Thursday, December 10, 2015

Santa Barbara Red Rock 50M (DNF)

Lunch stop in Santa Barbara
I have completed about 75 races ranging from flat road 5k’s to mountainous 100 mile ultramarathons, local sprint triathlons to one of the toughest Ironmans on the circuit, low key charity rides to challenging centuries and beyond. Previously, the only time I have ever failed to finish a race was once in a triathlon when my bike wheel collapsed and became unrideable. Until now, that is. The 2015 edition of the Santa Barbara Red Rock 50M defeated me. First legitimate DNF- did not finish.

Pretty cold, but at least it didn't rain
Originally a 40 mile race and extended to 50 miles in 2013, this course was already the most difficult I have faced. I love the Santa Barbara backcountry and was back for the third consecutive year. Race Director Luis Escobar had to change the course due to some trail closures and the result was to make it even harder. It featured nearly 15,000 feet of climbing.

I could make excuses for giving up, but the truth is that I was too out of shape and heavy to continue past the halfway point. I had the option of grinding out a few more miles for a ~50k finish, but after stopping for a while I got very cold and just couldn’t get moving again. Instead, I spent the second half of the day volunteering, tending to exhausted runners coming through that aid station for the second time after a huge 3,000 foot climb. It was fun to hang out with other volunteers who are all accomplished local ultrarunners.

Next up, I will prepare for a Spring half ironman in Saint George, Utah. I need to rebuild my cycling and swimming base entirely from scratch, as it’s been a long time since I trained in either discipline. I signed up for a couple of century rides to commit to a few long rides and am also planning cycling trips with friends.

The first half of 2016 is lined up. I don’t know yet what I’ll do with the rest of year. I’m considering another 100M run, ironman, or new marathon PR. A Boston qualifying time of 3:10 or better is beyond my immediate reach, but who knows? No matter what I decide to focus on, I need to drop a few pounds and gain strength. Towards achieving those goals, I am keeping a food log and doing different types of workouts than just endurance training.

On an unrelated note, I recently had the opportunity to visit Portland, Oregon. Here’s a couple of short videos of waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge area:

Friday, November 20, 2015

Ray Miller 50M Race Report

Photo by Louis Kwan at start
Managing type one diabetes while participating in endurance sports requires the ability to adapt while on the move, balancing insulin, nutrition, and pacing strategies.

I usually don’t go into details about insulin dosing or even blood glucose levels. I will say that even when I run long distances, I give my full basal dose of long acting Levemir insulin. And if breakfast is at least two hours before the race start, I also administer a normal bolus of fast acting Humalog insulin. My preferred breakfast is toast, eggs, a cup of coffee, and juice or fruit. Additionally, I might eat a snack on the way to a race venue, like a Cliff bar and sip on an electrolyte drink or water. During the run, I generally stick with liquid calories. I have tried different products over the years with similar success. Luckily, my stomach tolerates a variety of options. I have thrived on simple things like maltodextrin and Nuun tablets, Pacific Health Endurox, and recently, Hammer Perpetuem. I also take Saltstick salt tablets as conditions and effort dictate. I carry gels to sporadically bump up the calorie count and sometimes enjoy the fat and protein of a Justin’s almond butter packet.

My plan was based on maintaining a fairly easy level of effort, moving consistently throughout the day. There are days when everything goes according to plans, but today the key to completing this 50 mile course with anywhere from 10 to 14 thousand feet of climbing was adaptation. I was momentarily brought to a stop from a slight miscalculation of insulin potency.

About 45 minutes before the start, my blood sugar was high. It presented a dilemma because although I never like to be out of range, even the smallest amount of fast acting insulin could drop me too low while running. I chose to give some insulin and run the first few hours extra conservatively in terms of pace to minimize the exercise effect on insulin potency. It seemed to work, but I finally crashed while approaching the halfway point. The mile 23 aid station could not come soon enough. I struggled through a flat section instead of cruising. Eventually, I reached aid a mile or two later than expected. I reluctantly sat down and took the time I needed to ingest enough sugar to stave off the low. Course tip: mile 23 and 43 aid stations are further out than they are listed.

I lost some time there, but I was able to stabilize and resume my slow yet steady pace for the remainder of the race. Many thanks to aid station workers for encouraging me to wait until I felt better before proceeding. Immediately ahead of this aid station was the biggest climb of the day, two thousand feet up the mountain to Sandstone Peak.

The course description on The Ray Miller Trail Races site accurately depicts a scenic treat that is surprisingly remote for the Southern California Coast. It was well marked, though I managed to take a slight detour once before quickly realizing my mistake and going back on course. This is a Fall Ultramarathon and I typically finish in the nighttime. Tonight, the sky mystified the scene at the finish. A surprise missile test from nearby offshore puzzled many spectators.
Photo by Jenny Chow at finish line

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Manhattan Beach 10k

Photo by Mark Minichiello, South Bay Running Club
Running a 10k is a lot different than the type of event I normally participate in. It is no exaggeration that the distance fazes me as much or even more than covering 50 miles in the mountains. I decided to run the Manhattan Beach 10k on October 3rd for a high tempo workout. Impressively, this South Bay race has been around since 1978 without a corporate sponsor.

The first 4.5 miles of the course is full of little rollers that barely register on the elevation profile, but make you work to maintain a steady rhythm. Then, there’s one bigger climb and a steep, but short descent before hitting the perfectly flat and smooth final mile on The Strand. In the end, I was able to shave off a few seconds from my previous best time on this course set in 2011.

I do not wear a heart rate monitor, but I do like tracking other metrics that a gps watch recording provides. For example, my average stride length in this race effort was 1.28 meters whereas in my usual training, it is around one meter. Also, my cadence in the 10k was revved up to 170 strides per minute. Various sources claim that an optimal running cadence is 180.

My focus right now is getting some consistent mileage. In November, I am going to take on two tough 50 mile races, Ray Miller and Santa Barbara Red Rock. I am anxious to see how the weather plays out in Southern California this Winter. The El Nino pattern is set to bring significantly more rain to the area. I hope it goes a long way towards digging us out of the current historic drought. We have already seen some dramatic flash floods and thunderstorms. Be safe, my mountain friends.

Shout out to my new South Bay Runninng Club friends. I’ve been joining them on Thursday evenings at 6:30PM out of the Manhattan Beach Skechers Store. Congratulations to SBRC member Cheyne Inman for taking 2nd place.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Triathlon on the Calendar, May 2016

Since my next race is in November during election time, I'm dedicating it to helping my friend raise money for her Hawthorne City Council campaign. It's the Ray Miller 50 Miler so I challenge you to give 5, 50, or even $500 to help her cause. Click on the link below to donate.


The other exciting news I have to share is that I registered for 2016 Ironman Saint George. For those considering joining me, it's a 70.3 distance race now. Who's with me?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Angeles Crest 100 Mile Endurance Run

Finish Area
Photo by Chris Jones

I qualified for the 2015 Angeles Crest 100 Mile Endurance Run by registering a year in advance, completing at least one 50 mile run, and volunteering a full day of trail improvement work. The 33 hour cutoff is not generous. I finished in 2012 with a time of 32:30. My goal this year was to improve on that time.

My team consisted of my brother in law Jim McClain and a SoCal Coyote Running teammate, John Kurst. Jim crewed the first part of the course and then paced me from the halfway point at Chilao to mile 75 at Chantry after which John paced me to the finish.

Mile 9.3 highway crossing
Photo by Helen Wu
The initial climb out of Wrightwood sets the stage of a relentlessly challenging course. The ensuing series of rolling descents lead to the second big climb of the day, Mt. Baden-Powell. After that, the first 25 miles concludes with another section of rolling terrain.

From Islip Saddle, runners start another climb, this up Mt. Williamson. Before Cloudburst, Cooper Canyon is a notorious place in the race where mountain altitude and midday heat combine. At the conclusion of the first half of the race, pacers and crew await at Chilao.

Miles 50-75 include three distinct segments. The first few miles reach a ridge where the trail dips down into a canyon before climbing back up to Shortcut Saddle. From Shortcut, it is a very long fireroad descent. Climbing to Newcomb Pass is just a teaser of what the course still has in store. Jim helped me reach Chantry Flats ten minutes ahead of my 2012 split. Leaving an aid station in the middle of the night, we were advised that a mountain lion was reported in the upcoming section.

Mile 95
Photo by Louis Kwan
The remaining 25 miles is arguably the most difficult of all. The long climb to near the top of Mt. Wilson only gets steeper towards the end. After a rocky, drought-ridden descent recently eroded by hard rains into Idlehour Canyon, the last big climb of the race takes you up to Sam Merrill aid station.

My pacer for the last 25 miles, John Kurst, selflessly helped me through all the aid stations. I was fortunate to recruit his help from SoCal Coyote Running. In John's section, we improved on my 2012 split by 30 minutes. 
Finished in 31 hours, 53 minutes.