Surfer’s Point Half Marathon 2014 Race Report

View before the race

After tackling the XTERRA Point Mugu 18K Trail Race in October, I decided to do the Santa to the Sea Half Marathon in December next. But that left me with two months without races and I got impatient. I was looking through my timeline on the Strava site when I saw that tri-athlete Anthony Grey was in his last weeks of training for the Surfer’s Point Full Marathon. After that I signed up for the half marathon or the race to be held on Nov. 16, 2014.

One of the features of the race is that when you cross the finish line you get a nice beer and some real tacos. Who can say no to tacos?

For most of the summer and early fall I’ve been doing almost all trail long runs so I had to start hitting the roads for a couple of weeks to start getting used to the hard pounding of asphalt and concrete. Ideally I could have used a couple of more weeks with long runs in the 10+ mile range but after the hard trail runs of the last few months I felt that I was “half-marathon ready” in terms of the endurance needed to complete one. I’ve also been slowly increasing the number of miles I’ve been running per week and am not hitting the low 30’s.

Course description
The Surfer’s Point Half Marathon is run next to the Surfer’s Point area of the beach in Ventura. When I train for road races I usually do a lot of training along much of the course. That really made things pretty nice. I knew that this would be a mostly flat course and was familiar with most of the twists and turns. For people who haven’t run on Pacific Coast Highway, things can get a little scary when you’re realize you’re actually running on the highway for about 5 miles of the race. The first time I did a training run on that segment some months back my wife was more than a little concerned. But it’s pretty safe out there.

Race Day
It was a beautiful and cool morning. The weather’s been a bit variable lately so I wasn’t sure just how cold it would be in the morning. I did something different this time and put my bib on my shorts instead of on my shirt. That way if things were cold enough I would just put a long sleeve compression shirt under my running shirt. Or I would just wear the compression shirt. Either way, I didn’t want to waste my time re-pinning the bib and worrying about that. I ended up being fine with a regular tech t-shirt, shorts and some compression socks. I think the socks made the difference in keeping me comfortably cool. Other people at the race were wearing garbage bags to stay warm and others were layered up and wearing caps.

Ventura Beach

Beach view on race day

That’s one of the times where my “extra padding” served a good purpose and I didn’t have to carry around a bunch of extra clothes to stay warm. Before the race there was a huge line at the port-o-potties so I got my warm-up in by jogging to the Crowne Plaza hotel and using their fine restroom facilities.

I found Anthony there at the race and chatted with him a bit then filmed the beginning of the Marathon race which he ran and was 15 minutes before the start of the half marathon.

Meeting up with Anthony Grey

Meeting up with Anthony Grey before the race

Start to mile 3
After the Marathon runners were off and I made my run to the Crowne Plaza hotel, I started lining up for the race. There were pacers for the 2:15 (two hours and fifteen minutes) and 2:30 paces. I lined up closer to the 2:15 pacer since I was shooting for a 2:20 final. I set my Nike Sportswatch so that it was ready to record the run and waited for two waves to go off then we went.

Ready to race

Ready to race

The first half mile ticked off and we seemed to be going way to fast. My watch read that we were going at a sub-9 minute per mile pace which was almost a minute and a half per minute per mile too fast. I hung just behind the 2:15 pacer for the next couple of miles. I still felt as if I was going out too fast so I slowed it down a bit. No use burning out early in the race. By the end of mile three I had hit a 10:30 minute per mile pace average which was still too fast.

This segment of the race starts at Promenade Park just south of Surfer’s Point then it passes by Surfer’s Point and goes up the bike path towards Main St. and hangs a left towards Emma Woods State Park and past the park.

Miles 4 to 6
This segment of the race was entirely on the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). I’ve found that some of the road there is very rough and it slows me down since I have some foot “drag” to my stride. You also have to be hyper vigilant in this part since cars can shoot right past you as you run. Between miles four and five there’s a turnaround and you can see how far other people are in front of you. Somewhat close to that turnaround, I saw the 2:15 pacer and I was even farther behind now. However, I did keep up a decent pace and hit the 10K (6.1 miles) mark at one hour 8 minutes which was a little faster than the overall pace I was going for.

Miles seven to nine
Miles seven to nine took us back past Emma Wood State Park and past the starting line. I was now off an average of 30 seconds per minute off my intended pace. The 2:30 pacer and bunch passed me up and my time goals were quickly going down the train. I still felt pretty decent physically. The compression socks helped my legs feel together. Unfortunately the high winds that were expected in the afternoon, started making an early appearance.

Miles ten to the finish
This is pretty much where I started falling apart. The winds weren’t horrible but they slowed me down and at this point I was feeling tired, more like stressed that my body had been pushing hard for the past two hours. There’s a mile stretch where there’s what race director Bill Escobar called a “false flat” that was not actually flat such so that I started walking parts. We’re talking about a measly couple of degrees of elevation gain. The plan was to conserve a little energy and leave some for the final miles.

This little road, Vista Del Mar, is off the highway and is kind of hidden away. The pavement is uneven in parts and not a single car went by. I wan’t exhausted yet but my motivation was dipping and this little road could have been a great place to just take a nice long walk. Then I remembered ultrarunner David Goggins and his crazy determination to get things done including finishing the Badwater 135 mile foot race several times and winning crushing 24-hour races. Goggins is a Navy Seal and he runs and does Ironman triathalons for charity to support the families of war veterans. In some interviews he says that he doesn’t even like to run or do exercise. He says he runs because people are interested in seeing people suffer so he does races where there’s a lot of that so he can raise money. If he can run all those miles of suffering to raise money then I could certainly stop walking and run up some of this little hill. So I did.

Once I got to the top of the little hill I started picking up the pace. OK, I was going to miss the 2:20 time and missed running at a 10:50 overall pace but I still had a shot at a PR if I hustled to the finish line. I kept a steady pace then picked it up more towards the end and came in at 2 hours 33 minutes (2:33:22), a new PR by a couple of minutes. I’m glad I was able to push through the frustration of falling behind my initial goals and was still able to salvage the PR.

Finish line photo

Finish line photo

I kept on my feet for a few minutes after the race then grabbed some tacos and a soda and sat on high concrete container/bench along the beach walk. I was able to take down the first taco but my stomach wasn’t ready for the second. I hung out for a while and greeted Anthony after he finished the race. He did really well, coming in 7th place.

A little after heading out from the race I drove into In-N-Out and my stomach was able to handle that a bit easier. It’s not the healthiest but my body craves salt and protein after a long run or race The double double combo hit the spot!

Takeaways
In getting ready for the Santa to the Sea race I will make sure to get in some longer tempo runs and some long intervals so I can better handle the long-term high intensity pace.

You can view my race stats on Strava here and feel free to follow me there.

 

 

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XTERRA Point Mugu 18K Trail Race Report – 2014

starting line XTERRA Point Mugu Trail Race 2014

After the last two weeks of abnormally hot weather on the Central Coast, things finally cooled down and my running heated up some at the 2014 XTERRA Point Mugu 18K trail race. The race took place today, October 12, 2014, at Point Mugu State Park in Malibu, just a few miles south of Oxnard. It’s been a year and a half since I first started my fitness journey and about a year since running became a big part of that trek. My first trail race was the XTERRA Malibu Creek 22K which was extremely challenging, so much so that I immediately signed up for the Bulldog 25K which pretty much extends the XTERRA race by a couple of miles. After the Bulldog race I pretty much knew I’d run the XTERRA Point Mugu race. In training for the Bulldog race I did a training run on the Point Mugu 11K course and loved it.

Race Day

As I drove out to Malibu from Santa Paula, there was a huge fog bank just as I got on PCH and figured that the fog could add a huge factor to the race. What if the course was so fogged in that people started getting lost? I didn’t have to ponder that question much as I drove a couple of more miles and the fog lifted.

parking at XTERRA Point Mugu Trail Race

I wondered what the parking would be like and saw that cars had already gone up quite a ways on PCH so I kept driving to see if there would be more spaces on the east side of the highway, south of the trailhead but there were actually many more cars on that side so I swung around and parked up on the west side back north on PCH. It wasn’t that long a walk so I was glad I had left early enough to beat most of the traffic. As I was researching the course and doing my training runs, I couldn’t quite figure out where the start or finish lines were. It turns out the start is up fairly close to the highway and the finish is just at the start/end of the Ray Miller trail.

I got my t-shirt, bib and timing chip. The line was fairly short so that was good. I put my wallet away and tucked my t-shirt onto the back of my hydration pack. I had parked far enough that I didn’t feel the urge to go all the way back to the car to leave the shirt there. I had seen the t-shirt design the day before the race and it was cool but I could tell it was cotton. I told my wife today that when runners see cotton shirts our instinct is to scoff at them because tech tees are the way to go nowadays. The race announcer made a joke about it after the race and said that in races/years to come there would be tech tees and might also sprinkle in some business suits. Not exactly sure what that means but he got that people weren’t too thrilled with the cotton. I like it though because it’s purple. I read a book about running phenom Steve Prefontaine and even after he had passed away, people would still refer to him in the present tense such as “Pre likes to wear a lot of purple.” Well, Jesse likes to wear a lot of purple as well.

Checkin line at XTERRA Point Mugu Trail Race 2014

After putting my bib and timing chip on, I proceeded to search for the port-o-pottys. One great benefit of actually training at the race course is that I knew there were a couple of loos just up the hill. As I hoped, one was available and there was no line. Score! Apparently things were a bit behind schedule so we didn’t get started exactly at 7:30 a.m. as planned. There was a guy standing near me who I recognized from a previous race. He is a friendly and chats with people around him. He’s in his 60’s and he gets the job done when the running starts. We didn’t wait too long and then the first wave of us 18K runners took off. I stayed back with the second wave and 4 minutes later we were off as well.

Mile 1 – 2

As I mentioned earlier, the starting line is up near the highway, just where there is a little downhill onto a cemented area. When I did my training runs going up that little area after 6, 7 or 11 miles would seem really long so I was glad we would start running down that thing. The cement turns to trail fairly quickly then we pass the Ray Miller Trailhead and continue on until we get to a dry creek crossing where people were bunched up and actually walking down and up the little creek. That was at about mile 0.3. After that I hiked and walked some as the elevation is starting to increase and my right calf was a little cranky. One strategy here is to burn one’s way up to the front and prepare for the single track but today I knew that would be a bad idea for me.By the time we got to the dry waterfall area around mile 0.8 people were still kind of bunched up. I was on the heels of the person in front of me but it wouldn’t have made much sense to pass her there as things weren’t moving that fast. We were climbing a steep and rocky single track trail so I just made the most of this reduced speed and tried to keep my heartrate down as I pressed on.

View from the Loop Trail in Point Mugu State Park

View from the Loop Trail in Point Mugu State Park (taken during training run)

By mile 1.3 or so we went back to a wider trail and eventually got to the trail split where La Jolla Canyon Trail connects with the Loop trail. At this point the 18K racers bear left and the 11K racers continue on the La Jolla Canyon trail. The 11K race start was half an hour after us. At this point I was able to run at my own pace and passed a few runners on the downhills that lead to the Mugu Peak Trail where we start some serious climbing. For me serious climbing means power hiking. During training runs I’d stop maybe three times during this ascent and take photos, take down some water and break open a GU pack. This time I stopped for about 10 seconds to let my heartrate go down and kept pushing on. Some of this climb gets up to the 20%+ grade range so yeah, no running for me there. I usually have music going to help motivate me but I didn’t feel like messing with my phone or using my iPod but I was still good.

Miles 3 – 6

At mile three we hit the trail split where one can either continue on the Mugu Peak Trail or make the ascent to Point Mugu Peak which is a 266 climb to the flag at the top. During training runs I took the detour up to the peak to get some additional elevation in. The race course continues on the Mugu Peak Trail and there is a nice downhill section here. I started flying down the hill but it might have been a bit early to open up and by the time I got to the Chumash Trail where Mugu Peak Trail ends my legs felt kind of heavy. That wasn’t good since we were barely at mile 4.

View from the east side of the Loop Trail at Point Mugu Park.

View from the east side of the Loop Trail at Point Mugu Park. Sandstone Peak is in the far distance. (from a previous training run)

The next little stretch on the Chumash trail follows a little single track which is more of a winding rut about a foot wide. It is just wide enough to run in but hard to do so at high speed. After a while this gets a bit tiresome and I slowed down a bit here even though it was downhill. Around mile 5 the rut track ends as it merges onto another segment of the Loop Trail which eventually widens. In previous training runs this part was really hard to run on because it’s a big open valley and I didn’t find it particularly inspiring. In days leading up to the race I tried to come up with some kind of story about the area to help motivate me to run this section. Skyrunner/billy goat Kilian Jornet writes about how he often makes up fantastic stories to keep him moving when things are not quite that exciting. The only thing I could think of was the scene in Gladiator when Maximus is hauling ass on his horse to save his wife and family but that didn’t quite end very well in the movie. I ended up just going with a run/walk strategy and that helped me run at least run parts of it.

Miles 7 – 9

Just passed mile 6 the course turns onto the Overlook Trail which is also part of the Backbone Trail. The Backbone Trail goes along the Santa Monica Mountain range for 60+ miles from Oxnard all the way to Santa Monica. The first part of this Overlook Trail stretch is a big climb. It’s not uncommon to see mountain bikers pushing their bikes up the fire road on the steepest parts. Just as I got onto the Overlook Trail the gentleman who had been chatting with others passed me and started to pull away. He had a group of other racers with him and they were happily chatting away. I know that I’m not the fastest guy out on the trails and often end up at the back of the pack during a tough race but these are my people. It wasn’t an easy race for anyone at this point of the race but everyone was pushing on and helping each other with a shared energy.

I tried to run what I could here, at least to beat my training times which were done at a moderate pace. After reading Matt Fitzgerald’s book “80/20: Run Stronger and Race Faster By Training Slower” I decided to try that approach in training for this race. My takeaway from the book was that if I could run more miles, more elevation, then I could improve my racing time. In order to increase volume and elevation I would have to train more at an easy pace. So during training I would walk a lot of uphill portions and just focus on keeping my climbing form. I did some high intensity workouts but either kept them short or mixed them in with easy pace work. In the weeks leading up to the race I was able to get in an average of 2,500 ft elevation gain per week and ended up running over 100 miles in September. For more “advanced” trail runners, these numbers are super modest but they are a decent increase for me and I think that helped me a great deal with this race. The last part of Overlook Trail opens up to a great view of the Pacific Ocean and it’s a great feeling because the next section leads to an even more beautiful section of the course, the Ray Miller Trail.

Miles 10 – Finish

Ray Miller Trail at Point Mugu State Park. This 2.7 mile segment took us back down to the XTERRA Pt Mugu Trail Race finish.

Ray Miller Trail at Point Mugu State Park. This 2.7 mile segment took us back down to the XTERRA Pt Mugu Trail Race finish. (Taken during training run)

The last 2.7 miles of the race course take place on the Ray Miller Trail which is also part of the larger Backbone Trail network. The Ray Miller Trail is a series of single track switchbacks which wind down to the finish line. Oh, and you can run the heck out of this portion if you have any gas left in your tank. As dead as my legs felt at mile 4 they were reborn when I started shooting down this part of the course. I managed to catch up and pass several racers including the chatty bunch and was glad to see that non racing hikers were polite enough to let me pass them without having to slow down much. My legs were bouncy and were fully ready to cooperate with the trail. There were a couple of times when my brain told me that maybe I should slow down and take a breather but I didn’t listen to that voice and ran at faster than my 5K pace. With less than a tenth of a mile to go I caught up to the two people in front of me but there was no space to pass so I had to shift into a lower gear and that led us to the finish line about .1 seconds apart. finish line at XTERRA Point Mugu 2014 Trail Race

My best time during my training runs was 2 hours 59 minutes and today I was able to finish the race in 2 hours 33. I was last in my age group but did race faster than some younger folks. All in all, I was happy with my performance. The weather was great, no GI issues and last but not least, there was beer at the end! You can see the full results here. I think that the 80/20 training worked for me and now I have a real thirst to rack up elevation gain feet during workouts. I started using Strava.com to track workouts and am following some top runners. Now I can see how these elites don’t just show up and race hard – they train hard. You can follow me on Strava.com here.

So the big question is, “what’s next?” The answer is, I don’t know yet but am looking forward to something challenging and fun. We’ll see where that ends up.

Posted in Health, Training, Ventura County | 4 Comments

Bulldog 25K at Malibu Creek State Park Race Report

Finish line, Bulldog 25K!
I completed the Bulldog 25K trail race this past weekend, August 23 2014. This was my longest and only second trail race.

After doing the XTERRA Malibu Creek Challenge 22K race in May, I had started eyeing the Bulldog race and immediately started training for it. I took a bit of circuitous route though, doing a series of 5K races including the Father’s Day 5K race and three of the fun “Boogie Nights” 5K races that were held on Wednesday afternoons near Surfer’s Point in Ventura.

The other element that I added was some comprehensive trail running. Between May and August I did a couple of dozen trail runs including more training at Malibu Creek and pretty much the full Bulldog 25K course during a training run two weeks ago.

I also ran around Arroyo Verde Park in Ventura a ton of times. Arroyo Verde is small enough that I can do several laps around it for an intense training session. The 300 foot elevation gains are small compared to Bulldog Road in Malibu Creek State Park but it’s like doing a great mini version of the course. It also has some very steep grades which are probably around 20%.

Race Day
I got up at around 4:30 am and made an almond butter and banana sandwich on multi-grain bread and took down a big cup of coffee. I jumped in the shower then I fed the dogs, loaded up my hydration pack and stuffed a bunch of gear into my tote bag and was on my way by 5:45 a.m. Despite the race director pleas to carpool, I went straight to Malibu Creek State Park. I like to have lots of time to park, walk around and make sure I make a pit stop or two before the race begins.

Bib pickup line

I parked at a lot about 100 yards from the race check-in. I got in the long check-in line then picked up my t-shirt. When nature called again I got in the restroom line and talked to a young guy who had just been warming up, running across one of the nearby fields. He said that he had come down from Santa Maria which is just south of San Luis Obispo, about three hours away. I was glad that I only had a 45 minute drive that morning.

Getting ready to start

It was now time to put on my game face and head over to the starting line to get any last course instructions from the race director. She was using a bullhorn so it was tough to hear her towards the back of the crowd. People had the usually nervous pre-race jitters so they were chatting away. Just before the race was about to start a woman tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I could help someone. A guy standing behind me was trying to get his hydration pack to work but it was mostly dripping. I tried to help fix it and then the race started. I messed with it for a bit then the woman who was also helping out said I should just get started and that the guy should go over to the race director to get some help and that hopefully his time could be adjusted.

I finally set my watch and took off to join the pack of 300 runners.

Miles 1-4
The starting line for the Bulldog 25K is about 200 yards from the park entrance so the first mile is fairly flat. I kept telling myself not to go out to fast and that if I was going slow enough to slow it down even more. Well I tried to slow it down but I took it at an even jog pace which was 2 minutes per hour faster than I had planned on running it. The first incline on Crags Road helped take care of that and I jog/walked part of mile 2 then got to a medium jog on mile 3.

The course hits Bulldog Road just passed the 3-mile mark. Bulldog Road is divided up into two segments, – pain and lots of pain. “Pain One” is a mile and a half miles of 10% grade with little to no shade. There was an oasis just passed mile 4 with the aid station. They had plenty of snacks, water, Heed, Gatorade and other goodies. I downed some water and Heed and took two electrolyte pills to help replenish salt. I tried not to spend too much time at the aid station then headed back up the mountain.

View from Bulldog Road, Malibu Creek State Park

Miles 4-7
“Pain Two” is another mile and a half of 15% grade and switchbacks. Every switchback seems like it leads to a steeper and longer segment and you could hear runners (hikers) groan then curse at each turn. I ended up talking with the hydration pack fellow and he reminded me of an old buddy who is also from New Jersey. He asked when we would get to the downhill portion and I broke the news to him that we would hit crazy solid downhills until mile 10 but that the top of Bulldog Road was near. He didn’t manage to get his hydration pack working but he had loaded up with water at the aid station.

The first 50Ker passed me way back around mile 5. I was chugging up Bulldog when I heard this thick heavy breathing, like a locomotive with a particularly thick wool scarf over it and the runner shot by. The sound was kind of scary. It was the kind of noise one makes during some serious labor and that part of the course was probably the toughest part of the whole race for him but he cruised up the mountain and the number two person wasn’t anywhere in sight.

A small group of volunteers were at the top of Bulldog Road at mile 6.4 or so and the Search and Rescue truck was inching its way up the hill towards that spot. I guess if someone was going to hit a physical distress point that was probably the first spot where it would happen. Two weeks ago when I did the full training run I had stopped right there and contemplated whether or not to go back down the mountain instead of finishing the course. This time I just kept chugging by and enjoyed the little downhill portion that would lead to the next aid station at mile 7.

I believe 805 Bootcamp folks helped run the aid station and they were great. One gentleman helped me get my hydration pack off and loaded it up with fresh water; I downed more Heed and tried a pretzel with peanut butter. I never eat pretzels during races and after I left the aid station and started running the pretzel turned into mush that wouldn’t go down. I finally drank enough water to swallow it down and made my way to a series of climbs along the ridge-line single track.

Miles 8-13
There was one particular climb around mile 8 where all the runners around me were moving really slow. The section is steep and made of hard sandstone or something that sucks the energy out of you. The first time I went across there during the XTERRA race, I took a long pause at the top and waited for my breath and will to run to come back. This time I knew what was coming so I just kept powering through.

The next steep hills had a sign just before the top and it read that a race photographer was taking photos on the other side. As I went over the ridge, I tried to stand upright and keep good form and hopped down the other side, smiling as I passed the photographer. After I took a few more steps I found that my zeal for a nice race photo made me step the wrong way on the hard rocky ridge and my ankle was hurting. I didn’t recall rolling my ankle but it felt like I had. A few more ginger steps and I thought it might even be a sprain or even a hairline fracture. CRAP.

I power hiked the next mile and a half, not running on the couple of downhills there and just hoped for the best. If I had a little restraint on the little downhills my ankle might bounce back so that I could finish the race in somewhat decent shape. Folks started to pass me and a few 50K racers zoomed by on their second lap of the course.

Just before the ankle incident, a couple of runners had remarked that we were at the two hour mark. That meant that I had done the toughest part of the course in good time and had a shot at finishing the race in under 4 hours.

Tom Harrison Map snapshot- Malibu Creek
If you’re interested in getting course details, you can of course check the Trail Run Events site for the Bulldog 25K race and you can check out the geographic flyer-over of the course either here or here. You can also download the official the Malibu Creek Tom Harrison Map using the PDF Maps iPhone app. I paid for the Malibu Creek map since I’ll be going there a lot. I used the PDF Maps app during my training run when I thought I had gone off course. I opened the app, touched the screen and it told me exactly where I was. The map even displays the tiny single track trail that goes to the creek crossing near mile 13.

 

After the power walking that stretch, the course went onto a softer ridge-line fire road (around mile 9). My foot felt better and after a couple of runners passed me who I had previously passed, I got the urge to pick up the pace and did, but with caution. Between mile 10 and 11 there is a nice steep downhill and I was able to open up a little speed and I passed one of the runners who had passed me. I had some help from the rock that must have jumped into her shoe, which she had stopped to shake out. Just passed mile 11, we made a turn onto another single track area. I was behind a person who was moving at a moderate pace. I could have stormed ahead and passed him as the 50Kers were doing but I wasn’t sure whether I’d jack up my ankle trying to shoot by on the rocky path so I kept a reserved pace up until we crossed the creek and went on to the last aid station at mile 12.5.

During my training run of the course, two weeks earlier, mile 13 was my “done” point. All the run was taken out of me and I power walked the rest of the course. Before heading up the last spur trail during that training run I had seriously looked around to see if there was someone to give me a lift back to the main parking lot. Or maybe one of the kind Las Virgenes Municipal Water District workers (SEIU 721 members) could open up their nearby facility and let me by a giant Coke. But I was dreaming and kept on.

This time I got to the aid station and received a nice high-five and a “Go Cardinal!” from a volunteer who noticed my Stanford basketball jersey. I had a nice cup of Coke waiting for me at the aid station and I took more electrolyte pills and downed more water. I was feeling better but saw people charging passed the station including the young woman who had apparently removed the stone from her shoe and was now booking it down the road past me. I looked around and realized that a lot of the people who were standing around were not taking a long run break; they were all working the aid station so I got back at it.

Mile 13-Finish line
I passed one runner who was struggling and asked if he was OK. He was cramping up so I asked if he had been taking salt and he said that he had. He was determined to continue despite his obvious pain. We hit spur trail and I was power hiking but didn’t try to trudge on too fast so I could keep an eye on him. I thought he called out but he must have said something to one of the 50K runners who zoomed by. He seemed like he was still getting along so I made my own tired way up the hill.

Around mile 13.4, after the third or fourth switchback that kept going up and up, I saw a guy at the top of the hill urging runners up the hill. At that point a runner just behind me vocalized what I was thinking, “Oh God, c’mon.” After the next switchback I found a nice butt-level rock and sat down for a bit and then Urging Man came around the corner and prompted me to get up and moving. “Don’t sit, you’ll cramp up. Don’t quit, get up and keep moving.” He was right, so I did.

I forgot to mention that by mile 12 I had just about abandoned my thoughts about making it in less than 4 hours. I almost set my watch from “Pace” to “Elapsed” so that I could run against time but I felt that with my earlier ankle jolt that I might be creating a dangerous situation for myself if I was only working based on time. That might sound like a strange thing to think during a race but time is only one element in this kind of a contest.

The last switchback headed upwards finally appeared and I managed to jog down the last part of the trail and onto the pavement. During the training run I had walked all of this last part. This time I jog walked and was cheered on by folks along the road. “Nice job!” one would say then another would say “pick up the pace, you’re almost done.” As Scotty would say in Star Trek, “I’m giving it all I’ve got, Captain!” At mile 14.4 a runner was ahead of me and walking. I wanted to jog next to him and see if he wanted to jog the rest together but I figured he was just fine walking that last few hundred feet.

My unofficial finish time was 4:08:48, just three minutes behind my XTERRA time which is much better since the the XTERRA race was shorter by over a mile.

Here are my mile splits. (I forgot to stop my Nike Sportswatch until an extra 3 minutes had passed after crossing the finish line.)

Bulldog 25K mile splits

Upright
Before the race I posted on my social media sites that my race goal was to finish in the “upright position.” I did finish in the upright position but that almost changed. After the race I grabbed a soda and water. I’ve had sodas after long training runs and they are refreshing and pick up my blood sugar some. I walked around for a couple of minutes then saw a nice shady area on the outside of one of the restroom buildings. I sat all the way down on the floor with my knees bent and had a nice conversation with another runner who was waiting for folks to finish the 50K race. I finally remembered to stop my GPS and time for the race and then we chatted a bit longer then both got up. He headed off and when I stood up everything started turning bright.

It was like using Photoshop and turning on the brightness all the way over. Soon I could only see bright blotches. I leaned against the wall, waiting for things to clear up but they kept getting worse. I looked to see if the runner I was speaking with, Reggie,was still around but he had moved on already. I looked around and spotted a couple of people and asked them for help to the medical tent. One of them took my hydration pack that was on the ground and the other took me by the arm. I told him that I could barely see and he led me to the tent, and alerted me to gopher holes along the way.

After sitting down for a few seconds at the medical tent, I started to feel better. It was as if the blood had rushed to my head and now it was subsiding. The shade was nice so I wasn’t in a super big hurry to get up but finally stood up, tested things out then went over to grab some watermelon and more Heed and water. I sat at one of the benches at the food table for a couple of minutes then headed back to the car to go home, in the upright position. There was another runner at the medical tent who was not as fortunate that day. I’m not sure if she had overheated or what had happened. I hope she is OK.

Bulldog25K finishers medal 2014

Wrap-up
Over the past couple of days I’ve been thinking about the last miles of the race. If I had picked up the pace I could have hit the sub-4 hour mark. That would have been awesome. Some 25K runners who were in my part of the pack still had something left in them to make a final push. But the more I think about it the better I feel about the day. During the training run I had to stop a bunch of times and ended up running almost 2 miles less and that took me 4:30 hours to do so. Then I think about the sound the 50K runner made and wonder if maybe the difference between the two of us is that right now he is able to dig deep and race hard for 50K and I am only able to physically push hard through a fraction of the course. Even in the 5K races that I used to build mental toughness, to train in the summer heat and to build speed, I realized that there was a point that I didn’t try to push beyond. Do I need to push to get to the next level or will I just end up getting injured? Only time will tell.

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Race Report for XTERRA Malibu Creek Challenge 22K Trail Run

XTERRA sign

I ran the XTERRA Malibu Creek Challenge 22K Trail Run on Saturday and it was hot. The good news was that it wasn’t as hot as it had been all week (high 90’s and low 100’s) but it was still plenty hot in the high 80’s.

This was my first of hopefully many trail races and it was a bit of a beast. I decided to do the race about three weeks ago and only had one chance to check out part of the course. I blogged about that experience in my pre-race report.

Having never tried to tackle the infamous Bulldog Road portion of the course before, I tried to figure out how tough it would be based on runs at similar trails with comparable elevations. But things can vary so much from one mountain trail to another- whether the trail is a fire road or a mostly sandstone trail, whether there is any cover and the layout of the switchbacks. The one thing this attempt at making comparisons did do was to give me confidence that trying this very difficult course at the 22K length wasn’t a totally crazy thing to do. I had run the Boney Mountain XTERRA course and the full Bandit Ultra Trail 30K course in Simi Valley so I felt I could complete it and tried to work out a strategy to do so.

Race Day

I woke up at 4 a.m. and made myself go back to sleep until the alarm went off at 4:45 a.m. I heated up some coffee and ate a sandwich with almond butter and a thin film of Nutella on Ezekiel bread. This scares away the hunger, is fairly light and doesn’t upset my stomach. After a quick shower I headed out the door and could already tell that the weather report was right on and we wouldn’t be seeing high 90’s. Thank God.

I purchased the parking pass with my registration so I cruised into the lot around 6:10 a.m. and knew that I had to go all the way to the end of the park entrance to get closest to the trail head. As I drove the lot I saw that it was already getting full so I kept driving and I guess people didn’t know where the trail head was so they parked only half way there and I got a primo spot only one row away from the very front and there were still other sports around.

I picked up my race bib, shirt and timing chip, put the bib and chip on and went off to explore the area a bit more. On my pre-race visit, I hadn’t see where the trail came back around to I headed out and found the trail. It was down one of the roads where I had “gotten lost” during my previous visit.

creek

I still had plenty of time for the 7:30 a.m. race so I went to starting line which was down some stairs and up the mountain some. I picked up some dirt and let it fly into the morning air and I told the mountain that I respected it and that I hoped it would give me safe passage.

There was a large course map near the main podium area and a few people were reviewing the course. One person seemed to be familiar with the course so I asked him about the final couple of miles and asked about the bees that tended to hang around that part of the course. He had run the race before and the course many times so he helped a great deal. I later ran into him during the race and we briefly chatted.

Getting ready

As the race was about to start and we were all gathered at the starting line, the race director took a quick poll to see how many people had thought about scratching today because of the high heat. A lot of hands went up. He also asked how many people had thought about dropping down to the 6K race and lots of hands went up again.

Starting line

Mile 1 -3

The race started in two waves and I went in the second wave. My plan was to run the first 3 miles at a moderate pace even though I figured they’d be the easiest ones to run in the race. I wanted to make sure I didn’t burn out early before tacking Bulldog Road. I referred to Bulldog Road as being “infamous” and it is such an icon of the race course that there is a bulldog on the race shirt. I stuck to the plan and started getting passed by folks who started at the back but were looking to get off to a quick start.

I got lost so much on my pre-race visit that I didn’t notice the grade even at mile two and I already started to walk parts with others at the back of the pack. Just before getting to mile three, there were a couple of people heading back down the mountain, taking a DNF (did not finish). I was carrying a rather large hydration pack and had a little first aid kit and two liters of water so I asked each if they were OK. One young woman had overheated but she said she still had plenty of water. She looked incredibly fit but her face was very red. Another fellow had come into the race with an injury and it wasn’t getting any better so he called it a day.

Before I got to Bulldog Road I took down a GU and chugged some more water. I wasn’t looking back so didn’t have that great of sense of how many people were still behind me at that point. The answer was, “not many.”

Miles 3 – 6

Once I hit Bulldog Road it was pretty much all power walking. The heat started to turn up and after the first mile I started following what a runner in front of me was doing and chilling for a few moments whenever there a spot of shade. During one section a gentleman passed and said, “Keep going, young man!” when he saw me stopped. I had been standing next to him during the race director’s review of the course and the director saw that he was wearing a shirt from the 2003 or 2004 race.

Because of the heat, my pace was much slower than what I had anticipated and there wasn’t much running going on. I got to chat with the other shade-hopping runner a bit and we pushed each other to keep tackling the mountain.

Miles 6-10

If you look at the elevation map it looks like you’re all downhill from Mile 6 but that’s not the case. This portion of the course is made up of a series of rolling and a few steep hills. My pace picked up on this section but there was still a lot of power walking going on. There are a couple of sections that were so steep that you almost had to scramble up the hill. I managed to catch up to a couple of people who had passed me on Bulldog.

During one spot I once gain paused to stop in the shade and an aid station volunteer yelled down, “We have shade up here and lots of water” At the aid station the crew looked a bit concerned and I took a couple of cups of water to drink splash on my legs and on my head. One of the volunteers said that ice cubes would help. I hadn’t tried that before so I tipped my hat and he dropped in a good number of ice cubes then I tipped it back on. As I ran off I almost got a cold headache (like the kind you get from eating too much ice cream or a cold slushie too fast). I took a few cubes out and put them into my pockets so they could melt on my legs. I was pleasantly surprised that the cubes in the hat lasted a good three more miles.

By mile nine I was starting to have a “what the hell am I doing here” moment and pretty much decided that there would be no more “racing.” I was going for my first goal which was to finish this race and not get hurt doing so. This wasn’t a full dampening of my spirit. I was glad to be there but my legs weren’t getting the job done as fast as I wanted.

Throughout the race I had focused on the positives. When I got to the top of another hill I took in the view and was grateful that I had come so far in one year. When I saw another damn hill I would break it down in my head and say that it wasn’t any steeper than X or Y mountain trail that I had already trained on.

panorama of Malibu Creek State Park

I heard a couple of voices coming up on me and overheard them talking about a different race. “I went out too fast on the early miles. Miles 10-20 went by fast, then miles 25-40 got tough and people ran out of water.” I knew I was at the back of the pack so wondered why someone who had taken on a 50+ miler would still be behind me at that point. When they pulled up next to me I saw that they were wearing bright green jackets.

“Are you sweepers?” I asked.

“Yes, but there are still a couple of people behind you. So if they pass you then you should be worried,” one Sweeper said.

If you don’t know what a sweeper is, they run the course a while after everyone has started and either push along the slowest runners or in some case suggest you drop out if you look like you’re in bad shape. One of the sweepers asked what I had in my hydration pack and I told her that I had water but was eating GU as well. She said that I probably wasn’t getting enough salt with all the heat and offered a salt capsule that I took.  I hadn’t taken salt supplements before and after I took it down the sweeper said that it also had magnesium and potassium and other stuff. OK, maybe I shouldn’t take pills from people I don’t know.

The two sweepers went ahead and I heard the one woman who gave me the capsule tell the other that too much potassium can kill you. Great. The other sweeper said, “Well, yeah, but you’d have to eat like 150 bananas.” That made me laugh and lightened my mood.

 Miles 10-12

At mile 10 the course heads downhill. I read several race reports and people felt that the downhills were just as painful as the uphills but I started to cruise down. My fastest mile of the entire race was mile 11. I caught up with another runner who had passed me earlier and we were pretty close for a couple of miles along a single track portion of the course. At one point I hopped past him when the single track was wide enough and we helped each other figure out a couple of twists and turns in the course. We went past one section that had more hills and we thought that they might be the dreaded final hills that many were mentioning. Not even close.

At the last water station just before mile 12, I caught up to a couple of women who had passed me way back while I was taking a panoramic shot of the top of Bulldog. I splashed more water on my head and legs then headed out for the final stretch. The women ran off and I followed as I ran up the side road but then my legs rebelled and I slowed way down again.

Miles 12 to Finish

There was another set of low rolling hills and then I finally came upon the final “hill.” What an evil course feature. This wasn’t just one big hill, it was a series of switch backs that went up, up and away into the sky. Are you kidding me? I put on the positive record track and told myself that this segment was like the end of a tough half marathon then tacking on a lap around my favorite local trail hike, Arroyo Verde Park in Ventura.

I could see the other shade hopper runner from earlier, she was a few turns up on the course with another runner who I hadn’t really seen before. I looked back a couple of times and most of the last folks were a few turns behind me. I stopped a few times to take deep breaths and then pushed on. At one point a woman who I had passed around mile 12 caught up and I slowed a bit to let her pass on a single track portion.

I heard the gentleman who had told me to keep going tell other runners behind me that they should hurry up and finish because they wouldn’t want a “77 year old fart” beating them in the race. I chuckled but they were all gaining on me. Moments later I saw that I had reached the top of the hill. After descending the hill, the course turns onto a paved road and I figured that was the same road that I had scouted before the race. I picked up the pace and even though I didn’t think I had any racing left in me I managed to pass two people in the last 100 yards (OK, one was limping) and just like the end of my Arroyo Verde Park runs, finished with a strong sprint.

Finish line

Two things I forgot to mention are that I carefully monitored my heart rate from miles 3-12. Even if I felt OK, I would slow down if I hit 95% of my maximum heart rate. This was my strategy for keeping from blowing up in the heat. I also forgot to set my Nike Sportswatch for a couple of minutes after starting to run so my miles might not exactly match up with course mile markers.

When I showed my finishers medal to my four-year-old grandniece she said, “I’m so proud you won, Uncle Jesse!” I told her that I didn’t win, that all finishers earned a medal. But I think she was right. I set out to finish the race. Some didn’t take the challenge and some were not able to complete the race on that day. I picked a damn hard course for my first trail race so I did win.

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XTERRA Malibu Creek Trail Run Race Preview

This past Sunday I went out for a run/hike at Malibu Creek State Park, next to Calabasas. No I didn’t see Justin Bieber but I did have a fancy Porsche tailgating me as I tried to find the park entrance.

I had run into the XTERRA Malibu Creek Trail Run race in a magazine and thought I’d check out the site. Once I got to the Park I found out that parking was $12 and that they didn’t take credit. If you go to a park and have cash on hand, pay it. They need the revenue. I didn’t have it so I parked up across the street. More on this in a bit.

If you’re more of a visual person, you can check out the short video of my excursion. Oh, and I composed the entire video on my iPhone using iMovie.

Once I walked into the park I tried to find the trail head but it wasn’t obvious even though I had the official XTERRA map of the 22K course. This has happened before where I show up to a site and get lost for a bit. My brain’s GPS is like the iPhone in that sometimes I have to swerve around some before it gets locked in then I get my bearings straight.

This process took a bit longer than usual and I ended up at a couple of dead ends but saw some nice parts of the park. One special feature were the little metal legends throughout the park but they had NOTHING in them, they were just the frame. Not very helpful. There were a lot of other people walking around as lost as I was and I asked one group if they knew where the main trail was and they pulled out an equally useless map (their words). Anyways, after taking the long way to the trail, and passing a nice creek and pool of water I finally got on the course path.

By the way, if the park had taken credit, I could have driven along the multi-segmented parking area and have driven almost right up to the trail head.

Once on the trail, I settled in and followed along at a decent pace, taking photos and short videos of the run. The hillside looked familiar but that was probably because I had seen a gazillion episodes of M*A*S*H as a kid and recognized the setting. There is actually a site there with a couple of old jeeps and the famous sign pointing to all the different cities. This used to be my favorite show so it made me happy to see the relics.

A little later I got to the start of Bulldog Road but decided that after being lost/exploring for a good 40 minutes that I wasn’t ready to jump on a trail for the next ten miles at that point in time. Plus I had to get my honey do’s done in time so I could catch a portion of the Mayweather/Maidana fight on my Twitter stream.

I turned around and hauled it back to start of the trail, feeling pretty good. At one point I heard a young and somewhat fit looking couple and the woman said something like “He’s running?”, then said something about a “heart attack.” It was high noon and it was getting toasty. But if they were trying to jinx me then it didn’t work.

So I only actually did 3 miles (3 miles in then 3 miles back) of the XTERRA course but that was a piece of cake. From race reviews I’m sure that was by far the easiest part of the course but with less than two weeks to the race I probably won’t have a chance to run through the whole course. I have to hope that my last hilly half marathon has me at least in decent shape. And, after preparing for the Bandit Trail Race which is a 30K (I got a fever just before the race and got a “DNS”, Did Not Start), this should be a totally doable race for me. Mentally, I can’t imagine this being much rougher than scaling Rocky Peak then going on for another 15 miles. We’ll see. I’m trying to finish it in a decent time and to help toughen me up more before I look for a full road marathon.

I don’t think I’m underestimating this race. I know that XTERRA races are all pretty brutal and the elevation chart certainly reflects that.

elvation chart

After the run I did decide to sign up for the 22K race to be held on May 17 and made sure to pay the extra $15 for parking so I don’t have to hoof it the extra half mile to the start. By the way, once I looked at my Nike Sportswatch map of the run, things lined up perfectly with the XTERRA map.

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Ojai Half Marathon Race Report 2014

Ojai Half Marathon - Jesse Luna

The Ojai Half Marathon was my second half marathon, the first being the Santa To The Sea race in December. The Santa To The Sea was on a very flat course with an elevation loss but the Ojai race features a bounty of rolling hills.

As part of my training for this race, I ran the last 3 miles of the race on one weekend and ran the larger loop part of the course last week. I’m glad I did the training runs and tracked my heart rate because it helped me create a plan of attack for the race.

The Course
The race starts at a small elementary school just outside of Ojai then it heads down parallel to Ventura Ave. on the Ojai bike trail. The race course part of the path goes down for about 3 miles then it turns onto Santa Ana Blvd. for another half a mile. This entire portion is downhill. When I first started the race I quickly ended up running next to the 2:30 pacer but about a half mile into that I felt that I could go faster so I separated from that group.

Unfortunately, just like on my training run, my right calf started to get cranky so I had to slow down some and actually walked for a small portion. Also like on my training run, after a mile the calf stopped bothering me and I cruised to the end of the downhill portion.

At 3.5 miles in the downhill fun was over and it was time to make the right turn onto Santa Ana Rd. When the race director, Bill Escobar, reviewed the course before the race he noted that there indeed was a little store just past that corner and it did sell beer but we were to ignore it and keep going up the hill. The hill had an elevation climb of 202 feet in just under a mile. I set my Nike Sportswatch to monitor my heart rate and went into run/walk mode for this portion of the race. This rambling uphill portion of the course continued for another 3 long miles.

The good news on this portion of the run is that there is a great view of Lake Casitas and it does eventually end. I was a little surprised that the 2:30 pacer still hadn’t caught up to me yet. From miles 7-9 there were more rolling hills until the course got back to a continuous incline. The pacer finally caught up around mile 8 and I followed her for a bit but the rolling hills took their toll on my quads and I spent a little more time walking through each water station.

By mile 9 I realized that I was on a pretty good pace and still had some strength. Just after mile 9 we turned back up the Ojai trail, back up the hill that I had zoomed down at the beginning of the race.

At mile 10 we passed the little school where we had started the race and where I would finish. The course continues up the Ojai trail and you can start to see racers who are on their final stretch. I was running and walking some by this time. I started cheering on everyone who was heading down towards the finish line and that made that portion more bearable. I also stopped around mile 11 as an older gentleman had crashed his bike on the side of the bike trail. I stood by to see if he needed help as another runner held his bike. He got his balance back and was able to get back on his bike and head off.

The majority of the race isn’t actually in Ojai. You only get to Ojai during these last couple of miles of the course. I finally reached the little turnaround. I still felt pretty good but was also monitoring my heart rate. I started to zoom down and felt that I had plenty of legs left for the final 1.5 miles. During the last mile I had started to pass a good number of people and in the final downhill section passed a couple of more. But my heart rate was zooming to 181 which I figure is 99% of my maximum heart rate. My legs still felt good but I was worried that if I let my heart rate get any higher that I might start to fall apart and who knew what that could lead to. I had to slow down and walk a little to get the heart rate down then I kept on running hard.

Just as I got to the turn to head into the school and the finish line I saw that there was a runner down. There were several people tending to her so I kept running, making the last two turns into the school then across the finish line in 2:35. While I was doing the last mile and a half and worrying about my heart rate, I decided that this was not going to be the race where I saw what would happen if I ran beyond my maximum heart rate, even in the last mile. I’m not sure what happened to the runner who was down (she got back up and finished the race a couple of minutes later) but I figure that might have been the answer to my question. I had already been feeling over heated and I could have easily gotten myself tangle up with someone else on that turn. Who knows.

After crossing the finish line I got some bread and a piece of a banana then started stretching out my calf muscle. I also did other stretches and did a yoga stretch where my feet are spread out then I reach to the floor and stretch out but the blood rushed to my head and when I managed to stand up again it looked as if someone had set a bright Instagram filter on everything. I felt a little dizzy. I had been stretching against a handball wall and leaned back then saw the medical tent. I started taking deliberate steps toward the tent just in case things went downhill but after a few steps felt better and the brightness went back to normal. I had some Gatorade and was able to get around OK.

The Stats
I ran the half marathon in 2 hours and 35 minutes which is 13 minutes faster than I ran the Santa To the Sea race. Yeah, a PR! I thought I’d be able to PR on the course but the rolling hills didn’t make it a given, despite the number of hours I’ve put into running over the past 4 months.

Here are my mile splits:

mile splits Ojai Half Marathon, Jesse Luna

Training Notes
During the longer training run I also had some trouble with the rambling hills, even during some of the downhill sections. Was I running out of gas from a lack of nutrition? Was it that I had mostly trained for shorter distances the last couple of months even though I was doing tough intervals? Was it that I hadn’t actually run a full 13 miles straight before? During my longer 13 and 18 mile training runs for the Bandit 30K race I had to power walk the massive mountains so I wasn’t actually running the whole way.

There was nothing I could do to address the lack of recent long run training so I focused on nutrition and made sure to ingest GUs along the way and to drink water to wash it down. That helped me have some energy left for the final downhill run to the finish line and to help keep me going when other people around me started to drop away.

I had posted the question on Facebook as to how I would fare without having done recent long runs and got some responses that the slow moderate runs should always be part of the training for longer distances. I agree and would have done it had I not been training for the running portion of the Camarillo Duathlon for those couple of months.

All in all I am happy with my performance and am still improving. A year ago today I was more than 30 pounds heavier, was in poor shape and had diabetes. It’s been a long road and I’m loving the running. I’m going to look for another half marathon on a flat course somewhere nearby then will start to look either at a 30K trail race or for a full marathon also on a flat course.

Did you just run the Ojai Half? How did it go? #getfit

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Camarillo Duathlon Race Report 2014

Jesse Luna - Camarillo Duathlon

I did the Camarillo Duathlon race yesterday and things went well, especially considering a year ago I was 40 pounds heavier and started this new fitness journey after being diagnosed with diabetes. This was the third and last of the year’s Camarillo Duathlon Series 2014.

Unlike the first time I did the Duathlon Series last October, I trained for this one. After the October duathlon I started running regularly, 3 to 4 times a week, and cycled during cross-training days. Although, when I decided to run the December Santa to the Sea Half Marathon, I shifted all my training efforts to running and cycling fell by the wayside.

The field at this past weekend’s duathlon was much larger than the one in the Fall. The Race Director, Bill Escobar, said that they had done a Living Social deal and seventy people showed up on race day via the deal. Because the Living Social deal didn’t send any runner info to race organizers everyone had to register in the morning and there was a nice sized line to register and people were racking up their bikes with minutes to spare before the races began. I liked seeing more faces and probably new racers but Escobar wasn’t very fond of the logistical bottleneck that happened so probably won’t do the Living Social deal again. I picked up my race gear the day before so the lines didn’t bother me at all.

Here’s a quick video of the transition area right before the start of the Olympic race.

With the nice and full field, the Olympic race started at 8 a.m. and our Sprint race would start 20 minutes later. I remember during the October race that I didn’t warm up with a run because I felt that if I did a tiny run it would use up all my running strength. A mile and a half run was like a marathon to me back then.

As we made our way to the starting line I winded my way towards the front of the pack then we were off. My plan was to run hard the entire mile and a half and did just that, running my fastest mile split since junior high. It felt good being in the middle of the pack and being able to run strong the whole way. Because there were a few more bikes than last year’s race my transition time was a tad slower but still ranked 18th out of 81. I used the same hybrid bike as last time so didn’t have to worry about changing shoes.

My main goal for the cycling portion was to cycle at under a 4 minutes per mile pace for as much of the race as possible. The October race was hot and the day before there were brutal headwinds that calmed down only a little on race day and some of my mile splits were over 7 minute miles.

I grabbed a couple of bites of a Cliff bar around mile 4 and that’s exactly when the race photographer took my photo. Every time I went to drink water or take a bit of the Cliff bar I slowed down a bunch. I haven’t used little Gu packet as my nutrition before but I think I need to try it out because of its smart and easy to use packaging. I finally tried one the other day and it didn’t unsettle my stomach.

By mile 6 I had been passed by a lot of people including folks who were also on hybrid bikes so I can’t use that as an excuse. It was a little frustrating but I just didn’t have it in my legs to go any faster. That said, I still improved my cycling time by more than 8 minutes which is really good considering I had focused 99% of my training at the running portion. I wondered how much improvement I’d see in cycling just by the improved conditioning via running.

I finished the cycling portion strong and started the final run portion in good shape. My legs were a little heavy but I didn’t get the crazy rubber legs that I did in October. I kept a steady pace and got passed by a couple of people but I just kept on with the steady pace. I checked my Nike Sportswatch pace and it said I was at a 9:45 mile pace.

I was a little disappointed that I didn’t actively push to reel in runners. I did pass one person with about 400 yards left in the race and surged a bit at the end but didn’t get the adrenaline kick that would have put me in super race mode. I still beat my final run portion from October by almost 4 minutes.

I also used my heart monitor during the race and I’ve been reviewing the data to see where I was really pushing it and where I was apparently cruising. I’ll keep all this in mind as I continue training for my next race, the Ojai Half Marathon on April 27. Elite Sports, who put on the Camarillo Duathlon, is also managing this race and so far it has over 800 registrants.

You can review the race results for the Camarillo Duathlon race here.

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How to Add Mile Splits in a Spreadsheet

I’m preparing for the Ojai Half Marathon on April 27 and it’s a hilly course so I’m setting up target mile splits for race day. When I ran my first half marathon this past December it was a very flat course and my main goal was just to finish while keeping an eye on my heart rate. My mile pace for that race was “slow and steady.”

For the Ojai Half Marathon there are several grades that are steep enough to slow down my pace significantly and I want to plan for that in my total time. After surveying the course and taking a training run on part of it I determined that the course’s elevation profile can help me figure out target mile splits.

Here’s the course and elevation profile for the Ojai Half Marathon.

Ojai Half Marathon elevation profile

But once you set up your goal mile splits, you’re going to want to figure out your total time and that’s where I ran into a problem. I’m fairly proficient with Excel but I fumbled around for a good 20 minutes before I started Googling easier ways to accomplish the task without adding times manually.

The solution was Google Drive spreadsheets. To add up mile splits in a spreadsheet:

1) Open up a new Google Drive spreadsheet.

2) Enter in your mile splits in the hh:mm:ss format such as 0:10:30 (0 hours, 10 minutes, thirty seconds), then enter the next time split below that one.

3) Select all the times and then click on the “More Formats” button in the menu (the “123” button) and select “Duration.”

This is what that looks like.

formatting time splits as duration

4) Now you can select those same spreadsheet cells again and click on the Sum formula (the Sigma shape) button and it will display your time in a nice hh:mm:ss format.

Sum function

This is what your properly formatted column of time splits with total time will look like.

formatted mile splits with total

Now you have your splits and you can use this for training and for your race. Now you can write the mile splits on your arm, tape them to a water bottle or even send away for temporary tattoos with the time splits on them, like from pacetat.com.

Hope this helps and let me know if you use a different process to track your mile splits for long races. And remember, when in doubt, #GetFit.

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Rich Roll’s ‘Finding Ultra’ and Second Chances

It was September of last year and I had just met with my doctor. After a few months of exercise and completely shifting my diet, I had controlled my diabetes and had lost 30 pounds.

Finding Ultra

A couple of days later on a family vacation, we spotted a small bookstore and I came across a couple of books that looked interesting. I remember Tim Ferriss’s book “The 4-Hour Body” mentioning ultra marathoner Rich Roll and his book “Finding Ultra” so I picked that up. Next to that book was “Born To Run” by Christopher McDougall. I hadn’t read an entire book in years so I kept it real and only picked up the one book.

In “Finding Ultra” Rich Roll wrote about his transformation from a sluggish middle-aged man who struggled to climb the stairs in his home to an ultra marathoner, running double marathon distances as part of competitions.

It was very powerful to read about Roll’s addiction to drinking and how his recovery took time as he reflected on a path of destruction.

The book gave me hope that if I stuck to my healthy eating plan and kept exercising that I too could go on and participate in crazy fun adventures like triathlons and super long runs. At that point, the furthest I had run in 20 years was one mile.

My favorite parts of the book are:

* Roll’s description of how he bonked (runner’s speak for a point in a race where the runner’s mind is ready to continue but the body mutinies and can’t go on as planned, or stops) early on in a race then later got some sage advice and learned about Zone training. I’ve used the Zone training philosophy as a key part of building endurance and it helped me train for a half marathon and go on to do a difficult 19 mile trail run.

* Roll’s relationship with Jason Lester during the EPIC5 challenge where Lester and Roll took on doing 5 full Ironman courses on five different Hawaiian Islands in what turned out to be 7 days. When things got tough Lester would turn to Roll and say, “That’s why it’s called a challenge.” Whenever I’m doing a tough workout and am about to hit that point where I say “why the heck am I doing this when I could be chilling on the couch watching Miami Vice reruns on Netflix” I remember Lester’s line and gut it out to the finish, because that’s what this is about.

* By the end of the book I was convinced that I was missing a lot of nutrients by only sticking to my Slow Carb Diet plan. A big part of Rich Roll’s story is about how he uses plant power to help fuel his new energetic life. I’ve taken up juicing and blending great nutrient-rich concoctions that have helped me get through workouts and recover from them.

* Another takeaway from the book was the part where Roll decides to sign up for an Ironman race and his coach asks him, “which one?” That simple question is one that takes one from a mindset of “I want to” to “I’m going to.” There is a big difference between hoping and intending. When you sign up for a specific race then there is a big change that happens. Things become clearer and you can set your goals and study your race with intention.

By the end of the book I knew that I wanted to race in a triathlon. But given that my swimming skills are less than exemplary, I decided to sign up for a sprint duathlon where I would run 1.5 miles, bike 11.6 miles, then run another 1.5 miles. I signed up right away and couple of short weeks later with little preparation did the race and finished (that was my goal).

After reading “Finding Ultra” I have gone on to read over a dozen running books and will share more of the inspiration of each book here on future blog posts. If you enjoy “Finding Ultra” then you’ll love Rich Roll’s podcast, I do.

What is the latest book that you’ve read and that has inspired you to make a change in your life?

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Fever Strikes

Training run in Simi Valley - Rocky Peak

Four days before the big Bandit Ultra Trail Run race I was at work and felt body aches and had the chills. “Unf***ingbelievable!!!” was my reaction. I knew I was getting sick. It had been many months since I had as much as the sniffles.

On the Friday before the race I still had the body aches and intermittent chills and one of my co-workers, a former decathlete, said that I was probably having the pre-race jitters. I had already done the full 30K race course two weeks previous during one of the training runs put on by the race organizers so I wasn’t really nervous about finishing the race. I thought about the jitters comment more and figured there could be some truth to it in terms of increased stress since work had been a pressure-packed couple of weeks.

On Saturday, the day before the race, I still felt bad but drove out to Simi Valley to pick up the race bib and t-shirt. I even took a quick mile run in the morning to see if the body aches would be a deal breaker. The run went fine and I didn’t feel any increased pain. But by the evening I felt worse, took my temperature and it was over 101.4 degrees F. I took some time to think it through and knew that I could probably run through the fever the next morning but that it could turn a fever/body ache situation into a full-blown bug of some kind. Or, if I didn’t lace up I could take the long weekend and recover from this with proper rest. I ended up not running and watching parts of the race via the live stream feed, cheering on my friend Marcos Vargas and his son, Canek, who ran and finished the race.

Even though I had President’s Day off from work, I had to take off a couple of more days from work after going to the doctor and seeing that I still had a fever. The extra days off really helped and now I feel great. I did a couple of regular training runs and my legs are starting to get back into shape.

As you might imagine, I was very bummed not to run in the race after all the training I did in preparation. I had run the full course, did two other training runs there at Rocky Peak and did a lot of trail running at the nearby Arroyo Verde Park in Ventura to practice downhill running and hiking steep hills. I feel good about all the preparation that I did for the race and I will carry that forward to future races.

One thing that I noticed while I was sick was that running is one of those things that really helps me focus on positive things to help keep my spirits up. The initial struggle last year to lose weight and control my diabetes was made easier by focusing on good workouts and eventually on running. But while I was sick I didn’t want to think too much about running and I started getting depressed. Once I was up and running again I was able to continue reading the book I had started, Run or Die by Kilian Jornet, and to shift my mindset to more positive things.

Thank you to all who posted on my Facebook profile and offered great perspectives on running and staying healthy. That really did help lift my spirits. I feel very fortunate to have so much support and look forward to sharing my future fitness adventures.

Also, if you donated to the “Run Jesse Run” 30K Justice Sponsor campaign, please let me know and I will give you a shoutout during my next race. Once again, I appreciate your support.

Related Link:
> Bandit Ultra Trail Run

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