.

I wrote the long version  below   to process the experience; I share it for any interested aficionados.

I've had a couple days now to think about my SD100 race and am still processing it.  Its forced me to take a look again at why I run ultras.

Twenty-five years ago I ran the AC100:  My first ultra was also my first 100 mile race.  For me at that time, the race was like a vision quest.  I was determined to finish and recall telling my crew that I would not leave the course unless I finished or  was carried off of it.    I ran a great 50 miles but the last 30 miles or so had been a death march.  I finished with a list, with a swollen knee and ankle.  I spent a few days sleeping on the couch after the race as I couldn't make the stairs to my second floor bedroom.  It took me weeks  to recover.  I recall that, overlaying the feeling of accomplishment from having finished,  I also felt a sickening sense of shame for having voluntarily done that damage to myself.

In the years since,  I've come to a different approach:  A ground rule now is that I be able to walk and function the day after.    This obvious rule, articulated to me years ago by my friend David Alavi, now defines my training and  how I race.

This is not to say that training and racing shouldn't challenge limits or entail risk.  One aspect of the sport that I cherish is how taking it to "the well"  in the mountains and deserts breaks down internal barriers and allows  me to process things that tend to get buried in the routine of day-to-day existence.  Its therapy or prayer  and when I return home I see with fresh perspective.    I also cherish the challenging of physical limits that the sport entails.  In every season  different problems have arisen that required trouble shooting and persistence to overcome.  My AC100 finish in 2013 was like that-  I had to learn how to train again without getting sidelined by injury;  the race itself was skimming the cream of that learning process.  My 2015 AC100 finish was the capstone of a year-long rehabilitation from an accident in which I broke my hip socket.  When I packed my kit to head up to Wrightwood last year, I could honestly write that I had already achieved my objective:  I was trained and healthy enough to toe the line within the constraints of the ground rule.  The race itself, whatever the outcome, would be icing on the cake, and I went to that race profoundly unconcerned with the outcome.   Having given that away I got it back in the form of a fantastic race experience with my son and my close friend Dale crewing.

These experiences have been ecstatic.

This season the training followed this pattern too.    I had a solid base coming off of AC100 last year uninjured.  By winter I was running fast on long mountain runs and thinking about maybe running some fast race times.  One day in March, cranking hard down Mount Lowe, my hip flexers rebelled and I'd had to slow to a crawl to navigate the last four miles of technical descent.  This recurred in the ensuing weeks and I attributed it to having gotten lax about my hip stabilizer routine.  I redoubled my efforts.  After a few weeks the right hip was stronger but still painful enough after long runs that bending down to untie my shoes was a problem.  On a long run in late April, overstriding and not picking up that right foot given the tight flexers, I caught a toe and landed in a pile of scree earning a badly bruised knee.  After a week and a half of rest the hip was still hurting but the knee was getting a bit better.  I finally worked out that the piriformis and TFL  were essentially massive trigger points and I started aggressive rolling with full weight on  a tennis ball.  I took a liberal interpretation of my doctor's advice to rest the knee and re-started training with a shorter stride and slower pace. I pulled together two weeks of 100 mile training -- the gamble paid off, the knee was solid, the hip was good by SD100 race day.

All through the training  I was thinking about my race splits, visualizing 5 mph as in training.  Looking at the elevation profile:  SD100 should be a fast course!  A reconnaissance run through Noble Canyon two weeks before with Greg Frye taught me that its technical as all get out, but I had hopes of running even splits unlike my last AC, where after a 10 hour first 50 I ran 23:14 total.  A key to this, I thought, would be to limit time in the aid stations (and the day before the race I set the timer on my watch to help with this).

After a tough week at work I took Thursday off, packed in the morning and left Pasadena a bit after 1pm to drive to the pre-trace registration at Lake Cuyamaca.  I hadn't  accounted for traffic and so arrived about 20 minutes before the 5pm  checkin deadline feeling a bit frazzled.   I needn't have worried, the friendly race volunteers checked me in, no problem, and I ran into my pal Greg who was cool and collected having checked in early-- we sat on the pavement in the shade and listened to the pre-race briefing together.  Scotty Mills warned us that the predicted heat index was 110 and to adjust our race plans accordingly - drink up, stay on top of electrolytes, slow down--and hindsight shows that truer words were never spoken.

 Friday morning after a solid sleep I awoke nervous but the hip felt limber and the knee was good.  I packed that tennis ball in my running belt just in case.  I headed out to the start arriving again just  on the edge of late and got myself squared away.  Race Director Scotty Mills again briefed us on the predicted record heat and warned us to manage it:  I half-listened while wondering how I was going to break through the thick pack to avoid getting caught in the conga line once we hit the single track.

At 6am sharp we started and the scrum slowly lurched forward.  I managed to break free running on the shoulders and got clear by the time we started the single track.  The climb up middle peak surprised me-  it was all runnable- and I made good time through Paso Picacho running with Jenny Capel.  Hmmm. Then up Stonewall Peak, still mostly running.   Carefully descending the technical footing and on to Chambers, mile 12, it was getting warm!   I reloaded my four bottles (!) and headed out towards Sunrise, mile 21.  I was moving well, spraying my head and shoulders with a hand bottle filled with ice water, and drinking half strength Tailwind.  I was enjoying the day and was about half an hour ahead of my nominal 5mph training pace.  Within a mile of Sunrise I was dry-  all 4 bottles-  and starting to notice a lot of salt rime on my shorts and shirt.  Entering Sunrise,  Nick Nudell helped me reload and let me use his phone to call my wife, who was en route from Pasadena.  I noticed that my voice was an octave high, tight with dust and I was feeling very emotional. This was maybe the first sign of trouble but I missed it.  I was still feeling strong.  I rushed out of the aid station and as I crossed the highway I thought idly that maybe I should have drunk up in addition to filling my bottles.  No matter, onwards!

I headed off onto the PCT from Sunrise to Pioneer Mail (Mile 28).  The staggering view of the Anza Borrega Desert on this  section had astonished me on the training run with Greg two weeks earlier.   On that day it had been crisp and blustery and I had worn Polartec gloves.. not this day!   Noticing that I felt a little "thin",  just a tad dizzy, I attributed this to needing calories and ate a Cliffbar as I walked one of the ascents.  This was probably the wrong conclusion.  I washed the bar  down with a full bottle of water.   My shirt was dry so I doused my head and shoulders again, and drank more Tailwind.  Again, before reaching the aid station (Pioneer Mail) I was completely dry- 4 bottles.  My quads had started to give me some electric jolts... that seemed odd, this was early.  I quickly reloaded the bottles and drank an Ensure  and headed out, looking forward to the descent to Pine Creek.  I felt pressed for time.

After ascending a bit I started the technical descent -  a rocky single track like someone had taken a billion surplus baseballs, painted them like rocks and sprinkled them on the trail.  I took this carefully and recall registering that it was really hot!    I was sweating profusely.  My quads had started to cramp by the time I reached the dirt road.  At the top of the paved Pine Creek Road I stopped  to re-lube as the salt on my shorts was beginning to chafe;  I sat down to rub my quads and I picked a tick off my leg.  Tia Gabalita from Oregon (!) came through as I was getting up, looking just as she had in Cooper Canyon in 2013, looking as cool as if she were out for a morning run in the Shire.  I ran with her a bit but couldn't keep up her pace on the downhill;  the quads were locking up.  I went dry again, and started hiking, having a bit of trouble getting my wind on the uphills with tight chest.  I finally reached the aid station (mile 37).  I sat, drank up and took advice from Ang to eat bananas and strawberries.  I tried a shot of pickle juice.  I drank more tailwind and cola, reloaded the bottles this time with full strength Tailwind for the electrolytes,  and headed out.  While I took a fair bit of time here I was feeling rushed - a large group of runners came through after I entered and left before me. This contributed to a sense of  losing time and this perception was a big mistake -  In hindsight I think my day was still recoverable at this point if I'd just taken enough time to quit racing and start making  survival my top priority -- taking care of dehydration and heat issues.

Feeling better after the respite at Pine Creek I caught back up with Tim Christoni, who was moving along power-walking at a controlled and relaxed pace. He was taking it very smart in the heat and walking with him, I found that my quads  were working normally.  From the improvement in my quads I concluded (incorrectly) that I should pick up the pace and I set off running.  I felt pretty good for a while. As the slope steepened I became drenched in sweat in the dead air.  Eventually I  went dry.   The quads started cramping again and as I continued on the calves fired off as well.  Tim caught me with about 3 miles to go from Penney Pines, just as a cramp hit that locked up my calves and quads.   He  asked if I was OK and offered encouragement and the sound advise to slow down, take it easy; we had plenty of time.   It was clear at that point I was in a bad way.   Tim passed me and  I was able to continue slowly up until I got out of the canyon and into some moving air and got a cell phone signal.  I  called my wife, who was still en route from Pasadena, planning to meet me later.  I asked her to call my pacer, Dale, and tell him what was happening;  she had a little trouble understanding me with my croaking, tight voice.

Greg Frye caught me about a mile or two out from Penney Pines (mile 44) and he was feeling pretty baked too.  We compared notes and agreed the best thing to do was to regroup at the aid station and take it from there, but I told him I thought my race was probably done.  Greg ran ahead; I got in and  was ushered to a chair -  I couldn't figure out how to answer when  the station crew asked me what I wanted.  Two  little girls offered me ginger ale  which I accepted. When I sat down my skin was goose bumps.  Dale called me and talked me through it:  Sit and chill, rehydrate and get some salt, make no decisions, just walk to the next aid station when you feel better.   Though I was temped to drop at this point I took his direction. The girls proceeded over the next half hour or so to keep me topped off with coke, tums, a little bowl of salt, and a couple pickle juice shots, in between bouts of having my calves lock up:  I tried not to swear and I think I didn't.    Finally the calves stopped firing off and I got up to get my bottles filled.  Willard Weston was there and I walked over to see how he was doing- same as me.  He said he was going to take more time and get thoroughly hydrated before starting out.  I wished him luck and headed out.  Willie and the other aid station crew clapped as I walked out, I felt like I was back from the dead.

I walked about 20 minutes and called my wife to thank her for patching me in to Dale, and told her I was moving again.  She was in Julian with the kids at the hotel and said she'd head over to meet me at Meadows (mile 49).  As I walked some more I loosened up; as the grade shifted to a gentle downslope I tried a run and found to my amazement that  the quads, though sore, weren't cramping.  I ran/walked the rest of the way to Meadows.  The only issue was that I couldn't get my wind on the uphills as my chest was tight with dust from earlier and  my heart was racing on the uphills.  Then the terrain shifted to an easy downhill grade and I was able to run a steady pace into the aid station at about 6pm, ahead of Steph and the kids.  Mark Moromisato was there and got me bandaids to repair some salt abrasions (Thank you Mark!). I was feeling like I was back in the race.

I trotted out from Meadows on a slight downhill grade on perfectly smooth trail and was feeling pretty good.  Eventually the trail started a series of ups and downs and as the miles wore on I started to sweat profusely and the quads started to cramp up again.  I couldn't get my wind on the uphills.   The downhills at this point had gotten steep and became very  painful to run with the cramps.   I walked it in to the next aid station, Red Tailed Roost (mile 55).

Steph and the kids were there and as they got me into a chair my right calf locked up.  I recall looking at the muscles in my leg writhe like a bag of snakes.   They brought me some drinks and a fresh shirt.  I stayed there rehydrating and after I'd recovered a bit I talked privately with my wife about what to do.  I felt that I could continue but with 45 miles to go it was going to be a long painful death march;  I had a sickening feeling that continuing I would be throwing the ground rule out:  Gotta be able to walk the next day.   After a bit I got up, walked around to the back of the building to change into a clean pair of shorts, came back and turned in my bib to the aid station captain.

Afterwards we went to the Cuyamaca restaurant with my pacer Dale to get a bite  and debrief.  My legs kept cramping while seated there.  Back at the hotel I kept cramping and I had to ask my son straighten out my toes and foot when they cramped.  Things settled down ultimately and I got to sleep;  I woke about about the time my friend Greg was finishing.  I spent the afternoon with my boys fishing at the lake and catching up with friends.

One week later I am physically fine, and today I ran 20 miles with Greg covering the last part of the AC100 course from Idlehour to the finish.    It was a cool weather run again as a marine layer had moved in.  I was impressed with Greg's smooth running just one week after his gritty SD100 finish.

I cannot help but wonder what might have happened if I'd decided last week to try running one more leg, down to Cibbet's.

Many things went right this season:

  1. I worked through problems with my hip stabilizers, damaged from my 2014 accident and surgery, and discovered the power of trigger point release (with a tennis ball).  It was a bit of an act of  faith that this would work-  its painful and things sometimes get worse before they get better.   But it did:  What could have been a show stopper to my training proved manageable.
  2. I re-discovered the importance of keeping my feet under me after I took a fall over-striding and injured my knee a month before the race.   I learned a lot about technical downhill running -  keeping those feet under me with a fast cadence--in time to use these skills on the seriously technical terrain of the SD100.
  3. I was able to work through that knee injury and get to the start line healthy.  Shortening up my stride was key to that as well.

I learned a lot from the race:

  1. I went into the race with too rigid a commitment to a race plan  that didn't work under the conditions that day -- and I didn't recognize the need to radically change the plan until it was really too late.  How the day actually presents itself trumps the plan!
  2. Specifically I was focussed on maintaining splits and not losing time in aid stations to the detriment of taking care of myself in the record heat.  I cared too much about my race time and this was  the wrong priority.
  3. While it's important to refill bottles  at the stations and not waste time unnecessarily, it is equally important to use the stop itself to drink and cool down with water or ice on a hot day like that,  not just pick up supplies to drink on the run.  That day, I ran dry before just about every aid station, drinking "on the run" didn't work.   Nothing new here, but I've a visceral appreciation of the importance of this now!
  4. The sudden change from weeks of cool to very hot weather didn't allow heat acclimatization:  Again, the race plan needed to change, but I underestimated this.  We were all in the same boat and the runners that appropriately changed plans and slowed down finished intact.  I forgot what happened in my Leona Divide 50 race in 2015 with a similar early season heat wave;  Salt encrusted and dehydrated at mile 40 the last ten were pretty ragged; The difference was that I only had to gut out 10 more miles when the wheels started to fall off my wagon.
  5. I went into the race mentally tired from other things going on outside my training.  In retrospect, realistic  recognition of this and an appropriate rethinking of race goals would have reduced the stress that contributed to the feeling of being rushed not only in the race but in the pre-race logistics.  
  6. Asthma inhalers don't work if they are left  in the trunk of one's car.  

The San Diego 100 race is just fabulous-  an epic course, stunningly beautiful, perfectly marked; fantastic aid and volunteers;  great course documentation including Tim Christoni's gpx route that allowed Greg and me to explore parts of the course in advance.  The race was so well organized, it seemed like a well-oiled machine.    I am so grateful  to  Scott Mills, Angela Shartel and the army of SD100  volunteers who really put in their all to help me and many others.   I am so grateful to the folks at Penney Pines especially,  particularly  two little girls who kept me well  supplied with cola, salt, Tums, and pickle juice who resurrected me from the dead (temporarily!)

I am thankful to my wife Steph and kids for their understanding while I was off training this season and for braving the heat to crew me.   I'm thankful to my great friend Dale for coming down to pace me, although I didn't get that far, and offering his experience that pulled me back into the race and taught me how to deal with the heat issues for the next time. 

I hope to be back next year to test  whether I've learned the many lessons from this year.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Exploring the SD100 course

Yesterday my friend Greg picked me up in Pasadena at 5am and we drove down to take an exploratory run on the SD100 course.  Our plan was to start at Pioneer Mail trailhead, to run down into Noble Canyon, up the Noble Canyon Trail to Penney Pines, cross the Sunrise Hwy to return to Pioneer Mail on the PCT, making a 20 mile loop.  We then planned  to tack on some extra miles with an out and back north on the PCT from Pioneer Mail.

We'd caught some light rain driving down and arrived at Pioneer Mail trailhead shortly after 8am to find blustery, cold conditions with fog and low clouds threatening rain.  Donning warm clothes, I packed a shell and we got started  around 8:30am.

We headed west from the Sunrise Hwy down the Pine Mountain Trail to Pine Creek Road and on to Deer Creek.  Scotty's turn-by-turn directions were excellent;  still we missed the Noble Canyon trail turnoff, but we got ourselves sorted out using Tim's gpx track, which I'd loaded onto my iPhone with the USGS topos using GaiaGPS.  By the time we got to the Noble Canyon trailhead the clouds had burned off and the day was crisp, clear and blustery. We shed our cold weather clothes and cruised up the Noble Canyon trail.

The views were amazing:

View east towards Penney Pines from Noble Canyon
We reached Penney Pines and watered down at the spigot/artesian well there, then crossed the Sunrise Hwy and got onto the PCT.  A few hundred yards in,  the view of the Anza Borrega opened up  and I was astonished:
On the PCT

Fantastic running on the PCT....All told we covered 30 miles.  The course was stunning; the conditions were perfect.  A memorable day.  The trail itself is very  technical single track with many sections with loose stones -  its clear that the SD100 is a challenging course that demands one's full attention.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Something's working...

I ran 15 miles today after a 4mi recovery walk yesterday.  I felt fine taking it easy over the 2500 ft climb out (1:29) and did the return trip in 56 minutes.  Not sure where this energy is coming from but I'll take it.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Mt Wilson 20 miler

I capped off a 100 mile week with my standard Mt Wilson meat-and potatoes workout:  Hike up 10 miles, gaining about 5000 feet;  then run down.  The hike up was a bit slow (2:50).   I started the run down taking it easy as the upper Toll Road these days is basically a long  scree field with rather unstable footing.  On the lower portion I opened it up and cruised in for a 4:19 round trip.  I felt great.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Knee OK- Mt Wilson 28 miler

The plan the last week was to continue slow, easy runs during the week to get in 50 miles ahead of the weekend, then do a back to back this weekend to bust out a solid 100 mile week.  I took an easy recovery walk on Monday and felt surprisingly good on Tuesday's 13 miler.  Thereafter the week was a bit of a  slogging grind.  The knee held together but I was feeling increasingly tired and beat up;  I iced the knee a lot, did a lot of stretching and kept telling myself that it was time on the feet that counted, I was focussing on keeping my stride short and just moving.   By Friday night I was wondering how the 28 miler I'd planned for Saturday would go, I was tired, sore and I'd been working a few hot spots with the foam roller and the tennis ball. I turned in early and set my alarm for 5am.

Alex and I met at 6 and headed up the Sam Merrill Trail out of a solid marine layer.  We walked up to Echo mountain and then ran  easy from there to the Mt Lowe railway.  I stopped to jam my fingers into a hot spot in my calf and it released.  We continued on and broke through the marine layer:
We took it steady and easy up to Mt Wilson and then trotted down the Toll Road 2 miles, turned around and hiked/ran back up to the summit to get water.  It was a beautiful morning:

On the run run down I was surprised at how good I felt-  the knee felt solid and I was pretty loose. It was warm and bright as opposed to the fog down in the valley.
 Finally we got back down to the 3000 ft level where it was cloudy again - nice and cool.
The run went better than I'd hoped, we finished 28 miles in 5:28 run time.  Tomorrow I'll do a hike up/ run down on Mt Wilson to complete the week.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Tennis ball trigger point release

After a rest day yesterday-  a 4  mile recovery walk-  today I hit the trails again and did 13 miles on the Sawpit Wash up in Monrovia Canyon.  I took it slow again focusing on short stride/fast cadence and much to my surprise hit the 5 mile point above Camp Trask right on my usual time.

The run was surprising in that  I had zero  hip flexer/glute pain.  For the last few days I've been aggressively using a tennis ball to work on "trigger points" in the piriformis and the TFL on my right side.  For the TFL, I lie on my right side, bringing my knee up so that the hip is flexed at about 45 degrees, and put my weight onto the tennis ball around the hip area, rolling around until I find tender spots.  Not difficult, the whole area proximal and anterior to the greater trochanter has been quite tender.  Once I find a painful spot I stop and hold for about 30 seconds.  I've been doing the same with the piriformis-  placing my weight on the ball with knee bent, rolling towards the sacrum from the top of the greater trochanter.

This has progressed from being very difficult to tolerate to mildly uncomfortable,  and the improvement in my level of comfort while running is quite astonishing to me.  Here is a link that describes the basic procedure:

Mt right knee pain is still with me but not getting worse.  I'm icing it now.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Turned the corner with the bruised knee

My long run this morning went well.  I hit the Sam Merrill Trail at 6am and power walked to Echo Mountain.  I started running from there over to the Mt. Lowe railway and on up to Mt. Wilson.  I took the Toll Rd down a mile and a half then turned around and headed back to the summit via the single track (15 miles, 3:20);  then ran down -  total time 5:20 for 27 miles.  Slow, but fast enough.

I took it intentionally slow and kept my stride short to go easy on the bruised knee.  This seems to have worked, the knee felt OK through the run.  I stopped periodically to do bent knee quad stretches.  This was effective in reducing knee discomfort, lasting about 5 miles, then I'd stop and stretch again.

The focus on not over-striding also seems to have benefitted my tender piriformis.  As I think about it, over-striding probably also contributed to my fall two weeks ago: If you catch a toe while over-striding, its difficult to recover, but with a short stride its no big deal.

It was a beautiful morning with clouds flowing over the summit, but  I forgot my camera so no pictures.

Saturday, May 7, 2016


Yesterday I decided to push my knee and try running.  I started off walking and progressed to a very easy run, practical race-walking, on the flat Sawpit Wash trail.  Keeping my stride short and cadence up, the knee was I did my standard 10 mile out and back.  It hurt, but the pain didn't seem to match the "fingerprint" of worrisome knee pain that I've had before.  I had the sense that the knee had turned the corner, it seemed like more of an itchy, healthy pain if that makes any sense....It was stiff and sore when I got home later so I iced it and did my usual stretch routine, again talking care to gingerly stretch the quads with the knee bent.

When I awoke today it felt better.  After having breakfast with my family and some friends that were visiting,  I stretched out again and decided to take it further today by running the "Ken Burton Loop":  Up the Gabrielino Trail from JPL to Oakwilde (5.3 miles), then up the Ken Burton Trail to the Mount Brown Road (7.6miles); then down the Brown "Road"-  really, its single track since the Station Fire-- to the Arroyo and back to my car at Arroyo/Windsor (14.5 miles total).

This route and the Ken Burton Trail in particular  is a old favorite:   Its been closed since the 2009 Station Fire, but recently re-opened due to the efforts of the local mountain bikers, the Mount Wilson Bicycling Association (MWBA) and CORBA, who together put in 15 trail-work days with 15-35 volunteers on each of those days to restore the ~ 2.5 mile long Ken Burton Trail.  I was able to make 3 of those trail days and am grateful to  MWBA and CORBA , particularly their leaders, who made all or nearly all of these the trail days.  Amazing.  Without the bikers many of our "running" trails would not be passable...these folks are great.

I took it easy today and walked the steeps on the KB Trail.  It was a beautiful day to be out:

It was not a  pain free run,  but the knee seems to be OK and improving with the work.  I iced it afterwords and feel good now.  I swear its less swollen today than two days ago.  Tomorrow I'll try a longer run.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Update on bruised knee

After several  days of dead rest starting last Friday, I got the knee checked out yesterday and nothing is broken- but the doc confirmed its a bad bruise ("pre-fracture") and said it would likely take 4-6 weeks to heal (with rest).  The swelling and crepitus he says is likely due to fluid from the injury and will take more time to abate.   Last night and this morning I stretched the knee -  quad stretches with bent knee had been quite painful since last week's fall so I'd been skipping that from my routine; so I did these stretches  quite gingerly and while it was a uncomfortable it did seem to feel better afterwords.  Today  I took an 8 mile walk and pushed it - its surprising what a clip one can achieve with more of a race walking gait.  It felt great to get out and cover some ground on the Sawpit wash.

This workout didn't seem to aggravate the knee.  Walking directly down stairs still hurts but I'm going to continue daily walking now, and try some running -  I'll focus on shortening up my  stride and we'll see how it goes.  I checked with the SD100 race director and its  too late for another runner to take my spot at SD100 so:  I'll give it a shot and see if I am able to get some significant miles in.  If I can, I'll race.

I've also been working the hip circuit and have transitioned to a shorter, but twice-daily routine with glute bridges, clamshells,    "figure-4"  piriformis isometric exercises  and piriformis stretches (top piriformis exercises).      The piriformis routine plus tennis ball massage of that area is to address some glute pain I've been experiencing in recent weeks.  Doc says that indeed, the piriformis had been cut to access the acetabulum and that the piriformis runs directly over the plates put in in 2014 to splint the fracture, so maybe this is the reason.  In any event the stretches and piriformis exerises seem to be helping.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

May 1, 2016: Resting a bruised knee

One week ago on a 27 miler I caught a toe running fast down a fireroad and bruised my right knee badly landing on rocks.  I also evidently lightly strained the muscles in my right hip area in that fall, as the hip flexors were sore immediately after that fall as well.

I iced the knee on and off that day and decided I'd take a few days off from running and walk instead.  Between Monday and Thursday I walked 26 miles, and while the knee was OK during these walks, I still had to limp down stairs at work.  By Thursday night the knee was still swollen and not able to bear weight when bent.  I decided to back off even further and rested completely Friday through Sunday.  Now Sunday, after this rest, its still tender to the touch and stiff.

I went through my journals to the last time I banged my knee cap hard-  in May 1997 I did something similar and it took about 7 weeks to get back into training.  The good news then was that I was able to get back quickly and ran a 6:46 50 miler at the McKenzie River Trail run later that summer.

I need to decide what to do about SD100 as the race is in 5 weeks.  I need to decide whether to get checked out by a doc as well.

This morning I caught up on some chores and did a core and hip workout:
  • 27 +20 pull ups/45 pushups/200 sit ups
  • SLRs, 3x10
  •  1-leg glute bridges, 3x10
  • RDLs, 3x20
  • Lateral leg lifts, 3x20
  • clamshells, 3x10
  • Standing leg lifts at 45 degree angles (6 directions, 20 each)
  • Stretch routine including piriformis stretches

I stumbled across a poem while internet surfing about ultra running last night.  It was attributed to Rub White by the poster:

              The Runner's Paradox

            I seek the finish, I crave the finish, the finish is my friend
           And yet the black dog waits for me, for finish means the end.

           © Rob White 2015

This was posted in a comment on an extraordinary video about ultra running that captures how I am feeling about now pretty well:

Monday, April 25, 2016

Monday walk & hip circuit

Due to the swelling of my right knee from  the trail crash yesterday I walked 5 miles as a recovery workout, then iced it.

Tonight I did the truncated hip circuit below, involving those exercises that don't involve weight bearing on a bent knee:

Fire hydrant with extension-  right only, 3x20
SLRs, 3 x20, knee locked
Lateral leg lifts, lying on side, 3x20
Clamshells with band, 3 x20
Reverse clamshells (band tied to heavy chair leg), 3x20
Hip adductors with band, 3 x20
Kickouts 20 each at 45 degree angles
Hip hikes, 3x20

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Why I wear long pants while trail running

I woke up this morning at 5am to head out for a long run, feeling rested and ready to run  having taken yesterday off to juggle kid's sports (one of my kids having had a tournament yesterday).

I decided to run out of Millard to Mt Wilson to avoid the crowds  on the Sam Merrill Trail.  It was a beautiful crisp morning and I made the summit (11.8 miles) in 2:24.  I headed down the Toll Rd to add a few miles and came back up to the summit via the single track- 15 miles in 3:00.  Re-filling my bottles I charged down the Mt Wilson Road to Eaton Saddle at a 7 min pace, hit the trail and and flew down to the Mt Lowe railway-  so great to be out there!  I stopped to snap a couple photos, it was just so pretty:

I continued on, pushing the pace.  My left knee which had been a little sore lately seemed to feel better if I pushed, as opposed to slogging and breaking.  I just felt terrific.

About a  mile down from Markham Saddle I was flying along ...caught my right toe and  the next thing I knew I was on the ground:  Hands were OK since I was holding hand bottles, but both knees were cut through my long pants and the right knee was bashed pretty hard on a rock.  I got up and started limping down;  after a dozen or so paces I started running as I still had to get down 8 miles farther to my car.  The right knee hurt but I was able to make reasonable time.  When I reached the Cape of Good Hope I decided to take the paved road down instead of the Sunset Trail-  right knee really wasn't liking this downhill so I opted for the slightly shorter   non-technical route.

Here is what it looked like after I cleaned it off at home:
This is why I wear long pants!

I am icing the knee now and hope it settles down quickly as this week my plan is to start the mileage ramp-up for the SD100.  The plan going forward is:

Week of  May 1:  85 miles
Week of May 8: 100 miles
Week of May 15: 100 miles
Week of May 22:  100 miles
Week of May 29:  80 miles
Race week-light mileage-  race Day June 3

As it is I may have to ease up this week as the right knee is bit swollen from the impact.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


Light run, 6.2 mile "runch".  Good heat training.   Reclaimed shoes worked  great.

Hip routines this week:

M:  SRLs, glute bridges, kickouts
T:    Clamshells, RDLs, kee ups, sitting knee ups
W   Stair step ups; dynamic lunges;  pullups, pushups, situps

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Shoe repair- midsole compression fixed with a caulking gun

I have a collection of shoes with lightly worn outsoles whose midsoles are compressed at the ball of my foot.  This is a problem since when this happens I get  joint pain on the second and third toes of my right foot.  This compression typically occurs between 200-300 miles-  earlier in shoes with a softer EVA foam- and considering the cost of running shoes this is no good!

I decided to try fixing it by applying some silicone caulk to fill in the dent in the midsole.  The idea is to use caulk to repair the midsole from the inside -  as opposed to the old "Shoe-Goo" repairs we used to try to do on our outsoles.

The procedure is to apply a puddle of caulk in the depression, lay an old credit card over it, press down to flatten the silicone, then slide the card off from the side, lifting it out and using it like a putty knife to restore a flat surface in the shoe.  Cure 1 day, reinstall the insole and try it.

Here are the first two reclaimed pairs:
Today I ran 10 miles in one of these pairs and it felt great.  Tonight I "caulked" two more  pairs of Hokas, a pair of Ascend gloves, and another Trailroc 255 in the same manner.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Wuhan China, rest week

Last week I had business in Wuhan, China.  I flew out on Friday the 8th of April- that day I ran up Brown Mountain Road and down the Ken Burton Trail to get a few miles in before my midnight flight out. It was a nice run although my left knee was bothering me a bit on the downhill return.  The knee has been acting up lately and I think its probably due to compensation for the sore hip muscles on the right.

It was good timing for a rest week and not simply because I was signed up for Leona Divide the following weekend.  

When I got to Wuhan on Sunday morning I was pretty stiff so I spent the afternoon and early evening walking all over the area around my hotel, probably 4 hours of walking which I logged as 10 miles.

I was up early on Monday and then off to work;  after work  I walked over to a park near the hotel and did a hard hip circuit:

  • Stair step ups, 3x20
  • Dynamic lunges, 6x17
  • kickouts at 45 degree angles, sets of 20
  • hip hikes, 3 x 20
  • 1-leg glue bridges 3 x15
  • Clamshells 3x20
  • situps, 140
  • pushups, 45

The dynamic lunges are deceptively easy but actually are the most effective exercise of the glutes, quads and hamstrings.  This exercise, involving taking 10 or 15 strides with each step ending in a deep lunge, entails very little perceived effort but 3 out and backs of 10 or 15 steps always leave me quite sore for a couple of days.  The reason I think is that the exercise eccentrically loads  the quads, glutes, and hamstrings, and the effort is not perceived because its reflexive:  The muscles fire to keep you from hitting the ground.  No effort required!

Tuesday I took an easy run from my hotel to Nanhu Lake.  It was cool in morning and the lake was lovely:

I posted some of these pictures to Facebook.  Interesting how polarized the comments were. Some saw a beautiful morning at the lake (like I had);  others saw pollution and provided unsolicited advice that running in such bad air is dangerous.  We find what we look for I guess.

Wednesday I walked 4 miles in the morning as a recovery workout.

Thursday I walked couple miles.

Friday I flew home-  door to door, it was a 20 hour trip.

Saturday I was entered into the Leona Diovide 50.  I bagged it.  I was exhausted from the trip and furthermore, it was my son's birthday. Why the heck had I even signed up for this race?  I simply wasn't thinking, or rather, was thinking only of myself.  Instead I  slept in to 9:30am- eleven hours of sleep-  then woke and took the family go-cart racing and then berry picking out in Simi Valley.  I slept hard again last night, from 10 pm to 10am, and bagged my original plan to run to the Ken Burton to do trail work.  My sons need my time more than I needed to run or to do additional trail work.

We spent the mid day climbing the front elm tree with climbing ropes and prussic knots.  Now we are taking a rest break and will have some lunch.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Core day

Ran 6.2 miles at "runch" today.  Right hip muscles were tweaked.  This is my core day-  a quick  evening circuit:

Step-ups, 3 x 20 each side
Pull-ups, 27
Dynamic lunges, 6x12
Pushups, 45
Situps, 170
1-leg bridges 3 x15
Clamshells 3x20

Monday, April 4, 2016

Recovery day

Ran a slow 6.2 today as a recovery run from the 46 mile weekend.

Did a light hip circuit tonight-  too  bushed to do the full circuit.

Clamshells 3 x 20 each side
SLRs, 3x 20 with heavy boots, each side
Lateral SLRs, 3x 20 with heavy boots, each side
Hip hikes, 3 x20, each side
Single leg glute bridges, 3 x 10, each side
Static lunges, 3x30sec, each side

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Mt Wilson healing run; metabolic efficiency

I got up at 5am this morning to run up Mt. Wilson.  I started up the Sam Merrill trail before dawn and hiked to Echo Mtn, then ran up to the Mt Lowe railway and on up to the summit via Markham Saddle.  I ran down the Toll Road until I hit 13 miles on my gps, then turned around and ran back up to the summit for water and ran down. Total, 25.94 miles, with about 5100 ft of climb (Garmin Connect says 9000 ft and change but that is not possible).

I kept the pace easy as my glutes were still sore from a heavy hip circuit I did on Wednesday.  That, and the fact that the whole set of hip stabilizers on the right is still pretty tender after having been inconsistent with my hip exercise routine over the last few months.  I ended the run feeling better than I started it.  It was a "healing run".

Another promising result is that I was not hungry through the whole run despite having  run on an empty stomach.  I had two bottles with about 4 oz of fruit juice in each diluted with water, about 150 calories total;  the other bottles I drank were either water or water with fizzy tabs.  Ive noticed that early in my training each season I have to eat a lot on my runs but as I get in shape, the need to eat goes away-  I attribute this to a transition to primarily fat-burning, i.e., increased metabolic efficiency.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

One year, 2665 mile check up

Today I went in to see Dr. George Tang, MD, the orthopedic surgeon who so successfully repaired my fractured hip socket after my accident in 2014.
With Dr. George Tang, MD,  Huntington Orthopedics.  Best orthopedist ever! Note the plaque on the wall

 I'd last seen Dr. Tang at this time last year, a couple weeks before the 2015 Leona Divide 50.   I had taken a stumble running down the Sam Merrill in which I'd overextended my injured right leg forward while keeping my face from hitting dirt and rocks.  Ouch!  I'd been limping on a sore hip from that save for a few days after that and was scared that I had re-injured the hip.   X-rays were clear and he had encouraged me to work through it.  Sure enough the hip was back  quickly and I had gone on to a good run at Leona and was graced by a smooth ramp up for the 2015 AC100.

 Today was my one year, 2665 mile check-up so to speak. I made the appointment to make sure that after  twenty-six hundred miles and in light of the recent stiffness and pain in my right hip area that the joint was OK.   Relief:  I was given the all-clear-  no signs of trauma-induced arthritis.  But there is weakness as I'd gotten a bit complacent about my exercises in recent months-  Dr Tang encouraged me to get back with the regular exercise routine.

I am extremely grateful to Dr. Tang not only for the years of learning and commitment behind the perfect job he did screwing my hip socket back together --  enabling me to not only run again, but to run AC100 in a top-10 finish one year after getting off crutches--  but also for the no-nonsense clarity of his guidance on when discomfort is OK to work through versus when it is not.

The day before driving up to AC100 last year I dropped off a "thank-you" plaque that I had had made with my Leona finisher's medal.   You  can see it behind us in the picture above, outside his office.  Here is a close-up:

Today's workout:

  • Kick-outs:  standing on one leg,  kick out  20 at each of 5 angles separated by 45 degrees starting with forward medial.
  • Stair step-ups 3 x 20 each side
  • 1-leg glute bridges 3 x 10 each side.  Still difficult on the right-  the right hamstring/glute  is weak.
  • Clamshells-  lying on side, with elastic band, 3x20 each side
  • Straight leg raises 3 x 20 each side, with heavy boots on
  •  Hip adduction raises 3 x 20 each side, wearing heavy boots-  lying on side
  • Hip hikes, 3x 20 each side
  • Fire-hydrants with extension-  3 x 20each side
  • Dynamic lunges 6 x 12 (length of my driveway!)
  • Static lunges, 3x30 each side
  • 1-leg RDL, 3 x 20 each side