Saturday, February 26, 2011

Redwood 50K 5:14:16

I just ran another 50K: PCTR's Redwood Park race. The course was changed slightly from previous years because of the intense rain the last few days. The 10K loop avoided the awesome singletrack of the French trail and stuck to wider trails and fire roads, also reducing the vertical by about 1000' to 4500', I believe. Anyway, I felt pretty good going into the race. My roommate M ran the 20K, so that helped get me psyched even though we didn't run together at all. I started out fast, running most of the ridiculously steep and muddy climb that is right out of the gate, not wanting to get stuck in a big crowd with everybody walking and/or falling down. I did pretty well, passing the first aid station at 8.5K after 53 minutes. The next 11K back to the start/finish aid station always feels long to me, but I finished the first 20K loop in 1:52:35, exactly what I need to break 5:00.

I did the altered 10K loop in 59 minutes, putting me at 2:51, and things were still looking good. About halfway through the 10K loop I got into a group of four other runners I'd been going back and forth with, and got pretty stoked that I might have somebody going exactly my pace to work with. Unfortunately, three of them were only doing the 30K, so it was just me and one other person heading back out for another 20K.

She was a little behind me, but caught up quickly, and I thought I was doing OK. I looked at my splits at Skyline Gate and saw another 50 minutes had passed. For a minute I was stoked, since I confused Redwood Gate with the first aid station, but realized that was still another mile and a half away, at which point I promptly bonked, got dropped like a rock by the woman I'd been going back and forth with, and didn't make it out of the aid station until 1:09 had elapsed, or 4:00:51 total. I felt really cold and realized I hadn't been eating enough; maybe the aid stations only being every 10K is slightly further apart than on other races, or maybe I'd just been killing it early and blowing through them too fast, and I didn't see any Gu to take and carry with me. So I stopped longer than previously to try to get some calories in. I struggled out of the aid station for a bit, but then DF and another runner, two guys I've seen at a bunch of other PCTR events caught up to me while I was walking. They had some encouraging words, and though I couldn't hang at first, I caught up to them and blew by them on the final downhill. I finished in 5:14:16, a couple minutes slower than last week.

I had no knee problems, my hammys and calves were just tired, and it was pretty cold, probably 45 to 50, and I was just in a t-shirt and shorts for most of the races; it helped going back to long sleeves after the aid station on the last 20K. So I'm disappointed I didn't break 5 or set another PR, but I've got a month before Pirates Cove, so hopefully if I train well I can pull it off there.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

I'm just not a Lake Chabot kind of guy.

I set a 50K PR today by running the Chabot Trail Run in 5:12:28. With the exception of my right knee, the conditions were pretty much perfect for a long run. I got a decent night's sleep the two previous nights, the temps were in the mid-50's and partly cloudy with no discernible winds. Perhaps most importantly, the course was flat--only 4,243' of climbing as opposed to 5,980' in my previous 5:21 PR at Pirates Cove. So clearly that difference is more than enough to explain away the difference, but I'll take it. My real beef is that since I live in gorgeous year-round trail-running Mecca, running around Lake Chabot is pretty boring compared to the alternatives. I'm not trying to knock the race, because I had a good time, and I love the PCTR folks. I think it's awesome they're creating several new courses this year (Tilden in April! Oops, I'll probably be in the Grand Canyon instead.) However, when your choices are views of Diablo, Tam, the GG Bridge, Alcatraz, Angel Island, the ocean, or all of the above, or running on one of the above, or amongst pretty big redwoods at the very least, running on a paved trail (albeit briefly) around a man-made lake with fewer giant hills and views of almost none of the above, well, my preference is clear. Take that with a grain of salt because I'm a f---ing masochist when it comes to ideal hill slope and frequency.

Anyway, my race experience: I started out pretty fast, hoping to finally break 5:00. That was definitely in the realm of possibility for the first hour and a half. Shortly thereafter, my right knee started hurting: likely patellar tendonitis, my most frequent problem. I took a lot of ibuprofen, but I couldn't bend my knee that well, so I slowed to a walk frequently and shortened my stride, especially on the downhills, which is especially disappointing since bombing down hills is my favorite part. I considered dropping out at 30K when I passed through the start/finish area, because I didn't want to create larger problems since I've developed a fairly ambitious race schedule for this year. But I kept going at my slower pace and finished the 30K loop in 3:10. Aid station guys told me the second loop was maybe a little shorter than 20K, so that made me optimistic. (Was the 30K loop a little longer? I don't necessarily know that they knew what they were talking about.) I took some more ibuprofen and stopped for a couple minutes to stretch, and that actually helped a lot. My knee was good to go, so so was I. I felt OK but still couldn't quite go as fast as I wanted on the last 20K and stopped to stretch again partway through. I passed through an aid station with 4.2 miles to go at 4:34. Shortly before this I lucked out with an excellent John Lennon Imagine-induced endorphine high, I caught up to a lady who was finishing strong and provided good pacing, and, as always, I killed it in the last mile thanks to another iPod high, this time courtesy of Johnny Cash and Hurt. Pretty good run.

So, the moral of the story is this: I'm old(er), but maybe not old, and I should probably do more cross-training and stretching. Core workout classes at the RSF, anyone?

It was a little muddy out there. Good times.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Trees More So Than Tigers

I just read John Vaillant's The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival. I'd heard good things about it, and I loved his earlier book The Golden Spruce, so not liking this book was especially disappointing.

It's half about a tiger that killed a couple guys in Siberia in the mid 90's, and the other half is your typical popular non-fiction smorgasbord of history, science, and Malcolm Gladwell-quality pseudo-science. In the end I found the story of the main tiger pretty underwhelming. The tiger is built up as a super-intelligent being that sought out revenge against those who had previously wronged it. Except in real life the tiger only killed two people, one of which might have shot at it or stolen meat from one of its kills previously, while the other clearly hadn't.

The other half of the book is not amazing either. It jumps back and forth (too) frequently between history, geography, ecology, economics, and anthropology of the Russian Far East, some of which is fascinating, but after a while it got quite tedious, and I was especially unimpressed with long sections about native animist beliefs regarding tigers that were then related back to clearly contradictory modern scientific analysis of tiger behavior. "One random guy I talked to [for ten pages] who isn't even an authority on the subject said he believed tigers did X. Science shows tiger do 'not X.' Another guy I met in a bar said he once heard that tigers do Y. Science shows tigers do 'not Y.' I guess we'll never know whether tigers do X or Y. Tigers are mysterious and wonderful."

Don't get me wrong, tigers are pretty f---ing badass and I think their preservation is extremely important, but if you want to build up suspense in a tiger-based story, you could at least be internally logically consistent within the space of a single chapter. So I think the book slightly oversells its particular story, and instead of starry-eyed speculation about supposedly widely held beliefs about tiger-mysticism, could have better focused on the facts that this mysticism causes, i.e. the illicit market for tigers and the worldwide effort to protect the species.

Anyway, that's enough grumpiness for today. It's an OK book. I liked it for about the first third or half, then it dragged. Go read Golden Spruce instead.

Fulfilling My Duty

I figure I'm obligated to watch (and blog about) any movie remotely related to long-distance backpacking, so I went and saw The Way Back, based on Slavomir Rawicz's The Long Walk, today. I didn't like the book, and based on all the reviews I'd read, I didn't expect the movie to be good. I was not disappointed. And by that I mean the reviews were correct; the movie was not good. Coming from Peter Weir, director of Master and Commander, The Truman Show, Dead Poets Society, The Mosquito Coast, and Witness, this was a pretty big misstep. Basically everything about the movie was ham-handed: the dialogue, the characters' relations with one another, even the anti-communist message (the characters escape from a Siberian labor camp and walk across Siberia, Mongolia, and Tibet to their freedom in India.) I was pretty much bored out of my mind and kept watching it just for the scenery, which was good, but not amazing (watch any Zhang Yimou or Ang Lee for better mountains or Lawrence of Arabia or English Patient for better desert scenes.) Then the credits weren't very helpful in discerning where the filming was done, so I was even more disappointed. Oh well. At least now I have faithfully discharged my duties.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Skurka's NatGeo article is up.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Dear Lower Back,

It was an accident, I swear. Nevertheless, I apologize. Next time I try and do squats with my truck, I will lift with my legs, not you. Now can we be friends again?


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Point Reyes

There's been a miniature high school reunion going on in Berkeley the last week. That's meant some excellent runs with MRB, as well as a nice hike in Point Reyes yesterday.

Views from the Sky Trail

Oysters on the half shell at the Marshall store


Thursday, February 10, 2011


Finished a good run today in perfect time to catch the tail end of the sun setting in the middle of the Golden Gate Bridge (as viewed from Evans Hall), set to John Lennon's Imagine. From Strawberry Canyon it should happen in a couple days. Bringing my camera would be a sensible thing to do. It'll happen again in November, but I assume I won't be hanging out in Evans quite as much.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011


I signed up or was selected for a few runs recently: the SoCal PCT 50, San Diego 100, and Wasatch 100. In the last week I started running again, using a stopwatch in training for the first time in a long time.

I wrote a new post on the invite-only blog.