Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Time for recess at the Twin Peaks playground


Time for recess!!

     As I have said many times before the Twin Peaks area of Corona, California is my favorite place to run. It offers some incredible views, diverse terrain and some ridicously long hard climbs over miles and miles. Knowing it was going to be a hot day I packed 300 ounces of frozen water into my backpack and hiked it up the first seven miles to create a water drop for Erin Chavin and me. This would allow us to refill and continue up the remaining four miles to Santiago Peak. Once at Santiago we would be able to make it back down to the water drop to refill again before decending the original 11 miles to the start.

My two new friends I met on the way up Indian Truck Trail


     The climb from the start was filled with splendid views and every mile up the road changed constantly. Sometimes it would be a pine needle forest, other times just bare exposed & hot then other times it would open up showing the surrounding peaks.
To the right is a photo I captured of the Indian Truck Trail that we followed up to the Upper Holy Jim singletrack.  The same route that is used for the beginning of the Twin Peaks 50++ Mile Race in October.

   Once refilled we worked our way up the last bit of road section to the singletrack climb.  This area is a non-stop switchback climb giving us view after view of the peaks. The sun was heating up the day, but there was some shady spots that shielded us from the heat. This was not nearly as bad as the heat from my previous California runs, but still hotter than an average run in Michigan.

Erin pausing for a photo with Santiago Peak in the background
   Reaching Santiago Peak was the highlight of the climb. Last time I was at the top of this peak was in the race last year. A race volunteer noticed I had a camera and offered to take a picture of me. It is the photo I currently use as my Google profile picture. At the time I didn't notice but I was showing exhaustion which is displayed nicely in the photo. So Erin took some pictures of me today with a smile on my face. The entire climb up I was smiling much more than in the race partly because the run was much shorter with only one big climb versus the four climbs totaling 17,500+ in elevation gain on the race course.
Erin on the climb up the Upper Holy Jim Trail

Now it was time for the 11 mile downhill run. Feeling full of excitment it was time to charge down the course.  The first few miles Erin and I exchanged the lead manuevering the rocky road section to the Upper Holy Jim. Erin made a quick stop and moved on to the trailhead. Arriving just a moment before her I looked back to catch a quick glimpse as she lost her footing and hit the ground with a scream. Concerned I headed over to check on her. Her hand was took the blunt of the fall so we washed it up and tied a bandana on it to keep it clean on the way back down.  Once we got back to the water drop we stopped to refill the bottles and clean up her hand.  It was a good thing we packed all that water and used about 2/3's of it.  With just seven miles left we made a final charge down the course in the time of an hour flat.  Quickly we got our gear back in the car and headed home as the moon was starting to reveal the night. 

A few more pictures from the adventure.....

Thursday, September 20, 2012

California or was it the Sun?

     Over the past few days I headed out to California to spend some quality time on the trails with my girlfriend and friends.  Erin was celebrating her 10 year anniversary of living in CA. The plan was to run the entire Backbone trail which is a point to point run in the Santa Monica Mountains.

     Flying in Friday evening I saw a forest fire as the plane touched down. Erin informed me that that was close but not on the trail we were going to run on Saturday. A forest fire is never a good thing because it can get out of control quickly.

     Saturday morning we headed to Point Mugu to start the 68 mile run at 5:00 am. The stars were bright and nice 70F air temp. The forecast was 95F and we wanted to get some mileage knocked out before the heat started to take its toll on us. The first portion of the day felt good then as we hit open exposed areas I felt the heat quickly increase. Flashbacks of the AC100 ran through my mind. Sporting two handheld bottles I was armed with 32 ounces between water stops. Knowing I average 16 ounces every hour I needed to control my consumption to make some sections.

Working the trail in darkness from Point Mugu
The view supplied my headlamp in the first miles
     The biggest challenge of the day for me was a 18 mile stretch with no water stops. I tried to hold back on drinking but the temperature was rising. With 10 miles to go in section I was down around 12 ounces. I started to worry that I was going into a really bad place. Four miles later my bottles were empty. Kate Jobe was able to flag down some mountain bikers and score me about 20 ounces of water. Sadly, two miles later I was out again. Erin, Kate and I gathered at a road crossing. Erin arrived a few minutes before the two of us and had a few cold bottles of water. While she was there a gentleman showed up and after talking to her went & got some water for us. Then we all began searching nearby homes for water. Luckily, we found a homeowner that helped us out. We refilled all our bottles, got some ice, and some citrus fruit. The woman was so helpful without her we might not have made another step.

Finally after making it to mile 27 our first real aid station I was spent. Sitting there I drank 96 ounces of coke, cytomax and water. Miles had passed since I stopped sweating and peeing. Hoping to replenish all my lost fluids so that I could make a comeback and finish the run became my only goal.
After leaving the aid station it was 12 miles to the next aid station. I planned a bit better and added a third bottle to pack to make the distance. A few miles passed and I started to feel strong again. I had finally reached my comeback and pressing forward with a smile once again.

     When we arrived at mile 38 it became official that our run was over. A suspected arsonist had started a forest fire in the later portion of our run. So making it to 50 miles was a possibility but there was a stronger possibility that our aid station wouldn't be there. Not needing to add more danager to the day we all bowed out. No one wanted to do this but safety was the main concern.

We will all return in the spring to repeat the journey but the next time will be the entire 68 miles.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Leading the way through the night

Saturday September 8, 2012 just a few minutes past midnight in the middle of a huge rainstorm I await for the arrival of two friends. Todd & Emily Bello who are in the midst of the Hallucination 100 Mile race. Not only were they running this one they had recently completed three other 100 Mile races in the Midwest Slam.

I met them back in April 2010 at the Pittsburgh Marathon. All three of us were there to pace the marathon. A conversation started up about ultras and I steered them into signing up for their first 100 mile race. That June they toed the line for the Mohican 100 Mile in Ohio. As promised my friend Keith & I showed up to pace them the last half of the race. It was a great adventure and the four of us crossed the line holding hands.

Well they asked if we would help again this summer. With conflicting race schedules it turned up we would be able to pace them at the final race of the series. Keith was coming off and injury so we decided to split the pacing up. I would start at midnight and pace 34 miles. Then about eight in the morning Keith would pace them the final 17 miles. This would make it possible for me to get to work on time too.

Waiting at Hell Creek Ranch to pick them up at mile 50 in the race I sat and chatted with Emily's dad. He briefed me that the rainstorm had slowed them down a bit and they were looking forward to meeting with me for the night. Around two in the morning they arrived with smiles & hugs. Filled with excitement I was ready to lead on through the night. Another friend of ours Kai, who was running the 100 mile too, joined us for the first 17 miles. I took the lead and off into the cold rainstorm we went. The temp was in low 50's and rain fell constantly making the trail a small river at times. Other times it was a nasty muddy mess that would try to suck the shoes off your feet.

As a pacer I try my best to ensure I do all the problem solving without them knowing a problem might occur. Keeping them in positive spirits is the main goal. Three issues came up and without them knowing it all three were resolved. Only after the race did they learn about them. The first was that Emily was getting cold so I gave her my arm sleeves to fight the chill. Quickly after giving them to her I realized I was getting cold. Knowing that I only had to run a small portion of what they were doing I pushed on without hesitation. Second issue came towards the end of the loop when I kicked something hard that knocked me to the ground. A bit shaken I said, "all good let's move on." It felt like I had broken two toes. Not wanting to bother them I just kept running. The final issue was that we were slightly behind schedule and I needed to get to work. So I arranged it that I would continue to mile 71 then head out. Then Keith would join up early at mile 75. This way they only had 4 miles to travel alone. Sure enough it worked out and Keith arrived 15 minutes before them at the aid station.

In the end, I was able to spend about seven hours in the middle of night running through a cold rainy storm on trails with my friends. I am sure they would do it for me if I asked them. They told me that in 2013 they have something big planned and wanted to know if I would pace. Let's just say I have that date booked for them and will be ready for another adventure!!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Closing up Camp

Mom & dad,

Thanks for sending to camp again for the third year in a row. It wasn't my strongest year but I did set a PB in the final camp race. Cleared 50 miles in 9:49:46.03.

Meet a few new campers that will carry over until the return of next year's camp. In addition, strengthen my relationships with some campers from the past.

I should be home in a few short days and looking forward to some wonderful fall runs.

Well keeping it short for now. See you soon.