Monday, May 23, 2011

Bishop High Sierra Ultra Race Report

This is the first 50 miler I finished.  First of all thank you to S. without her I would have quit at mile 10, thanks to Coaches Jeff and Diane at PRS Fit for helping me get through it and a big thanks to all my Daily Mile, especially B. and M. (I don’t use full names but they know who they are) who were very encouraging and offered me excellent advice about aid station tips and equipment and finally work friends and family who supported my crazy effort and have to deal with me talking about trails ad nausea.  This report is broken down by aid stations that I remember because it was a long day and some of the stations were just blurs in my mind.  They were all well stocked and had amazing volunteers but I focused mainly on the cut offs because I struggled.

Start - Millpond
Felt good at Millpond.  I got ready and had everything laid out the night before with my drop bag ready to go just in case S. could not go.  Only change to the bag was instead of going with two packs I went with a pack and a waist pack.  I considered that if one pack bothered me a different one would not be much better, this was key insight.  Millpond had a lot of runners and the nervous energy was flowing before the race.  I ate a little before the race and felt that I was in good shape and prepared to put out a solid effort.  The first miles were sandy.  I did not account for this fact.  If I ever decide to do this course again I guarantee I am training by running at the beach with a loaded pack and maybe weights.  The thinner air made me feel terribly sluggish and set the tone for the rest of the day.

Tungsten City - 1.51
Calves started to hurt, did not take any water here but it was nice to see someone so close to the start helping people out and cheering us to keep going.

CDF Camp - 5.75
On the way to CDF camp I talked to a lot of runners.  I talked to S. from SF and B. from the OC.  S. actually gave me a perpetum tablet.  I had never tried one and gave it a shot.  It was not bad, may try it later.  But I stuck to my plan of Hammer Gels and Endurolytes.  I planed to take aid station food to break up the monotony of gels like B from Daily Mile suggested.  I actually work at the same company as B from the OC; same floor, same division…crazy right?  I started to lose feeling in the toes and I immediately realized that the compression was just not working for me.  So I took off my socks and went sock less (probably not bright).  I had to decide between no feeling and potential blisters so I went with potential blisters.

Junction - 9.77
For the previous few miles I had been running with a really nice guy.  He had gotten food poisoning the night before so he was running slower than he expected.  I had separated from B. and S. because I was hurting (back) and just wanted to get to aid.  The guy I started running with had done the grand slam of ultra running and was a very seasoned runner.  He gave me good tips like not talking a lot to save energy and making sure to pace myself well.  I gave him some TUMS from my pack; I was hoping to run with him the whole time because he was really nice to talk too and I could definitely benefit from his knowledge.  But at junction he got a sharp pain and told me to go on and wished me luck.

Buttermilk - 11.27
I hated my life at this point.  I could not stand the pack on my back anymore.  My back felt like it was on fire and it hurt even when breathing.  I would set a pace and every so often it felt like a kidney punch that would just stop me dead.  So I gave my pack to S., said I hated my life…put on socks since I was sock less @ this point, grabbed a waist pack (UD Uno) and took off.  My only thought was that the aid stations were close enough that I could hobble if it got that bad or send for help if I was in real bad shape.  I prayed it was not kidney issues.  I really wanted to drop at this point, but S. did not say anything.  She was good about not asking if I wanted to stop…had she asked I would have stopped for sure, but I think subconsciously we both knew that I had to try and go for it.  

Edison Loop - 17.4
At this point I was a little confused.  I thought that the cut off was that I needed to get to Edison Loop (2x time) by 12:30 pm.  So I arrived shortly after 11 am thinking I was toast.  I had to get to the highest point then come back in about an hour and a half.  I was devastated.  From buttermilk to Edison loop I had been playing games with myself.  I was continuously changing position with a runner wearing blue.  She would catch me on the up hills and I would catch her downhill.  I had kept her at bay until this station.  At the station she said that all we had to do was turn around and finish up.  I asked if she was doing the 50 mile?  She said no, 50 k, and then said if I was doing the 50 mile I needed to hurry up.  When I got to Edison I hurting and I figured they were going to let me try as a courtesy before pulling me.  After re-fueling a little I charged up the hill. 

Overlook - 20.39
From Edison to the overlook was definitely my darkest hour.  I became very depressed at this point.  I became frustrated because my legs would not turn faster, I was getting a little headache and I was still going to be cut.  More than once the thought of just throwing in the towel and not even getting to the peak crossed my mind; what’s the point.  It was windy, cold and there was snow.  I am from Southern Ca, “snow” is a long car ride involving hot chocolate or beer with chair lifts sprinkled in not an ultra!  The instructions said that we had to get to the overlook, use a hole- punch to make a hole and run back down, no hole equals no official time.  In the span from Edison to Overlook there was a 1,385 ft gain…freaking crazy for a regular day, much crazier to beat a cut off.  As I passed the second or third patch of snow a guy hauling down the hill said…"keep going don’t give up the fight come on."  His words were so clear they went right through me.  In the thin air he bothered to cheer me on when I was so clearly struggling.  My eyes filled with tears.  I wanted to quit so bad but now I really felt compelled to give it a go.  I got really angry that I even considered quitting.  Other people were out here too and I choose to do this so I had to give it all I had.  I decided that my single goal was to use a dam hole-punch at the end of this trail.  If they were going to pull me and I was going to DNF I at least was getting a hole-punch for my effort.  I promised myself I would at least make it to the top and try to fly down the hill to make the cut.  On the way down I got the best news ever!  The guy, who I had run with during the start of the race to Junction the one who got food poisoning the night before, saw me chugging downhill.  I told him I was going to give it a good shot to make it to Edison Loop before the cut off.  He said I already had.  I had to get to it by 12:30 the first time, not for the turn around.  He said I had just passed his gf and that I just had to keep pushing to intake #2 at this point, hereafter he is “Good News Guy” I was ecstatic.  That was the best news I had received all day.  He wished me well and I did the same.  That bit of info gave me such a burst of energy I passed a runner on the way down from the overlook.  I got to an aid station that was supposed to be the overlook aid station, but because of the snow the Jeep’s couldn’t get up there.  But they were so nice, local people who were just out there supporting.  I felt like a champ every time I got to a station.  They had a whole spread and made us all want to keep going.  I left them and before I knew it I was at Edison Loop again.  

Edison Loop #2 - 23.4
I had some home-made hand turned ice cream.  The aid stations all looked like I was the first person there.  Honestly, they were like pit stops at NASCAR Races...just keeping us fueled and going as long as we could.  I took a PB&J as well and headed towards the next aid station.

Intake #2 - 26.5
I got here and I thought that I was safe.  I saw S. who let me know that I had to make the out and back to Bishop Creek in the next 2 hours + change or my day was done (approx 6 miles).  I thought I only had to make it to the first pass by cut off, not the out and back!  My feet were killing me and my back was still giving me trouble.  My back literally never stopped hurting since Buttermilk (11.27).  I was running like Mr. Burns from the Simpsons would have run.  At a previous aid station I had gone through a creek and the wet- to dry- to wet was irritating and starting to chafe my toes.  So I changed socks (again) and shoes to a pair of fresh kicks.  And here we go.  I am sure I looked terrible leaving intake #2.  At this point I plugged in the iPod and found a few tunes to try and get me to zone out and not think of my back, legs, feet, etc.  “Little Lion Man” comes on.  I almost laughed.  “Not as brave as you were at the start” was literally my life at that moment.  The beat kept my legs turning on the down hills.  I knew every downhill was precious and would help me bank time for the uphill.

Bishop Ck Lodge - 29
I got to this aid station, they filled my bottle, I chugged soup, thanked the volunteers and took off.  I did not have the time to hang out.  On the way out I saw the same guy who encouraged me at the overlook.  He did it again.  He was on the way back when I was barely going but it was really nice.  Most of the runners during the entire race encouraged one another.  I just remember that guy because his voice was really clear.  Everyone else was pretty tired, would say something or give thumbs up and then keep on truckin, but he would really enunciate…that was really encouraging and definitely helped me get a move on.  On the way from Bishop Ck to Intake #2 I saw Good News guy.   He said he felt better and that he just may make the cut off time of 4:15.  I kept looking back to spot him.  I am not sure if he made it because he was doing the 100k and I never saw him after that point.

Intake #2 - 31.93
Got back with some time to spare.  I was hurting and I wanted to quit.  But everyone kept saying it was all downhill from here.  Unfortunately I had been hearing that for over 11 miles and I was still hurting.  I did not want to take too long at this station.  Seeing S. there and knowing how trashy I looked I knew the longer I spent with her greater the effort it would take for me to leave.  After some fuel I left. 

McGee Ck - 37.49
On the way through this point I caught up with two guys and we pretty much stuck together until the Buttermilk (next cut off) aid station.  We chatted about running and how this race was really beautiful but really dished out some punishing hills.  One of the guys said he would not be with us to leave buttermilk because he was going to change.

Buttermilk - 41.16
When we got to buttermilk it was amazing to beat the cut off by 15 minutes.  I was in terrible shape.  I literally was walking with one shoulder above the other trying to get my back to ease up to no avail.   We were so close to the end, but the aid station volunteer said that we had to make HWY 168 (approx 6 miles away) in the next hour and fifteen.  S. gave me a 10 second pep talk said she thought I could make it.  I think she meant make it like alive make it, but maybe she meant make it within time…I am not sure to be honest I was very tired.  I was supposed to crank out a 10k time not considering I had been going to 40 miles already.  I had come too far to give up.  It was a shot in hell that I could crank out that time but we gave it a go.  Filled up the water bottle grabbed some Hammer Gels and ran for my life.

Junction - 42.66
I caught the guy I had run with since McGee Creek.  He actually waved at me to stop.  I stopped and told him I had been killing myself to get there and that we had to hurry if we wanted to stay in it.  The aid station volunteers said that there were no more cut offs for the 50, we just had to make it.  The HWY 168 station was there all night because of the 100k runners so we were safe.  Breathing a sigh of relief we got to jogging it.  He also gave me 2 aspirin for my back.  I am not sure if they worked but the mental help of knowing I did something probably helped

HWY 168 - 46.39
Coming up on this station we were beat.  My shoes were full of sand but I trying to dump the sand required bending my back and that was a problem.  At this point S. walked the rest of the way in with me.  My running pal took off because he had a time goal he wanted to do.  I said goodbye and he took off.  I did not have it in me to run all out.  I just wanted to finish.  So i accepted a blueberry Popsicle that was given to me and started walking.

Tungsten City - 48.45
S and I walked it in.  She walks really fast.  That was pretty frustrating after 47 miles and a really long day.  We did not have a flash light (it was in my drop bag back at HWY 168).  So we hustled to get the Tungsten.  We got to a creek.  I was so tired and just wanted it to be over I was ready to just walk through it.  S. was smarter.  We saw a light behind us.  Another runner who dropped from the 100k to the 50 miler had a light and all three of us were able to cross without getting wet.  He stayed at this aid station tending some issues, S and I kept walking.

End - 50.11
S and I started jogging to the end and it just seemed to get farther away.  I was so tired.  I kept asking people at Millpond, which is after all a campsite, where the end was.  They kept pointing down the road.  It was funny I got a few cheers from other campers when I was running it.  It was a good boost so I told S. I was running it in.  I figured that there was one guy behind me and my motivation was to hopefully hold him off.  I ran it in… a little over 15 hours.  I was tired hurting but happy, I would not trade it for the world.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Bishop High Sierra Ultra Check list

In previous post I discussed nutrition and I am going to with GU and Hammer gels for calories, Endurolyte caps and water. Below is what I am packing. I assume that the aid stations not being that far from each other will give me the variety I need in case I get bored of gels only. Probably too much stuff but I want to be prepared just in case and I am a nerd when it comes to prepping.

Nike Shorts
Short Sleeve Tech T
NB Cooling Arm Sleeves
Garmin 310 XT
Zip lock with Endurolytes
Newton Trail Shoes (green goblins)
Dirty Girl Gaiters

Pack (depending on weather Salomon Skin or UD Wasp)
Endurolyte Caps
GU packets (6-8)
5 oz Soft Flask (hammer gel)
3 oz flask (hammer gel)
Tums-Aleve-in altoids tin

UD Wasp
2 Bottles of Hammer Gel (vanilla/Chocolate)
3 Packs of GU Chews
4 GU Gels (w/caffeine)
Endurolytes Bottle
Body Glide
Windbreaker Jacket
Nike long sleeve thermal
Extra Tech Shirt
Dry buff
Moeben Arm Warmers
Hoka Bondi B
Socks / Calf Sleeves (zensah)

Hope this will be enough, we’ll see

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bishop High Sierra Update

My race prep was not the best in re: to the AR50 but knowing I would be running along a river in one direction and with altitude and climate pretty much staying the same most of the day I was more concerned with my performance and ability.
However, the weather is turning interesting.  The RD is hoping for mid 80s with afternoon breeze, but said to be ready for late winter.  Its been raining in southern California so I assume ther is some additional snow drop out in Bishop.  Side note: running in the wind is a battle WWF style.  You feel awful when its full force is messing your pace up, but then when it lets up for a split second your speed ahead only to be stopped by a wall of wind again; that’s really annoying after a while.  Anyway, back to the 50.
Bishop Specific:
Aid station cutoffs are as follows:
1.  Edison Loop - 12:30 pm (First pass)
2.  Intake 2 - 4:15pm (second pass)
3.  Buttermilk Road - 7pm (second pass)
These are slightly different than I expected.  I thought that cut off would be 7:30 PM at Buttermilk 2.0.  The 7 pm cut off is being out on the course 13 hours which seems like plenty of time to cover 40 miles.  That being said I have not trained in altitude so I am planning not to be battling this cut off and be done or very close to done by that time.
Ultimate Direction Wasp has a lot of storage and I want to make sure I have enough nutrition and I will be relatively fresh so I can carry the heavier load.  The pack sits high on the back and I do not want any waist chaffing issues so I am being conservative.  I also want to have the space because I will face all trail types during the first half of the race so I will be prepped for the second half and can run lighter since I know what is coming.  Second half pack (Intake 2 first pass) I will change to the Solomon S-Skin Advanced later in the race but that is still up for grabs.  Heck I may just use the Solomon pack the whole way through if the weather is nice.  The farthest an aid station is from another on is 4.24 miles and that should be ok with a minimal pack, but its going to be a game time decision because of the weather. Sunset on the 21st is supposed to be 8:11 PM so i should be able to complete it all in the natural light so space does not need to be sacrificed for a headlamp.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Bishop High Training Update

Last week was a good week in training. I actually was able to crank out a few long runs and even did a trail run on tired legs Sunday. I think I went a little over 40 Miles last week. I am hoping for a similar week this week.

I also just ordered a “buff.” I was looking into bandanas and the like to help with keeping cool or keeping the dust out of my face. The “buff” seems to fit the bill, can be used as a bandana, scarf, towel, beanie, etc… I will probably carry it in the pack and bust it out in the middle of the day to get some cooling action going.

Nutrition wise I am settling on Hammer Gels, Endurolytes and water. I have been practicing consuming 200-250 calories per hour during training and that seems to keep me steady. This week I will focus on ounces per hour. Hammer nutrition suggests 23-26 oz per hr. I have been trying to keep it at that level and being conscious about it has helped. I run a little dehydrated but no GI issues. Its just going to come down to walking that thin hydration vs. over hydration line a la Jonny Cash.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Salomon XT Advanced Skin 5 S-Lab Set Pack Review

I had delayed the review for this product for two reasons.  On the one hand I love it but on the other hand it slightly let me down and I wanted to get far away from the experience prior to writing the review.  First of all the pack is well designed and I think Salomon really made a great product.  I have some concerns and I will start by excusing the amount of pictures but I think it they are necessary.  The first time I heard about the pack was from the review @ iRunFar.  iRunFar is a great source for ultra running information, product reviews and giveaways.

First Impression (straight from the box)
The pack is very lightweight.  When you put it on it seems even more so.  I immediately liked the mesh touching the skin which means it will be breathable, but I had concerns about the front side pockets.  My concern arose from the fact that I have been running with the Nathan 020 pack and the front pockets just feel much sturdier on that pack that this one.  These felt to thin and have mesh siding that concerned me since I carry GU and a headlamp, etc.  
I do like the tube, there is nowhere to hold or clip it but it seemed to stay put.  I am not certain if it is both an insulator and a holder in place material that the plastic tube is wrapped with but it seems like it may stay in place, if it doesn’t I expect some whipping in the face on downhill runs.

  • The whole pack is made of a very comfortable mesh.
  • There are two “load adjusters” but honestly the load does not adjust much so I don’t mess with them. 
  • Keeping it in place is a “twin link” system that was the source of my concerns. 
  • The pack was designed for the UTMB and has a place for hiking poles (I don’t use them so not sure how good access to them is)
  • There is a safety whistle – I hope I never use it, reminds me too much about the titanic and that was no fun. 
  • “Source” bladder capacity is 1.5 liters. 
  • 2 chest pockets (one is zippered and removable) - you can only use one at a time because there is not Velcro on both sides. 
  • 2 front chest pouches - these are the ones that seem on the thin side. 
  • 2 zipped pockets - towards the back of the pack, with practice you can get to them.  I have fit my blackberry bold into one since they stretch a little.
  • 1 main zippered compartment on back - pretty light, again I do not want to weight his thing down to much since its meant to be fast.
  • Comes with safety blanket 
  • Weight: 640g (1lb 6oz)
I ran this thing hard.  I did a few long runs at night and a lot of trail runs.  The pack stayed cool and it honestly felt sort of like wearing a running vest.   The weight of the bladder was well distributed and the water was actually really quiet.  If you use packs you know that the sloshing sound gets irritating every once in a while.  I could not check the level of water as easily as i could with my Camelpak or Nathan (just reach around and squeeze to feel the liquid) because this pack rides a little higher on your back.  I really liked the feeling of the pack, it is well made and definitely can fit more stuff but it feels better when you run with the bare minimum.  It just hugs you and you definitely look like you should run fast...I am working that part.  Pack itself is well made and designed well but the materials left sometime to be desired.  Nowadays I use the two front pockets for a soft flask (to avoid issues - see below) and a headlamp.  Performance, solid. A+ 

Problems - Cons (images below)
The construction of the pack was questionable and I was not too pleased.  I use gel packs and one of them cut through the mesh which was rather shocking since this thing was designed for the UTMB.  Also the straps that hold it in place across your chest gave out on me.  Salomon did not respond to inquiries regarding replacement straps.  But...Running Warehouse...they are awesome!!! I reported my concerns to them and asked for replacements for the "2 link system" and what do they do?  Investigate with Salomon, confirm there are no replacements available, then sent me a new bag and a return label for the old one.  They are legit with the customer service.  If you buy online buy from them, trust me do it you will not be disappointed and their prices are competitive even against other sites sales and the service alone with worth a few bucks more.

My sewing skills lack, but you can tell where the GU pack "broke through to the other-side"
Once the 2 Link system did not work, I used Lock Laces - Definitely a good solution.
Tube stays, but see what i mean about the velcro...only one side
Despite the issues with the bag i really like it.  The price is too steep for the material issue and that soured me on getting another one.  But if there were a sale or if Salomon would knock a few bucks off this pack I would actually buy another one.  It feels great, runs light, breaths well and has enough storage for enough stuff to get you from one aid station to the next, or out on a long run.
It is rather frustrating that Salomon put out this pack.  Becuase they are a really cool company and make cool stuff but they are not good about getting back to customers, I even tried the facebook fan page!  Anyway, solid pack, if you are into running light and fast this is where its at.

UPDATE - May 2012
Since the time of this review the pack has been updated.  The clips that link the sides of the pack (the ones that broke on me) are now red and a lot sturdier than the originals. Also the pockets particularly the white part is made of a thicker material. The bladder has also been updated to Hydrapak rather than the "Source" bladder previously offered. The new version unfortunately does not have the hose cover so you will get luke warm water when you first start drinking rather than getting cool water 100% of the time.