Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Running in Circles!

Ahhh, ok there I got it off my chest! What you may ask, feigning interest, well, pull up a chair, sit down and let me tell you. Races that sell out months in advance. So far this year I have been dinged by; Xterra's Topanga Turkey Trot & Crystal Cove races Santa Barbara 9 Trails, Twin Peaks 50K (although I found out today that this has been canceled due to the wildfires, which have, sadly, ravaged Orange County) and the Surf City Marathon, the latter two are not until next February!

Yes I know the argument is to sign up months in advance along with anyone else, but as I found to my financial expense earlier this year family and injury come way up the list and the thought of churning through more cash on planes unflown, hotels unstayed in and start and finish lines uncrossed is somewhat galling. Added to which I was going through the application for next years Angeles Crest and I will miss the cutoff for the qualifying 50M, so that’s scratched from next years agenda as well! Grrr..ok I am over it!

So here is a penciled in look at what I am planning in the first five months of 2008, trust me this pencil comes fitted with an eraser!

January: XTerra Boney Mountain 21k, Calico Trail 50k

February: Buffalo Run 21k

March: LA Marathon (hard) or Napa Trail Marathon (harder) or Catalina Marathon (hardest)

April: Leona Divide 50m or American River 50m

May: XTerra Malibu Creek 14m

April is my “A” race month for the first half of the year for obvious reasons, the others are only training runs, but it’s good to put some of the mileage in under “race conditions” both physically and mentally.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Pacific Coast Trail Runners; Pt Mugu 50K

Once again the sun didn’t rise; in fact it was downright foggy. The forty five minute drive to the parking lot at the Ray Miller trail-head on Point Mugu didn’t show any improvement in the conditions, this, however, I would appreciate as the day wore on. As per the XTerra Race I parked on Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and walked across the road to the registration desk, there were significantly less runners than the last time I was here in October. I signed in and collected my number; 505, a sign I wondered (505 for a 50k?), pins and a route card showing the mileage points and aid station locations and headed back to my car to collect my gear. I laid in the trunk of my car (I have a station wagon, in case you're wondering) and worked my way through my stretching routine, well as best as I could given the limited roof height.

I taped my knees as is all the fashion for us ITB sufferers and headed over to the start line to get the brief. We were told that the aid stations would be located at the Start/Finish; which we would go through three times; 12.2km, 29.8km and 42km and one at the parking lot at the PCH end of Sycamore Canyon a turn around point; 20.9km. The stations would be stocked with the usual goodies, PB&J sandwiches, M&Ms, Trail Mix, Cookies, baked potatoes with dipping salt (these sound pretty bad but actually taste really good after a long day and the salt is much needed), Coke, Water, Conquest sports drink and a ton of other stuff that you really wouldn’t associate with running; trust me when I say that learning to run with food in you mouth and hand is a much needed skill for the longer distances.

Runners were divided into two groups per their distances 9 & 18kms on the right, 30 & 50kms on the left, 55 runners has signed up for the 50k and of them there were 4 or 5 myself included attempting their first Ultra and we sheepishly waved our hands when asked to identify ourselves. The gun, well the shout, “GO” went off at 8:30 and we were underway, this was the last I saw of the right hand group, many if not all would be at home in time for tea and medals long before I had finished. The 30 & 50ers headed out along the blacktop which soon ended and became trail winding it's way along the canyon bottom. There was little or no improvement in the weather and therefore no sign of what was to come although I was somewhat prepared from my XTerra run, however, we were heading along a different path. Slim breaks in the clouds provided ominous glimpses of what looked like nearly vertical canyon sides. During this time I had running through my mind the mantra; “pace; run your own race” and I did my best to run at an easy pace.

I was determined that I would have no reason for not finishing based on nutrition and/or hydration issues and to that end I was stocked up with 64oz of strong Accelerade (650 calories), 7 CarbBOOM gels (700 calories) that I had squeezed into a Fuel Belt bottle, a packet of SaltStick Tablets and a protein bar (250 calories, totaling 1600 calories “on board”), this would be in addition to anything that I picked up at the aid stations along the way, my plan was to ‘swig’ a gel every 45 minutes, drink as required, eat the bar around the end of hour 3 and finish around 6 hours, a 7:11km pace.

The course comprised of three loops and an out ‘n’ back for the final stretch. The first loop was 12.2km, the fog was still swirling and visibility was at times down to 30 or so meters, we climbed in single file up the first set of switchbacks, some of the path seemed cut from the stone face and we stepped up until the trail became well a trail! Onward and upward we climbed until finally reaching what felt like to top only to have to go up some more, the series of false summits continued for the first 6km until we broke through out into the pasture on the plateau. I had steadily been overtaking runners and walkers during the first hour and once out in the pasture I found myself on my own. The route had been marked by colored ribbons and at times I found myself wondering if I had missed a turn then out of the gloom a ribbon pegged to a bush would appear reassuring me I was heading in the right direction. I continued across the rolling pasture finally taking a sharp right hand turn along the side of a dried pond shortly after I started to head downhill, finally, after 1:15, I closed the loop and continued down the path I had come up. I exited out the valley mouth (1:35) running past the aid station feeling strong and heading towards the second loop that would take me over the ridgeline into Sycamore Canyon.

It took another hour to reach the second aid station, which according to my Garmin was at 21.2km, I spent too long here as I was searching through my pack for my Aleve tablets which were a last minute thought and I shoved them in somewhere instead of putting them in the pouches on the front of my vest, I finally found them and popped a couple, at this point I dropped my pack and buried the mouthpiece in the dirt! So having washed it off and put it back on I availed myself of some of the goodies on offer, a handful of pretzels and a mini protein bar washed down with some plain old water, which never tasted so fresh. I also switched out my hat for a visor as the sweat that was dripping off the brim was becoming a little distracting. I turned around and started to retrace my path. At the 22km we tracked left and headed up a long sweeping climb that gave us a pretty good view, when the fog broke, across and along the valley, which on a clear day would be a great sight, personally at this point I was becoming increasingly glad for the dull conditions and the low temperatures. At the 25km point the second loop was closed and it was at this point I was asked for directions. The runner, who I had seen stop at the junction had been in front of me for most of the way and was just about to head off back down the loop when he saw me and asked which way should he go, I pointed up and he sighed, thanked me for saving him an extra 6.5km and shot off up the hill.

Another 35 minutes later (3:40) I was back at the Start/Finish line for the second time having covered 30.4km (18.9 miles). It was here that I could bow out having run a good race but the scent of the fifty filled my nostrils and I pressed on only stopping briefly at the aid station for a PB&J sandwich, some more pretzels and a couple of cups of full caffeine and full sugar Coke (oh the things you can eat) I pushed on again with a distinct sense of deja-vou as the third loop was a repeat of the first. This time the fog was lifting and there was a glint of sun coming over the ridgeline, along with it an increase in the temperature. I pushed on up through the rocky section and was overtaken by a couple of runners who shot by me so fast that I was surprised that they were not in front of me already. At 34.5km I stopped to actually take some video footage of the views, you can just see the surf (after about 10 seconds) as and when it appeared through the haze, there was still an immense amount of cloud and mist loitering just on the shoreline, which rolled in to my defense a little while later cooling things down again. I broke out of the climb and trekked across the pasture which without the fog you can see on this video looked completely different. At 39km I stopped to take a stone out of my shoe and and adjust my socks which were pretty gunky by this time (I actually ended the day with one small blister that I didn’t even realize I had until I took my shoe off at home; not bad for C9 socks from Target) retying my shoes I headed back round the loop and had a distinct feeling of "what am I doing here" running through my mind, to be honest a lot of this loop was either walked; all of the uphills were, or run/walked where I would run 30-40 or so paces and walk 10; this was actually quite efficient. I had at this stage taken another 2 Aleve, and while they took the edge off, my hips felt like they were having broken bottles jammed in them at every step, however I had at least to get back to the Start/Finish line, that was, after all where my car was! During the final stretch the fog lifted some and I could see down the valley. Here's some video of the trail and view.

I was overtaken again around the 40km overtaken by someone who I can only assume took the wrong turning as I would have sworn that he had been in front of me earlier in the day. At 42.56 I was back at the Start/Finish line and I realized that I had it in the bag. The final stretch was an out ‘n’ back 8km up a partial way of the original second loop. Much of the climb was spent employing the walk and run/walk method and that allowed me to pull ahead of several runners who I had bumped into during the last and final aid station stop. The fog was coming in again and as I reached the top and the final ridgeline before the turnaround it was impossible to see who was where. At this point I was on the homeward and downward leg and I knew that anyone who I saw coming up would be behind me, I counted six runners then seven, then eight, I finally pulled around the last major turn and I could see the path virtually all the way back the Finish. I rounded the last corner and saw the Finish line crossing in 6:54:07, my Garmin moving time was 6:37:26 which eliminates the time stopped; aid stations, shoes etc with a final distance of 51.08km (31.93 miles).

Of the 55 runners that started, 41 finished and of those I was 27th. I hung around the Finish line talking to the organizers and other runners and after a cup of chicken noodle soup (when doesn’t that taste good?) and some snacks I headed back to my car to stretch off, gulp down some Endurox and head home for that ever inviting ice bath!

Having had time to reflect I am glad I completed the run, rather then ducking out at 30k, it now gives me the mental security that I can cover the distance and be on my feet for that length of time, it was not an easy run with 9,762’ of elevation gain (and loss; as my quads will testify to) over five major hills and while my time wasn’t great it really wasn’t that bad, the winner finished in 4:28:37, a new course record and there were plenty of people considerably slower with times extending out to 11:07:00. My next 50k the Calico Trail in January presents a considerably flatter course with an elevation gain of 3,893’ but the temperature will come into play more as it is located inland in the desert of Barstow. My hydration plan worked well as I still had some Accelerade left although it was less than 5oz, I had consumed most of my gel, my stomach held out well against the solid food, in fact I could/should have probably taken on some more as my total calories expended was 3845, fractionally beyond what I was carrying and my glycogen stores of around 2000. Despite an average pace of 12:23 my average heart rate of 168 was too high for the caloric burn to have been predominantly fat based so my nutrition and hydration meant that I would not bonk but I was pretty close, at least on paper.

Looking forward I have to finalize my training plan for the next 5 months to allow me to peak during the weekend of Leona Divide, mid April, my targeted 50 miler for next season.

Postscript. As I was running I was listening to several Podcasts that I subscribe to, one of them; The Dump Runners Club announced that on November 17th runners would run 5.5 miles in memoriam to Ryan Shay who collapsed at that distance during the US Olympic Trials two weeks prior, it seemed more than coincidental that my number today was 505, so, albeit a day late, I dedicate this race to Ryan and his family.

I have a bunch of photos, a few good ones and a lot of bad ones here, the blue hat is the first 25km and the red visor the last 25km. For some reason they loaded backwards, that is the start is the last picture?

Here's the Motion Based data:

Sunday, November 18, 2007!

Fuel for this morning:

6oz of oats and oat bran mix
Cinnamon and Raisin bagel; half peanut butter, half marmalade
Naked Protein Superfood
Tea, Milk and Splenda
3 BCAA supplements
2 Multivits
B Complex supplement
Omega 3 supplement

Extras I forgot to pack last night' TP and Aleve!

Saturday, November 17, 2007


Tool of trade for tomorrow's run:

Asics; shorts and shirt
C9 socks – don’t show the dirt!
Asics 2120 Trail
Oakley Flak Jackets XLJ
Garmin 305 watch and HRM strap
iPod Nano and Nike+
Quadrathon Visor and one of a kind blue hat!

1 Ultimate Direction Fastdraw Extreme 24oz with Accelerade Lemonade
2 Bottles Amino Vital one pre and one post race
48oz EndoroxR4 for post race nutrition

Ultimate Direction Wasp:

64oz Accelerade Lemonade
7oz water
6 Carb Boom! Gels and 1 Crank e-Gel
3 large band-aids and steri-wipes
Lipsalve, Bodyglide and Compeed
Insect repellent
SaltStick and Sports Beans
Camera; new batteries and clean flash card
Wet One singles
Cliff Builders Bar and Met Rex Colossal 100

And so we are off!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Hooj Choons!

You can take the boy out of the night-club but…

One good use for Flash is as a little (and usually the smaller the better) widget. As a constant blog tweaker I loved the idea of this little gizmo to let you know what I am listening to on my iPod Nano as I run.

Well enjoy this oldie but goodie; Goldfrapp's
Strict Machine (We Are Glitter Mix) on Sasha's Fundacion NYC album on Global Underground Ltd.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

More acronyms; FFF; Five Fun Facts!

Tag…I’m it! Cheers Doug, so here you go five fun facts for you!
  • I am an Honorary Colonel in the State of Alabama; yes a “full-bird” Colonel complete with brass eagles. I received this award while serving in the military and on an exchange visit from the UK to the Alabama National Guard. I am not sure what it really means, maybe a free drink or better yet a “get out of jail free” card if I get caught speeding…I’m not in too much of a rush to test that theory though!
  • I have two tattoos but you will only ever see one, even if I was standing there buck naked you would still only see one, and in case you wondering they’re both external…see if you can figure it out?
  • When I get drunk, a rarity these days, I dance backwards and have been seen doing backward laps around the dance-floor, at least that's my excuse for crashing into things as I go around!
  • Talking of crashes; I have had three motorcycles and three crashes and walked away from each one, I passed my driving test first time after three lessons, hey go figure the things in three thing!
  • I leaned to snowboard in June 2000 while on honeymoon in New Zealand…in wait for it three days...I crashed a lot!

So let’s see if this works, Diva, H-Monkey, kxux, essa and OneMiletogo over to you…

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

It's all about the acronyms; PCTR, TFL & Zzz

This weekend is the Pacific Coast Trail Runners (PCTR) Santa Monica Mountains Fall race. As previously posted I was unsure as to whether to run the 30k or the 50k, my mileage of late has been, well pathetic, almost zero miles in the last two weeks and I am still undecided what to do, the reasons for this; an ongoing underlying niggle in my Transverse Fibers Ligament (TFL) which is associated with my ITB issues and the one month of more or less broken nights sleep where I am probably averaging around 4 hours in a stint; a new baby in the house will do that to you. Trust me I am not looking for sympathy I am just telling you how it is.

I feel pretty confident in the 30k and I have checked with the Race Director and there is the opportunity to have a drop bag as the run is a series of loops and out-n-backs, so I can prepare myself as best I can if I decide on the 50k, so in summary it’s all about the acronyms …watch this space.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Turning outside things in...

It’s funny how external things always affect you internally.

WARNING, the following contains a whole diatribe that pertains to Nike+ and the 1999 movie Fight Club staring Brad Pitt, Edward Norton and Helena Bonham Carter, if you do not know or have no desire to know what either is you can skip the next two paragraphs.

I am in, well was – I just won it, a Nike+ challenge with kangator, the premise, a product of the warped mind of PMag; the challenge host, is along the lines of Fight Club, that is, you challenge another member and you fight or in our case you run, or well, you don’t but then you will typically loose, anyway I digress. Kangator had previously challenged me but I was allowed to tap out; stomach flu was raging; Fight Club Rule #4, of course I have actually broken rules #1 and 2 by just writing this, confused, just rent the movie and all will be revealed. Anyway I digress, so I re-challenged kangator, to "The Heinz-man Trophy"; the first to run 57 miles, this was a crude and, I thought, obvious play on Heisman Trophy and Heinz’, as in beans and soup, 57 varieties. Kangator proved to be a worthy competitor, he laid down over 26 miles in the first two days, I responded with 25 followed by an additional 13 by day four, at this point my eldest son, who is three years old decided that my iPod USB cable seemed of particular interest to him and made off with it and then conveniently forget where he had hidden it, this meant that I was unable to sync my iPod with the Nike+ site, a tad frustrating as by day six kangator had notched up 46 miles and was within sight of the 57 miles finish line. Day seven was a rest day for us both and it was looking like it was going to be a sprint finish on long run Sunday.

The arrival of our second son two weeks ago has had an accumulative affect on the amount of sleep I am getting; read "not a lot" and I find my energy levels are generally pretty low. The lack of sleep was taking its toll; I was tired; by the end of the challenge I would have run 150% (59 miles) the number of hours sleep (40 or so) I had got in the same amount of time. The tiredness was evident in my forth run, on Thursday; my hamstrings were tight and I felt lethargic in the closing miles, however Thursday’s upside was while looking for my son’s bedtime story book de’ jour I found my iPod cable, good news. Now to get around to the first sentence of this post, to recap I was tired, did I say that already? And I needed to run 8 miles before Sunday east coast time, we, as a family got home from a day out at the Santa Barbara Zoo around 8pm and we, my wife and I, went through the all signing all dancing performance of getting our eldest in bed, fortunately he was tired so resistance was minimal. I was not really looking forward to running late, Santa Barbara had been shrouded in fog and was cold, remember cold is relative in Southern California, the thermometer in my car said 56F, however by the time we had got home the good news was that the temperature had increased to 71F, much better and more good news. A quick check on my email; Hi, my name is SLB and I am an email addict, revealed that a project lead that I thought had gone stone cold was actually blazing away! More good news, not wanting to waste this run of good luck and the uplift in my emotional barometer and of course not to be outrun by kangator and bettered by the three hour timezone difference, kangator is in NJ, I laced up my shoes and headed out the door to run off the remaining 8 miles needed for victory. I set of on my usual route which allows me to run on autopilot and has me at mile 2.5 before you can say “crap, I forgot to start my ForerunnerI pushed on feeling, well actually pretty good, my glutes had been feeling tight over the last week but tonight everything was aligned, (well not the stars, according to my lottery ticket; maybe next week), and I was happily cranking out 8:45 or so miles and everything felt great, I reached the turnaround point at mile 5 and headed back home, I walked back up the hill, as is my modus operandi to the house and synced my iPod, the rest, as they say, is history. So the moral of the story is to make hay while the sun shines…that is don’t ignore the signs, if they’re telling you to go, then go!

On another Nike+ note the much awaited Q2K7 Quadrathlon hats and visors arrived from HeadSweats, they look great and they will, as anyone who has worn a HeadSweat product, I expect perform flawlessly. October’s Quadrathlon drew to a close, the winners will be announced soon once all the miles and points have been tallied.

OK that’s enough Nike+ tale telling. Time for a quick summary of last month.

My total mileage was 106 miles, some 37 or so miles less than the month before, however when you take into account that I had the stomach flu for 9 days and then we were dissuaded from running due poor air quality; a result of the many wildfires that really only left me 22 days for running, if you work out the month on that number of days and pro rate it for the month that would actually have been 149 miles which is more in the ball park that I need to be, although this will be increasing as my training plan will obviously increase my mileage over the coming months it still maintains my base.

Looking forward, I am still undecided about the 30k or 50k on the 18th, the consensus so far is to go for it, thanks to everyone who answered, there is, unfortunately no prize. I will make a decision by the end of the weekend/early next week. My participation in Iron Wil’s Through the3 Wall Challenge has been all over the place, we’re about to start week 5 and I have made some progress, the stomach flu forced my to unwillingly drop 6lbs, but despite my best efforts my actual weight has changed very little and my body fat has only moved around 1%. I did manage to find the bargain of the year in the multi-gym market, a bench complete with options for a lat fly and quad curl and 80lbs worth of weights for less than $100, this will help me maintain the work put in at Blake PT on my quads and hamstrings; essential if I am really going to stick to the trail side of things.

So I start another month, a third of the way through the final quarter of 2007, with lots of targets; most of them moving, as is often the case, hopefully I can hit some of them before the year closes out?