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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Headlands 100 (2015)

September 12th of 2015 I ran my 6th consecutive Headlands 100.  Back in 2010 this was the very first 100 miler that I ever ran.  I've been lucky enough to run this race every year since, and even luckier enough to finish every year.

This is the one event where I feel the most at home.  No matter what's going on in my life, this is the one event where I can keep my shit together and handle business.

This year I drove up to solo the night before the event to make sure I got a good night sleep.  I would like to say I got a good night sleep the night before the event, but because of some issues I was having in my life, I didn't get much sleep at all... and I'll just leave it at that.

To be honest, I really wasn't sure how this race was going to go down.

The morning of the race started off good.  I saw my friends Catra and John before the beginning of the race and got to talk to them before the race started.

 My parents drove up the morning of the event and met me at the start line of the race.  They've been at just about all the races I've ran, and have been to eighteen of the twenty 100 mile events I've ran.  The only two 100 mile events they missed were both years that I ran the San Diego 100.

The race started off on not the best note.  I accidentally didn't turn on my Garmin until about 1 min before the start of the race and this wasn't enough time for my watch to get the satellite signal when the race started.  My watch picked up the GPS signal about 5 mins after the race started.

At the beginning of the race I was a little concerned about how I was going to mentally do during the race. At the first aid station I came up to (about mile 5) I saw that my friend Eric was there volunteering.  This was a pleasant surprise, and since we ran by this aid station 8 times during the race, and I would get to see Eric each time.  Knowing that I would see Eric at the aid station every time I came through gave me something to look forward to during the race.

Around mile 15 I started talking to a runner that I was making my way up a hill with.  We started having the typical trail running conversations... "What races have you done... Have you done this race before... How long have you been running trails..."

After a mile of talking to my new trail friend, Leah told me that she was from Chicago and had recently moved to the Bay Area with her husband.  Leah then told me that her husband was working at one of the aid stations all night.

At this point I remembered that my friend Eric was originally from Chicago.  I asked Leah, "Is Eric your husband?"  It turned out that I had been running with my friends wife.

I really enjoyed running with Leah.  We had some good running conversations and we oddly enough ran at pretty much the exact same pace.  This was nice because I didn't really want to run alone all day, but at the same time I didn't really want to talk all day.  Sometimes I enjoy a good silence while I'm running and luckily for me Leah seemed to be the same.  We would have a random conversation from time to time, and then we would run for a long periods of time in complete silence.  It was awesome!!!

When we got to the mile 50 aid station my friend Stephen was there volunteering and had a Dr Pepper waiting for me.  This is where I made a slight mistake during the race.  Stephen walked up to me, with a Dr Pepper in his hand and offered it to me.  For some stupid reason I had it in my head that I didn't want any caffeine until mile 65 so I passed on the Dr Pepper.

Leah and I left the mile 50 aid station and were on our way to finishing the second half of the run.  At mile 55 I was still feeling good, but this feeling wasn't going to last too much longer.  Around mile 58 I started feeling really tired.  I was really wishing that I had taken that Dr Pepper.  Luckily I had a caffeine pill in my bag and was able to take that to get my energy back up.  After I got some caffeine in my system I was able to get rolling again.

 Leah and I ran together up until mile 75.  At mile 75 she took a break so that she could take a short nap.  My friend Chris was waiting for me at mile 75 and was getting ready to pace me for the last 25 miles of the race.  I also saw Stephen at mile 75 and got the Dr Pepper that I should have taken from his at mile 50.

Chris and I ran through the last 25 miles of the race together.  Chris has come out to this race for the last 4 years to crew and run with me.  I was looking forward to running with Chris all day.  We had not seen each other in a while and I was looking forward to catching up with him.

I really wanted to finish the race in under 26 hours this year, but I just wasn't able to pull it off this year.  I was really disappointed with this, but I did finish in 27 hours and 28 mins... and that was a course best for me.

I really love this race.  I look forward to it every year, and can't wait to run it again next year.  My goal is to get at least get 10 finishes at this event in a row.  Hopefully in 2017 I'll get closer to my 26 hour goal at this race.

Until next time...



Tuesday, November 24, 2015


After yesterday's training run with my friend Megan, we started trying to figure out when we could train together during the week.  I have a 5k I'm running on Thanksgiving, so I told her I probably wouldn't run on Wednesday because I wanted to have a recovery day before the race, but I could probably run a little on Tuesday morning.

We agreed to run Tuesday morning, but I told Megan that she had to pick the workout we were doing.  On Monday night I received a text message from Megan, "How do 400 and 800 meter repeats sound at 8:00am?"

Tuesday morning (today) we met at the park and did our workout.  We did our workout around a 1.5 mile loop.  We started with a 400 meter repeat, then an 800, and then 3 more 400's.

After we finished that first loop Megan told me we were going to change it up a little.  This time we started with an 800 and I was to give her a 20 second head start.  This ment I had to try to chase Megan down and hopefully we would finish at about the same time.  I was able to catch up to Megan around 600 meters into our 800 meter stretch and my legs were feeling pretty tired when we finished the repeat.

After that we decided to stick with 400 meter repeats until we finished the second loop.  When we did our first 400 meter repeat I started with Megan and didn't give her a head start.  She wasn't very happy with me starting at the same time as her.  When we finished the repeat she told me that she wanted me to give her a head start so I would be forced to run faster and catch her.  Megan is pretty fast, and I really didn't want to try to catch up to her because I knew I was going to really have to hit it hard to close the lead she had on me.  I also knew that she was doing this to help me out so that I would be forced to run faster and get in a good workout.

Megan and I started training together about a week ago.  I really enjoy running with her.  She has a pretty solid work ethic and is very strong willed.

During our training runs there have been times when she's mentioned that her legs felt heavy, or that they feel empty.  Anytime I would ask her if we should back off on the pace she just replies with, "No, I'm fine."  Then she usually pushes harder.

It's good to have a training partner like this.  When you see your partner pushing through discomfort and pain, it inspires you to do the same.  

Until next time...


Sunday, November 22, 2015

High Expectations

Tonight I was going to finish my blog about last September's race at the Headlands 100, but i decided to write about how I felt after the race instead for right now.

At the end if the event, like many of the trail races I've ran, I was given a ceramic coaster to take home to remember the race.  I literally have a stack of these at home.  I think they are really cool race awards.

When I finished the race Maureen Brooks walked me over to a table where a bunch of ceramic coasters were laid out.  Usually the coasters are all made from very nice flawless pieces of ceramic tiles.  Maureen told me that this year they didn't pick all the nice looking tiles, they just selected the tiles at random and had them printed.  I was suppose to pick the one the best reflected my race experience at the event.

The first thing I did was look at the table and I saw a bunch of tiles that all had their own uniqueness.  Some were very nice looking and some were very flawed.  I pick up the nicest one and started to walk away... then I went back to the table and set it back down.  I scanned the table again and picked a new coaster.

The one I picked up was the most damaged looking one I can find, because at the time that's how I felt about myself and the run. 

I held the new coaster in my hand.  It's dented, scratched, chipped, and rough around the edges.  I smiled at Maureen and thanked her for putting on another awesome event.

That weekend I didn't hit the time goal I was aiming for, and I was pretty focused on feeling down on myself for that.  Then my friend Chris mentioned that I did run my fastest time ever at that event.  I was so busy being upset about not running under 26 hours like I was aiming for, I totally disregarded the fact that I ran a personal best time at that race.

I look at this coaster a lot, it's on my nightstand so I see it everyday.  There are times when I look at the coaster and see all it's flaws, and there are times where I look at it and see all it's perfections.

I was on a run today with my friend Megan.  While on our run we talked about races, being disappointed with our finishing times at events we've ran, and things of that nature.

I think that a lot of times, as runners, we are constantly holding ourselves to a standard higher than most people hold us up to.  We're constantly trying to figure out how to improve our times, train better, run faster, etc.  It can be a very stressful hobby.  Sometimes we focus so much on our flaws after our races, we fail to see our accomplishments.  For me personally, I know that I'm constantly my hardest critic, and this isn't just with running, this is with life in general.

There are times were we have to learn not to be so critical about ourselves and not to beat ourselves up if we don't hit every goal we make.  It's human to fail from time to time, to stumble along the way, and to feel a little sad when things don't go as planned.  The important thing is that we pick ourselves back up, get refocused on reaching our goal, and not give up.

Until next time...


Friday, November 20, 2015

Going Solo

Most of the training I do is done solo.  Running, cycling, weights, etc... I tend to train by myself and without training partners.  For the most part I'm happy with that.  I'm very introverted and really like to have time by myself, and it's really hard for me to be in crowds.  That might be why I like trail runs where there aren't a lot of people vs road races.

Don't get me wrong, I like being around people and hanging out with friends, but afterwards I tend to really need some alone time to decompress.

As much as I enjoy my solo training runs, lately I've really felt the need to have a running buddy.  Luckily I work at a speciality running store so I have plenty of chances to meet runners.

The last 2 weeks I've had friends accompany me on my training runs.  This last week was really nice.  I ran some trails with my friend/coworker Tabitha on Tuesday, ran at the park with Carly on Wednesday, and ran with my new friend Megan on Thursday.  Today I was a little pressed for time and went on a solo run and did some hill repeats.

I'm normally pretty quiet when I first meet people and tend to be a little withdrawn until I'm comfortable with people and even the environment I'm in.  I've never been outgoing and I'm not the kind of person that just goes up to people and just starts talking.

The one exception to this shyness for me is when I'm running.  For some reason when I'm out running at the park, or during a race, I feel really comfortable with myself.  I totally let my guard down and I feel very at ease.  When I'm running I can hold a conversation with a complete stranger and not think twice about it.  This normally won't ever happen in non running situations.

I feel really lucky to have running partners right now.  Right now I feel like I have some really cool down to earth people to share my long miles with.  I really enjoy the conversations we have during our runs, and I also enjoy those long quiet miles where we are just running hard and pushing each other.

I will always love going out and running by myself and clearing my head, but right now I'm really enjoying burning a few miles with my friends.

Until next time...


Monday, November 16, 2015

Cool Moon 100 Mile 08-08-2015

So... This blog post is coming very very late... but here it is.

On August 8th of 2015 I ran the Cool Moon 100 for the 3rd year in a row.  In 2013 I had a successful race and finished in a 2nd place tie with my friend Ed "The Jester."  I went back again in 2014 and had to drop out of the race at mile 50 because I just couldn't mentally keep my head together.

After my DNF (Did Not Finish) I signed up for the 2015 race as soon as the registration was up.  I went into this race very focused.  I had one goal... to finish.  The trail was not going to get the best of me like it had last time.  I had put in the hard work, the mentally and physically draining runs and bike rides in the Fresno heat.  I was more positive that I wasn't going to mentally unravel at this event.

My friend Catra had DNF'd with me in 2014 at Cool Moon, and we were both back in 2015 to get some redemption.

Cool Moon 100 doesn't live up to its name.  It's in the middle of summer and it's hot as shit on the trail.  Most of it is exposed so you're in the heat all day on the trail.  There is nothing "cool" about this run, but that's what I like about it.

The race consists of a 14 mile loop and an 11 mile loop.  You start with the 14 mile loop, then go onto the 11 mile loop, and then repeat doing that until you've reached 100 miles.  Generally in a 100 mile event you are allowed to have a pacer run with you for the last 50 miles.  My plan was to have my friend Scott pace me for part of the second half of the race and my friend Keith pace me for the other part of the race.

The first half of the race went well.  I stayed hydrated and kept up on my nutrition, and was feeling pretty good overall.  I was very focused on the run, and just being smart about not going out too fast and just staying confident about being able to finish the race.

At mile 50 my friend Keith was nice enough to come out and join me for 25 miles.  I had another friend (Scott) lined up to pace me for the other 25 miles of the second half of the race, but unfortunately he wasn't able to show up.  Keith decided to stick around a little bit longer, and after pacing me for 25 miles (mile 50-75) he decided to stay with me for another 14 miles.  It was really nice having Keith there to pace me through the evening.  He kept me moving forward, and kept an eye on me when I was getting tired.  Out of all the 100 milers I've done, this one seems to take the most out of me physically.

It was great having Keith out there all night keeping me company.  My friend Eric was also manning one of the aid stations, and Jimmy (my friend and the race director) was manning everything going on at the start/finish area.

My parents do their best to show up to all my races.  I have become a lot more self supportive at events now, and typically don't require much of a crew anymore, but it's always nice to have friends and family out on the course.  It was nice having friends on the course running, pacing, volunteering, and race directing.

Cool Moon 100 is by no means an easy race.  I was happy to be able to safely cross the finish line this year, and I was even more happy that my friend Catra was able to finish as well this year.

Will I be back at Cool Moon next year?  That's hard to say... I plan on running from my home in Fresno, Ca to Washington D.C. next summer as a fundraiser for Campaign For Free Tibet.  My buddy Kyle has jokingly expressed interest in giving Cool Moon a try, and if he tries this race I would defiantly be out there in some capacity with him.  I don't know yet if I would want to run the entire race with him, or just crew and pace the last 50 miles.

Until next time...


Sunday, November 15, 2015

...all hope is gone

Earlier today I wrote about the race I ran yesterday. I touched on how I mentally fell apart at one point, but I didn't talk about how I managed to come out of that downward spiral.

When I have one of those hard moments during a run, I try to remind myself that it will pass.  Like life, bad times don't last forever and will pass.  Sometimes even knowing this doesn't help.  The feelings of hopelessness overtake your thoughts, and you start to feel like you're sinking into a hole.

It's all a head game.  If you're strong enough mentally you can rebound back, if you're weak you'll be eaten alive.

I like a lot of different music.  Some of you might have noticed that I've used song titles for the titles of my blog posts.  I love everything from heavy metal, to rap, to folk, to classical music.

When I go to that "dark place" or just have a rough spot I repeat a part of a chorus from a Slipknot song to myself.  Over and over again I'll repeat to myself, "We'll find a way, When all hope is gone."

I like this lyric because it reminds me to keep fighting, to keep moving forward, to find that small bit of hope when you're feeling like you have nothing left.

It's important to me to acknowledge these moments and to try to deal with them.  I've personally noticed that when my training has been "soft" my mental toughness isn't as strong.  My training for this 100k honestly wasn't what it should have been, and deep down I knew it.  I didn't do any difficult workouts. There were no long hill repeat workouts, no hard bike rides, and no difficult weight routines.

I'm not saying I wasn't able to workout, it just wasn't at the intensity that I needed it to be.

...once I got out of my funk I kept repeating my song lyric over and over again for about 23 miles.  I repeated it up and down every hill, until I reached the finish line.  It was the one thing that gave me hope when I though I had lost it.

Until next time...


Mr Self Destruct

Sometimes the hardest part of running ultra marathons isn't always the course, the pounding on your body, or the physical training... but it's the mental part of the game that can make or break an event.

Yesterday I ran a 100k event (I'll have a more detailed blog about it later) and everything was going according to plan... until about mile 29ish.

Without getting into too much detail, I'll just say that not all things in my personal life have been going to plan.  I've been stressing about trying to find a second job so that I can make some extra money, yet constantly coming up short, and mentally going through a divorce.  I feel like my life has a lot of chaos right now, and during my race it all came to a boiling point.

I got to the point where I was not in a good mental state.  I didn't feel like running, and I didn't feel like being around anyone.  I purposely let myself fall behind the group I was running with and let them all pull way from me.

I've ran enough 100 mile and 50 mile races to know this kind of mental battle happens during events from time to time.  The mental game is even more important than the physical one.  It's hard to say what causes someone to be perfectly fine during a race, and then just moments later completely fucking fall apart mentally.  These kind of things happen and that's important to realize.  They are just moments, and like everything will pass.  Sometimes the negative thoughts last for a few minutes, sometimes they last for miles, and sometimes they cause you to drop out the race.

My mental breakdown lasted for what felt like a lifetime.  I wanted to drop out of the race really bad.  Luckily I kept pushing on and eventually got my head back into the race. 

While I wasn't happy with my overall finishing time yesterday, I was happy about the fact that after being in a really dark place for about 7 miles, I was able to mentally fight back and get my shit together.  Sometimes running a race isn't just about the time you finished in, but it's about the time you had on the trail. 

Until next time...