Monday, September 26, 2011

Surf and Smiles at the 2011 Half Moon Bay Marathon

This Sunday, I had the great pleasure of joining 500 runners for the sold out inaugural Half Moon Bay International Marathon in the charming coastal town of Half Moon Bay, CA. Race Directors (and ultramarathon studs) Eric Vaughan, George Miller, and Ron Little put together a polished event that showed off the beautiful Coastal Trail in a mix of trails, road, and hills. I had a great time!

(Scott Jurek signs autographs, photo courtesy of Half Moon Bay Review)
The weekend started with a well-stocked Expo, and guest speaker Scott Jurek gave an educational presentation on fueling during a run to a packed room. Scott was a champion and gentleman, happy to stay to sign autographs and answer questions. RD's note - he is a fantastic speaker! Even after all these years, I found myself taking notes on both pre- and post-fueling with Scott's up to date references (and personal experimentation).

(The sun peaks over the mountain as we get started)
At 7am on Sunday, the sun peaked over the hill and through the clouds giving us a nice, and unusually warm, 60 degree morning. I was looking forward to the course, which tempted us with alternating mix of trails and bike paths along the coast safe from any traffic. I was only two weeks off of the Wasatch 100, but was feeling good in my runs this week, and suspected it was because I had done so much resting during that crazy 100-miler. I decided to go for it, not use a watch, and just enjoy the scenery and community of a small town race. After a beautiful singing of the national anthem, off we went!

(Ready to roll! Photo courtesy of Stuart Nafey)
(And we're off!)
About five runners rabbited out front immediately, and I settled into a quick pace with Jennifer Devine Pfeifer, ultra goddess and sister of my cycling buddy Chris Devine. This was a special race for her since she grew up in Half Moon Bay and graduated from the local high school (long before becoming a running phenom). Her parents cheered her on at every pass! (they later told me, "we still get nervous watching her race"...I guess that never goes away)

(Jennifer Pfiefer and Gary Lindbergh cruise along Pillar Point Harbor)
At the turnaround, recent law school grad Adam Pomeroy was setting the pace out front (~6:30 min/mile), showing little signs that his 13-month old, Jack, has been eating into his training time. He led us up the steepest climb of the day to the bluff above Pillar Point (mile 3), where you could see the great huge surf break of Maverick's if you squinted.

(Only the bravest of surfers take on Maverick's, photo courtesy of Frederic Larson)
(Adam Pomeroy sets the pace)
(The out-and-backs give us a chance to see each other)
(The morning sun lights up the bay)
All the coffee mug-clad locals were out to cheer us on as we zig-zagged through their charming neighborhood of Cape Cod and modern style homes. I kept thinking what a gem this little town is - peaceful and serene, small enough to know your neighbors, yet less than an hour from San Francisco or Silicon Valley. A little slice of heaven!

(Cutting through the cute neighborhoods)
(David Lara looking good as he heads down the the lighthouse)
(Turnaround at the lighthouse)
We hit the turnaround at the Point Montara Lighthouse (mile 7), where I missed the turnaround cone and triggered all the volunteers to hollar to get me back. Whoops! The volunteers were amazing and abundant, making sure we didn't get too far off track, and keeping the aid stations so well stocked it was like a glitch in the Matrix. Combined with the fantastic signage and mile markers provided by sponsor The Graphic Works, this race was top notch! How do they do this at in inaugural race?!?

(Volunteers were great all day!)
As we headed back, I passed a few runners who commented "this isn't flat!". Yup, that elevation chart can be deceiving! I was really enjoying the alternating dirt single track and fast bike trails, which gave us all some muscle use variety. No matter where you were, the sounds, smells, and moist air of the ocean was always within reach, allowing you to breath deep and relax. This was definitely a Ron Little-designed course! We passed the starting area (mile 10) and headed south along the winding bike path.

(The Coastal Trail sneaks along the California coast)
(The speedy half marathoners meet us on the way back)
We mixed it up with the 10k and Half Marathon runners as we crossed bridges and jogged around locals out for their morning stroll. I worked my way up to 2nd place as some of the front runners settled into their second half pace, but Adam Pomeroy never got any closer, always about 75 seconds ahead. We seemed to be the only runners dousing ourselves at each aid station (advantage?), and I suspected the fact that I had opted for the green water bottle refills was allowing me to intake a bit more water than Adam. Navigation got a little tight on the single track, but everyone was courteous and friendly, and there really wasn't that many runners out today. Such a great community!

(Here come the clouds)

(Kelsey Tatum leads a pack through the single track)
(Megan Mozart weaves through the trees)
The Half Moon Bay Ritz-Carlton came into view, with its castle buttresses strutting out onto the bluff. Bagpipes filled the air as we ran by a fire pit surrounded by well-dressed sippers of hot chocolate, and we climbed up to the golf course to hit a few more hills before turning around (mile 18). Boy, this isn't flat by a longshot! The clouds started to thicken, keeping the temperature a humid 65 degrees.

(The majestic Ritz, photo courtesy of Ritz-Carlton)

(Gotta love the bagpipes!)
(Amazing views...sign says "Danger, Unstable Ground")
(Justin Riis tackles the hills along the golf course)
As we returned, I noticed that Adam and I were both slowing, with him faster on the road sections and me faster on the trails. I kept waiting for the Wasatch 100 fatigue to set in, but it just felt like my normal not-quite-optimized-for-marathon training. Just before the 24 mile marker, Adam slowed significantly, citing some shin pain that he didn't want to aggravate further. I let him know my bonky-bonk tunnel vision was starting to kick in, and I was likely running on pure Vespa at this point. He stuck with me for a bit, then wished me well as I tagged on to the lead bike and pushed forward.

(Surfers enjoy some nice breaks right near the finish line)
I quickly built a two minute gap, before slowing along the final stretch to watch the surfers. A slight rain started (it felt awesome!), and I turned off the music that had kept me company the last few miles to absorb the sounds and smells of the surf one last time. The lead bike pulled off to the side, and I headed down the chute with a smirk to cross the finish in first place overall in 3:00:36. Scott Jurek was there to hand me a medal and congratulate me, and we immediately turned to cheer on the other runners that came in every 20-30 seconds.

(Down the chute...)
(...and across the finish with camera! Photo courtesy of Mark Foyer, HMB Review)
Adam finished just a couple of minutes behind me (3:02:56), and Jen Pfeifer came in shortly after to win the Women's division in 3:05:54, 6th overall. Hey, Chris! Look at us!!! We had some refreshments, including some awesome clam chowder from Sam's Chowder House, a perfect recovery meal. That's when it donned on me that the voice I heard over the loudspeaker was Franz Dill, the Ultra Grand Slammer I had met at mile 1 at Wasatch! Such a small world.

(Jen Pfeifer and I warm down as a light rain kicks in)
My favorite finisher was the last, a great guy named Scott Feamster who grabbed a beer as soon as he crossed and thanked and hugged every volunteer he could get his hands on. The Scotts bookend the marathon!
(Cinzia Muzzi gets a little help across the finish, photo courtesy of Stuart Nafey)

(Scott Feamster, the final finisher, celebrates with a beer while Eric Vaughan congratulates him)

(Scott and Scott bookend the marathon, while baby Quinn wonders what the hub-bub is all about)
(Scott Jurek and Eric Vaughan present the award,
with Paul and Julie Shenkman, owners of sponsor Sam's Chowder House)
I hustled home to shower and get the girls, taking advantage of the fact that Half Moon Bay is just 30 minutes from home. Eric Vaughan and Scott Jurek hosted a great awards ceremony, where I won a nice trophy, a Fleet Feet gift certificate, a spinning finisher medal (which Sophie promptly confiscated) and a GoPro camera (a local company!). I got a few smiles from carrying Quinn up on stage...little towns love their families! Not that I had a choice - if you promise the spouse to cover, you cover no matter what your finish place. ;-)

As I sucked down a few beers at Half Moon Bay Brewery, I reveled in the simple pleasures of a small town race. This community generously opened its trails, shared their neighborhoods, and came out in force to make sure we all had a great time. I was stunned at how polished this was for a first time race, and many of the views could give Big Sur a run for its money. This secret isn't going to last for long!

My congrats and thanks to co-Race Directors Eric Vaughan, George Miller, and Ron Little, their great staff and volunteers, the generous sponsors, and all the participants for this sold out race. You did a tremendous job, and I look forward to seeing you next year!

(Sunset at Half Moon Bay, photo courtesy of Allistair Wilson)
- SD

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Nick Pedatella, Nicki Kimball Victorious at Bear 100; Geoff Roes and Regan Petrie Take UROC

You gotta love that even the low-key events like the Bear 100 have live updates these days. Not that I need an excuse to stay up all night. ;-) Looks like Nick Pedatella took home the win in 20:05, with Nikki Kimball winning the Women's division in 22:51 for 6th overall. Shout out to Mick Jurynec for his 5th place finish, and Gary Gellin's 7th place 100-mile debut (23:14).

At the first Ultra Race Of Champions (UROC), Geoff Roes used his signature closing speed to win in 8:58, over 20 minutes ahead of 2nd place Michael Wardian who lost his lead with a wrong turn, while local Regan Petrie took the Women's division in 9:47 (10th overall), 14 minutes ahead of 2nd place Devon Crosby-Helms. (full results)

Other fun reads for the weekend:

Patrick Macau breaks the marathon world record at the Berlin Marathon in 2:03:38

Max King pulls a weekend double-header, winning the Flagline 50k (USATF 50k Trail National Championship) in Bend, OR, on Saturday, and the XTerra Trail National Championship in Ogden, UT, on Sunday. That's just a week after winning the World Mountain Running Championship. That guy is on a tear!

Galen Rupp is interviewed about setting a new 10k American Record.

Lizzy Hawker breaks the 24-hour world record just a month after winning UTMB.

UROC has live coverage Saturday, complete with video hosted by AJW.

Rod Bien and newly-crowned USATF 50k Trail Masters Champion Jeff Browning contemplate if a 50k is truly an ultra. Maybe Jeff will sing a different tune now that he's the 50k Champ!

Happy running this weekend!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Tim Olson Repeats at PineToPalm 100, Galen Rupp Smashes 10k AR, Boston Marathon registration going smoothly

Some fun news:

Ashland, OR's Tim Olson won the 2nd annual Pine to Palm 100m in 17:19, over an hour ahead of his debut win last year. Weather was better this year, apparently!

(Tim rests with wife, Krista, after his repeat win - that makes three 100-mile wins and a Top 10 at States!)
 Galen Rupp smashed the American Record for the 10k with a blazing 26:48 at the Brussels Diamond League event, become the 16th fastest 10k runner ever, but settling for third in the race. His race took 11 seconds off the record Chris Solinsky set last year when he became the first American to break 27 minutes (and beat Rupp in the process).

(Galen Rupp en route to his new AR in the 10k, photo courtesy of
 Registration for the 2012 Boston Marathon is now open to all qualifiers, after a week of tiered registration for those that had beat their times by larger margins (20 minutes, 10 minutes, 5 minutes, etc.). So it appears (1) there are still slots left, and (2) the process is working smoothly...

AJW is taking a poll on the best trail running blogs. Feel free to stop by and vote for US! ;-)


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Lukas Verzbicas Wins ITU Junior Worlds in Honor of Friend with Cancer

An outstanding result from a name I suspect we are going to see a lot of over the next decade - running phenom Lukas Verzbicas won gold at the ITU Junior Triathlon World Championships in honor of his friend, Kevin, who was unable to compete due to a recent diagnosis of cancer.

This high schooler has had one hell of a year, winning the 5000 meters (14:06), the 2 mile (8:40), and the one mile (4:10) at the 2011 New Balance Indoor National meet (becoming the first high school runner in history to win all three at the national meet), setting a national high school record in the 2-mile (8:29) at the Prefontaine Classic, and becoming only the fifth high schooler in history to break four minutes for the mile at the 2011 Adidas High School Boys' Dream Mile. And this is a kid who didn't really have a senior year, since he graduated in 3 years.

Now he's back to running, enrolled at University of Oregon, a team that knows a thing or two about channeling raw talent. Congrats, Lukas!

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Wasatch 100 Mile Endurance Run - To The Brink And Back

This weekend, I had the great pleasure of joining 275 ultrarunners for the 31st running of the Wasatch 100 Mile Endurance Run in Midway, UT. This mountainous and beautiful course, with 53,000’ of vertical change at altitude, proved to be the toughest race I have ever attempted. It required my whole team of crew and pacers to get me to the finish under 30 hours, proving once again that these big races are truly team efforts. In short, it was an epic adventure shared with plenty of new friends.

(Wasatch 100 elevation chart)
I put my name in the lottery for Wasatch last year after quizzing a number of 100-miler veterans about “the most epic courses” they had experienced, and hearing Wasatch come up again and again. Reality set in when I got into the race, and those same people said “you’re one crazy bastard!”. Wha? But you said it was epic! “Well, epic yes, but I don’t think I would do it again…it’s relentless”. Ha! That’s what you get for asking ultrarunners.

The Wasatch 100 is EXTREME mountain adventuring. It’s nature unbounded, bold and vigorous, beyond what the human imagination is capable of conceiving. It is inescapably romantic, bursting with wonder, delight, and adventure. It is Sex On Fire. 

(Wasatch wildflowers in bloom)
In my mortal ignorance, I decided a regiment of daily double climbs to be worthy training to take on the 10,000'+ monsters of Wasatch. But I was smart enough to recruit my Dad to be Crew Captain, and was lucky enough to find locals Mick Jurynec (5th last year) and Kirk Thomas (paced Mick last year) to help with pacing. I didn't have adequate time to acclimate, but I was healthy and ready, and eager to let this majestic course take everything I had and more.

(Crew Captain Larry Dunlap sends me off at 5am)
We hustled down to the 5am start, and I saw a lot of front runners getting their 'A' games ready. Karl Meltzer was miraculously back from a bulging disc that had taken him out of Hardrock a month ago, lining up with local Jared Campbell (who has done well here many times), Troy Howard (always a contender), Luke Nelson (back with a vengeance after a sub-24 finish last year), Evan Honeyfield (the odds-on favorite), Peter Lindgren (going for finish #10, faster every year), Becky Wheeler (2nd Woman here last year), and Emily Judd all ready to roll. Weather looked good, so off we went!

The first 13 miles were a humbling climb, zig-zagging to the heavens on a windy ridge, and requiring all fours to get through “Chinscraper” at the top. I paced along with Franz Dill, a Grand Slammer looking to cap off a great season, who was from…La Honda, CA! That’s just a few miles from my house! Such a small world. We chatted until the altitude stole the stories from our breath.

(Hiking up towards Chinscraper)
(Getting there...)
(Why do they call it Chinscraper?)
(Watch that footing!)
I wasn’t worried about my finish time at this point, and was comfortable to find myself about 50 minutes behind the 24-hour pace at Francis Peak (mile 18). I had grand visions of getting the sub-24 “Cheetah” as the race approached, but quickly retreated to “let’s just finish” after pre-running some of the last 25 miles two days before the race. This race had A LOT of ups and downs in the final section, including named beasts like "The Dive" and "The Plunge", and it was clear that a conservative pace would be important to get through it. Best to be comfortably fast, and decide your goal pace as you go.

(The morning sun kicks in)
(Running the east side of the mountain ridge)
(Nettie is smiling and cruising fast!)
I met many great people as we ran along the ridge, including Nettie Pardue (from the Bay Area, trying her first 100) and Walter Edwards (getting teased from his buddies for his cheering section of attractive older women...something about Order of the Cougar?). I ran a few miles with Ironman Ben Brooks who was also giving the 100-miler his first go, as well as a spunky Rachel Woods from Squaw Valley (also her first 100), and an ever-positive Philip Hall. Geez, what's with all these 100-miler rookies going for the big time? It was good to have eager company as we alternated between exposed ridge trails and bushwacking through the backcountry.

(Sweet! Cell phone reception!)
(Aric Manning on his way to a sub-30 finish)
(Everyone is having fun!)
(Ben Brooks refuels on a climb...)
(....then charges the downhill)
I got to see Mick (who would later be my pacer at mile 75-100) as he and his wife Jen helped manage the Sessions aid station (mile 28). He filled me up, and I let him know all was good so far! Then Ben Brooks and I took a wrong turn soon after and added a bonus mile. Whoops. Yackity-yack, get off track!

The long, hot climbs to Swallow Rocks (mile 32) took a beating on me, and I ran out of water a mile short of the aid station. Quick math told me I was still drinking as fast as I could (~35 oz/hour), but the high altitude heat was sucking me dry. I slowed a bit, enjoying a few root beer popsicles before heading out.
(Hot climbs that keep going and going and going)
(Catra Corbett points out the best things about Swallow Rock aid staiton - popsicles! Photo courtesy of Andy Kumeta)
My Dad greeted me at Big Mountain (mile 40), but our smiles soon dropped when I stepped on the scale and found out I was 7.5 lbs light. Darn! At a pre-race weight of 156 lbs, I could only lose ~11 lbs before I hit the 7% weight loss limit, and apparently I was headed in that direction with gusto. I felt hot, but wasn’t showing too many other dehydration symptoms. My Dad got me cooled off with cool towels, and I pounded down coconut water, iced tea, and PB&J’s and hit the trail again, with Stevie Ray Vaughn playing on my iPod for some company.

(Phillip Hall gets throughs the steamy climb)
(Amazing views at every turn)
(The ridges get hot and exposed as we move forward)
(A little break, thanks to some new clouds forming)
Within the hour, the heat started to hang on me like a 600 lb gorilla with bad breath. Nausea forced up a bunch of liquid (so much for "trying to catch up on hydration"), and I found myself on all fours on the trail yacking up what few gels I had gotten down. Crap! I’ve been in trouble like this before in hot mountains, so with a bit of trail wisdom I concluded that a lack of acclimation was allowing the mountains to dehydrate me faster than I could take it in. As my Crew Captain says, "food is good, but hydration is essential". I needed to get out of the sun, pronto, and find whatever pace conserved the most hydration. I took a long, shady break at Alexander Ridge (mile 47), then scooted to Lambs Canyon (mile 53) where the scales spoke their evil truth again – I was down 9.5 lbs now.
(I lost 9 lbs in one day - ask me how)
Utah Jeff (a blog fan!) stopped by, using the extraordinary live runner tracking to come down from his house up the way to say hi. He helped my Dad and I assess the situation, and we realized it was time to take a good long break and let the sun come down a bit. I ate and drank everything I could get my hands on – a couple of iced teas, a couple of coconut waters, two ginger ales, two cups of soup, a candy bar – basically anything but gels. Then I sat there for 25 minutes and let my body absorb it. As dusk settled in, my Dad walked with me and I was feeling much better. Who knew the body could absorb so much! All it took was one 45 minute aid station break. ;-)
(The sun sets, and we strap on the lights)
As the sun set and I weaved up the trail, I found my second wind in the cool evening breezes along the creek. Phew! This section to Millcreek (mile 60) was much more runnable, and ended with a 3 mile stretch of road. My Dad was there to run/walk me in and hand me some poles that pacer Kirk Thomas had suggested. Hey, these are handy! I decided these would be good to take along as I changed into my full night gear.

(Super Pacers Kirk Thomas and Mick Jurynec)
Kirk was an angel in scrubs (his favorite night running pants), feeding me spaghetti and helping me get my night gear on, and we soon set out at a great pace to Dog Lake. Kirk was upbeat and funny, sharing stories of running marathons in the 70's with Irv, the evolution of mice genetics, and moose sightings on one of his many visits with his wife and dog to this canyon. He also had plenty of tips for using the poles that proved to increase both my uphill and downhill speed. We got soup by the fire at Desolation Lake (mile 67), charged through Scotts Pass (mile 70), and kept a brisk pace into the 35 degree cold to Brighton (mile 75). My speed and mood were great and I weighed in only 4 lbs down, a significant improvement over my 9.5 lb deficit. The only problem was this coffee-colored urine which is always an uncomfortable symptom to witness.

It’s great to have a former ER doc as a Crew Captain, and he quickly assessed that it was likely normal cell damage, and was pleased that there was ample quantity. We decided to keep an eye on it, and I took one last break to brush my teeth with the provided toothbrushes (sponsored by a local dentist - great idea!). Mick took over pacing duties, and after swiping my Dad’s sweatpants for some added warmth, we headed up the tallest climb of the day at 10,400’.
Mick was amazing as a pacer, and I realized what an unfair advantage it was to have him along. He knew exactly what was coming up along the dark ridges, but more importantly, he often paused to have me look over my shoulder at the long line of headlights to delight in how far we had come. Sure, I was fatigued, but our smiles lit the way in the wee hours of the morning. Of course, there were also plenty of stories of misspent youth, endurance achievements and plans that go horribly awry, travels, his charming adoration for his wife (Jen), and the pleasures of living in such a mecca for outdoor adventure. Such a great gift to have a big chunk time to do more than meet good people, but truly get to know them.

As we approached Pole Line (mile 83), the moonlight illuminated the wildflowers with an eerie ferocity, while the canopy of stars blended perfectly with a comet tail of headlighted runners along the ridge. Mick and I said nothing, just staring and smiling, letting it burn into our memory with the rhythm of our steps. By being present, we were connected to the cosmos, and all the stronger for it. This was a great spiritual moment!

(A borrowed photo, but you get the idea)
The second sunrise peaked over the hill as we took a brief stop at Rock Springs (mile 87) before tackling the gnarly sections of The Dive, The Plunge, Irv's Torture Chamber, and a Pot Bottom Trail that had been root-canaled by motorcycles. I was VERY thankful to have the poles, which allowed some recovery to quads on the brink of locking up.

(The Plunge)

(I guess he needed a break!)
We persevered to the final aid station, Pot Bottom (mile 93). I looked at my watch and told Mick I didn't think we were going to make it under 30 hours...he said "plenty of time, just keep moving", and helped me strip down to warm weather gear. An enthusiastic 11-year-old volunteer named Justin escorted us up the next mile, showing us how to jump the creeks.

(Pot Bottom is steep and tricky)
We careened down a fire road that was as rocky and dusty as a coal chute before finally getting some soft single track and a mile of pavement to the finish. I felt good, picking up the pace to a whopping 9 min/mile, and finished in 29:35 for 69th place. Mick was right - plenty of time to spare! Mick shook my hand, and went off to run the last 3 miles of the Mid Mountain Marathon with his wife. Now that is a Super Pacer!

(Dad helps me run it in)
(We did it!)
(Sensory overload with a smile)
Race Director Irv was right there to shake my hand, and I was soon chugging chocolate milk and munching pancakes before stretching out on the grass. My head was spinning with sights, sounds, smells, laughs...what a day!

A few hours later, I caught a special moment as Dmitriy Kernasovskly and Sarah Stokes crossed the finish line together in a shower of rose petals, then walked to a tent with their friends and family and got married. Wow! If you can run an ultra together, I think that marriage is going to do just fine!
(RD Irv and Sarah's Dad greet Sarah and Dima as they cross the finish line)
(Then make it official!)
A quick nap, soak, and beer was all I needed to get stoked for the awards ceremony. Evan Honeyfield had won in 19:31 (3rd fastest ever), with Luke Nelson getting second in a sub-20 finish, and Karl Meltzer getting third in 20:59 (all results). Becky Wheeler won the Women's division in 25:53, with Emily Bell coming in an hour later. All in all, 13 had made the "Cheetah" under 24 hours, and succumbed to the induction ritual.
(Getting induced into the Order of the Cheetah)
(Ohio's Jay Smithberger picks up his plaque and sub-30 buckle)
I couldn't put into words my thanks to my crew, pacers, the great volunteers, Race Directors and Committee, and community of this great area for putting on a world class event. I congratulate all who gave it their all, no matter how they contributed. When I close my eyes, my heart sighs with visions of wildflowers under moonlight and the sounds of laughter with new friends.

(Plaque and sub-30 buckle; stoked!)
Thank you, Wasatch, for overfilling my soul!

- SD

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