Monday, April 13, 2015

Lake Sonoma 50 mile race

(Most photos courtesy of Ryan Martin)

I entered the lottery for the Lake Sonoma 50-mile race, looking for an early-season fitness test and also figuring it wouldn't hurt to be in the Western States "last chance" lottery.  I found out that our friends Ryan and Kelly also got in, so it would be a fun weekend together in wine country north of San Francisco.

John asked if I was ready to race, and my response was basically that it's easy to tell when I'm not ready.  Harder to determine when I'm in good form.  Training has been positive lately (knock on wood) and the California (lack of) winter is treating me well.

Still, I wasn't quite mentally prepared to hit it hard from the beginning of the race, not to mention I've got competitive events every weekend for the next 3 weeks (not sure about that decision).  Starting conservatively sounded good, also it's more fun if I'm still in good shape in the second half.  So that was the idea.

Side trip - I detoured over to Point Reyes on Friday to see if any whales happened to be cruising by.  And there were!  I got really lucky and a group of folks spotted 2 juveniles from the overlook above the lighthouse.  With their help in spotting the whales, I caught glimpses several times as they surfaced and then dove back down.  They were not far from shore so it was easy to see them.  Very, very cool.  My first whale sighting in the wild.  Admiral, there by whales here!

Back to the running stuff.  The race started on pavement and generally uphill for a couple miles which was great for letting the field sort itself out before hitting the singletrack.  I also appreciate an uphill start when I'm trying to keep from being competitive too early.  Gordy Ainsleigh, creator of Western States and 100 mile races in general, passed me on the road.  I've been enjoying seeing some of the west coast running scene, and seeing Gordy run last weekend was a highlight.

Ryan caught a photo of him later:

I wasn't the last person to reach the trail, but pretty close.  I was mostly patient behind people going down the first hill but still couldn't resist passing a couple when it was easy to get by.  No matter how much I'm "taking it easy" and running gently, I still go downhill at a decent clip.  At least when my legs are working well (again knock on wood).

From there it was 9-something miles of gorgeous trail above the lake, in the trees, little ups and downs, ins and outs.  I made it fine on one bottle of water (probably should have topped it off at the 4-mile mark) as it was nice and cloudy and cool.  Toward the end of this section I started thinking I should have eaten more for breakfast (Friday's carbo loading not enough for you?) but having a closer-to-empty stomach through the first half seemed to work out.

I busied myself with trying to learn as much of the trail as I could, in the form of breaking it into sections and counting the approximate number of climbs.  The race was mostly an out-and-back with variations at the start and a lollipop turn-around.  There were several creek crossings but otherwise much of the terrain looked the same.  It was all very pretty (love the CA woods around here) but not much to distinguish it.  One creek had a small dam with moss that turned out to be not-slippery (there should be a word for that?) so I kept my feet dry for now.

The trail took us through a field where we could see the other side of the lake, and upon closer inspection we could see the lead (I assume) runners barreling down a hill on the other side.  Cool!  There was a houseboat on the lake and some people camping.

Excellent pictures that Ryan took during the race (thanks Ryan!):

I started a trend of gradually catching up to someone, finding a way to pass, then running by myself for a couple minutes before catching someone else.  One guy said he had seen me at another race, turns out it was the Woodside Ramble - the shirt I was wearing.  That was pretty funny.  Kelly and I said good morning and she looked to be climbing well.  I took it very easy on the uphills since I wasn't confident about my ability to climb 10,500 feet in a strong way all day.  The downhills were fun and the flatter sections (there were a couple sprinkled in the mix of a mostly hilly course) felt great.

My breathing was very easy, getting warmed up and staying loose.  I had an idea that I should work on my posture, and that turned out to be an excellent thing to focus on.  Walking more upright going uphill was definitely less tiring in the long run.  I've lost some of my steep uphill (calf) strength, but I can still march up a less-steep slope pretty easily when I can get my entire foot in the act instead of just the ball.

The long section ended at a creek crossing which was shallow but wide so everyone had to get their feet wet.  We climbed up from there to the first full aid station where I found my drop bag, drank an Ensure, and carried a Spiz baggie out.  The next section had a decent-sized climb that meandered around, over the top of a spur, down and up a few times, then finally down to another creek crossing.  I was happy to hit a short section of road right as I was working on passing a group of 5 runners, and the downhill road made that easy.

One more wet creek crossing - hey, there's a runner crossing on a log bridge over to the side!  I didn't see that until I was across and above him.  I made a note about that for later.  More rolling terrain, a nice climb up switchbacks, then a rather steep drop off the other side (noted for the return).  The trail was rather high above the lake most of the time and the views across and around us were always pretty.

I saw a guy wearing a Mt Diablo 50K shirt so I asked him if he was running next weekend - no (what are you, crazy?) but he liked the race a lot.  After the race I met the guy who will be doing the announcements at Diablo, and Kelly overheard the Diablo race director talking to someone on the trail.  All agreed that it was a tough one.  Hmm...

The eastern portion of the course (we're back to Lake Sonoma now) was mostly out of the trees and the clouds were starting to leave.  It could be a warm afternoon.  I was surprised to be running this section mostly by myself, but it was good timing because the lead runners started coming back toward me.  It was enough effort to get out of their way that I was glad I wasn't also trying to pass people at the same time.  A couple of the guys smiled and greeted me (thank you!), although I could understand why most were just concentrating quietly on the immense effort they were putting out.  Impressive.

The section between the Wulfow and Madrone Point aid stations went quickly and soon I was getting my Spiz baggie filled and eating a couple Oreo's while walking up the access road.  It was great timing to find a wide road, and I was happy that it continued through most of the section where runners were going in both directions at once.

This was the start of 3 "big" (600-700 foot) climbs and descents.  I had been metering my effort all morning in preparation for this.  I took it really easy up the first climb, letting several people pass me (I might have just passed some of them at the aid station) while cheering on the fast runners including the lead woman barreling toward us.  I smiled a lot during the race, and I remember enjoying this part a lot.

Soon I was at the top, that was fast.  A short bit of singletrack (and several fast women who weren't much for giving a little trail as I tried to get out of the way) later and it was back to a nice doubletrack road down the hill.  Folks were running up the hill toward me, looking strong.  It seemed like a long way down, almost to lake level, that's going to be a bear to climb back up.

The second climb was shady in parts, much appreciated.  We also had wind off and on and it never got overly hot (although some who were running fast might disagree).  The climb was steeper in parts so I continued to take it easy going up.  We could see across to the south side of the lake, and hey I think the car is over there.  After some little rollers at the top I finally found the start of the lollipop loop.  This turned out to be a beautiful (but short) trail around through the trees.

On the short out-and-back to the turnaround aid station, a couple things happened.  First I met Ryan going the other way - Hi Ryan!  I had decided that I had missed him in the lollipop, but apparently not.  Then I bombed down the hill past a couple people and heard one guy talking about how I kept passing him on the downhills.  He was telling someone that I climbed "super slowly" but I was descending really fast.  I didn't exactly think either was true, but either way I was about done with my "take it easy" portion of the race.

The volunteer filling my bottle at the aid station asked if I intended to start sweating anytime soon.  Why yes, now that you mention it...  OK, but first one more big climb to conquer.  And cantaloupe to eat, yummy!  Love fruit in a long race.  A quick pit stop and drop bag sort, one salt tablet as a preventative heat measure, and I was outta there.  5:20 seemed more than reasonable for 25 miles.

Going back the other way now, it was fun to look across to see that other parts of the course were visible, from the next hill over to the other side of the lake to the south side finish line.  You don't normally get such an overview of an entire 50-mile race route.  Kelly was nearing the start of the lollipop when I saw her, looking good!

Ryan snapped a picture of her a few minutes earlier:

The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day.  Back down to the lake again, I wasn't looking forward to the last big climb.  It was mostly out in the open so I took it at a moderate pace and was happy I never felt hot.  Partway up I trailed Ryan for a couple switchbacks before getting close enough that we could chat a little.  He was still moving well and it was great seeing friends on the course.

I could see a woman in a light green shirt not far ahead, and since I was continuing to pass people, I suspected I might catch her sometime.  Occasionally I'd get another glimpse of her but she was motoring along just fine, so I didn't think much of it.  On the big downhill she was gone, so I wasn't making time on her there.  She showed up again just below the Madrone Point aid station, looking up to see me heading for more cantaloupe.

The next short section to Wulfow went well again, still catching up to one guy here, another guy there.  Light Green Lady disappeared, obviously passing the same people before I was.  I had already decided that I would start pushing the pace a bit (just a bit) more on the uphills but keep the flats and downs the same as I had been running, or as near to it as I could.  Overall a bit more effort, hitting the gas just a hair.  At least for the 8 miles in between Madrone Point and the next drop bag aid station.  No need to race anyone, especially not yet.

The folks at Wulfow were great, quickly filling my bottle and providing water for my Spiz baggie.  I thought I heard them offering "pour overs" but decided they must have meant water over your head instead of coffee (oh well).  Thanks for lugging everything out to the middle of nowhere to assist us!  More little ups and downs, contouring around back toward the woods.  Finally getting mostly out of the sun, that was a good moment.

One guy that I passed kept up with me and I let him by so I could finish drinking my Spiz.  For the most part though, runners in this section seemed to be slowing down.  I kept the foot on the gas pedal, with only a brief downshifting at the steep climb that I remembered from earlier (yep, it wasn't great, but at least it was short).  In the switchbacks going down I passed a guy who was limping, that didn't look like fun.  Several other runners were stopped at various points to stretch out their legs or rest.  One guy was lying on the grass.  This trail seemed to be taking a toll.

At the creek crossing I checked for any yellow "wrong way" flags on the little path to the log crossing, didn't find any, so decided to use it.  It was nice keeping my feet dry a little longer, although my feet were still doing just fine and probably wouldn't have minded the dousing at all.

It was so nice to be back in the trees, I didn't even mind the next climb at all.  What I did mind, however, were the rollers up on top.  I sort of remembered a down and back up, but completely missed that this would happen multiple times.  My first-half rememorization failed me here, causing a tiny bit of annoyance every time the trail went back up.  OK, now this should be the downhill to the aid station.  No, another upward turn.  OK, this one?  No.  On the bright side, I caught another glimpse of the Lady in Light Green on the final (yes finally!) bit of climbing before we finally dropped down to the aid station.

She got out of the aid station quickly, while I had a couple things to attend to.  While pulling stuff out of my drop bag I looked up to see a crowd of crew people watching.  Hi!  I don't normally have an audience for that, so it made me laugh.  One woman responded with "yay, you got it!", more laughter from me, and thank you for the encouragement.

Someone at the aid station questioned the two guys behind me about whether they had seen a runner in distress?  I was thinking, hmm, I saw one guy limping, several stopped on the trail for various reasons, and one lying in the grass.  Could be any of them.  They seemed to know who she was asking about, hopefully they got help out to that person.

OK, time to tackle the long section of endless hills.  One creek crossing for real, then the relentless ups and downs started.  I was ready to push just a little more on the hills, so I keyed off of anyone I could see in front of me.  I'd work, eventually pass them (more often than not on the uphills by now), run by myself for a while, find someone else to help me push the pace.

It was great having a count of the sections and hills from my first pass through here.  Some parts took longer than expected but others were actually faster.  Some traverses took time but were still a nice break.  The trail was mostly in great shape except for an occasional couple of rocks and I was still running well.  Running well and happy about it.

I was impressed with the number of people that the woman in light green had been passing.  Occasionally I'd see a light green shirt ahead, but it would be a guy.  Or two guys in light green shirts, they took a while to pass.  But the woman was gone again.  I could see her at the top of the open field.  Then gone.

Finally I started getting close enough to her that I could sense a pattern - I was making up ground slowly but surely on the uphills.  She was bombing down the descents more than I was, so that was mostly making up for it for a while.  I stayed patient, counted my sections and hills, knowing how many there were until the last section.  The last 3.4 miles of trail would be new since we had bypassed it on the road at the start of the race.

Then there was no one else in between me and the woman in light green.  I had finally caught up to her, but it had taken quite some time!  She had a good 2nd half going, like I did.  She paused to let me by and we both said a heartfelt "Good job!"

Right about then we caught a couple more women, which was a couple more than I had seen in a while besides the lady I had just passed.  I flew by them on a beautiful gently sloping downhill (couldn't resist).  Mostly I was happy that no one I had passed took up the chase.  We were within probably 6-7 miles to go but there was plenty of work remaining.

Ryan running, possibly somewhere in here (or not):

The final aid station required a 1/4-mile out-and-back down to the lake.  Coming toward me up the hill was a large bunch that included possibly 5 women.  I wondered whether I would see any of them before the end, but I was starting to run out of extra oomph and not all that interested in chasing just for the sake of finding out.  One final bottle and Spiz fill, at least no one was right on my heels pressing through the aid station.  A volunteer remarked that I had brought my own coffee (referring to the Spiz), and I was like "I wish!"  He offered some Coke as a substitute and I took him up on it.

Another slew of runners coming toward me as I climbed back up, all the folks I had recently passed.  Glad to be done with the final section of having to pass people going in both directions on a narrow trail, at least none of it was ever too long or tedious.  I was ready for the final 3 hills that I knew about.  Those went pretty well considering that my legs were finally getting weary.

And now the turn-off onto the new (to me) section of trail.  I was ready to go see these last 3+ miles.  I couldn't remember exactly the elevation chart except that it went up and down.  Nothing new there.  The trail was nice, gradually climbing up to the end of an inlet.  Through the trees I saw some runners above me, not too far ahead.  It was a good motivator to keep climbing, keep climbing, posture, posture, posture.

About halfway along the new trail I was really ready to be finished.  My legs were making quiet noises about possibly thinking about cramping, so I didn't want to stress them too much more.  They were still OK with running the downhills, thank goodness.  And no one came up behind me, thank goodness.

Just as I was starting to think that I was perfectly happy with this finishing position, just starting to say to myself "I hope I don't see anyone ahead of me to chase, nor anyone behind me to run from", there was a woman not far ahead.  That pass was easy, OK no problem.  Good enough.

Then two more women, for goodness sake.  Right about then we were at the "1 mile to go" sign, which was really helpful to know.  Also right at that moment I got a gift, in the form of a section of moderately technical rocks.  I ran and danced through them while the other ladies slowed and picked their way.  Somehow I felt really comfortable, flashbacks to Bandera, and my legs obliged.  Probably a bit of adrenaline involved.

The best part was that none of the women tried to keep up, so I was free to run on ahead at a moderate speed without needing to tear up the trail to the finish line.  Which was great because the last portion goes uphill.  Then you see a parking lot but it's not the right one.  Then you cross a road - what the heck?  You can see the finish line but start to worry exactly where this trail is going to veer off to along the way.

Thankfully it only overshoots slightly, then it's a nice run down to the grass and around to the finish.  I passed one last guy with a burst of speed at the end for good measure.  I may have apologized to him as I was doing it.

I didn't quite manage negative splits, but ~5:31 return (vs. 5:20 out) ain't half bad.  It was a good solid effort and I'm pleased with my fitness level at this point in the year.  I was also excited to find that immediately icing my knees kept them from aching that night, hopefully that's something that will continue to work for future long races.

Awesome post-race food (tamales, BBQ), good conversation with other runners, listening to talk about the Boston Marathon, Western States, and other races, Ryan and Kelly finishing strong.  And a lovely wine tasting the next day (photo at the beginning of the post) - you can't beat that for a California ultra.

Kelly finishing:

While I spent a day running around a lake, John and Jason actually did something useful - go guys!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

4 MPH Challenge and Warrior Dash

Last weekend Kip and I drove up to Redding/Whiskeytown to run in the 4 MPH Challenge, an event similar to the Big Dog Backyard in Tennessee.  In this case it's a 6-mile course, actually kind of 2 of them since we run for 6 miles from the start to a remote TA and then the next "loop" is to run 6 miles back.  Everyone has 90 minutes for each 6-mile section, if you run it faster then you get a longer break, then everyone starts again.  As long as you keep going you are tied for 1st place.  The last person to complete 6 miles in time is the winner.

The course is beautiful, runnable, and mostly runnable without even paying too much attention.  It helped to learn the short sections where there were a few rocks, places to watch for, and then you could just relax the rest of the time.  There is one up-and-over hill of about 200 feet of climb, plus a few small rollers, one section of pavement in the middle, one creek crossing, overall enough to keep us entertained without having to work too hard.

The net effect was that the daytime laps were easy, especially compared to the Big Dog race.  However, unlike in TN where we switch to a road overnight,, this race stayed on the trails.  Being easier trails, it was certainly more doable in the dark, and definitely a good course for this format.  Just not as easy as the Big Dog overnight, and for me it wasn't a "gimme".

So I'm getting ahead of myself...

The weather was fantastic from the start.  50's to 70's I would guess, sunshine all day until a few welcome clouds at the end of the afternoon, cool but not cold at night.  Parts of the course were exposed to the sun but there was also plenty of tree cover.  We started off at an easy pace with a large group of folks, the "unlimited" group plus the runners who signed up for the 36-mile race.  Nice calm beginning as the sun was coming over the trees.

The very first bit of singletrack turned out to be my least favorite, winding through a whole mess of poison oak on a slight rocky downhill.  I had to be careful where to step aside to let people pass.  Everyone was pretty chill about the whole thing, someone commenting that it was difficult to run so slowly.  Kip and I chatted and started looking for places to set up time checks.

Mile 1 was actually marked, so that was a good place.  We ran on the trail below the main road for a bit, then back into the woods, weaving around the edge of the lake along rather endless inlets and outlets.  I worked on course memorization, but there was one section of about half a mile that was so featureless that I gave up on that part.  Mile 2 at a bridge, another great place for a time check.  We had plenty of time to work with, no worries.

After a more interesting trail section (little ups and downs, more obvious drainage crossings, a few landmarks), the trail ended at the pavement section.  Here we walked uphill and glided downhill, passing the 3-mile point marked with a couple of cones.  The road was mostly devoid of cars and was a nice little break in the middle of the trails.

Oh look, a porta-potty!  I used it only once but was glad to have it as an option in the middle of the course.  The next section was dirt doubletrack leading up to the one hill.  In this direction we climbed the hill up a series of switchbacks, a nice gentle climb.  Then perhaps a mile of traversing around the hill with great views of the creek, the road, and our remote TA.  This trail had a few rocks and a dropoff on one side so you had to pay a little attention.

Then a steep downhill to the creek crossing.  We were most curious about this because we didn't know going in whether it would be possible to keep our feet dry.  It turned out to have 3 large rocks in exactly the right places for stepping across.  The rocks were large and stable, just rounded on top (and a bit slippery if wet) so it wasn't completely foolproof but certainly possible.  I was happy every time I managed it - just enough of a challenge to feel like an accomplishment, especially with tireder legs later.

A bit of doubletrack, then a section of singletrack that took us in a loop around to the TA.  This trail took some focus with a few partially-hidden rocks, so I made a note to be careful on it at night.  The 6-mile mark was at a small cemetery, then a short run through a field to the stopping point and the wonderful volunteers.  We found our things and set up our chairs and cooler, enjoying a rather long break.  Even running easy, we had plenty of time in between laps during the day.

Since the first section was actually over 6 miles (and the way back was under 6 miles) due to the loop on the far side, we started back at 9:33 am instead of 9:30.  So we had 93 minutes in one direction and 87 minutes in the other.  This seemed pretty fair.  Bathroom break, water refill, SPIZ drink, ready to go again.

The return trip started on doubletrack on a slight uphill back to the creek crossing.  I walked it and watched most of the field jog ahead of me.  I questioned this strategy when I found a huge backup at the creek.  One woman probably also didn't appreciated everyone watching her fall in (twice, I think).  People tried different ways across, including an easy spot further upstream.  I didn't have to wait too long, and my rock-hopping worked again.  It was a bit more challenging in this direction but still manageable.

Then a steep haul up the hill.  I pulled way back on the effort level, let the last few people behind me go by, and took small steps to minimize the effort.  It still took only a few minutes to get to the top.  The bigger challenge for me was being patient behind lines of people around the traverse and then down the switchbacks on the other side when I naturally would have run faster.  There was no hurry.

The road section was great for sorting out different paces, then we were back on the lake trail and winding around and around and back and forth, all the way back to the start.  Again no problems, it's all easy, just chatting with people and trying to focus on the various time checks along the way.

And so it went, all the day long.  I met Christine who had done some longer races but not this format before.  Also Aaron who knew who I was (I can't completely fly under the radar by switching coasts) and who had done some expedition racing.  Kip and I ran generally the same speed, sometimes one of us ahead of the other for various reasons, then getting back together again.  The 18-mile runners started 90 minutes after us so we saw them a couple times going the opposite direction.  Lots of people, many working on PR distances of various lengths.

I didn't carry a camera, and John wasn't there this time to take pictures.  Here's one photo I managed to bomb my way into:

On the 6th lap we watched the 36-mile folks take off on a race to the finish.  Their placing was depending on their time for the final section.  Running for speed isn't necessarily easy after running 30 miles.  I was happy to still be taking it easy.  The middle of the afternoon was slightly warm so Kip and I both slowed on purpose to prevent that from being an issue.

With clouds on lap 7 and a trend toward dusk on lap 8, any overheating concern was gone.  I used my flashlight for the first time at the end of lap 8, then it was time to prepare for the night.  I was happy for the extra minutes of rest time, as I wanted to put on tights and get a jacket.  Might as well change socks and dump out my shoes too, so I hustled through the wardrobe shift while drinking SPIZ and remembering to get more water in my bottle.  In the meantime, Kip was having some kind of argument with his headlamps, apparently a battery swap that eventually succeeded.  It was our most exciting transition of the race.

All that got settled in time, ready to run again.  Still taking it easy, I was a minute slower in the first mile.  Hmm, maybe I should actually run more like I mean it.  Next mile - still a minute slower than during the day.  Wait a second, this nighttime thing could be a problem.  OK, push a little harder.  The next section of trail was even speed for me, then on the road I actually gained a little time.  Then the switchback climb didn't go any slower, and I had plenty of time remaining for the lap.  I lost time on the traverse but didn't worry about it, and came into TA with minutes to spare.

Happily it never really got cold at night, so I didn't need to break out the bigger jacket or blanket for sitting in the chair.  I eventually remembered to fold up the chair but there was never any condensation either.  Nighttime conditions were perfect.  There was a group of perhaps ~16-ish runners going into the night hours.  About half the remaining women had stopped after 12 hours (48 miles), then the 3rd place woman (Angela perhaps?) said she was done after 54 miles.

Going back the other way, I started slowly enough that I finally had the traverse all to myself.  It didn't help my speed though - while the steep climb still took the same amount of time, the traverse was still slow and it was hard to figure out exactly why.  I passed Kip and Christine on the way down, possibly Tim as well.

I was working harder at this point, similar to the 2nd morning at the Big Dog but with fresher legs.  The road section continued to treat me well.  The long miles by the lake were problematic, slowing me down and causing me to rethink how I was approaching it.  Saving grace was having at least some notion of where I was most of the time and what landmarks to expect, so I knew how long I still had to go each time.

After 60 miles I heard Christine was done - congrats on 2nd place, Christine!  I just had to make it back to the remote TA on time and I'd hold the woman's title for the year.  Kip came in with time to spare but told me he was slowing down and not sure he could maintain the speed required.  But he was going to try.

I hadn't been paying too much attention to total # of runners up to this point, and it wasn't always easy to tell anyway because the majority of starters took their time getting going each lap and we weren't standing in a big group when it was time to leave.  It didn't matter to me, but it was funny watching other people try to figure out how many were left.

At the 60+ mile point, I can say that there were 7 runners including me and Kip.  Jeremy, Tim, "Caveman" Scott, Garret, and Aaron with his dog, they all were looking good.  I'd see one or two of them occasionally on the course, as everyone had their ups and downs.  Eventually I "met" everyone remaining on the course even if it was only a brief chat as they ran on by.

Kip didn't make it to the 66-mile turnaround on time, bummer.  We all greeted him as we were heading back in the other direction, and he got a ride back to the start.  Good solid effort, Kip!

I was at the point where I had been pushing the pace in the dark for about 5 hours, getting in shorter transitions but still with several minutes to spare.  It became clear that I probably couldn't continue at this exertion level all night, but I might be able to manage if I could slow it down a little.  I've had plenty of practice with 2-3 minutes of turnaround time and I don't have a lot of things to do between each lap.

So I finally relaxed completely, no more stress about trying to keep a certain pace in the dark.  I was OK with whatever result that led to.  It helped of course that I was the last woman standing, and I wasn't in obvious contention for the overall win.  And that I had time to play with, I just needed to make better use of it.  My only wish is that I had started down this path earlier in the night.

Running math - I have this many minutes, it took me x minutes to do this last time, break it into sections, I'm not losing any time on the hills or the road, so I can lose 1-2 minutes more each on the traverse and the miles along the lake.  As I ran along, much more at ease and comfortable, I did drop an extra minute here and there but overall I still had 5 minutes remaining when I finished 72 miles.  Nice!

I thought I might have outrun Scott because he was behind me (and I couldn't see his light) for most of that lap, but he bounced back from a low spot and came trotting by sounding completely recovered.  Way to go Scott!

Garret started the next lap behind me, moving steadily but not super swiftly when he passed me.  He seemed in good spirits too.

I moved along with my revised plan of taking things rather easy, and that seemed to work for a couple miles.  Then - things just happened.  My legs basically called "enough", my knees hurt when I ran, the bottoms of my feet started complaining, my leg muscles which had been moving so well to that point seemed to hit a wall.  I tried walking more, but my overall pace slowly dramatically.  I couldn't even speed-walk very well.

I used the mid-point porta-potty, and from that point forward I was just trying to get to the end so I could be done.  Because I was done, there was no doubt.  Hey, at least it was obvious and not something I will wonder about later.  Also, it wasn't 75 miles into a 100-miler, so my death march was only 3 miles long and not 25.  I crawled up the switchbacks, willed myself along the traverse, picked my way down the hill and carefully over the creek (still no wet feet!).

I got to say "Good job!" to all the 5 guys starting their next lap, well done to all of you.  The next drop was Tim after 90 miles, then Aaron (and Lacey the dog) at 96, Scott at 102, and finally Jeremy at 108.  Garret cruised the final 6 miles for the win at 114.  Congrats Garret!

We super enjoyed the course, the organization, the weather, and especially meeting everyone.  Thank you Mark for an awesome event!

To make up for not having more photos from that race, here are some from John's Warrior Dash day in southern CA - 8th place in the competitive wave, well done John!

The mud pit at the end (with another obstacle way in the distance):

Leading to the finish line:

John has had time to clean up a little (and sport a double helmet) - his cousin Daniel has not:

Big Chill Warrior:

Fun weekend!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Mega Pi Day

Pi = 3.141592653...

We started celebrating Pi Day (3/14) a couple years ago, first with dessert pi, then last year with pizza pi.  This year was special - extra digits!  An all-day pi extravaganza ensued...

We started at the Computer History Museum which was offering free admission for everyone that was in line at "Pi Time", 9:26 a.m. (Kip helped me with the exact seconds needed for this photo):

It was a popular event and a long line before they opened the doors:

A bit of Raspberry Pi at a workshop in the museum - I also noticed that they abbreviated it to "RPi" which of course reminds me of my alma mater.

Unrelated to Pi Day, it was just fun to see a real IBM 1401 computer that had been restored (oops, missed the chance to get a photo of the machine) and this image on the wall from Dr. Strangelove:

A fun demonstration of the Babbage computer:

Later in the day we were catching up on Jeopardy from last week, and this came up - weird coincidence:

And finally, we got to eat pie!  We went all-out, after all it's only one day in a lifetime we can celebrate pi to that many digits.

Happy Pi Day!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Kayla's visit to San Francisco - part 2

We were excited to finally get to take a tour of Alcatraz after looking at the island from almost every direction in recent months.  Check out the ferry solar:

The gull seems to like it:

First stop at Alcatraz - picking up our prison garb:

Then time for a shower:

The self-guided audio tour was excellent, taking us all through the cells and describing various events over the years:

Not the Hilton, or any other hotel for that matter:

Al Capone and friends:

D block and the isolation cells:

A view back toward civilization:

A few guillemots hanging out:

Angel Island to the north:

An art installation by Ai Weiwei, made of legos and relating to freedom of expression and human rights:

Beautiful dragon by Ai Weiwei:

Back on the mainland, taking a fun drive down Lombard Street (the curvy part):

Kayla found these interesting mosaic steps, south of Golden Gate Park - nice!

Good view toward the Pacific, although some low clouds reduced out ability to see it:

Pretty tiles:

At the deYoung museum, always love a Claes Oldenburg piece:

Apples on the lawn:

Nice Remington:

And a good view of Golden Gate Park from the top of the museum tower, that was pretty cool:

John enjoying Haight-Ashbury:

We got a quick peak at the Cable Car Museum but it closed earlier than expected.  At least we got to see the big wheels spinning and the cables flying through:

Cable car traffic:

Kip hosted us on a "morning at Google", including a walk across the Google Gate Bridge:

Pretty lawn:

Yay for Google!  Thanks Kip!  :)

It was an excellent few days, thank y'all for visiting!

Kayla's visit to San Francisco - part 1

Our niece Kayla and John's parents came to visit!  It was Kayla's graduation trip, and we were excited to be a part of it.  It was a chock-full few days of San Francisco sights.

Starting with a drive up to the viewpoint on Twin Peaks:

Great overview of the city (also looks amazing at night):

Checking out the swing in Billy Goat Hill park:

Timing was good for seeing the Chinese New Year parade, which was quite a thing to watch although a challenge with all the crowds:

We got slightly glitter-bombed...

One of the excellent dragon puppets:

Brief detour for me on Sunday - John took the gang to see Fisherman's Wharf, sea lions, cable car rides, Musee Mechanique, and Ghirardelli, while I did a long run from Mountain View to the southernmost BART station at Millbrae.  Here are my photos...

The Oracle yacht in the lake on the Oracle campus - how cool!  I would have loved to see the races when they were in San Francisco Bay.

Beach on the Bay:

San Mateo bridge, viewed while running on the Belmont Slough trail around Foster City (very pretty area):

One of many marshes:

I took the subway into town and met up with everyone for sushi supper.  Good stuff.

Monday morning we started with breakfast at Home Plate (most delicious), then walked out to find the Wave Organ sculpture:

Turns out it works a lot better at high tide, then you can hear sounds in the tubes.  Ah well, next time.

A glimpse of Alcatraz Island, with Angel Island off to the left:

A beach and a bridge:

Nice morning view of the city:

Getting closer to the bridge...

"GGB" and lovely flowers:

On the bridge!  Hi Jerry!

We've now walked on the northern and southern ends.  Someday we'll make it all the way across on foot...

Clarion Alley in the Mission District, amazing murals:

The bears on the right were a checkpoint in a Terraloco race we did a couple months ago:

Next up - heading to prison...