Commitment to Health

pd_comparisonThis October will represent 5 years since I have taken control of my health thanks in part to Dr. John McDougall and Julie-Marie Christensen of Protective Diet. It’s amazing and powerful to see the foods we eat and their effect on our health. While I don’t want to measure my success solely in terms of weight loss, there were many benefits that went along with losing 44 pounds in 10 months. Many ailments and problems I had seemingly disappeared as a result to my commitment to health, results of my blood tests revealed my high cholesterol had decreased by 134 points! Looking in the mirror I saw a new, slimmer, healthier person looking back. It was a great feeling! Here’s a quick video, look for me at the 5:21 mark.

Along with these benefits, I took up running, to help supplement the weight training I had started. With a renewed vigor I started participated in Tough Mudder with co-workers, which tested my mental and physical abilities. I wanted to push  and learn what limits my body could endure, so I signed up for my first half marathon, which I finished in 1:58, followed by my first 50k (31.7 miles) a year later in 8:53. If that wasn’t enough I have run three 50 mile races the past 2 years, posting a PR earlier this year of 13:40! The results were proof to me that without taking control of my health none of this would have been possible.

It’s amazing to hear Julie speak about her passion that is Protective Diet, she inspires many she touches with her (and Jerry’s) positive message about health and the foods we eat. Reading and hearing testimonies from other ‘PD lifers’ should be proof that what Julie teaches works. While I was never skeptical, I was impressed with how I further cleaned up a diet that already had removed meats, dairy and oils. Seeing the many vibrant and smiling individuals on the Protective Diet Living page only helped to reinforce her message and my life changing decision.

Somewhere during my journey, over the past 4 years I hit a bump, which turned into a slide and suddenly I found myself out of control, falling back on poor decisions and bad habits. Through it all I stuck to the basics that got me here; no meat, dairy and oil while following a starch based diet as Dr. John McDougall promotes. Yet the gains I had achieved were slowly fading into the past. I attempted to remain positive, knowing that if I achieved these improvements before I could do it again! A list could be draw up, excuses made but honestly, what good would it serve? None, I lapsed and now it’s time to refocus and get my health back on track.

Today was ‘Day 1’ and I am sure MANY Protective Diet Living subscribers know what I am talking about. As the saying goes, “tomorrow is a new day…” That is what today was, a new day, one in which I watch Lesson #97 on Protective Diet to get me pointed in the right direction and take control of my health, so I can look and feel like I did a short time ago.

At no point do I feel as if I failed myself or others when it comes to this lifestyle, as I was able to stick to the basic principles, but Julie is able to take that change to the next level. That is where I want to return to. Being able to confidently say I love what I eat and how I feel. No one should ever feel as if they “can’t do this” or “won’t have success.” I know both of these statements will not hold me back as I have bigger plans in the future.

With so much going on in life, free time hasn’t been abundant, but the time I had could have been spent more wisely with regards to running, an activity I thoroughly enjoy. Earlier this year I had plans to add two more ultra marathons to my list. The first, Pioneer Spirit 50, a 50 mile race from Cool to Folsom with a portion of the trail familiar thanks in part to running the American River 50 Mile Endurance Run, twice. This was supposed to be a training run in August, for the Folsom Lake Ultra Trail 110k, a a 68.35 mile race around Folsom Reservoir. Both races are more difficult and challenging, mentally and physically. Right now I am not at my best health, but both these races are on my calendar for 2017.

If that’s not enough running, I plan on attempting my first 100 mile race in March next year at the Razorback Endurance. This will be the first time at this distance with a 36 hour cutoff and relatively no vertical component on the 2-mile loop. This is truly the biggest challenge I want to attempt, even if it’s only one time. In order to be successful I need to be mentally and physically prepared for this challenge.

The 21 meal menu is complete, ingredients purchased as I look forward to the next few weeks using the Guide to Optimal Health as a reference to regain my health, fitness and feel better about myself. Lots of support from many individuals who are following the same lifestyle, so I am not going at this alone. If I can master this, ANYONE can! Time to eat…


Here’s a quick video, look for me at the 5:21 mark.

3-3-3’s: 2016 AR50

333Finishing a 50 mile race is unlike any other experience I have ever had. It’s amazing to see what your body can do, just how and hard you can push and achieve a result. I am still astonished at my improvement on my finish time at the American River 50 Mile Endurance Race, 13:40 over last year’s result with a 12 minute improvement. Like many ultra runners, I was sore, fatigued, blisters were forming on my feet, my butt was chaffed (no, I didn’t bring my Glide), muscles were tightening, yet through it all I was able to push myself and run the fastest I did that day crossing the finishing line.

Talking to Michael L., our pacer this year for the race, he bought attention to another ultra friend of his, who includes a unique piece in her write ups at the conclusion of each race. I must give credit to The Running Pen , who provides three extra sections in her race assessment, called ‘The 3-3-3’s’:

  • Three things I did right
  • Three things that didn’t go well
  • Three things I could improve on

Usually as I recall race day I will usually tangent off on different aspects of the race, such as fueling and hydration, split chart or shoes. This year I hit a few of these as I attempted to recall just what really happened that day. Even now, I draw a blank on Granite Bay. Did it really happen? You can read my 50 mile experience, Adventures in Running: 2015 American River 50. So without further ado, here’s my version of ‘The 3-3-3’s.

Three Things I Did Right

  1. Prepared a split chart for the second year, based off last year. Thankfully Michael tweaked our plan to slow our pace down to a 16 min/mile for the first 24.31 miles up to Beal’s Point) in order to save our legs for the remainder of the race, which truly begins at mile 31 and the Meat Grinder
  2. Unlike past years and past races, I decided to drink the “HOKA Kool-Aid” and purchased two pairs. For the first half of the race, which was dominated by hard surfaces I ran in the HOKA Constant 2. It was a nice shoe to run, provided my feet a bit of extra comfort and had minimal foot pain, which I experienced a few weeks prior during our 6-hour endurance run at Razorback. On the trails it was the HOKA Stinson 3 ATR with a much meatier sole, wore different than the road shoe and seemingly kept my feet fresh for the second part of the race, which was nearly all trail running.
  3. This was the first race using a pacer, which was a godsend pulling into Beal’s Point, seeing and hearing Michael encouraging us up to fuel up and get out of the checkpoint. His insight and information, while not valuable for this race will be points to consider in my next 50 mile attempt. Unfortunately, I didn’t run with him much as he dropped back to take care of Brian, N. and the heat exhaustion he was battling. But 7 hours later I would welcome him back as he picked me up for the last 3 grueling miles of the race, keeping my spirits up and remaining positive in order to help me finish. He also took a video of me crossing the finish line, a moment I will always cherish.

Three Things That Didn’t Go Well

  1. It probably doesn’t even need to be said that you need to run in order to break in new shoes. The HOKA Constant 2 were a comfortable shoe, while I didn’t run in during the 6-hour endurance race, I was wearing them regularly in order to “break them in.” That alone wasn’t enough, as hot spots developed by mile 20, turning into blisters that caused discomfort for the rest of the day.
  2. Fueling continues to be challenging. Last year I attempted to remain “PD compliant” (no meat, cheese or dairy, added oil, sugar or additives) during my run. Unfortunately I failed early on, using dates (natural sugar) in the bars I made. This year I basically said, “f#ck it” I need to fuel with what will help me cross that finish line. Honestly, I didn’t put much thought into my fueling. I picked up some chia bars, Larabars and chews for fuel between aid stations. On the hydration side, I dropped fresh Nuun Hydration tablets in my bladder through out the day. The worst offending item, a veggie burrito from Chipotle when I made it to Beal’s Point. Probably 15oo calories in this burrito, but damn! This was the best burrito I have ever. However I expended a consider amount of energy chewing and digesting, which has me rethinking how I fuel next race.
  3. Brian and I have now run 4 races together, two 50K and two 50 mile, we run well together, similar ability and pace but we are able to push each other to keep going when the going get’s tough. We knew it was going to be warm during the race and the heat was a concern. By Beal’s Point (mile 24.31) Brian was struggling with the heat, as the day warmed, his pace diminished. Before long I saw him losing distance behind me. This left me as a solo runner with no one to run with for nearly 23 miles! Missing from my race was the camaraderie, know we had each others back, continually pushing each other to the next aid station. Mentally, I was strong but had to focus much more when our pacer told me to go on without him, as he went to support Brian. I never saw Brian until I approached the finish line.

Three Things I Could Improve On

  1. Stick to the plan, man! Discussing our split chart, we knew we were going to be running hot for much of the first 24.31 miles. We were set up with a 16 min/mile pace. That folks is a walking pace, fairly brisk, but nothing that could not be achieved, even if you are head up an incline. At one point early on we were nearly 2:30 ahead of our planned pace, which would provide time on the back end of the race, but would also see us expending more energy during the first half. We slowed, realistically we could have walked the entire first 24.31 miles and still had time to finish.
  2. My training leading up to AR50 was terrible, almost non-existant. I had maybe 2-3 training runs and one 12-hour endurance race, which saw some terrible rainy and cold weather, we decided to drop to the 6-hour time limit. Aside from that I can’t make any excuses, I didn’t train enough. Then again, do you ever train enough for an event? Add some quality training and a few long runs and I believe finishing around 12 hours would be a reality.
  3. Fueling and hydration go hand in hand with what I didn’t do well. Next year I will take some of Michael’s advice and look at using bottles versus a bladder, carrying two water bottles on my hydration vest and a 22 oz. bottle in hand filled with electrolytes. This will allow for a known amount of calories (250) per hour or between aid stations. Easier to fill than a bladder when a volunteer helps out to fill it. Never been one for using a handheld, I do when I run shorter distances, just to get comfortable running with it in my hand.

All in all I was pleased with my performance this year at the AR50. There is something special, almost magical about this course. No matter how you look at it, the day is long, physically challenging and mentally draining. But I cannot wait to take what I learned this year, apply it to next year and see a new PR when I cross the finish line.

Adventures in Running: 2016 American River 50

ar50mapLooking back on the 2016 American River 50 Mile Endurance Race, it’s a swell of emotion that overcomes me. For the second consecutive year Brian N. and I have toed the starting line, in what many consider “crazy?!?” running 50 miles. The question that follows, “Why?” My answer, because I can. There was a point in life where running was something I disliked, from youth sports to high school and into college, I did not like conditioning days. It wasn’t until I started eating right in October, 2011, thanks to Forks Over Knives, a Protective Diet and exercise, taking up running near the end of 2012, with my training culminating in finishing my first race, a half marathon in 1:58, of March the following year.

From couch to half marathon, I had conquered something new and felt great crossing the finish line under 2 hours to the cheering of my friend and his wife, earning my first finisher’s medal. The next year it would be my first ultra marathon, jumping into a the Diablo Trails Challenge, a 50k on Mount Diablo. Finishing this race in 8:53 I experienced my first “runner’s high” yearning to run longer distances. The feeling was unbelievable, unlike anything I had every experienced in life. For a few weeks I felt as if I was on cloud nine.

ar2016_startLast year, my first running of the AR50, an experience I will forever cherish, crossing the finish in 13:52:55, less than 8 minutes from the time limit. It was an accomplishment I never expected, but mentally, was prepared for the highs and lows through out the day. Memories of last year came pouring in as I ran various sections of the course with relentless forward progress towards my ultimate goal, the finish line.

Prior to Saturday, April 2 I had organized my running clothes, shoes and Nathan VaporAir Hydration Pack containing snacks and other necessities in preparation for race day. The alarm rang at 1:30AM, but it was a very restless night’s sleep with anticipation as my bed mate. As my day began memories of last year started coming back; the early morning, the cold and wind, starting arch, the journey ahead and not really knowing what to expect. After an uneventful drive to the finish line at American River Overlook Park, I collected my gear and headed for the shuttle back to the starting line.

 

2016_splitsExiting the shuttle I quickly made contact with Brian and Michael L., our pacer for the day, as we waited out the last hour in his vehicle before we made our way to the starting line. Michael was instrumental in our run, as he took our split chart from last year, made a few adjustments and asked for our input. The result was a rock solid plan Brian and I felt comfortable with. Sticking to the plan would see us cross the finish in 13:27, more than 26 minutes ahead of where I finished last year. Realistically, the only times that mattered were the cutoff times at selected checkpoints and the overall total time of 14 hours.

st135852-02-321Our plan for the first half of the race was to set a 16 min/mile pace, that’s a walking pace. We could have literally walked 24.31 miles to Beal’s Point and started our race from that aid staion. Needless to say it didn’t quite work out that way. While we didn’t go out fast, we did stick to our 4:1 ratio (run/walk), which worked well for approximately 22 miles, up to the final climb up to Beal’s Point. Yet our split times, based on Garmin show only 3 miles in excess of 16 minutes with many miles between 13-15 minutes. This allowed “extra” time on the back end of the course, which was more challenging being trail based, as opposed to most of the first 24 miles being hard surfaces. No matter how you split the course up or broke it down, we were in for a very long day but with a good plan in place we felt ready.

Avoiding injury was key in both our minds, as I picked up a sharp, shooting pain in my right knee last year about mile 12, while Brian twisted an ankle around mile 20. Carrying those monkeys on our backs, we hoped to remain strong through the first half of the race, with the “Meat Grinder” weighing heavily on our minds. What’s the Meat Grinder? Brian at Dashing Dad explains, “The next 9 miles were rough. Not only was it the longest stretch without support, it was going to run through the notorious “Meat Grinder.” The Meat Grinder started around mile 31…and is about 5 miles of steep climbs, steep drops, with lots of rocks, roots, and loose sand.” It’s not all that technical, but you must throw caution to the wind when you run this section or it could be your downfall, as it was for us last year.

ar50_smiles1Through the first 4.97 miles to Folsom Point we were 14 minutes ahead of our planned split, which was to be expected as it was the start of the race with adrenaline racing through the veins. Feeling good, it was a very quick stop; a salt tablet and PB&J and were on the go to Willow Creek, 7.80 miles away, the second longest leg of the day. This was a long stretch running on sidewalks, pavement and bike trails for much of this leg. Bicyclists became more prevalent as made the turn off Folsom Lake Crossing onto the American River Bike Trail. Much like last year, it was a challenge to remain focused, while avoiding bicyclists of varying skills. Some were downright rude, bombing down the bike trail at high speed, while others were courtesy, calling out, “Back!” or “Left!” as they approached.

As we pulled into Willow Creek at 8:52AM, we were 31 minutes ahead of our planned split. With Michael tracking our progress, we received a text message just out of the aid station, “Might want to throttle back a little.” We were on a 13:30 min/mile pace, nearly 2:30 minutes faster than our plan. Our target pace remained a relaxed 16 min/mile pace, which meant more walking, in order to save our legs for the second half of the race. We were fine with that pulling 14:30 to 15:30 minute miles as we made our way towards Sacramento State Aquatic Center and the climb up to the next aid station, Main Bar.

ar50_brianThe course transitioned from road to trail just prior to 10AM for us, as the day began to warm. Brian had made note of the forecast temperatures being in the mid 70s for the race, which was a bit of a concern. If there is one challenge that is difficult to overcome, it’s the heat. Keeping your core cool and staying hydrated are key to combating the heat. I felt more prepared for the heat, based solely on running in 80-90 degree temperatures at home for training, a bit different than Brian putting in quality miles in the cooler climate of Daly City. This would be the biggest challenge of the day, as the temperatures continued to climb the deeper we progressed into the race.

The aid station at Main Bar saw us 32 minutes ahead of our plan as we refueled and hydrated, attempting to get some relief from the rising temperatures. Last year I concentrated on my fuel, bringing my own chia energy bars and dates to keep the energy level high, with water as my main source of hydration. At aid stations, I keyed on boiled red potatoes and bananas and more water. After 25 miles of eating the same foods and drinking the same fluid, I yearned for something more, more substance, more flavor and appetizing. So it really was no surprise when we hit the aid station at mile 38.14 I grabbed a handful of red licorice and continued on.

A key component to finishing this race is the ability to stay hydrated and fueled so you don’t bonk, “a condition caused by the depletion of glycogen stores in the liver and muscles, which manifests itself by sudden fatigue and loss of energy.” No runner wants to bonk, but if you mismanage your intake, bonking could be detrimental to finishing. Last year I put lots of thought into what I wanted to carry in my pack and eat at aid stations and drink. While I didn’t bonk, I quickly tired of the snacks and more importantly I yearned for something more than water.

ar50_sceneryThis year I changed my approach to some degree, bringing chia energy bars and dates with me. For my water I decided to supplement with Nuun Hydration tablets (watermelon and lemon-lime) to keep the electrolytes up. At checkpoints I gave myself a bit of leeway this year going with quartered PB&J sandwiches and an assorted array of liquids to keep things fresh. Discussing hydration and fuel with Michael out of Beal’s Point, he suggested going with bottles as opposed to a bladder. He carried two bottles of water on him and a 22 oz. handheld filled with electrolytes, which could be refilled at all the aid station. This way he know exactly how many calories he was receiving from the handheld and could supplement with snacks at the aid stations. Fueling and hydration were better this year, but I can foresee changes I want to implement next year.

While I wasn’t particularly happy with my food and drink choices, the variety I experienced over 50 miles was a nice change of pace compared to last year. Water, while necessary was also my downfall, as I didn’t use ice and didn’t drink enough after leaving Horseshoe Bar. Water tasted terrible and by mistake I picked up a small cup of Sprite, which was a real shot in the arm after drinking warmish, non-flavored water.

ar50_usBetween Main Bar and Negro Bar, 3.20 miles, we paralleled the American River Bike Trail on a single track. Temperatures were creeping into the low 70s and the heat was starting to take effect. Our min/mile times were still very good, averaging 15 minutes, still ahead of our split plan. Approaching Negro Bar, at a walking pace I hit Michael with a text, “Probably in the neighborhood bar in about five minutes.” With a good laugh I corrected the text to read, “Pulling into Negro in about five minutes” not the neighborhood bar. Although a beer right about now would have hit the spot! We passed mile 20.18 as we arrived into the aid station, but had lost some time climbing out, now just 24 minutes ahead of plan. Into Beal’s Point we were told, “the climb up to BP will slow you down a bit as well.” By this time, Michael was at Beal’s Point waiting for us to arrive with our drop bag in hand.

Out of Negro Bar in a flash, cooled off and refueled, we felt good as it was just 5.14 miles to Beal’s Point. It would also be one of two climbs during the race before being rewarded seeing Michael. We had transitioned back to pavement on the American River Bike Trail, with many riders, some slow rolling hills. By this time our 4:1 ratio was out the door and we had slowed our pace to a walk. Knowing we we going to be ahead of schedule into Beal’s Point we attempted to conserve energy for the race that began a few miles out of Granite Bay, with the Meat Grinder. The climb ended back where it began at Folsom Lake Crossing, passing Folsom Prison, each step zapping more and more energy as the sun was nearly overhead.

st135852-06-915Brian was beginning to really struggle with the heat, I recall asking about 3/10ths of a mile from Beal’s Point if he wanted to run it…ended up being the last 1/10th we ran, as it was downhill. Good call! No reason to expend more energy when we arrived at the entrance to Beal’s Point. It was a welcomed sight to see smiling faces and people cheering every runner coming down the hill through the arch. We were pleased with our progress and time through 24.31 miles arriving at the aid station in 6:03 at 12:03PM, this put us 30 minutes ahead of what Michael had planned.

Last year I was all about Luna Sandals, but after a year long battle with pain in my feet, I made a change in footwear. Talking to Tracy of WCTR and Shrina Z. at Razorback Endurance Race in March, both who experienced feet issues, swore HOKA was the answer. Brian had been on me for a while to “drink the Kool-Aid!” and go HOKA. About 4 weeks before the race I went shoe shopping, purchased not one, but two pairs of HOKA, for street and trail. Overall, I was very pleased with the performance and comfort they provided over 50 miles. I did however pick up 4 blisters on my feet before reaching Beal’s Point, but the discomfort was not enough to stop me.

ar50_bealsptFor me, I changed shoes discarding my HOKA Constant 2 (street) for the HOKA Stinson 3 ATR, the trail shoe, as all but 3 miles were to be run on trails. The change did my feet well, as I had developed 4 blisters on my feet. The blisters on the inside of my left heel and on my right little toe were the most bothersome. The change in shoes took some of the pressure off these hot spots and my feet felt fresh. My planning had me changing socks, but I didn’t even want to bother or doctor the blisters, I would deal with it.

My motivation for getting to Beal’s Point this year, a Chipotle veggie burrito with brown rice, black beans, lettuce and tomato salsa. I know, I know (directed to the PD crowd) not the best food to refuel with, but DAMN! It hit the spot! It was a great motivator and while not oil free, high in sodium, I needed the calories. Did I mention it tasted AMAZING?! Come to find out I expended more energy chewing and digesting this burrito, which could have been conserved for the rest of the course but for this race it worked for me. While walking out the aid station, we discussed fueling and hydration to some length, a point I have already touched on. Next year, I will readdress what I fuel with and how I plan to hydrate. Soft, more palatable foods that you can squeeze out of a small bottle would allow me the necessary calories while expending less energy to eat.

ar50_lakeWith Beal’s Point and the burrito behind us, we looked forward to what was to come. Our Achilles heal least year, the Meat Grinder but the next 5.14 miles were quite uneventful, as we followed Michael, who set the pace. After all, this is why we asked him to pace us. The noon day sun was beat down hard, thankfully living in Oakley, running in warm weather I was accustomed to heat that does nothing but drains your energy. I was feeling good a few miles outside of Granite Bay, still had a smile on my face and in some warped way was still having fun.

The run from Granite Bay to Horseshoe Bar was the longest segment of the race at 8.69 miles. For us it occurred at the warmest time of the day as well, which didn’t bode well for Brian, who struggled into the aid station, but still desiring to finish the race after falling just 9 miles short the year before. I remember Granite Bay because a volunteer too my hat off and dunked it in the cold water. I didn’t get their name, but this really went a long way. Just another reason why those individuals who take time out of their day to make ours happen, goes a long way.

Refueled, cooled off we were back on our way after 29 miles. Michael led us out of the aid station and the trail turned single track. I was continually looking behind me, sensing Brian was falling further and further off the pace. About a mile from the start of the Meat Grinder, Michael slowed, I caught him but the heat had consumed Brian. Michael doubled back to check on Brian’s condition. That was the last I saw of them, as Michael told me to continue. I recall sending a text at 1:37PM, “Just started the meat grinder” but never got a response. It would about about two and a half hours later at 3:51PM we had an exchange:

Me: How’s it going

Michael: 2M from HB (2 miles from Horseshoe Bar)

Michael: B is very light headed from the heat.

Michael: Slow walking pace. You?

Me: Leaving HB (Horseshoe Bar)

ar50_meatgrinderJust 2 miles out of  the aid station I saw the welcome sign of the Meat Grinder. This section of the course isn’t difficult per se, but can be technical in areas. The loose rocks, exposed roots, soft sand and narrow trail made for a challenging section of this 50 mile race. Last year, after sustaining injuries, we walked nearly all of the Meat Grinder. This year was going to be different, after saving our legs for the second half of the race, this is where the race really started for me. By this time I could feel all sorts of hot spots on my feet, blisters had formed.

By this time I was running by myself, not knowing the fate of Brian and Michael I could only hope I would receive a positive text from them. I maintained a good 15 minute pace for the first half of the Meat Grinder, but things slowed considerably when I hit mile 35 and I slowed. The next 3 miles were the longest of the day. Through the soft sand, up and down hills, climbing up rocks and being cautious on the descents on narrow trails with exposed roots. During this section of he course I saw people exhausted from the heat, many walking and others dry heaving. Even though I was tired I felt good and as Michael predicted, I was passing quite a few runners, most unintentionally. I was running my race, walking the hills and most of the flat trails, while putting in a good downhill pace on the descents.

Pleased with my progress through the Meat Grinder I continue to forge forward, while the pace had slowed, I would arrive at Horseshoe Bar at 3:47PM, 29 minutes ahead of plan! It was a welcome sight to hear the activity at the aid station and see the volunteers so welcoming.

This was the BEST aid station of the entire race! It was also the second time during the race I would see Fleet Feet employee and friend, Ellisa C. She passed Brian and I about mile 12, we had a quick exchange and she continued on. At the aid station she had picked up her husband, Nick who would pace her through to the finish. I was surprised I had caught her, as she looked strong when she passed us hours back, but some issues and her pace slowed. We exchanged words and a some high fives and I was then taken care of by a volunteer.

ar50_smiles2If there is one volunteer who went above and beyond, it John B. (thanks to Ellisa for his name) who met me upon arrival at Horseshoe Bar. Ellisa was saying good bye to him, telling him to take good care of me, which he did. I unsnapped my hydration pack, which he took, refilled with new water and added some Nuun tablets too. Not to waste too much time in the aid station I grabbed some PB&J sandwiches, another salt tablet and had some soda. Again, not the drink of choice (especially for PD’ers) but damn it tasted good! Walking back over to John, he helped me into my hydration pack, then took my handkerchief, untied it from my neck and dunked it in cool water for me, retying it around me neck. Small actions, such as these after some 10 hours really made me feel good. Words can’t express the gratitude I had for him and all the other volunteers.

It was only 2.80 miles to Rattlesnake Bar and the final checkpoint with a cutoff time of 5:15PM. Unlike last year there was no doubt I would make the checkpoint comfortably. Like most of the Meat Grinder, I continued to pass other runners at my pace, which had slow considerably. The trails were nice, “slow rollers” as we were told last year out of Horseshoe Bar.

IMG_1180The descent into and climb out of Rattlesnake was an emotional one for me, nearly tearing up as all runners were welcomed into and back out of the aid station. It was quite an emotional lift seeing the smiles and hearing the cheering from people lining the trail to Rattlesnake Bar. Last year, it was Amer B. who greeted me with open arms, warm smile and encouraging words that set the tone for the final 9 miles. This year it was the crowd that gathered. Wasting no time, I topped off my pack for the remainder of the race, grabbed a handful of snacks and I got back onto the trail. Leaving the aid station I was still 9 minutes ahead of our plan with the possibility of finishing by 7:29PM.

 The sun was slowly setting in the west and the rest of the run would be in the cool afternoon along the American River, which was much more wild this year as opposed to last. As I established myself on the trail I caught up with two women and an Asian man, running his first 50 mile race. The ladies “chatting it up” set a good pace for the next 5 miles, which saw the predicted 20-22 min/mile up and down this tight single track.

Some 11 hours in and the day was taking it’s toll on my body, I could feel the intensity of the blisters with each step, developed a chaffed butt (not comfortable) and I had been dealing with a sharp, shooting pain on the top of my right foot (possibly from my shoe being tied too tight). None of this was going to prevent me from finishing. I knew leaving Rattlesnake Bar I would complete the race, it was just a matter of what time I would cross the finish. If I pushed by the pack of runners I was with I might have been able to make up a few minutes per mile, but decided I had the finish in the bag and was content to ride out the single track until we hit the bottom of Cardiac Trail, which would require me to reach deep in order to conquer.

12936589_10154078203349320_5150371691308706647_nThis was the part of the race I dreaded all day long, as you know it’s coming and you know you will be exhausted. Mentally I was prepared for the climb out of the river valley to the finish line, but I mustered every bit of energy I had remaining to keep that relentless forward progress going. Step by step I out more trail behind me, bringing me closer to Last Gap, the final aid station of the race. It was my hope I would see Michael’s smiling face as I broke out from the single track to the fire trail to start the climb. Unfortunately I was a bit dejected when I started the climb by myself.

As I crested the fire trail I could see volunteers coming out to greet runners and see how they could help. I was asked if I needed any water in my pack, to which I responded “no” and continued into the aid station. I grabbed a few cups of liquid, a PB&J and a roll out of the spaghetti and meatball cups they had and started walking out of the aid station and who should I see coming down the road…Michael!

I was speechless, I was so thrilled and relieved to see him, as he would push me the final 3 miles to the finish line. My eyes welled up a bit as we exchanged some small talk, asking how I felt and we started making our way towards the final stretch of the American River 50 Mile Endurance Race. It had been a long day, but I felt better now than I had the last 20+ miles, running solo, thoughts kept to myself with no one to really talk to, in order to take my mind off the trail and put in a “happy place.” The experience was still worth it, I would not exchange the pain and agony for anything, this close to the finish line.

Each step was seemingly a struggle, as we discussed fueling and how the run in general had gone the past 5 hours. I already knew Brian had dropped at mile 38 because of heat exhaustion, this was disappointing and frustrating, as I know how determined he was to finish after pulling himself last year at Rattlesnake Bar, mile 40.94 due to a twisted ankle. Out of Last Gasp, I was now 10 minutes late, but the math still told me I could PR if I kept my current pace, which wasn’t fast, but steady.

12932779_10154078204819320_8779957365474635510_nIt wasn’t long until I saw the big, black ‘3’ and I knew we were close. Walking back and forth across the road, pumping the arms I was determined to finish this race. Prior to getting to mile 2, Ellisa and her husband pushed  past me, looking strong making their way up the hill. We did a bit of running on some of the level portions of the road when it flattened out. My legs were fatigued, my feet hurt but I was imagining crossing the finish line strong. Michael told me to conserve what energy I had left to make the run down the chute, through the arch.

People ask me why I want to run 50 miles. This year, it took 48 miles to come up with a reasonable answer, “to make sure my first 50 mile race wasn’t a fluke.” Finishing with less than 8 minutes last year, I considered myself very lucky to cross the finish line standing. It was a struggle all day long, with emotional highs and lows. Today was no different, but being mentally prepared and having a solid plan in hand made the day easier to manage. Running from aid station to aid station, allowed us to break the race down into easy to run chunks. I really had hoped Brian would have been by my side walking up the fire road. Still 50 miles is a huge achievement and I was pleased to be on the home stretch.

st135852-08-433We passed the last big black number, “1” and I was less than 16 minutes away from the finish. By now I could start to hear the activity at the finish line, which seemingly gave me that extra push to “get it done.” About half a mile from the finish people were scattered along the side of the road, cheering, providing shouts of encouragement, which had been a big motivator all day long. We crested the final hill, we started to run down toward the gate, turning right on Pacific Avenue and into the chute for the final stretch.

This experience is what makes the entire day worth it. Off Pacific Avenue, I run across the park grass and onto the sidewalk that leads into the chute and the final hundred yards to the finish line. People were lining both sides cheering as I made my way towards the arch. People high fiving, shouting congratulations as I finally picked up the clock, 13:30:20 and counting. Michael recorded the final 40 seconds as he was pushing me down the home stretch. Where that extra boost of energy came from I won’t know, but I ran the fastest I had all day as I heard my name called as I crossed the finish line at 13:40:39 (watch the video).

12932791_10154080093494320_6724146376202833709_nI was done, physically and mentally. The day, which started at 6AM was over, my race was won and I had been handed my finisher’s jacket and medal. Michael was there by my side to congratulate me, as was Ellisa, who had finished about 15 minutes ahead of me. It was another epic race, I had set a personal record (PR) by knocking off 12 minutes off my time from the previous year. What I suddenly noticed was how difficult it was to walk, my legs were fatigued and every step I took hurt. It really made me wonder, “how did I accomplish this achievement?” It was a few minutes before I found Brian, who shook my hand and gave me a hug, telling me how proud he was, overcoming the challenges of the day and finish. It meant a lot to have a good friend and good runner say that.

Finish the American River 50 Mile Endurance Race meant more to me this year, than last year. With the exception of not training enough prior to the race, I proved to myself I was mentally and physically capable to go the distance. Even with more training, this would still be a very demanding and challenging race. Now I am the proud owner of two AR50 Patagonia jackets and look forward to 2017 and another attempt at running this course!

Run Forest!

ar50-logoTaking a break from reaming DeNova Homes for a day, I get to forgot about work, the new home and all those items on my need to do list and run 50 miles. Yeah, that’s right run…50 miles, a distance most people would only consider driving. For the second year, I will be participate in the American River 50 Miles Endurance Race, which starts at Brown’s Ravine Marina in Folsom and ends at the Auburn Dam Lookout, a course that I completed in 13:52:55, less than 8 minutes from the 14 hour time limit.

Much like last year, I come into the race, not running as much as I would have liked leading up to the start. I am sure many can lay claim to that, but mentally I am strong and I feel our strategy will pay off in the end and earn both of us a finishers medal. This year we have enrolled the services of Michael L, who will pace us from Beal’s Point (the midpoint of the race) to the finish line. Michael will be that nagging voice telling up to “man up” and “keep moving” if we want to achieve our goal.

Last year our 9:1 run/walk ratio worked well, but after participating in the 6 hour Razorback Endurance race last month, we have decreased that run time to a 4:1 ratio, in order to save our legs for the last 25 miles or more specifically the last 15 miles including the dreaded “Meat Grinder”, which literally had us walking 20+ minutes a mile through that section of the course. Up to that point we were doing well and feeling strong, well as strong as we could with Brian struggling with a twisted ankle and my experiencing sharp, shooting knee pain.

The 4:1 ratio sees us holding a 16 mile/min for the first half of the race, arriving at Beal’s Point in 6:33 (12:33 P.M.). Last year we hit this point in 5:45, but lost a considerable amount of time when we hit the infamous “Meat Grinder.” Sounds nice, huh? Injury and fatigue set in, but we were able to complete this technical portion of the course and hit the “slow rollers” up to the final aid station. Unfortunately Brian N. had to drop, as his ankle could not take any more. I continued on, struggled on the final climb, but crossed the finish with just under 8 minutes to go.

This year we will look to finish together with our pacer Michael L and shooting for a total time of 13:27. That’s 13 hours! I don’t even work that long but  I am looking very forward to getting out, relaxing, I know that sounds off and enjoying doing something I enjoy and not worrying about work, our new house or the laundry list of items I have on my STD list, or “shit to do.” Look forward to live updates through out the race on Saturday. Next report…THE FINISH LINE!

Run. Run Some More.

hurtsInteresting to see the running threads as the year was ending that read, “like my post and I will run 3 miles, comment on it, I will run 5 miles and share it, I will run 10 miles.” That is surely one way to get motivated and help ring in the new year and your goals you have set for running. After feet problems and a busy schedule today starting my training for my next running challenge.

Initially I wanted to compete in my first 100 mile race, but after the disappointment I felt logging my first DNF in October while running the Dick Collins Firetrails 50, I have reconsidered my skill and abilities at this point in my running. I plan on running two races the first part of 2016. The first race is the Relentless Razorback that will take place in early March. This will be the second time I have participated in this race. What makes this race amazing, Tracy Johnson, the organizer and race director. She is flat out AWESOME when it comes to supporting the event and all the runners. This will be my first 100k (62.5 miles) event over a 2-mile loop that only has a 90 foot elevation change. All things considered, I should be successful in this challenge, which will make this the longest race.

I never intend to win an event or even my age group. For me, at age 46, finishing is winning. This is the same way I approached the American River 50 last year and ended up crossing the finish line in 13:52:55. The race challenges your physically, yet you continue to find that strength deep inside to make it to the next aid station. This sort of endurance race can mentally break you demolish you. I felt this in my last 50 mile attempt as my lack of training and all the hills put me in a bad place and I was never able to recover and make up lost time.

The following month, April its back to Folsom and the 2016 American River 50! This year I plan on crossing the finish line with my running partner, Brian N. It was very difficult to go on after he dropped out of the race at mile 41 due to a swollen and twisted ankle he suffered around mile 20. Amazing to think he soldiered on for another 21 miles. Without him, I am not sure I would have crossed the finish line. Thankfully, things went my way that day and I was blessed with good friends and a finishing medal when I heard my name and time as I crossed the timing strip. It was an amazing race, one I look very forward to this year and improving on my time.