Thursday, March 6, 2014

Beetle!

It was the summer of 1996; I was 20 and getting ready to start my senior year at the College of Charleston. My parents had divorced recently, and I was staying with my dad for a bit in a townhouse in North Charleston as he readied to move to Dallas, TX for a new job. I was working as a delivery driver at Quincy's in Goose Creek, and one of my coworkers mentioned that his dog had a litter of puppies that he needed to get adopted out.

For whatever reason, I decided I'd get one. My family had dogs and cats just about all my life, but I had never been fully responsible for any of them. I knew nothing of crating/kenneling, house or obedience training, etc. You don't think about these things when you're 20.

I stopped by my coworker's house, and there was a tornado of fur in the backyard. The mama was some sort of ragged black lab mutt/mix, and she'd had about 6-7 puppies. They were just chasing her all around the backyard, nipping, biting, and playing the whole time. She looked pretty exhausted. All of the puppies, except one, were this kind of weird calico cat mix. Brownish/orange, black, and white, with a bit of curl to their fur. The exception was a little brown puppy that looked like a baby grizzly bear cub with green eyes and a bit of white on her chest.

I took this little one aside to check her out. She was as playful as the rest, except now I was the focus of her attacks instead of her mom. They had named her "Kahlua," and my coworker mentioned that they were thinking of keeping her. Not sure if this was a bit of salesmanship on his part, but I decided to take her home, and off we went.

Of course, the original name didn't stick long. I chose "Beetle" after noticing she liked to chase down insects in the house (it was a bachelor apartment and we had a few too many). Those first few weeks were pretty crazy - all I really remember is Beetle circling me constantly and biting my feet and heels - whether I was sitting, walking, etc. I don't recall buying collars, food, leashes, toys - but I'm assuming I did. Luckily, she was already pretty housetrained, so we didn't have too many issues there. Unfortunately, I did not train her to not bite the furniture, carpet, etc. and I ended up with a $1500 bill for carpet replacement when we moved out the next year.

Beetle spent her first few years in Charleston, shuttling around to the various places I would rent. She spent lots of time hanging out at my mom's (even more so when I started travelling for work). I met Ana in 1999 and she also spent some time babysitting her when I would be on the road. For a year or so (probably 2000), she lived pretty full time at my mom's while we were in a house that was tough to keep dogs in.

She was pretty much nonstop activity for the first 2-3 years. The only thing that briefly slowed her down was when she got hit by a car a couple of months before she turned 1. I remember the day - it was easter sunday (final round of the Masters), the first year Tiger Woods won (1997). My family called me at work to let me know what had happened (she ran out the front door and into the road). She was at the emergency vet, and ended up having some nerve damage and a busted shoulder, but nothing a few weeks on the couch wouldn't fix.

In 2001, the Chandela Clan packed up from SC for good and headed to Raleigh, NC. We lived in an awesome location there - nice little house in the woods right next to a couple of horse farms. Beetle loved it there - we'd take walks with our cat Lucas and she'd go hang out with the horses all the time. It's also where Beetle first got in the water - we had a pond in our back yard that she ventured into one time when Ana and I were taking a spin in the paddle boat.

We were in NC for about a year or so before Ana was accepted at the U of O and we headed west to Eugene. Ana and my good friend Dave flew with the cats, and I had the pleasure of making a cross-country trip with Beetle. It was a great experience - definitely recommend driving across the US if you haven't. We went pretty fast as I didn't want to have Beetle in the car longer than necessary, but we still had fun. This trip was also when we had the infamous "Boise Incident." I will spare you the details, but it involved canned dog food, stomach distress, and a Motel 6.

Beetle loved Oregon too, and enjoyed many fine walks and hikes. We would bring her with us all the time when we walked down to the neighborhood market, and Friendly Park was probably her favorite spot. We picked up old Shakey in Oregon, and he and Beetle were fast "friends". I think this is where Beetle saw her first (maybe only?) snow - she had lots of fun playing in it and chasing snowballs. She wasn't too old (about 7-8), but I noticed her getting up a little slowly off the floor sometimes. We took her in and she had some arthritis, and thus started her long relationship with NSAIDs and Glucosamine tablets. They definitely helped, and Beetle carried on like a young pup.

In 2006, Ana transferred down to UC Santa Cruz, and we packed up the crew and headed to sunny California, which was a world different than Eugene. We soon settled into a normal walking route around the neighborhood, and got to know all the local dogs and cats on the route. We'd take trips over to Houge Park in the neighborhood across the street where Beetle would play with the various dogs (a pair of small Yorkies were her favorite). We also took Beets on just about all of our occasional vacation trips out of town - Mendocino, Sausalito, Carmel, etc. Carmel and the beach there was definitely her favorite, and she found a little pool there that she loved to frolic around in. I also took her for a work trip in Montana, and we drove together down to Dallas, TX for my grandmother's funeral.

Alas, time catches up with us all and Beetle started having more frequent random ailments. Thyroid issues causing some weird fur, a pretty bad case of glaucoma in one eye, and some crazy thing called "Old Dog Vestibular Disorder" that would cause her to lose her balance. For years, her vets thought she had Cushing's disease, and she was finally diagnosed with it when she was probably 14 or so.

Toward the end, Beetle was in pretty bad shape - she needed to wear diapers the last 4-6 months or so, and was just about blind. I was keeping an eye on her pretty close, trying to keep her as comfortable as possible. I had a home vet come to visit to check her out, not intending to have her put down. But I realized during the visit it was time.

I was sorry that Ana couldn't be there (she was out of country researching), but I didn't want Beetle to suffer any longer. She was sleeping on the living room floor, and I quietly took off her harness and booties (she needed them for traction to get up off the hardwood floor). While she was still sleeping the Dr. shaved her front leg to get the shot ready. I said goodbye and gave her one last kiss on the head like I'd done so many times for so many years. She didn't notice a thing and was gone. I carried her down to the doctor's car and was without my dog and best friend for the first time in almost 16 years.

I couldn't really have asked for a better dog, or for Beetle to have had a better life. She got a chance to see a lot, and had lots of love. She lived to the ripe old age of 15, dying just a couple weeks shy of sweet 16. I love you girl! RIP Beetle - 7/13/1996 - 6/25/2012

Jason


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Not So Much of a Clan Anymore

Shakey
Mystery


Things are quiet these days. Our fuzzy critter clan has shrunken to two very sleepy kitties.  Last month we lost our lovely Beetle and gentle Larry. Larry had lung cancer and kept it hidden until the very end, and Beetle decided that she had grown too tired of keeping going after a long life of nearly 16-years. We miss them dearly and are a little sad these days without them.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Goodbye Walnut

I'm very sad to have to write this post - our little buddy Walnut died late Sunday night.

He was neutered last week, and something must have happened as a result. We rushed him in to the emergency vet Sunday night when we noticed him walking unsteadily. Unfortunately, it was too late. Shortly after the tech took his vitals, he went into cardiopulmonary arrest(his heart stopped), and they were not able to revive him. The doctors are not sure what happened.

If you're a pet owner you know that it doesn't take long to get attached to a fuzzy critter. Though we only had Walnut for a few months (he was born in late April), he was a full-fledged Chandela Clan member, and we love him tons.

We miss you so much little guy, and will remember you always.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Mile Race Report (TRT 100)

Whew! I did it, last Sunday at approximately 1:40pm, I finished my first 100 miler - the Tahoe Rim Trail 100! The first two goals for the year are complete. So, here are the details . . .

Race Prep

Overall, my race prep was pretty decent. I ran the Miwok 100K in early May, and did probably 5 or 6 other 50Ks in preparation for the TRT. I also focused on losing some weight, eventually getting down to 188 the Thursday before the race. My normal weight for the last 5-6 years has been 198-208, and I think cutting a few extra pounds helped.

I also felt comfortable with my gear, lights, hydration pack, fueling, etc. The couple of worries I had going in were a bit of runner's knee that I had picked up about a month ago and the blisters I often get on the sides of my heels. I'd had some chiro and Active Release Therapy done on my knee leading up to the race, and I took the entire week prior to the race off from running in hopes of going in with a pain-free knee.

Heading to Tahoe

We rented a cabin at a place called Holly's Place. It's a really cool spot in South Lake Tahoe that is very homey and pet friendly. There were all manner of dogs running around, including Penny.


We got to Tahoe early Thursday evening and laid low. I wanted to get plenty of sleep while I could. We had dinner at Sprouts, a local hippie/health food place and hit the sack.

The next day, we headed over to the packet pickup and runners meeting in Carson City, about 30 miles away. Here's the big moment - me grabbing bib #622, the name I'd be called by random strangers for the next day and a half.


I then went to weigh in. I ended up weighing 191 with clothes & shoes on, which I was definitely happy with. At Rio del Lago in September 2011, I weighed in at 200 clothed & shoed. Here's me on the scale.



After they weighed you, they gave you a wristband with your base weight, and + and - 5, 7, and 10%. We'd get weighed about 6 or 7 times during the race to make sure we weren't under or over hydrating. Here's my wristband.



And then of course, what's a race without free schwag? I headed over to grab some free flip flops.


I also got a final look at my drop bag for Tunnel Creek as it was getting packed up. There it is in yellow with duct tape, the little guy would serve me well over the weekend!

We had plenty of time to kill so Ana and I went to a bar/restaurant across the street. I had a diet coke, some water, and some pretzel appetizers, and Ana had calamari. There were some other racers milling in and out, and I was itching to get things started. It finally got close to the 4:00 race briefing, so we headed back across the street to the Nevada State Legislative building, where the meeting was held.

Here's the RD and assistant RD giving us the low down.


The key thing I noted was the description of the snow patches between the Hobart and Tunnel Creek aid stations, a section we'd cross 4 times. The RDs said it may be difficult to see all the markers & confidence flags, and that we should keep our eyes peeled. I made a mental note to try to memorize/internalize as much of the course that I could the first time through, when it was daytime and I was lucid. The meeting convened after about 45 minutes, and Ana and I headed back to the cabin for an early night's sleep.

Race Morning

I set my alarm for 2:15am (5am start) and woke up without issue. I think I got about 4.5 hours of sleep, and they would be my last Z's until Sunday night . . . I had my normal race morning breakfast - some toast with peanut butter, a banana, and a couple of cups of coffee.

Here I am getting dressed race morning, being assisted by Walnut.


Well, it was time to get the show on the road so Ana and I headed off for Spooner Lake. She was my crew for the race (no pacer), so we went over the plan one more time on the drive in. She was going to meet me at Diamond Peak (miles 30 and 80) and the 50 mile (start/finish) area. We talked about what I might need, likely arrival times for the various stations, etc.

We arrived at the auxiliary parking and shuttled over to the Start/Finish area, which was a little walk down the hill. Here I am as 5am was approaching.


Here's one of the start line volunteers pointing us over to the start line as the minutes ticked away.


And one more picture of me at the start line.


The clock reached zero, and we were off . . .

The Race

The TRT race is structured around a 50 mile loop. 50 milers do it once, and us lucky 100 milers get to do it twice. There is about 24,000 feet of climbing to be done, and the race is at an average elevation of over 8000 feet. To add to it, there was snow on probably 1-2 miles of the loop (meaning 2-4 miles over 100 miles), and there would be a few unavoidable stream crossings on the course, guaranteeing some running with wet feet. So, we had our work cut out for us.

First Loop

The first aid station was 6 miles in, at Hobart. The race started in the darkness, and there was a little stretch of dirt road before we reached a gently climbing trail. The trail made its way through a nice stretch of woods, and it was good to be running after a week off. Marlette Lake is about 5 miles in, and the sun was up at this point, making for a great view. I made it to the first aid station feeling great, topped off my water, and made my way on.

Heading to Tunnel Creek (2nd aid station) is where we first encountered snow. The first bit was a drift on a sidehill. It wasn't particularly dangerous, but I took my time. Over the next mile or so, there were a few more areas of snow to negotiate. All in all, it was pretty reasonable - I'm glad we did not have the amount of snow that folks at Western States had to tackle. I soon made my way into the Tunnel Creek aid station, topped off, and took off to the Red House loop.

The motto of the race is "A glimpse of heaven, a taste of hell". The heaven bit is for the views, and the hell part is referring to the Red House loop, which features a pretty good climb heading back to Tunnel Creek. I didn't think the loop was particularly difficult, but this was when my feet first got wet. There were 2 or 3 creek crossings that couldn't be taken without submerged feet. I ordinarily don't mind wet feet but I was trying to keep my feet blister free. At any rate, I had shoes back at Tunnel Creek but was saving those to change the next time around (at mile 67). I got back into Tunnel Creek still feeling fine, and went in to get weighed for the first time. I was only down a pound, so I quickly gathered my stuff and moved on.

The next stretch was only 3 miles to the 20 mile mark of the race, at the Bull Wheel aid station. This was a nice section of singletrack with lots of big boulders, which are a hallmark of this course. I made it in to Bull Wheel, which was staffed by 4 or 5 guys who were camping for the weekend. By the time I got there, they had already tapped their keg and were enjoying some adult beverages. Nice! The RD mentioned this aid station might be self serve at night, with the volunteers passed out, and I could see why! I had picked up an extra bottle from my Tunnel Creek bag, since I knew the next section was about 9.5 miles without aid and I wanted to make sure I had enough fluids. I loaded up and was off to the Diamond Peak aid station at mile 30, where I'd meet Ana for the first time.

This section had lots more single track, boulders, and climbing. Apparently, this entire stretch is over 8000 feet, and I could feel it. I've never had altitude issues, but I definitely felt a bit off. Not sick, headache, etc., just "off". In addition, I could feel a blister starting on my right heel.This was my least favorite stretch of the course (both times). I planned on changing shoes and fixing my blister at Diamond Peak. I made it into Diamond roughly on schedule (about 7.5 hours in) and was happy to see Ana waiting for me and cheering me on my way to the weigh in.

Here's me on the scale. I think my lowest weight of the day was 185 (6 lbs down), so I was never in any of the 'danger zones'.


I spent probably 15 or 20 minutes at Diamond Peak loading up, fixing blisters, changing shoes, etc. There was lots of activity at this aid station (one of two main crew access points), so it was nice to get a little second wind from all the second-hand energy. I headed out soon enough . . .


The hill after leaving Diamond Peak is the steepest on the course. I believe it is 2000ft of elevation gain in about 2 miles. The picture above just shows the very beginning, it is not even close to how steep it gets. The RDs had warned us about it on Friday, but as is often the case, words don't really do it justice.

It was on this climb (mile 30-32) when I started noticing some breathing problems. It was like I couldn't get enough air in my lungs and would get out of breath after maybe 15-20 steps up the hill. I wasn't too worried given the altitude and steepness of the terrain, but this definitely cost me some time.

After about an hour climbing this hill, it was a quick downhill stretch to the Bull Wheel aid station. I passed through quickly and headed back to Tunnel Creek, which would be the 35 mile point of the race. From there, it was back through Hobart (across the snow fields), which was mile 40.

From there, the course diverged and went up to Snow Valley Peak. This may have been my favorite part of the course (miles 40-43.3). The first part was some singletrack through the woods, but you eventually get above the tree line and start climbing up the peak. There were some great views up here, both to Lake Tahoe and east to Nevada. Also, Snow Valley Peak was home to the best aid station on the course, manned by a boy scout troop from Carson City. They had set up a bunch of 'Burma Shave' like signs leading to the station, which provided a bit of entertainment and diversion. As you closed in on the station, one of the scouts would come out to greet you by name, ask what you needed, etc. They helped get my jacket unbundled from my pack (it was on their pretty tight and there was a lot of wind on the ridges and peak). I chatted for a few minutes with the crew and then made my way toward the 50 mile mark.

The last 7 miles of the loop is primarily downhill, but never too steep. The first section is on the side of a hill descending from Snow Valley and is quite pretty. The last 4 or so miles are primarily in forest, and there seemed to be no distinguishing points, just back and forth, switchback after switchback. Eventually, about 1.6 miles from the start/finish, there's a water only aid station and a guy pointing you to the Spooner Lake trail. You take this rolling trail around the lake and to the 50 mile mark. Here's me rolling in, looking relatively chipper for having run 50 miles.


By this time, my blisters had gotten worse, and I now had them on both heels. I was going to get them checked out by medical and see if they had any recommendations. I came in to the transition area, and saw Ana and let her know of my plans. She led me over to the medical tent so I could get checked out. Apparently I had an interesting case, as all three medical folk came to check things out.


Ultimately, they recommended against popping the blisters, and instead we covered them with a donut moleskin (pad with a hole cut out for the blister), covered by a blister shield. Unfortunately, I only got the blister shield on the right heel, and this would come back to bite me in a few miles. I ended up spending about 25 minutes in medical, and I was anxious to get going on. For some reason, my contacts were bothering me a lot, and my eyes were completely bloodshot. So, I decided to ditch the contacts and put my glasses on. I also grabbed my lights and changed shirts (took off my 2009 Skyline 50k shirt and replaced it with a long sleeve undershirt and my 2010 Skyline 50k shirt) and put on a jacket, as it was starting to cool down a bit.

I oriented myself again and was off and running for the next 50 miles.


Second Loop

It felt good to be more than halfway there. Even though I knew the second 50 would take me much longer than the first, it's a good mental milestone. As I headed back up to Hobart aid station at mile 56, I noticed my right heel (with the worse blister but blister covering) was actually feeling good, but my left one (without blister covering) was stinging quite badly. An unfortunate side effect of heel blisters is that they cause you to involuntarily change your running gait. I am a normal 'heel to toe' runner, meaning my heel hits the ground first, then rolls forward until I take off on my toes. The blisters started forcing me to land on my forefoot, which was causing a separate set of pains in the balls of my feet and knees from the change. A few miles into the second 50, I knew I'd be battling this pain the rest of the way.

As I transitioned through Hobart, it was starting to get a bit darker. I turned on my lights as I left the aid station and made my way through the snow to Tunnel Creek. On this stretch, the blisters were getting worse, and I decided to change shoes again & redo my blisters at mile 67 (after the 2nd Red House loop). I made it into Tunnel Creek at mile 60 and started Red House.

This loop was more miserable in the dark. I ran as much as I could but really ended up walking most of the way. I made it through the various stream crossings and into the Red House aid station (mile 64), which was a nice respite. I pushed on and made it back to Tunnel Creek and began my next blister fixing mission.

At this point (about 2am Sunday), Tunnel Creek looked like a war zone. Apparently, there were quite a few folks with hypothermia and they were huddled up in front of some sort of super blast furnace thing. Another guy was getting treated for an ankle/foot injury, and another couple of folks were laid out in various stages of disrepair. I heard more than one person mention dropping. I picked out an unused cot, got some moleskin from the doctor, and set about fixing my blisters (I had packed my own blister kit - I will add moleskin for next time).

The basic operation is:
  1. Remove sock & shoe, clean area with alcohol towelette.
  2. Cut moleskin in oval shape, with a hole in the middle.
  3. Apply Tincture of Benzoin where moleskin will meet skin.
  4. Apply moleskin bandage, rubbing it once applied to enhance adhesion.
  5. Apply Second Skin blister patch on top of moleskin and exposed blister.
I did this to both feet. It took me about 25-30 minutes to do this and get new socks and shoes on. I was starting to get a chill from standing still so long, so for good measure, I grabbed another long sleeve shirt from my drop bag before leaving. I then took off for Bull Wheel and Diamond Peak.

Reaching Bull Wheel was pretty uneventful. The folks manning the station were all passed out at this point, so I filled up on water as quietly as possible and started toward Diamond Peak. This was mile 70.

Getting to Diamond Peak was undoubtedly the hardest stretch of the race. I had been running on sore, blistered feet for 40+ miles, and I was barely able to run in the dark. Between keeping an eye out for course markers and navigating the trail, I could really only walk. The many hours of dark were getting to me, although I wasn't sleepy tired (I had taken a 5 hour energy shot at mile 67). With the cumulative toll of my breathing issues, painful feet, and nighttime depression adding up, I had just about conjured up reason enough to quit when I reached Diamond Peak at mile 80. With my breathing, I didn't think there was any way I could summit the peak again. And, with my feet, I thought I would have to walk so much that I'd surely timeout.

I imagine many 100 milers reach this mental state at some point during the run, and I recall having some similar thoughts during Rio del Lago last year (I timed out due to being lost on the course at mile 70). I started to think about what I'd tell Ana at mile 80. But, then I remember how I had pre-coached her to not let me quit, no matter what. I started thinking of how I'd word my excuse, but quickly realized this would never work. She would make me continue. Luckily, this realization coincided with sunrise, and the last mile or so before Diamond Peak. I hatched a plan to have Ana walk with me up the ski run to keep an eye on my breathing. And, I basically said to hell with the blisters. They hurt like hell but were not going to prevent me from finishing this race.

With a definite second wind, I picked up the pace and ran into the Diamond Peak aid station at about 6:30am. You can just barely see my head in this one (I was running in with another guy who was having trouble, but we both ended up finishing).


I wanted to make a quick turn at Diamond Peak so I summoned Ana over hurriedly to relay my plan. I guess I sounded a little incoherent at this point. I told her it was 2 miles to the top of the peak, and she thought I meant 2 miles to the finish. She said, in her best condescending schoolteacher voice - "No Jason, it's 20 miles to the finish." I convinced her I wasn't batty and that I just wanted her to keep an eye on my to the top of the peak. She agreed and we were off after a brief stop and weigh-in.

Here are a couple of shots that give a sense of this hill. The little ants in the first one are runners heading up the multiple false summits. The second one shows the great views of the lake behind us.



After another hour or so of taking 4-5 steps at a time, we made it. We paused a bit at the top and then I headed into Bull Wheel, which was just a few steps from the peak. You can see me running downhill with awesome views into Nevada in this picture.


I stopped to chat with the folks at Bull Wheel briefly. They had floated their keg from the night before and were packing things up. This was mile 82 for me. At this point, I was feeling pretty good, knowing nothing short of a disaster or accident would prevent me from finishing.

With my breathing issues, I was pretty slow on uphills. I would usually trade places with a few different runners and pacers based on whether we were heading up or down. Eventually, at about mile 90 (after the last pass through Hobart), I had a bit of a breakthrough. I realized that if I inhaled through my mouth, I could get enough air in my lungs to not blow up on the inclines. This allowed me to speed up quite a bit (wish I would have realized it 60 miles sooner!).

I made it back to Snow Valley (the boy scout aid station) and stopped for a bit of lemon sorbet. From there it was 7 miles downhill to the finish line. On this last stretch as I closed in on the lake, I chatted briefly with various folks who were wondering what the event was, how far, how many days, etc. I stopped to pet a few dogs and just generally enjoy the last stretch. I saw the last aid station (1.6 miles to go) and began the final approach around the lake to the finish line. It was getting hot by this time (closing in on 2pm Sunday), but I could hear the music at the end, and finally made it across, 32 hours, 40 minutes, and 53 seconds after I started!

I didn't get any finish line photos, but here's me snacking on a burrito a few minutes after the finish.


Post-Race

We hung out briefly, but decided to head back to the cabin to shower and change before the award ceremony at 4pm. I checked out my blisters again, here's a shot for the not too faint at heart.


We headed back over to Spooner Lake for the awards. The winner, Jorge Maravilla, was running his first 100 and finished in just under 19 hours. They handed out some other awards, including a 500 mile belt for some folks that had finished 5 TRT 100s. They eventually called my name and I limped up to get my buckle from George Ruiz.


Yay, my first buckle - here's what it looks like.


So, it's a week after the finish and I'm feeling OK. I have not run yet, but will probably venture out for a few miles tomorrow. I have some continued soreness in my knees and I have a few toes with some limited feeling - a small price to pay I say!

Now I'm planning what's next . . . I will do the Run-de-Vous 50k in late August, the Quad Dipsea in November and likely the Dick Collins Firetrails 50 miler in October. I am not sure about my next 100 miler. I have qualified for the Western States lottery, so I'll definitely put my name in. Given there's about a 10% chance of selection, I won't hold my breath. I will likely shoot for the Headlands Hundred next year (my 'neighborhood 100') and possibly also the Bear 100.

Now, for record keeping sake, here are some stats & notes on gear, etc.

Shoes Worn
  • La Sportiva (three different pairs, for 30, 20, and 33 miles respectively)
  • Montrail Continental Divide (for 17 miles)
Clothes Worn
  • Patagonia 9 Trails Shorts (best shorts ever - this model is a few years old)
  • Skyline 50k shirt (first 50 miles)
  • Patagonia undershirt & Skyline 50k tank top (second 50 miles)
  • DryMax maximum protection trail socks (4 pairs)
  • Stevens Creek 50k handkerchief
  • Ana's headband, commandeered as snotrag
  • Brooks hat (first 50 miles, last 20 miles)
  • Sugoi skullcap (miles 51-80)
  • Tufosi sunglasses (first 50 miles)
  • Patagonia lightweight shell (miles 43-50)
  • Nike running jacket (on and off for the second 50 miles)
  • REI gloves (on and off second 50 miles)
  • Mountain Hardwear gloves (some of second 50 miles, then I lost one before Diamond Peak)
Gear Used
  • Nathan hydration pack (awesome)
  • Fenix flashlight
  • Petzl headlamp
  • Ultimate Direction handheld bottle
  • Amphipod handheld bottle (horrible, would have thrown it into a campfire if I could have - kept detaching from the handle)
  • Body Glide (anti-chafing, awesome)
  • Hydropel (minor hotspot)
  • Cho-Pat Dual Action Knee Strap (super duper quadruple excellent, no runners knee pain at all through the race)
  • Blister kit with Second Skin, Tincture of Benzoin, and alcohol towelettes
Food/Drink/Pills/etc.

As usual, I ate pretty much what felt right during the race. I didn't overload at any point and tried to stay even throughout. I think of everything, the GU and Clif gels worked best for me.
  • Gels (many, primarily GU and Clif)
  • Chews (many, GU chomps, Stinger brand, and Sharkies brand)
  • Water (gallons)
  • Electrolyte drink (some, mostly in the last 50 miles)
  • Coke (a bit)
  • Salt Stick electrolytes (roughly 1 per hour for most of the way)
  • Tylenol (took 12 max strength caps throughout the race)
  • Haribo Gummy Bears
  • Peanut Butter Filled Pretzels
  • PBJ Sandwiches
  • Grilled Cheese sandwiches
  • Goldfish crackers
  • PB-filled Ritz cracker sandwiches
  • NuGo Energy/Protein bar
  • Chocolate Chip cookies
  • Lemon Sorbet
  • Black-bean & sweet potato quesadilla
Shoutouts
  • Ana - #1 wife & crew of all time, would not have finished without her. Also a photographer extraordinaire
  • Other family & friends - thanks for your encouragement and well wishes
  • Volunteers & RDs - thanks for giving selflessly to help us get across the finish line
  • Ultralist & ultraholics list - for advice, inspiration, etc.
  • Coastal Trail Runs - for providing many opportunities for training and racing throughout the bay area
  • ZombieRunner and Zombie Gillian for gear and good advice and instruction on blister fixing

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Presenting...Walnut

Here is our wee Walnut posing for his first formal picture.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Story of Mystery Cat & Walnut

Guess what?!  We have two new porch kitties.  Sadly, Dottie, our last porch critter disappeared, and has not been seen for a few months.  We can only hope that she is safe and being well cared for by a new family.  However, we think that the word got out within the stray cat community that we had an open spot for a porch cat because shortly after Dottie's departure a new kitty showed up.

At first, we noticed that our pet sitters had put a bowl of cat food on the patio.  Curious about this, we asked if they had seen a cat around our place.  They had in fact spotted a new kitty.  So, we too started to put food out regularly, but the new cat would only eat the food when we weren't around.  For quite a while we didn't even know what this new mystery cat looked like, but she eventually felt comfortable enough to lounge around the patio during the day, enabling us to catch a few glimpses.


Little by little, we started to cultivate our friendship with Mystery Cat.  We talked to her, sat outside with her while she ate, and got closer and closer to her every day.  And she too grew more and more comfy on the patio and around us.  Finally, one day, Mystery Cat worked up the courage to let us pet her a tiny bit while she was eating, though she let out quite a few nervous protest meows in the process.  With some patience and persistence, over the course of a few weeks Mystery learned that being petted and scratched was quite enjoyable.

Then one day we noticed that her belly looked a bit too swollen, and started to wondered if she might be pregnant...?  Doing what any responsible pet owner would do, we attempted to diagnose her ourselves using all of the veterinary knowledge available to us through a google search.  Thus, we attempted to gently feel her belly for walnut-sized bumps, which would indicate the babies' heads. As you can imagine, Mystery Cat was not entirely cooperative, so we managed a few days later to scoop her up and take her to the vet for a proper check-up. 

As it turned out, Mystery Cat had indeed been pregnant, and had already given birth just a couple of days before.  So, we carted her back home, set her free, and started to feed her lots of food so she could take care of her kittens.   For a few weeks she came by to eat quite a bit of food, but otherwise wasn't around much.  And, because she had tucked her kittens away in a mystery spot, we weren't able to check to see how things were going for our young single momma cat and her new wee ones.  

About five weeks later, J came home to find a tiny white and grey Siamese-ish fluff ball on the patio step.  At least one little Walnut had made it through the the first few weeks of life, and Mystery Cat had decided to bring him to the patio to ween him.  For about a week now, Mystery Cat and Walnut have been munching, cuddling, and frolicking together on the patio.  And, we are keeping a close eye on them.  

  

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Miwok 100 Race Report

Yay! My first goal of the year is complete - I finished the Miwok 100K trail race on Saturday in 15:28 and some change. I did not quite make the weight goal of 195, but was close. I weighed in at 197 the day before the race.

Going in, I was not real confident, as I hadn't gotten in as many miles as I would have liked. The Lake Sonoma 50 miler, which I had scheduled, was flooded out and cancelled. I was planning on that being my big prep race. I substituted a trail marathon, but since I hadn't run more than 31 miles since last September, I wasn't sure how I'd do with the extra distance.

To add to my issues, I came down with some kind of cold/allergies/sinus problems the Saturday before the race while I was out volunteering at the Quicksilver 50, and I was sneezing and blowing my nose the whole week. To try and combat this, I made sure I got extra sleep the whole week leading in to the race and took extra Vitamin C. I was still congested race morning, but I think the rest paid off. I made it through the race without any major problems of note (except a couple of minor blisters).

Gear

Here's what I used/wore during the race:
  • Patagonia 9 Trails shorts (3-4 year old version)
  • Skyline 50K t-shirt
  • Headband (unknown brand, stolen from wife, used around wrist as sweat/snot band)
  • Brooks hat (3-4 years old, salt encrusted)
  • Dry Max trail socks
  • La Sportiva Wildcat shoes
  • Petzl headlamp
  • Unknown brand flashlight (battery was too weak, so I didn't use it much)
  • Patagonia packable jacket (used for first 10 miles or so)
  • REI gloves
  • Nike running jacket (used for last 10 miles or so)
  • Tifosi sunglasses
  • Timex Ironman watch
Race Day

I packed my drop bags (one for Pan Toll, one for the finish line) and laid out my clothes and gear the night before, but I found that I still needed to wake up at 1:15am to get ready and be there on time. The race starts at 5:40am, with check-in required by 5:25am. The race is about an hour and 10 minutes away from my house, so I left at around 3:30.

Start to Rodeo Lagoon (0 to 7.1 miles)

The race starts on Rodeo Beach right at sunrise. I tell you, there's nothing that helps blisters more than getting some sand in your shoes right as you start a 62 mile run! We made our way over to the start line (about a 5 minute walk from the registration area), and we were off. There is always a bottle neck at the end of the beach waiting to get up the trail, so I wasn't in any hurry. We headed up the Lagoon Trail and then out onto Conzelman Road, which overlooks the bay, ocean, and Golden Gate bridge. There were some awesome views from this section (though quite steep), and this was an enjoyable part of the run. You head back onto the trails after a few miles, and before I knew it we were back near the registration area at Rodeo Lagoon, the first aid station. I felt fine at this point, but of course we were just getting started.

Rodeo Lagoon to Tennessee Valley (7.1 miles to 11.1 miles)

I was wearing my hydration pack, so I didn't stop at Rodeo Lagoon. Heading out from the aid station, you head up the hill onto the Miwok Trail (among others), and run along some of the old military/missile apparatus and silos (not sure of the terminology). I always like running this section of the Marin Headlands, and there are some awesome views. I made it into the aid station without issue, and refilled my backpack with water, tossed some trash, and was on my way. Still feeling fine.

Tennessee Valley to Pan Toll (11.1 miles to 20 miles)

This is the longest stretch without aid (8.9 miles), but it is so early in the race it's not really an issue. This is a great section of the race, you head up toward the top of Mt. Tam on a fire road that weaves in and out with the famous Dipsea Trail. Unknowingly, I started to slow down a bit too much here. I linked up with Steve Holman, a local ultrarunner. It turns out that in addition to running, we have some work stuff in common so we shot the breeze for a few miles heading in to the aid station. Neither one of us were in a hurry, but when we got to the aid station, the volunteers started scolding us for being too slow. Apparently, we were lagging behind the cutoff times, and would need to pick up some speed to make the first cutoff at Randall (33.9 miles). I checked my pace chart, and indeed I was moving to slow. So, I went to my drop bag, grabbed my pre-pack gels/chews, reloaded water, and took off pretty quickly with the intention of picking up the pace. I also took some Tylenol here as a general bit of pain relief (though nothing was hurting too bad at this point).

Pan Toll to Bolinas Ridge (20 miles to 26.7 miles)

This section of the race may be the most scenic; you spend much of it on ribbon-wide singletrack that weaves along the side of the mountain, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It was a beautiful day and the views were great. My gripe with this section of the course is that it is a little too dicey to handle out and back traffic. The leaders started passing me on their return here (embarrassing), and the trail is too narrow to safely pass, so you have to constantly jump a bit off trail. This just seems a bit dangerous to me, as the sidehill is quite steep. At any rate, I made it into Bolinas Ridge having made up some time so I was pretty pleased. I filled up water and headed out.

Bolinas Ridge to Randall Trail Turnaround (26.7 miles to 33.9 miles)

This was my fastest section of the course by quite a good margin. There are a lot of downhills, but I was also consciously running harder to make sure I made the cutoff. You see a lot of runners on their return, and there are lots of well wishes, so that always helps. This isn't a particularly scenic or enjoyable section, as you're basically running 7.2 miles out on a dirt road that you're going to return on. I made it to the turnaround (always a good mental win, as you've now finished more than half the race) with about 25 minutes to spare before the cutoff.

Randall Trail Turnaround to Bolinas Ridge (33.9 miles to 41.1 miles)

This is the same section in reverse. I think my effort caught up to me (plus, there is a 1.7 mile climb coming right out of the turnaround, and this was probably my physical/mental low point of the race. I didn't feel terrible, but I was definitely a little off. So, I took it slow, ate a little bit more, and trudged on. I started walking a bit more on this section, but tried to run when I could to make sure I wouldn't have any problems with cutoffs. I passed by a woman on this section who was in some pain and tears, walking with an improvised cane/stick. She had hurt her knee, so I offered her my extra Tylenol. She took it and hopefully it helped. I'm not sure if she finished, but I think she gave it a shot. When I got in to Bolinas Ridge aid station, I took advantage of my Good Samaritan status and took the last three Twix bars. I was quite hungry at this point and for some reason they looked awesome. I grabbed a few pretzels too, filled up with water and took off.

Bolinas Ridge to Pan Toll (41.1 miles to 47.8 miles)

This is another retrace section. Still very pretty, but I was definitely slowing down at this point. I wasn't really worried about the cutoffs anymore, since I had plenty of buffer. I still tried to run when I could but my pace was getting slower. I traded position with a few different folks from time to time. I could tell that runners that had picked up pacers at Bolinas Ridge were definitely moving faster than us solo folk. When I got into Pan Toll, I grabbed my lights and jacket out of my bag and moved on.

Pan Toll to Muir Beach (47.8 miles to 53.5 miles)

This section was a nice little reprieve. The trails were familiar to me from previous running, and there seemed to be lots of runnable areas. At this point, there was no danger of missing cutoffs, so I settled into a nice comfort zone. I was feeling OK, though I could tell I'd have blisters on each of my heels. I also started to notice something with one of my left toes, I thought perhaps I'd need a toenail removed when I took my shoe off, but it turned out to not be a problem. I came into the Muir Beach aid station - less than 10 miles to go. The sun was getting lower in the sky, and the wind was picking up, so I put on my jacket. I also had a piece of pizza - I had heard of pizza at aid stations before but never had actually seen any. Delicious!

Muir Beach to Tennessee Valley (53.5 miles to 57.6 miles)

This section was only 4.1 miles, but was ridiculous from an altitude perspective. You start right up a nice hill that takes a bit to climb. You are then rewarded with a jaw dropping view of Pirates Cove (was worth the climb). A bit more downhill sauntering, and you get sent back up some nasty steps and a pretty rugged climb up to another summit. I was gassed at the top! But, you get some more awesome views of Tennessee Valley and the beach, maybe the best view (in my opinion) in the headlands. I hooked up with some other runners and made the final few steps into Tennessee Valley - last aid station!

Tennessee Valley to Pt. Bonita YMCA Finish Line (57.6 miles to 62.6 miles)

There is a nice long downhill on this stretch. My running muscles were still working, so I ran as much as I could. I finally needed to turn on my headlamp for the last 2-3 miles. There was some navigating to be done to stay on course, but it was marked with glowsticks so it wasn't too much trouble. There were also volunteers getting us through a couple of hairy sections. I met up with a pacer from Dallas whose runner had gone ahead and we chatted for the last mile or two into the finish. I came into the YMCA to the sound of cowbells, crossed the finish line, and got my medal from Tia Boddington, the race director. I was done - woohoo!

Timing

Here's a look at my times for the various aid stations.

Not too bad - I slowed at the finish of course, but made some good time in the middle of the race. I finished a little over an hour ahead of the cutoff.

Food and Drink

Here's what I ate and drank (roughly) during the race:
  • Clif Gels - 5-6
  • Gu Chomps - 3-4 packs
  • Stinger Chews - 3-4 packs
  • Pretzels - 5-6 handfuls
  • Oreos - 3
  • PBJ sandwiches - about 1.5 full sandwiches
  • Pizza - 1 slice (cheese)
  • Tomato Soup - small cup
  • Cheetos - 1 handful
  • Banana - 1 small slice
  • Twix bars - 3 (snack size)
  • Coke - 5-6 small cups
  • Water - lots
Lessons Learned
  • I think the rest helped a lot. I will keep this in mind when I attempt the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 mile race in July. Lots of sleep the week of, and make sure to taper.
  • My drop bag and aid station strategy was good. I put the gels/supplies I'd need in bigger ziploc bags so I could locate them quickly and get in and out. I knew where everything was located. I did not lounge at aid stations, and was moving through pretty quickly.
  • I was surprised at how much running I was able to do. I thought much of the last 20 miles would be walking, but I did a lot of (slow) running. That's a good thing.
  • Fix my heels. I got blisters where I always do. I need to take care of my heels to make sure I don't have calluses, which exacerbate the problem. The pain from the blisters can slow me down quite a lot, especially on downhills when they become more painful and noticeable.
  • I need to get more mileage in before Tahoe. Including the Miwok, I'm only averaging about 25 miles a week this year. That's nowhere close to enough for a 100 miler. I plan on getting up to about 45 miles a week over the next 6-7 weeks (9 weeks til Tahoe), leaving the last couple of weeks to taper.
  • Lose more weight. I can feel it when I'm running with a few extra pounds. I didn't have any this time, but I still need to lose more to be better prepared for Tahoe. I am shooting to be at 185 by July 16th. I think that's doable by keeping my diet good and upping the miles.
  • More core exercises. I've started a little routine these last couple of weeks and need to stay at it. Your body takes a beating over this kind of distance and having a stronger core definitely helps.
  • Train for race conditions. Meaning, if the race will be hot - train in heat. If hilly and rugged, run that kind of terrain. I will be doing more hills and heat in the next 6 weeks to ready for Tahoe.
  • Have fun! This is the most important - I take a lot of enjoyment in the preparation for these events but I don't take it or myself too seriously. I am not competing and want to take time to enjoy the terrain, sights, and surroundings, and being out seeing things and covering distances most folks won't get the chance to.