50 Miles Ahead

ft_logo_250Sometimes I must ask myself, “what the hell am I thinking running 50 miles?” This in front of my the upcoming Dick Collins Firetrails 50 that takes place this Saturday. In front of my second attempt at this distance, I am feeling mentally strong, but physically not ready. Knowing I ran a strong race this past April at the American River 50 Mile Endurance Run, I feel confident in my abilities to finish the race inside of the 13 hour time limit.

The key to this race, which has twice as much elevation change than the AR50 did, is to keep moving and stay injury free.  During the last race, Brian N. twisted the ankle and raced on for another 21 miles before calling it a day, just 9 miles short of the finish. I picked up a knee pain about mile 10 that stuck with me the remainder of the day, making for a very long day of running. Like any race once you lose the mental aspect of running it makes it very difficult to finish the race. Those thoughts never entered my mind during the previous race and I feel that after about 12.5 hours we will cross start/finish line.

That total time is contingent on how well I have planned this race based on our average mile time over the entire course. The challenge, which could be seen as the entire race by some, will be making the turn at Tilden Park, where we face a 1200′ climb up Steam Trains. While I had intended to run this portion of the course, I failed to get up to that part of the course, but was able to knock out about 10 miles around Lake Chabot, so our split chart is based on what I have already run. With any luck on Saturday we SHOULD finish with about :24 minutes to spare. Yet, as we saw at the AR50, you can quickly loose that “extra time.” I know I don’t need to remind Brian about “the meat grinder.”

I swore I was going to fuel myself better during this race, but haven’t really come with any new alternatives. Right now I am considering burritos, every 5 miles and a bowl of mac & cheese at mile 26. Based on the room in my hydration pack, I should be able to get enough burritos to cover the first half of the race and reload at the midway point. The mac and cheese will be “dairy free” and cheese free. I can see many scratching their heads, “how is that cheese?” What I need is for my fuel to stay fresh as the day rolls on. I got tired of dates and my homemade Larabars before we were halfway through the race.

The other issue was my hydration. While I felt hydrated all race, water got boring to drink. I made the mistake of picking up a cup of lemon line and talk about sugary! It was a nice change, but no way am I going to hydrate with liquids like this. I do plan on picking up some Nuun Hydration tablets. I have used these a few times during training runs and while I had hoped to remain supplement free, I feel confident this decision will be beneficial during the race.

The best part of the race, running with my partner, Brian N. This will be our third race together and our running abilities are very similar. We were makes great time (for us) during the AR50 until injuries beset both of us, which slowed our pace. But being able to communicate, as well as lead and follow over the course of the day really helps. Listening to music is nice, although I won’t be bringing any, just talking and having someone keep pushing you really helps. I also expect to see Amer B. at some of the aid stations. It was his grin and hug that really gave me that second wind and made me believe “yes, I will finish this race!” While it would be better to have Amer racing along side, injury has him sidelined, but what better way to support those who run?

As with my first 50 mile race, the goal is to finish. While not worried about my overall time, as long I cross the finish line, I win. It’s another opportunity to see how far I can push my body. Hopefully I can provide some images and text via Facebook and Instagram during the race. Looking forward to the challenge.

Print Friendly

The 6th Fright: Clowning Around

evilclownsAt the end of October last year, I was rather frustrated with how The 6th Fright went at Vintage Parkway, my son’s elementary school in Oakley. Lots of little problems that were overlooked a budget that went well over what I should have spent and a lack of foot traffic because of a late opening all contributed to having very little desire to construct a haunt this year. But, as all things go, it’s nearing the end of September and that desire and drive has FINALLY reappeared. It’s taken longer than I wanted, for the creative juices to get flowing, but the clowns are nearly ready to be let out, so to speak.

Building on last year’s theme, I have made the unpopular decision to center the haunt around clowns. Many adults and kids have this phobia of clowns (coulrophobia), as do teachers and staff, which makes this year all that more enjoyable for those of us behind the scenes. It will be a fun house of clowns everywhere you look. Originally I intended to do a carnival theme, but was lost for good ideas outside of clowns and parent participation, which is next to non-existent the past 2 years.

This year I will bring back some haunts that I have included the past few years, but also show off a few new ones as well. I feel it’s a good mix. In the planning of the haunt I have noticed the layout is much more simple than in previous year, which should make of a quicker setup of the walls. Like last year, it will be a combination of wood panels, black plastic, as well as black sheets. Currently there are six different haunts included for this year’s harvest carnival or shall we say, “carn-EVIL” where the clowns will run wild!

clownsleepUnlike last year, I am not waiting to be given a budget and have moved forward purchasing props and animatronics in order to make this year’s haunt the best in the last 3 years. Most all of these purchases will end up going in my collection and will be reused for Halloween at my house when my son no longer attends Vintage Parkway. To accomplish what we want, it was going to come down to paying for and building props in order to make this a great time for kids, parents and staff. But considering what the school had for props when I took over, they should be set for years to come with drop windows, hundreds of feet of PVC pipe for walls and some props that can be reused.

It’s my hope there are volunteers who sign up to help the haunt out or we will end up experiencing similar problems as we had last year. The “hired help” last year wasn’t outstanding, one even walked out in the middle of the haunt. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work when you are needed for just 2 hours scare kids. This year, it’s my hope to get a total of 6 adults or teenagers (God forbid, I would probably be better off with 8th graders) to manage the door and “clown around” inside the haunt. In years past, 5th grades have been called upon to act as guides and actors/actresses inside the haunt. This year, the number of kids required is going to be less than last year, as it’s unmanageable with 35-40 kids who sign up to participate. The kids inside the haunt have just ONE responsibility and will require some blood hands (which also stains the skin for a few days). Fifth graders will also be acting as the guides this year as well, it’s my hope they don’t shine their flashlights at scary things inside the haunt. Nothing more frustrating to be dressed up in my dot suit, only to have the guide shine the light on me when a party of guests walk into the dot room.

lovekidsAs of today 5 adults should be able to manage all the haunts inside and single adult and 5th grader to manage the door and take tickets for entry. Managing the door is a big deal, too slow and not everyone will get through. We saw that exact problem last year opening about 20 minutes late because no one was designated as a ticket taker. Too fast and the haunts don’t have time to reset for the next group of guests. Hopefully we can get this down properly this year and everyone has fun.

In the end it’s all about the kids, not doing a haunt would not make the Harvest Carnival what it is, fun. Fun for the kids, parents and staff that are all involved in organizing and running the event. As long as kids exit the haunt in tears I know we will have been successful in scaring them. So they might not sleep that night and sudden develop a clown phobia.

Print Friendly

Weekend at Cutter Scout Reservation


Zachary and I leaving Oakley for Santa Cruz.

While reading an article on the Internet, I ran across a piece that said to the effect of “do something new every day.” Everything seems to be so routine as we go through our day from waking up to our work. This past Friday, my son and I did something new. In 45 years on this Earth I had never taken the opportunity to go camping. My wife, growing up loved camping with her family, but for me camping was usually a beachfront hotel with a bar, running water and a toilet. Now that I have experienced “the outdoors” I can’t wait to get back.

For scouting, my son and I signed up to go with Cub Scout Pack 1155, out of Brentwood on a 3 day camping trip to Cutter Scout Reserve located in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I was very fortunate that my wife owned a 2-person tent and double air mattress, while my MIL had bins of camping gear, including stoves and a propane cylinder. Initially I was under the impression that a camping trip meant a hiking trip, little did I know those are very different. That’s good because I was not ready to shell out $400+ on backpacks for the both of us.


Zachary getting ready for BB guns and archery.

Aside from food, it was less than $300 to buy some camping supplies and two Kelty sleeping bags. Preparation and planning started the week before we were leave for Santa Cruz, as made a list of what to take, what we would eat and what needed to be purchased. While I felt confident about my the planning stage, I knew there would be changes when I looked back after the weekend. This trip also gave me the opportunity to get to Bass Pro Shops in Manteca, but was disappointed in their camping section. I probably would have done better locally, at REI.

I received word during the middle of the week that none of Zachary’s den would be attending the camping trip. In fact only about 15 boys (based on the website) and 16 adults were on the reservation list. While most were Webelos scouts, Zachary ended up being the “buddy” of Andrew, a younger scout directly across from our tent. It worked out well, I always heard Andrew saying, “I’m looking for my buddy.” Together the boys had fun and partnered with another boy and they played around the camp when we had down time.

When we rolled up to our camp site some 2.5 hours after leaving Oakley, I met the Cubmaster and her husband, as well as the Committee Chair, they gave me the lay of the campsite and said find a level piece of ground and set up your camp. Light was fading quickly in the Santa Cruz mountains, with a thick canopy of redwoods and deciduous trees around us. Our campsite went up rather easy, laid out the tent and pop, it was up and ready for use. The fire pit was about a 30 foot walk to our right, so I started our propane Coleman lamps for lighting in the immediate area and made decisions for dinner.

Zachary with Cubmaster Carrie, making crafts.

Zachary with Cubmaster Carrie, making crafts.

Cooking should have been simple, but it was more of a task because I did not bring a table with us, using the cooler as our table, where all our cold food was. I put all the dry food in a rectangular been, but when I was cooking I was in and out of these bins all the time, so a small table would have been ideal. Lesson learned. Zachary wanted to cook hot dogs and initially I was not going to bring any, but this food and s’mores are a staple on ANY camping trip and didn’t want to deprive him of the experience. He was responsible around the stove and didn’t burn his hotdogs.

Most of my food was prepared ahead of time. Thanks to Julie-Marie Christensen at Protective Diet, I made black bean chili, jalapeno corn muffins, banana bread, tortilla chips and salsa. In fact I made too much food for myself and I always seemed to be eating. Not to be left out, I also decided to buy a 4-pack of Field Roast Apple Maple Sausages (not PD, but I splurged). For containing no meat, these sausages were outstanding! Along with the table, I also forgot a pot to cook in, so I ended up reheating everything in a pan. Not ideal, but it worked. Lesson learned. Again!

As camp got dark we were invited over to the other side of the camp and the campfire for s’mores and some relaxation. The boys had a good time getting their sugar high on, while the adults talked amongst themselves. It felt great to just sit back, in nature and relax without a care in the world. Except for the fact I was not able to get a hold of my wife as we descended from Skyline Blvd, down towards China Grade, our turnoff to the camp site. I tried a few times and finally left a text message, but it would not be until Sunday morning, about 9am we would hear her. I did however received a text message saying, “Honey” but was not able to respond due to no cellular network at 1045pm on Friday.

Looking to score a bullseye in archery!

Looking to score a bulls eye in archery!

Sleeping the first night was challenging, I just barely fit in the tent and with very little wind through the mountains, it was sticky, hot. I opened up the tent to allow some air, but it was not much. Add to that, the air mattress had a hole in and by the time we climbed into the tent we were sleeping on the hard ground. Don’t think Zachary had much trouble falling asleep but I tossed and turned all night. Still it was nice to look to up at the night sky through the trees and fall asleep.

Saturday was a very busy day, it was supposed to start with a flag ceremony, unfortunately someone forgot the flag, so we had to pledge allegiance to one of the boys who had a flag shirt on. LOL. It works, right? After the pledge, we ate breakfast and waited for the range to open the BB gun range. This would be the first activity of the day, followed by archery a few hours later.

After all the hours of playing Call of Duty, Zachary was left standing, shaking his head, “Dad the sites on this BB gun are off.” LOL! “I shoot better if I am standing up, not sitting.” Okay, Zach, okay. Still, sitting down and firing two rounds of 25 BBs, he did very well. He was receiving some minor instruction from the rangemaster on the basics of holding and firing the BB gun. The biggest problem I was was his head/eye was really far back from the rear aiming piece, but with that said he still hit the target some 35 times!

Zachary's fort, a large, burned out redwood.

Zachary’s fort, a large, burned out redwood.

It was time for lunch and a short quarter mile walk, uphill back to our camp site. I broke open the black bean chili and jalapeno cornbread muffins, while Zachary had another hotdog and some tortilla chips, we also shared some banana bread. One thing I noticed during our meals, not enough variety. I forgot some juice for Zachary, so he was limited to water, hot chocolate or Gatorade. I planned on water and tea for me, which I was okay with. It would have been nice to bring a wider variety of food, but that is something for the next camping trip.

After lunch, we waited for the ranger to unlock the archery range and the rangemaster set things up. Archery was a sport that Zachary had never done, unless of course you consider his mastery with bow and arrow on the Xbox. Sorry kid, doesn’t count. He was in the first round of archers to take their place on the range, as all the boys were required to wear an arm guard to protect the forearm area, on the arm you were holding the bow with. I noticed Zachary put the arm guard on his right arm and I tried to correct him, but this is how he wanted it. To me, it was backwards, but for him it worked.

Each boy had 2 rounds of 5 arrows. Zachary let fly his 5 arrows and had 3 hits on the target. His second arrow was by far his best shot! Less than one inch from the bullseye and the arrow necklace the rangemaster was passing out to those who hit the center of the target. This would be his best shot of the day, which gave him a big smile and nice boost of confidence, but he tried too hard and shots seemed to get a bit worse. His third round he just barely grazed the target and left the range a bit frustrated.

Zachary on the BB gun range.

Zachary on the BB gun range.

It was early afternoon and there had been some talk about a 3 mile hike. Unfortunately it never materialized. The Cubmaster had seen a scout to check on the ‘Dern Trail’ that had a head new the BB gun range, but it was a dead end. This left the afternoon wide open and most all the boys played in and around camp. Zachary and I sat down and went through his Webelos book discussing some of the topics and marking off items we completed. We hiked a few hundred feet down the hill from our tent and found a walking stick. Back at our tent I started teaching him the basics of a knife, using my Swiss Army knife. He had some trouble with it and I told him I would not give him this knife or any other until he could demonstrate he could open and close it safely and have a basic understanding of how to use it. In the end, we carved some wood and he asked me to start working on his walking stick, which I striped of bark and attempted to smooth it out for him.

Zach and Andrew played around camp for much of the afternoon and I took the boys down to the pond, which had another group of scouts canoeing. While a group of Boy Scouts were “fishing” on the shore. The pond was very low from the look of it and the spillway appeared to have been dry for a few years with growth around it. We walked the pond and stopped with the Boy Scouts and watched them fish for a bit before heading back to camp as it was getting close to dinner time.

Saturday George and Lisa showed to up talk to parents about transitioning and supporting their boy(s) from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts. Honestly, listening to their talk got me a bit worried myself about making the jump. They put on a very informative talk, which left me with many questions unanswered. I don’t even know if Zachary will follow through to be a Boy Scout, time will tell, especially after I told him boys his age will be leading them and they go on camping trips at least once a month.

My PD compliant dinner. Thanks Julie!

My PD compliant dinner. Thanks Julie!

Dinner came and went without a hassle, more hotdogs for my son, but I sliced up squash, green pepper, zucchini, onion and Field Roast sausages and roasted them in foil over our propane stove. I know the sausage alternative isn’t PD (See Protective Diet), but this was camping and it sounded good for dinner and went very well with my roasted veggies. Amazing flavor in a meatless sausage, but it won’t be a regular meal, as it includes ingredients I want no part of including oil and wheat gluten. Still, dinner was a success and it was followed up by dessert, hot coco and roasted marshmallows for Zach and a few pieces of banana bread and jasmine tea for me.

I relaxed much of Saturday evening sitting next to our tent, watching the boys successfully light their own fire in the fire pit (supervised by adults). The poked the fire, ran around with their headlamps on had a great time in between their marshmallows. About 8pm, we joined Boy Scout Troop 98 from Livermore, near the pond, which had a small amphitheater as boys from 98 and Pack 1155 performed a few skits as entertainment. The night closed with a song and we headed back to camp.

As the weekend drew to an end I reflected on what I had been missing by not wanting to camp for 45 years of my life. Sure, the toilets were nothing more than a stinky hole with a metal bucket and toilet seat, there were no showers and the running water was somewhat limited. But that in part makes camping a wonderful experience. Being outdoors, realizing there is so much to do and see, not in the the US, but worldwide, if you just get outside and open your eyes. It was a great weekend to see none of the boys with their noses stuck in their Apple iPads or mobile devices, but learning, experiencing, competing and having a great time in the outdoors.


cutter05I know for a fact this won’t be the last time we camp, I am already looking at other overnight trips that Zachary and I could go on and once my wife’s back heals from her most recent surgery, the three of us can get back to nature as a family and explore this great land. Prior to leaving on Sunday morning, Zach and I made our way across camp to say goodbye and thanks to those leaders who set up this opportunity. It brought a small tear to my eye to hear Zachary say thank you to Carrie the Cubmaster with a smile on his face, as well as thanks to her husband, Todd, the Assistant Cubmaster, as well as Val, our Committee Chairperson. The drive home was fun, talking about what we experienced the past few days and we look towards the future and some more fun outdoor adventures.

Print Friendly

Camping: Cutter Scout Reservation

cutter_scoutToday will mark a first in my life at age 45, I am going camping. For me, in the past camping has been a nice beach cabana or hotel room, with running water and bed. But for this adventure, my son and I will be headed to the mountains of Santa Cruz (Cutter Scout Reservation) with Cub Scout Pack 1155 out of Brentwood, CA. This is my first time, going camping, a camping virgin, but as Roebrt Baden-Powell said, “Be prepared!” Prepared is something Zachary and I are.

We have spent the better part of the last week putting together our camping gear list and buying a few items we did not have, such as a pair of Kelty sleeping bags, which was our biggest expense. Thankfully my MIL had bins of gear, including two gas stoves and more kitchen supplies that I planned to take. My wife already had a tent and an new air mattress that has yet to be inflated. Earlier this week I set up the tent, so I knew what I was doing and connected the stove and lanterns to the propane tank to make sure all was in working order. Remember, “Be prepared!”

I put together our camping checklist of what we needed to bring. I discussed food options with my son, told him what I planned on cooking ahead of time, just to make our food options a bit easier. On my days off I cooked up some black bean chili, baked jalapeno cornbread muffins, banana bread, tortilla chips and salsa. While not “PD” (see Protecive Diet), I figured I owed it to my son to let him cook hot dogs over an open flame, as well as experience s’mores…so I picked up the ingredients for him to enjoy. We will also be making some sort of dinner in foil packets over our camp stove.

The weekend is planned according to an itinerary, which will only allot about 2 hours (during the day) when we have “free time” to do whatever we want. The boys will be going on hikes, shooting BB guns, learning archery and making a few crafts. I am looking forward to the hikes, there are two loops recommended, one that focuses on the logging industry and  redwood trees, while the other talks about the flora and fauna. It’s my hope I will have free time before everyone wakes up and I get a trail run in on the 3.5 miles of trails that surround the camp.

It’s my hope that Zachary (and the other scouts) have an awesome adventure and he wants to go camping again. I would love to road trip to some of the wilderness I saw when I was a kid; Yosemite, Yellowstone, Zion, Bryce and the Grand Canyon, a landmark I have need visited only seen from 35,000 feet up.

With any luck he will be putting together a short video (for You Tube, so he says), which will also plan on showing to his den or the entire pack. It’s his hope to get enough video and moderate the experience of his first camping trip. Regardless of what happens, we will learn quite a bit over this weekend and look forward to spending some father/son time together.

Print Friendly

Coastal 50k Training Run

coastal50_course_mapSeptember is a very busy month, with elementary school in full swing I am back to volunteering two days a week, as well as tending to my PTA duties as treasurer. Cub Scouts have hit the ground running with our first pack meeting and upcoming three day camping trip this weekend to the Santa Cruz mountains. I am also coaching U-10 soccer and participating with my son in karate. The plate, as they say is full! Yet I am still finding time to accomplish some running as October 10th is rapidly approaching and the start of the Dick Collins Firetrails 50.

While training for the 50 mile race should have started a few months earlier, it didn’t. I am pushing to get the miles in before the event. Much like the American River 50, mentally I am strong, physically I will be able to overcome the challenges on the course and am confident Brian N. and I will cross the finish line under the 13 hour time limit. This run appears to be more challenging than the AR50, based solely on the elevation change, which is 7,800 feet, more than 50% higher than what we experienced around Folsom Reservoir.

Training has started slowly, but will be quickly increasing as I am going to use the Coastal 50K Trail Run as a long run before toeing the line for my second 50 mile attempt. This run appears to be on par with the Diablo Trails Challenge I ran a few years back as my first 50K. The initial climb out of Stinton Beach will be the toughest hill to tackle. I have never run in the Marin Headlands, but looking very forward to the event, which has a 9 hour time limit. Previous 50K attempts had me finish in 8:53 and 8:16. Confidence is running high, I will cross the finish line between these times.

I received some unfortunate news yesterday when I found out my friend, Amer B. won’t be participating in the 50 mile race, as he broke a metatarsal bone in his foot. Thankfully his positive attitude and smiling face will be seen twice while running Firetrails, mile 26 and mile 37. Much like seeing him at mile 41 of AR, I suspect this will inspire Brian N. and I to continue on to our goal of crossing the finish line.

Depending on how this 50 mile race goes, I am lining up my first 100 mile attempt in February, 2016 at the Razorback Endurance Race. Race Director, Tracy Johnson offers up many different distance and timed events, everyone wins! While the date is still sometime off, training isn’t, it’s started on September 1.

Print Friendly