Sunday, September 30, 2012

Bear 100

I paced about 50 miles of the September 28, 2012 Bear 100 which begins near Logan, Utah and ends at Fish Haven, Idaho. My brother Dave was running his 50th 100 event. He was a little out of shape after breaking his leg earlier in the year.

This was my third pacing at the Bear 100; previous races are discussed in this blog.

Things got off to a poor start as I ran up about three miles up the trail to meet Dave at mile 20. I made a wrong turn and got lost, and then did a face plant and destroyed in one fall my Canon Elph and my Nano. So, no pictures. I made a serious dent into my first aid kit as I had to scramble for bandages.

I jumped in as pacer at about mile 30. It was about 2 pm and hot. Dave scolded me as I wanted to run between stations without water. What is ten miles? It was a dry section of the race and exposed to the sun, probably close to 80 degrees.

Nephew Kevin jumped in at the next leg, a 4000 foot climb. By 11:30 pm or so I was having difficulty keeping up due to foot soreness and blisters. At this point I was questioning my planned Pony Express 100 in a month, but runners I talked to along the way assured me that I could bring my walker. I dropped out and drove with nephew Ryan to meet them at Beaver Lodge. Dave and Kevin appeared at 4:00 am and Kevin dropped.

I spent a lot of time thinking about completing my own first 100.   My last attempt was in March 2012 in the Salt Flats 100.   I was doing very well time-wise up to mile 60 or so and then started feeling nauseous, which caused me to lose all interest.  When I run with Dave on these long ones, he hurls with frequency and thinks nothing of it.  I will need to learn to hurl at will.

Kevin complained to me in this run about being chided by his Dad for not behaving in the manner expected of pacers.  Dave complained about Kevin just wanting to do another training run.

Each of the stations was a class event with lots of runners' food and roaring campfires.  We saw lots of runners drop out at the larger and more comfortable aid stations.   At one of the later stations, a runner came in at 4:00 a.m. and left at 7:00 a.m. in an attempt to recover from hypothermia in a car.   I didn't understand the guy; it was below freezing at dawn and he insisted on running in warm weather gear.

I jumped back in at about 7:00 am after blister surgery, new shoes and new taping. It started to rain but slacked off. I completed the final two legs with Dave into Fish Haven in the middle of a hot day.

Part of these final two legs was along a high ridge line.  The view was worth the entire trip.

The last 15 miles was easy as Dave labored through it, moaning and hacking a lung. I don't know how he manages it, but he does.   My job as we came into the aid stations was to find Dave a chair next to the camp fire, to fill his bottle, to find him soup and otherwise do his bidding.  Contrary to the evening before, I had lots in the tank.  I learned a little with all this, and that is when I start feeling hot spots I just have to stop, not worry about the loss of position, and repair the blister, re-tape, change socks or shoes.  Changing shoes just means a different set of blisters, but at least it relieves the old ones.

The last ten miles or so was a descent into the Bear Lake basin; quite a wild loss of altitude and hot, as the slope face was directly exposed to the morning sun.

The last two miles was through neighborhoods and on pavement. I did my pacerly duties to encourage Dave to pass another racer who could not manufacture a trot.

Do you want to transition from being a recreational runner or a marathoner to an ultrarunner?  Team up with an ultrarunner and be a pacer.  A typical race won't let you in until the racer is already dog tired; in a 100 miler pacers typically enter around 30 miles.  Ultrarunning is a fabulous sport; you get to see lots of scenery in a short period of time, covering ground in one day backpackers take one or two weeks to cover.  It isn't quite as grueling as a marathon because you're constantly using different kinds of muscles, and walking is not frowned upon.

Dave at the start. Bob with nephews Kevin and Ryan.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Hot 26-miler

Super hot day today.  Above 90 at run's end.  My blood pressure drops to very low levels and it is hard to stop or slow down and stay conscious.   I need the electrolyte tablets, which I use only for super long runs.

I ran up to North Valencia, way above Valencia High School.   I kept up a great pace until about mile 20 when it was getting hot.  

The City's trail system along the river beds is so great.   Thanks to Councilperson Laurene Weste we also have equestrian trails, which I followed when I was on the river.  On the upper west side of San Francisquito Creek, the trail isn't fully developed at spots and the horse trail descends into the sandy and garbage-strewn dry riverbed.   But I really think the restored railroad crossing near the trailhead at Magic Mountain Parkway is the coolest-looking thing. 

On this particular route, which I chose to maximize stress at the end, the run is particularly exposed to the sun between 20.5 and 24.   There is no shade cover; no adjacent trees, and some of that is along the fence next to the freeway.   Hot, hot and more hot.   Plus, between 18 and 19.5 I chose to run the Old Road with no shade instead of the road on the other side of the freeway next to College of the Canyons which has lots of shade.  But, often, I like the shade.

Practicing techniques for the super long run today, I learned to keep as much stuff as I can off the body to prevent chafing.  On my last 100 attempt, my super lightweight Nathan backpack had pouches in front which rubbed into my swinging arms.  I need a different solution.  On these local long runs, I know where all the water fountains are (here, at miles 4.5, which I usually bypass, 8 in a riverside park, 16.5 at the new trailhead, and 21 in a park.)

The iphone got to be a drag in the real hot stuff.  As much water as I can drink at the various drinking fountains. Regular energy chomps (which I didn't do today.)  Always on the run for at least 25 miles.      No stopping except to drink.

Continuing to battle the sinus-related bronchitis I picked up last October, which knocked me out of the Santa Barbara Marathon, and the 24-hour run in Arizona.   What a drag.  I feel like it is cutting into my lung capacity, but when I went to see a pulmonologist, he said my lung capacity was off the charts.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Mt. Baldy -- 15.5 m loop.

I ran the Mt. Baldy trail to the summit of Mt. Baldy, and made the ascent in 2:59, a personal best.  That isn't saying much.  One prior ascent with my wife was up the easier Mankar Flats route.   One prior ascent was in the snow.  One ascent was with a friend with altitude sickness.  So, I've only made two running assaults of my five total.

Starting elevation was about 4396 feet, and the summit was 10,068. In the map above, the summit is right before the 7 mile marker.  The trailhead is hard to find.  It is at the church on the north side of the highway in Baldy Village.   Parking is very hard to find, but not at 3:00 a.m. in the morning.  I parked in front of the Forest Service information office; the trailhead was about 100 yards below the office.

The first mile of the trail up takes you past some homes and cabins for one-half mile, and then along a well-worn trail to Bear Flats, a camping spot and the only source of water in the entire route.   Up from Bear Flats is a very steep section of switchbacks which, in the middle of the day, is like an oven because it is directly perpendicular to the sun.   Eventually, the switchbacks come to an end near a prominent rock feature  sticking up out of the ground on the left of the trail as one heads up.   The trail then progresses very steeply up the ridges to what I think is West Baldy.   You skirt the peak of West Baldy, descend into a saddle, which puts you at the base of Baldy about 1/2 mile away from the summit.
I arrived at the summit to see sunrise seconds before my chrono hit 3:00. The fact that the chrono was about to hit that number encouraged me up the last 10 minutes at a faster-than-usual run.

 A few minutes after my arrival at the summit, four search and rescue climbers arrived from the much easier Devil's Backbone trail and one said that less than 3 hours was a remarkable time. To the west the Glendora canyon fire was raging. The shot below shows the almost full moon over the smoke. 

During the darkness ascent, it was quite a sight to see the ridge lines burning. Fortunately, the smoke only slightly drifted in my direction at times.

Instead of descending the Mt. Baldy trail back to the trailhead, I descended the Devil's Backbone trail which took me through the ski resort. I took the easier route down because I wanted to try and get some flat running in to prepare for my upcoming 100. That plan didn't work out well. I took a wrong turn and descended down a very difficult gorge which emptied into Mankar Flats. I was hung up for two hours in about 2 miles of gorge, boulder-hopping.

But I could see footprints and knew that somebody else had descended or ascended this way, so I kept on pushing. I missed several miles of road switchbacks from Manker Flats up to the ski resort, switchbacks I should have been running. In the gorge, I had to do some difficult climbing with toe and finger holds, all alone in a rarely-traveled area. The gorge was dry and filled with large boulders. When I arrived at the steepest descent in the gorge, the bottom of the gorge was filled with vegetation and I was forced to edge along the gorge's walls.
I'm unhappily dealing with nettle poisoning. It's exactly like a neural affliction, since I have that already in three fingers. A nettle extract is used to deal with arthritis. I had no choice but to face nettles in the gorge. I've never had it so bad. Numbness and tingling where I had to touch it.